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Alternatives to the Green Revolution in Africa Newsletter # 26

Wednesday, Apr 23rd

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Alternatives to the Green Revolution in Africa Newsletter # 26


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PART ONE: PROFITTING FROM AID:
MONSANTO IN GATES’ CLOTHING? THE EMPEROR’S NEW GMOS
August 26, 2010
By Eric Holt-Giménez, Food First
 
If you had any doubts about where the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is really placing its bets, AGRA Watch’s recent announcement of the Foundation’s investment of $23.1 million in 500,000 shares of Monsanto stock should put them to rest. Genetic engineering: full speed ahead.
 
If you are one of those people who believes the axiom that Monsanto is the farmer’s friend (and the corollary, that its climate-ready, bio-fortified GMOs can save the world from hunger) you will not be surprised, disappointed, or find any conflict of interest in this investment.
 
 But if you are part of the growing population who gets their information about GMOs from scientists who are not beholden to corporate funding, has a problem with anti-trust issues, or is getting queasy about the increasing monopoly power of philanthropy capital… it’s time to say the Emperor has no clothes.
 
Under the guise of “sustainability” the Foundation has been spearheading a multi-billion dollar effort to transform African into a GMO-friendly continent. The public relations flagship for this effort is the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), a massive Green Revolution project. Up to now AGRA spokespeople have been slippery, and frankly, contradictory about their stance on GMOs.
 
 
LA VIA CAMPESINA DENOUNCES GATES FOUNDATION PURCHASE OF MONSANTO COMPANY SHARES
Monday, 13 September 2010
Glendive, Montana. La Via Campesina (www.viacampesina.org), a global peasant movement representing small farmers, landless workers, fisherfolk, rural women, youth and indigenous peoples, with 150 member organizations from 70 countries on five continents, has denounced the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust’s recent acquisition of Monsanto Company shares. … The Foundation channels hundreds of millions of dollars into projects that encourage peasants and farmers to use Monsanto’s genetically-engineered (GE) seed and agrochemicals. In August the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust, which manages the $33.5 billion asset trust endowment that funds the Foundation’s philanthropic projects (and to which Bill & Melinda are trustees) disclosed that it purchased 500,000 shares of Monsanto shares for just over $23 million.(1)
 
According to Dena Hoff, a diversified family farmer in Glendive, Montana and North American coordinator of La Via Campesina, “The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust’s purchase of Monsanto shares indicates that the Gates Foundation’s interest in promoting the company’s seed is less about philanthropy than about profit-making. The Foundation is helping to open new markets for Monsanto, which is already the largest seed company in the world.”
 
(…) The Gates Foundation continues to push Monsanto’s products on the poor, despite mounting evidence of the ecological, economic and physical dangers of producing and consuming GE crops and agrochemicals. In June the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monsanto Co. vs. Geertson Seed Farms, its first case about a GE crop. The Court recognized that genetic contamination of non-GE crops from transgene flow of DNA from GE crops, which occurs through the spread of pollen by wind and bees, is harmful and onerous to the environment and farmers. According to the web site of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, “AGRA and its partners have released more than 100 new varieties of improved seed across the [African] continent.”(10)
 
 
SOYA—GATES FOUNDATION & CARGILL PAPER
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has announced a new project to develop the soya value chain in Africa in partnership with American NGO, TechnoServe and agricultural commodity trading giant Cargill. The US$8 million project will be implemented as a four year pilot in Mozambique and Zambia with the intention of spreading the model to other regions in the future.
 
The Gates Foundation continues to back agricultural strategies that open new markets for strong corporate interests while assisting in the creation of policy environments to support foreign agribusiness’ interests. The programme will yoke African farmers into the soya value chain and open the door for major agribusiness players such as Cargill, while displacing African agricultural practices and traditional crops. In addition, there is a very real threat that this project could be a foot in the door for the introduction of genetically modified soya onto the Continent.
 
… The United States, Argentina and Brazil are the three major producers of soya in the world. The aggressive expansion of soya monocrops in Latin America has wreaked socio-economic and environmental disaster - in 2008 over 30 million hectares of soya was grown in Brazil and Argentina, where soya monocrops are notorious for displacing rural populations and causing mass deforestation. In April 2006, Greenpeace announced that in the 2004/2005 growing season, 1.2 million hectares of the Amazon rainforest was deforested as a consequence of soya expansion.

The vast majority of global soya crops are genetically modified to withstand applications of herbicides. (Approximately 93% of soya production in the USA is GM, 98.9% in Argentina and 70.7% in Brazil). The introduction of herbicide tolerant soya has created a sharp increase in the use of highly toxic herbicides – in the USA the use of herbicides has increased by 382.6 million pounds over the past 13 years, with herbicide tolerant soya beans accounting for 92% of that increase.
 
