Controversial aid initiative, the New Alliance, is being critically discussed in European parliament

Controversial aid initiative, the New Alliance, is being critically discussed in European parliament

Date: 14 March 2016

  • EU development committee reviews controversial aid initiative, the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition
  • UN food expert and campaigners from campaigners call on the EU to withdraw from aid project
  • Civil society to stage tug of war between big agribusiness and small farmers in Brussels 

Campaigners from across Europe are today staging a tug of war protest between big agribusiness and small scale farmers today, while a European parliamentary committee critically reviews the aid initiative, the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.

Launched in 2012, the New Alliance provides aid money from the G8 countries and the European Union, aiming to lift 50 million people out of poverty in 10 partner countries in Africa. It is based on the assumption that corporate investment in agriculture will increase production and automatically improve food security and reduce poverty. But the initiative has been widely criticised by civil society organisations across the world for facilitating the grabbing of land and  natural resources, undermining small-scale farmers and their right to adequate food and nutrition, and accelerating seed privatisation.

Former UN Special Rapporteur on Right to Food, Professor Olivier de Schutter, was commissioned by the European parliament to produce an assessment report which was published in December. The report concludes that the New Alliance ‘is seriously deficient in a number of areas.’ For example, the New Alliance is ‘silent on the need to favour a shift to low input, sustainable agriculture.’ The report also criticises risks around land grabbing and seed privatisation.  It calls for EU and its Member States to make their support to the New Alliance conditional to a number of improvements, highlighting that ‘none of the improvements will be sustainable unless they are grounded in a rights-based approach to agricultural development’. 

Activists taking part in the protest today are appealing to MEPs to recommend that the EU withdraw from the New Alliance as it is fundamentally acting in the interests of big agribusiness companies and against the interests of small-scale farmers.

The EU has put  USD $1.1bn  into the New Alliance.  Earlier in 2015, an independent audit of the UK’s aid partnerships with corporate partners singled out the New Alliance as being particularly ineffective. The report suggested that the £600 million that the UK had poured into the scheme was effectively subsidising the PR campaigns of the large agribusiness companies involved

Heidi Chow, a food campaigner with Global Justice Now said:

“In the last four years the New Alliance has done very little to alleviate hunger or address food security, and an awful lot to facilitate land grabs,  displace small farmers and impose big agribusiness companies on countries and communities across Africa. The De Schutter report is one of the most thorough and well documented reviews of the scheme to date and the conclusions show that it is failing very badly. Aid money should be used to support the many agricultural initiatives across countries in Africa that are promoting increased yields, sustainable practices and community resilience, instead of subsidising projects that enable big agribusiness companies to swoop in and seize control.”

Maureen Jorand, Advocacy officer on food sovereignty in the French NGO, CCFD-Terre Solidaire:

“The European Union has  a critical role in the New Alliance. With a financial commitment in excess of  USD$1 billion, without even counting the contibutions from member states  the European Union is the 2nd largest funder of the initiative. And the EU is directly coordinating the New Alliance in Ivory Coast. In this specific country, there is evidence  of farmer indebtedness and threatto  their land tenure, thus undermining food security. It is crucial for the European Parliament to take into account the voices of over a hundred of African and European organizations that call on the EU to stop engagement and support for the New Alliance.”

Fabien Millot, Food Sovereignty officer with Peuples Solidaires-Action Aid France

“The New Alliance does not support small-scale producers estimated to produce approximately 70% of the food, instead it  allows large transnational corporations to take  control of the African agriculture sector through legislative reforms concerning land, seeds and tax. We call for more investments in agriculture but the New Alliance is fundamentally flawed and dangerous. This is why more than 48,000 people have asked the French government to stop supporting this initiative.”


Over 100 farmer and civil society organisations from Africa and around the world have called on governments to stop engagement in and support for the New Alliance

Instances of controversy surrounding the New Alliance

  • In Ghana, a proposed bill – dubbed the ‘Monsanto Law’ – would bolster the power of multinational seed companies whilst restricting the rights of small farmers to keep and swap seeds. This bill, which is being brought in as part of the Ghanaian government’s commitment to the New Alliance, will see the control of seeds being transferred away from small farmers and into the hands of large seed companies. 
  • Farmers in Nigeria’s Taraba State are being forced off lands that they have farmed for generations to make way for US company Dominion Farms to establish a 30,000 ha rice plantation. The project is backed by the Nigerian government and the New Alliance.
  • In Tanzania, about 1,300 people are at risk of losing their land or homes to make way for a sugarcane plantation, which is a New Alliance project. An area of land the size of Washington D.C. will be used by a plantation to produce sugar for biofuels.