Conference on the Green Revolution in Mozambique
We have been very busy at Food First and I have not had time to do this blog justice! Forgive me. To bring everyone up to speed, I am going to belatedly post accounts of the interesting and hopeful activities in which Food First has been involved.
Conference on the Green Revolution in Mozambique
The National Farmer’s Union of Mozambique (UNAC) recently invited me to a conference in Maputo to discuss the Gates-Rockefeller foundations’ Alliance for a new Green Revolution for Africa—AGRA. It seems the President of Mozambique had signed on to the project while at a recent summit, without consulting anyone else in Mozambique. The Mozambican Foundation for Community Development (FDC) led by Graca Machel—the present wife of Nelson Mandela and widow of Mozambique’s revolutionary hero Samora Machel—promptly organized a public conference on the 17th and 18th of August, “Strategies for Agricultural Development in the context of the Green Revolution.” A broad set of governmental and non-governmental organizations and offices were invited to discuss the pros and cons of the President’s decision.
As might be expected, there was a wide range of positions on the Green Revolution, and very little information about AGRA. Food First provided background on the Green Revolution, the Rockefeller and Gates Foundations, and AGRA itself. What we thought was important to communicate is that AGRA is the philanthropic flagship for a much larger complex of seed and fertilizer companies, multinational research institutes, and other institutions that have a political and financial stake in re-inventing and extending the Green Revolution. AGRA’s purpose is to attract financial and public support to a much larger campaign designed to advance the interests of multinational agribusiness in Africa. (In preparing my talk, I found an excellent analysis of how AGRA fits in to the larger industrial agriculture complex in a trim book by Elenita C. Daño, “Unmasking the New Green Revolution in Africa: Motives, Players and Dynamics” put out by Third World Network, Church Development Service, and the African Center for Biosafety.)
Ismael Ossemane, a farmer, and one of the founding members of UNAC gave an excellent presentation, pointing out that AGRA is nothing new, and that if the architects of the Green Revolution really want to help Mozambique, they need to adhere to the principles of food sovereignty. Here are some excerpts:
“The new Green Revolution can not be considered the only solution to solve all the problems in rural development in Mozambique (if we take into consideration that it has already been implemented in some African countries and even in our own country, without being named so). In fact, the first Green Revolution based in high costs, high technologies and high risk is very present in the African continent.
It is a historic fact that the Green Revolution was implemented and failed in some countries of the African continent despite the investment of millions of dollars in the last 20 years ($220 millions/ year). Behind the failure of the Green Revolution in Africa, we recognize an approach that gives little relevance to the way the rural workers have been growing food, managing the ecosystem and distributing the food.
We are convinced that the use of this same approach in the present time will bring similar consequences. The agronomical research is going slowly from the hands of the state to the private sector, which primary goal is to profit and to obtain the rights to private property. The GMO’s are at the core of this research, even though they haven’t been able to show any concrete benefits to the rural workers in the world.”
“The Green Revolution to be implemented must take into consideration the following aspects:
1.Focus on food for the people: Guarantee enough healthy and culturally appropriate food for all persons, peoples and communities, and reject the proposal by which food is just a commodity for international trading.
2.Give the due value to food producers: Give value to food growers and support their proposals, respect the rights of men and women, rural workers and family farmers who grow and process food as a way of rejecting policies and actions that take away their value and threaten to eliminate their ways of life.
3.Establish local food systems: Create spaces for meetings among the producers and consumers of food, putting the ones who produce and the ones who consume in the center of all decision making related to food; Protect consumers against low quality foods, against inadequate food aid and food contaminated by GMOs; avoid governmental structures, contracts and actions that promote unsustainable international trading that deliver power to international corporations without any responsibility for their actions.
4.Strengthen local control: Give control over land, pastures, water, seeds, and cattle to rural workers and local food producers, and respect their rights. They may use and share these resources in a social and ecologically sustainable manner; avoid privatization of natural resources through laws, commercial contracts and private property regulations that lead to their concentration in the hands of a minority.
5.Develop local knowledge: Strategies must be based on local producers knowledge and their organizations that conserve, develop and manage local production and harvesting systems, developing appropriate research systems which knowledge can be transmitted to future generations, and reject technologies that suffocate, threaten and contaminate biodiversity.
6.Work with nature: Take advantage of the diverse attributes of nature with methods of agro-ecological production and harvesting that maximize the ecosystem and improve the ability to adjust and adapt to climate change; Avoid methods that risk the balance of the ecosystem such as monoculture with use of chemicals, pesticides and excessive irrigation.
Read the full presentation at http://www.foodfirst.org/issues/africanfoodsovereignty.
My thanks to Diamantino Nhampossa, Director of the Mozambiquan Farmers union for hosting me and taking me into the countryside to meet with farmers while I was in Maputo. To read Diamantino’s analysis of the challenges of food sovereignty for the African peasantry, visit the Via Campesina website:
Following this conference, UNAC became a member of the organizing committee for the upcoming Mali conference on Advancing African Alternatives to the Green Revolution (Nov. 26-Dec. 2). We expect a big turnout of farmer organizations, women’s organizations, sustainable agriculture groups, activists, practitioners and researchers. See http://www.foodfirst.org/node/1769 for details