 
GATES FOUNDATION AWARDS $5.6 MILLION TO FOR-PROFIT WATER FOR PEOPLE
September 01, 2010
 
Water for People, a Denver-based nonprofit that works with communities in the developing world to build and maintain safe drinking water resources and sanitation facilities, has announced a four-year, $5.6 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to expand its Sanitation as a Business program.
 
…"Identifying profitable business models that engage local communities is critical to creating safe and sustainable sanitation systems," said Rachel Cardone, program officer for water, sanitation, and hygiene at the Gates Foundation. "Water for People is developing and testing these kinds of models, which have the potential to scale-up across regions and improve the health, economic, and social conditions of millions of poor people."
 
COMMENT: Clearly, clean water is a welcome resource for healthy communities. However, the Gates Foundation’s increasing application of the for-profit model, which gleans scarce income from rural peasants, stretches the definition of philanthropy.
 
 
 
GUARDIAN IS GATES’ LATEST ADVOCATE
Clay Holtzman, Puget Sound Business Journal
September 14, 2010
 
One of London’s biggest newspapers has published a comprehensive package of stories detailing humanitarian work closely aligned with the Seattle-based Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
 
But the new global development website full of stories published by The Guardian newspaper isn’t some tabloid-style take-down of the world’s largest philanthropy. It is the product of a partnership with the Gates Foundation that is aimed at closely covering global development, the fastest-growing area of Gates Foundation program spending.
 
According to a Guardian news release, the Gates Foundation is partially funding the website (I was not able to find the grant itemized on the foundation’s website), and it was launched to “help focus the world’s attention on global development.”
 
… Last week, the foundation disclosed that it spent more than $365 million in 2009 on policy and advocacy efforts. The largest portion was related to global health, but it did spend $41 million on global development.
 
COMMENT: The Guardian Newspaper has been a reliable independent voice for poor African farmers. Is Gates buying positive publicity from an adversary? Is the Guardian losing its bite?
 
 
 
PART TWO: ALTERNATIVES TO THE FOR-PROFIT AID MODEL IN AFRICA:
 
HARVESTING WATER TO SAVE CROPS AND LIVES
Isaiah Esipisu: 10 September 2010
 
[A] new report released on Sep. 6 by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) warns that [due to global warming] the changes in weather and climatic conditions may get even worse. It says that the erratic rainfall related to climate change will further threaten the food security and economies of many countries, particularly in Africa and Asia.
 
While the Agricultural Market Development Trust (an organisation that works with farmers in Kenya at grass-root level) has advised farmers to prepare for planting earlier in the month due to changing rainfall patterns … this may not be a long-term solution.
 
The remedy, the report states, is that countries, organisations and individuals must increase their investment in diverse forms of water storage.
 
"Just as modern consumers diversify their financial holdings to reduce risk, smallholder farmers need a wide array of 'water accounts' to provide a buffer against climate change impacts," said Matthew McCartney, the lead author of the report, in a press statement released alongside the report.
 
"That way, if one water source goes dry, they'll have others to fall back on," added McCartney, also a hydrologist at IWMI.
 
IWMI is a scientific research organisation focusing on the sustainable use of water and land resources in agriculture, for the benefit of poor people in developing countries. The organisation is supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research.
 
Who’s Really Fighting Hunger?
ActionAid's HungerFREE Scorecard Investigates why a Billion People are Hungry
Over one billion people – a sixth of humanity - don’t have enough to eat. Almost a third of the world’s children are growing up malnourished. This is perhaps one of the most shameful achievements of recent history, since there is no good reason for anyone to go hungry in today’s world.
Even before the food and financial crises, the number of people facing chronic malnutrition was extremely high, and falling extremely slowly. Since 2005, it has jumped by 20 percent. An extra 170 million people have been pushed into hunger – equivalent to the populations of Germany, France and Canada combined.
Without concerted action by world leaders, the worst is yet to come. Food prices remain stubbornly high in developing countries;3 the global recession is hitting jobs and incomes; and climate change is battering rain-fed agriculture.
(…) Our indicators are based on the actions that the UN has identified as most critical to reverse growing global hunger, most recently in its 2008 Comprehensive Framework for Action. Developing countries have been graded on four indicators: their legal commitment to the right to food, their investment in agriculture and social protection, and their performance on hunger and child nutrition. Developed countries have been ranked on their aid to agriculture and social protection; and their commitment to sustainable agriculture and tackling climate change.
 
ECOWAS to Empower Roppa
 
Officials of the ECOWAS [Economic Community of Western African States] Commission on Tuesday, 10th August 2010 met with  representatives of the Network of Farmers and Agricultural Producers’ Organisation of West Africa (ROPPA) during which the Commission reaffirmed its  commitment to appoint ROPPA as the Regional Correspondent for the ECOBIZ  system.
           
ECOBIZ system is an online data base management system provided by the ECOWAS
Commission to facilitate the automatic processing and dissemination of business information generated from data collected in Member States. It is used as a tool for boosting intra-community trade in West Africa as well as assist the Community private sector to harness business opportunities in the ECOWAS region and the global market.
           
