The Green Revolution has become a movement on which more than $1 billion has already been spent, most of which has been provided by the world’s largest philanthropic foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates, reports The Daily Chronicle.
At the annual African Farming Summit, activists, farmers and faith leaders from Seattle to Nairobi called on the Gates Foundation and other funders to stop supporting measures they say have failed to deliver on the promise of radical reducing hunger and increasing the productivity and income of farmers. Even more, critics claim that the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) supports and promotes an industrial model of agriculture that aims to actually destroy nature, including poisoning the soil with chemicals.
This model also encourages farmers to go into debt by buying expensive seeds, fertilizers, etc. Due to debt, farmers sell their land or property, such as televisions or stoves. This is what Celestina Otieno and Anne Maina, activists from Kenya who advocate environmentally friendly practices, tell us.
In December last year, an assessment was released that the Alliance had achieved mixed success over the past five years, increasing maize yields in half of the countries surveyed. However, “AGRA has not achieved its main goal of increasing incomes and food security.”
According to Peter Little, director of the global development program at Emory University, the Alliance has not even come close to what it promised to do.
Alliance leaders deny such criticism, however, it clearly struck them. AGRA is launching a rebrand this week that will drop the term “green revolution” from the organization’s name. Now it will only be in the abbreviation.
“We have been many times misunderstood,” Alliance President Agnes Kalibata said at the summit, which, incidentally, also removed the words “green revolution” from its title.
This term is a reference to a movement that began several decades ago and was most vividly expressed in India. Thanks to chemical treatments and new technologies, such as high-yielding seeds, agricultural productivity there has greatly increased and hunger has decreased. However, the “green revolution” in India led to protests and even suicides of indebted farmers.
The new “green revolution” tried to avoid past mistakes and be uniquely African, says Kalibata. The Alliance has tried to prevent the overuse of universal fertilizers by promoting new ways to analyze soil and determine exactly what type and amount of fertilizer it needs.
Kalibata, who is also Rwanda’s former agriculture minister, even credits her organization with some “huge successes,” such as helping more than 800 Africans earn master’s and doctorate degrees in agriculture. Still, she and Enock Chikava, the interim director of the Gates Foundation’s agriculture development team, admit that the effort has fallen short of its goals, but they see climate change as the biggest cause.
AGRA tries to adapt to the conditions, so it promotes drought-resistant seeds and planting trees that conserve moisture in the soil. The organization plans to implement a new five-year strategy, within which it will focus on environmental protection and listen more to the needs of farmers.
The Gates Foundation will invest $200 million in the work of the Alliance over the next five years and insist on regular public evaluations of its work. Still, the foundation seems pleased with AGRA’s work and frustrated by demands from critics, such as a call not to use chemical fertilizers, which Chikava believes will limit African farmers compared to farmers in other countries.