By Eric Holt-Giménez, originally published by Huffington Post, May 23, 2012
President Barack Obama wants to convince the world that he is actually a liberal after all.
First he not-so-hastily follows Vice-president Joe Biden's support
for gay marriage to assure us he is a social liberal. Then, last week at
the G8 meeting, he announces The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition
-- a $3 billion corporate investment initiative to end hunger in Africa -- to remind us he is still an economic liberal.
Not that the world needs reminding.
Like Bush, Clinton and every other president since Ronald Reagan,
Obama believes that proprietary technologies, unregulated global markets
and the unchecked power of corporate monopolies will solve all our
social, economic and environmental ills. Never mind that 30 years of
economic liberalization has impoverished the farmers of the global
South, kicked off global warming, pushed the number of hungry people up
over 1 billion and dragged us into the largest world-wide economic
depression since -- well, the last liberal Great Depression.
The New Alliance is an initiative to convince the world that
government and industry are finally doing something about world hunger.
But as one African civil society group
pointed out, it is not new and it is not an alliance.
Industrialized governments have given less than 6 percent in new
money of the $22 billion they pledged three years ago to rebuild
southern agriculture. The monopolies that made record profits during the
2008 and 2011 global food crises also came up with several globally-touted initiatives to end hunger
these were so quickly forgotten one can't even find their websites
anymore. Neither governments nor global corporations bothered to consult
with those who have the biggest stake in rebuilding agriculture in
Africa: the farmers.
There's a good reason why the 45 members of the New Alliance don't
want to hear from the people actually growing the food in Africa...
farmers would say that Africa is actually a rich continent and it is the
continued extraction of wealth by foreign corporations that causes
poverty and hunger -- that the first Green Revolution did not "bypass"
Africa; it failed. A new one spearheaded by the same institutions
presently spreading GMOs and land grabbing throughout the continent will
do more harm than good.
Is that assessment harsh? Anti-colonial? Radical? Yes. It is also true.
Today we are faced with two contrasting aspirations in
Sub-Saharan Africa: the desire to regain control of our development and,
on the other hand, the temptation of an excessive reliance on external
resources... [African governments] should accord the major advantages to
the principal investors in agriculture, those who take the risks within
the family enterprises, that is, the peasants, and not to urban or
foreign sources of capital.
This last point is especially poignant because, as explained by USAID's rather inexperienced director, Dr. Rajiv Shah, government just can't do things
like develop seeds, build silos, or establish distribution networks.
For that we need the private sector, i.e. the monopolies. Dr. Shah is
too young to remember the first Green Revolution, in which government
did precisely those things. He is also too young to remember a world
without rapacious global monopolies. Unsurprisingly, USAID wants the
Alliance to help remove the risks for foreign investment in Africa so
that Monsanto, Yara and other giants can combat hunger the old fashioned
way -- by making a profit on it. Well, it happens that agriculture is
inherently risky. If multi-billion dollar corporations aren't willing to
take any risks to end hunger -- and with African states decimated after
three decades of World Bank/IMF structural adjustment programs -- then
it will fall upon poor farmers to take the risks.
No wonder the New
Alliance didn't consult with them.
We must build our food policy on our own resources as is done in
the other regions of the world. The G8 and the G20 can in no way be
considered appropriate fora for decisions of this nature.
In case there was any doubt about which corporate projects African
farmers specifically see as compromising the sovereignty of countries on
the African continent, they identify them by name:
Three events have accentuated [our] doubts. First of all the
misunderstandings around the principle of the green revolution proposed
by AGRA (Bill Gates' Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa-Ed.).
Then the World Economic Forum where 'Grow Africa' was launched. And
finally, USAID's approval of the "New Alliance for Food Security." All
are three are signals... which risk seriously compromising the
realization of the original missions of [African] policies.
There are other alliances
being built around the world to forge equitable and sustainable
solutions to hunger. They not only consult with farmers, but are led by
farmers. They rely on time-tested and internationally-recognized agroecological methods
and ensure food security through food sovereignty -- the right of
peoples to protect their own food systems. President Obama would do much
better to build authentically new partnerships with them rather than
engaging in business as usual with the corporations that brought us
hunger in the first place.