In a message from the Vice-President of the Commission, Mr. Jean de Dieu Somda, delivered by the Director of the Community Computer Centre, Dr. Monisoye Afolabi, the Commission said it has become necessary to enhance the rhythm and growth of businesses within the Community by taking advantage of ROPPA’s network for the collection of business data from farmers and agricultural producers within the region.
           
He said that when the Regional Correspondent status comes into effect, ROPPA will have access to the ECOBIZ data base in order update the system within the specified terms of the operational convention which will formalize the proposed status of ROPPA as a Regional Correspondent.
 
 
Non-State Actors Warn Against Unequal Partnership
Economic Community of West African States
Abuja, 4, September 2010
 
Abuja - Nigeria — Representatives of the West African Civil Society and Private Sector organisations on Friday, 3rd August, 2010 advised against signing an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU) without building the capacities of the region to avail itself of its benefits and cope with the challenges.
 
This was one of the outcomes of the second phase of a stakeholder workshop designed to apprise the region's stakeholders of the status of the process and involve representatives of the region's civil society and the private sector in the process. West Africa is insisting on the significant contribution of the EU to an EPA Development Programme (EPADP), a fund that will enable it deal with the adjustment costs for the implementation of the impending EPA through the improvements in regional infrastructure and other related facilities.
 
Participants noted the importance of dealing with the development dimension of the impending agreement which would enable the region improve its competitiveness and better integrate into the global economy. They therefore appealed to the region's negotiators to ensure that additional resources are forthcoming from the EU for the financing of the EPADP. The focus on the EPADP as part of the on-going negotiation of an EPA, which was launched in 2003, is intended to provide a coherent reference frameworkfor the implementation of priority activities in order to take advantage of the opening of the market with the EU. The participants applauded the region's negotiators for doing well considering the stands they have taken to ensure the best interests of the region and then urged them to take necessary steps to ensure that the Community and Solidarity Levies are not scrapped. Community Levies are used to fund the activities of ECOWAS and the sister West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA).
 
Comment: Economic Partnership Agreements have historically been weighted towards the powerful Northern Industrialized countries. By banding together into a single economic community, the ECOWAS countries have shown the benefits of solidarity in the face of global economic imbalances.
 
 
Raj Patel: Food rebellion -- Mozambique’s Food Riots Are the True Face of Global Warming
On September 8, Democracy Now! spoke to Raj Patel about the protests in Mozambique and the floods in Pakistan.
By Raj Patel
September 4, 2010 -- It has been a summer of record temperatures – Japan had its hottest summer on record. Same with south Florida and New York. Meanwhile, Pakistan and Niger are flooded, and the eastern US is mopping up after Hurricane Earl. None of these individual events can definitively be attributed to global warming, as any climatologist will tell you. But to see how climate change will play out in the 21st century, you needn’t look to the Met Office. Look instead to the deaths and burning tyres in Mozambique’s early September "food riots" to see what happens when extreme natural phenomena interact with our unjust social and economic systems.
 
The immediate causes of the protests and in Mozambique’s capital, Maputo, and Chimoio about 500 miles north, are a 30% price increase for bread, compounding a recent double-digit increase for water and energy. When nearly three-quarters of the household budget is spent on food, that’s a hike few Mozambicans can afford. So far, the death toll hovers around 10, including two children. The police claim that they had to use live ammunition against protesters because "they ran out of rubber bullets".
 
 
 
Addendum to original Raj Patel article-Mozambique responds to the unrest:
* * *STOP PRESS: Price rises reversed* * *

September 7, 2010 -- MOZAMBIQUE News reports & clippings mailing list -- Price rises which triggered the riots last week have been reversed, the government announced September 7 after an emergency cabinet meeting. Wheat will be subsidised to bring bread prices back to what they were before the demonstration that began on September 1. Prices had gone up by 18% to 33%. Small loaves rose from 4.5 to 5.5 meticais (12 US cents to 15¢) and rolls from 1.5 to 2 meticais (4¢ to 6¢). The government also reversed the electricity and water prices riseson “social tariffs” for small consumers. Electricity consumers who use less than 100 kilowatt-hours a month will not pay more. For those who use between 100 and 300 kilowatt-hours a month, the price increase is reduced from 13.4% to 7%. Richer consumers, who used more than 300 kilowatt-hours a month, will pay the full increase. Households that use less th an five cubic metres of water a month will continue to pay 150 meticais a month. Prices for urban electricity and water connections havealso been cut. The price of low grade rice will be cut by 7.5% by removing an import duty. The surtax on imported sugar will be also temporarily removed. Subsidies for urban passenger transport will be “maintained and guaranteed”. The government also announced austerity measures, including a freeze on wages and allowances of all senior state figures (who include members of the government itself) and all members of the boards of public companies and companies where the state is the major shareholder. These wages must be paid in meticais, and not in foreign currency. The government also promises to rationalise its own expenditure on air travel (particularly in business class), fuel, lubricants and communications