African farmers and faith leaders are calling for an end to the failed green revolution

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Zimbabwean farmer Handrixious Zvomarima (centre) and family members admire their cowpea crop in Shamva district, planted using conservation farming techniques

With the annual African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) underway, this week in Kigali Rwanda (September 6-9, 2022) African civil society, faith groups and peasant leaders reiterate their call for an end to Africa’s failed Green Revolution. They say AGRA is promoting a development model that increases reliance on foreign inputs, such as expensive fertilizers, that undermine the resilience of African food systems.

“We urge all funders to stop funding AGRA. Redirect your funding to systems that allow people to have their dignity, so that all creation can have equal opportunities in life where there are no chemicals in our water, in our soil and in our food.– Gabriel Manyangadze, Climate Justice Coordinator at SAFCEI

Africa’s largest food producer networks and their allies are calling for a decisive move away from imported, fossil fuel-based fertilizers and chemicals towards self-sufficient, organic agriculture that revitalizes soils and protects ecosystems. These calls come just ahead of the annual AGRA Forum, September 5-9, where business, government and donor leaders will gather in Kigali, Rwanda and call for “bold action for resilient food systems.” However, a unified alliance representing the largest network of food producers and faith leaders in Africa made it clear that the “bold action” they want is for AGRA’s donors to stop funding an initiative that didn’t make it , improve productivity, income and food security. AGRA donors include: the Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, USAID, governments of the UK, Germany and others.

Last year over 200 organizations joined a Letter by the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA). The letter calls on donors to withdraw their support from AGRA, a project that continues to disenfranchise the very farmers they claim support and agroecological farming. So far, these donors (and AGRA) still have to change course.

Celebrating diversity at a local seed fair in Zimbabwe. Photo by Nelson Mudzingwa

The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa is the largest civil society movement on the continent, bringing together farmers, herders, fishermen, indigenous peoples, faith groups, women’s movements, youth and consumer groups in a unified voice for food sovereignty. It is a network of networks operating in 50 African countries and representing 200 million people.

A recently evaluation commissioned by donors confirmed that AGRA has failed to increase yields, income and food security for farmers. In fact, studies show that food insecurity in the countries where AGRA operates has increased by 31 percent since AGRA was founded. AGRA failed to produce corn yields in more than half of the countries surveyed. Of all these countries, only farmers in Burkina Faso have seen an increase in net sales of corn. In addition, plant diversity has declined and heavy use of agrochemicals has degraded soils. Nutritious, climate-resilient native crops like millet and sorghum in production fell sharply. The very few that AGRA has proven to have benefited from were wealthy large male farmers, not smallholders or women.

AGRA’s Green Revolution model is even less viable today, with fertilizer prices double or triple what they were two years ago. This shift has only enriched the agrochemical multinationals record profits while hunger in Africa has reached alarming proportions. Past Green Revolutions in India, Mexico and the Philippines have created similar problems: wiping out local food systems, high reliance on costly inputs, resulting farmer suicides and destruction of local ecologies.

“Against this backdrop, it is shocking that a number of international donors continue to prioritize corporate profits over people, leaving the necessary transition to sustainable agroecological practices underfunded. Despite opposition from millions of African farmers and evidence of sustainable opportunities to increase yields and improve livelihoods, the African Development Bank uses the food price crisis to expand the use of industrial inputs in favor of agrochemical and agribusiness companies.” — Anuradha Mittal, executive director of the Oakland Institute.

The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa has its own response to the sharp rise in fertilizer prices: a network of 15 farmer-managed centers across Africa that produce organic fertilizers and biopesticides using inexpensive, locally available materials. Plenty of evidence and case studies to agroecology have led to widespread calls from farmers, civil society and UN agencies to move towards these more sustainable models. These systems and practices have been shown to improve soil fertility, increasing productivity at lower costs and higher incomes for farmers while building climate resilience.

“We have the expertise. The best people to solve problems in Africa are people from the continent itself. We need Afrocentric solutions. Our big question as an African people is why should our problems be solved by organizations outside the continent?” — Leonida Odongo, co-founder of Haki Nawiri Africa

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