Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Open statement: Call of G7 Civil Society Organizations to their Governments on the New Alliance

By Heidi Chow,
By Heidi Cho
By Heidi Chow, World Development Movement

More than two years after the launch of the G8 New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, what we have seen of its ‘progress’ does not change our assessment that the New Alliance actually undermines food security, nutrition and the progressive realization of the right to food in Africa. First on-the-ground research suggests a dramatic gap between development rhetoric and impacts. There is no sign that the New Alliance is lifting African people out of poverty, but the promise to “unleash the power of the private sector” is very visibly being fulfilled. Although the New Alliance rhetorically refers to the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP), we clearly see that the processes and components of CAADP targeted to the benefits small-scale food producers are sidelined.

When the New Alliance was inaugurated in the US in Camp David in 2012, it immediately became obvious that this initiative essentially served to enable private corporations to influence agricultural policy to advance their own interests. It is pressuring African governments to adopt domestic policy reforms that will facilitate large corporations’ investments in agriculture and discriminate against those who actually make the bulk of the investments, namely small-scale producers themselves.

Such profound legislative and policy changes threaten small-scale farmers control over land and seeds, marginalize local markets and cause loss of biodiversity and soil fertility, to the detriment of the livelihoods of local communities. They will exacerbate future climate and economic shocks for

small-scale farmers, instead of building their resilience to cope with such shocks. They are being made without national debate, thereby undermining democratic structures.

Lack of transparency in the New Alliance - where donor and corporate commitments and implementation are, as in the Progress Report 2013-14, only reported at summary level - makes it extremely difficult for civil society to get a full picture of the New Alliance implementation. However, first concrete cases indicate that the New Alliance is far from serving as an effective tool to support small-scale farmers.

For instance:

• In Burkina Faso the commitment to develop and rehabilitate irrigated land in the Bagré Growth Pole Project is mostly reserved for large-scale agribusiness investors, with only 22% (2790ha) of the land available for small-scale farming. Usually these farmers are only granted 1 to 4 ha of land with hardly any opportunity to scale up

• In Malawi, the enlargement of tobacco investments by multinational companies is presented as a contribution to food security and the commitment to improve access to land has been implemented by making 200.000 ha of land available to agribusiness; meanwhile the need to adopt the Tenancy Labour Bill as a core instrument to ensure minimum tenants and worker’s rights have been ignored in the cooperation framework agreement

• In Tanzania and Mozambique, new seed laws are going to be introduced that will criminalizefarmer to farmer seed exchange in the future. In other countries, such as Ghana and Malawi, similar processes are under way.

This evidence supports our analysis that the New Alliance sidelines the diverse and sustainable food systems of small-scale farmers which offer the real potential for food security and nutrition in Africa. Instead, it promotes environmentally damaging approaches to agriculture that entrench corporate power.

We therefore urge you to review your engagement in the New Alliance, and take the following steps:

1. Stop any legal and policy changes that facilitate large-scale land investments and that impede small-scale farmers ability to save, exchange and sell their seeds.

2. Stop any further expansion of the New Alliance. No further cooperation framework agreements should be developed.

3. Review existing projects and policy reform indicators with the meaningful involvement of the populations most affected, and withdraw from those that fail to promote the right to food and the legitimate tenure rights of women and communities, or that prioritize business interests over vulnerable people and the environment.

4. Make the letters of intent of the companies participating in the New Alliance public immediately in order to enable a legitimate public debate about likely impacts and assessment of the New Alliance.

5. Support small-scale producers’ own investments as advised by the Committee on World Food Security, by putting women, small-scale farmers and other marginalised groups at the center of any future strategy and project for food security and nutrition in Africa; making sure that human rights and environmental impact assessments are carried out to ensure that projects only move forward if they are found not to have negative impacts on human rights and the environment.

6. Support adoption of agroecological practices by small-scale farmers to build resilience through: participatory research in agroecology; dissemination of ecological farming knowledge via farmer-to-farmer networks; and capacity-building of extension services to advise farmers on how to practice ecological farming.

Open statement: Call of G7 Civil Society Organizations to their Governments on the New Alliance