Agroecology, not agribusiness, the solution to Africa's food issues says new report

Thursday, 5 March, 2015

Despite international trade rules being rigged in favour of industrial agriculture, small scale farmers are the key to addressing food issues across African countries, according to a report being released on Wednesday. Small scale farmers produce over 70% of the food consumed in Africa, on less than 15% of the agricultural land. But donors, development agencies and multilateral financial initiatives, like the DfID-backed ‘New Alliance for Food Security’ continue to push a one-size-fits-all industrial model of agriculture that threatens the livelihoods of small farmers.

The report From the Roots Up : how agroecology can feed Africa has been produced by campaign group Global Justice Now, and draws on examples of agroecology projects in Tanzania, Cameroon, Uganda and Ethiopia. It outlines the principles of agroecology to go beyond principles of sustainable farming, to also encompass the social, economic and political aspects of food production. From the Roots Up shows how agroecology can:

  • Increase yields
  • Reduce the gender gap
  • Increase employment and income
  • Increase agricultural biodiversity
  • Improve health and nutrition
  • Address climate change

The report also carries a series of policy recommendations for the UK government to support agroecology in African countries through aid programmes. The New Alliance, an aid initiative currently supported by DfID and involving a number of agribusiness multinationals, has been criticised for pressuring states to receive aid in return for committing to land, trade, seed and other policy reforms that threaten the livelihoods and resilience of small-scale farmers while facilitating the corporate control of agriculture. DFID has channelled £600 million in aid through the New Alliance.

Report author Dr Ian Fitzpatrick of Global Justice Now said:

“We’re led to believe that big agribusiness is the only way of feeding humanity. But evidence from small scale, sustainable farming practices shows that they not only have greater yields, they also have multiple, positive knock on effects like reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing employment and reducing the gender gap. UK aid money should be prioritising these people-centred models of agriculture rather than enabling the corporate control of food production across African countries through initiatives like the New Alliance.”

Samia Nkrumah from Ghana For Agroecology said:

“This report shows that the intervention of big agribusiness is not going to ‘solve’ hunger in Africa, it will actually make it worse. The UK and other western governments should stop trying to impose a broken food model on countries in Africa and instead recognise the skills and resilience of traditional agricultural practices across the continent.”

In February in Mali more than 250 delegates from around the world took part in the first International Agroecology Forum.

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