Analysis: Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa

by Developed Africa 9. September 2013 09:00


New African Agriculture Status Report depicts need for a "Green Revolution"

Linked to our blog post last week regarding the importance of recognising women in agriculture, the African Agriculture Status Report 2013 was released last week. A report which comes from the organisation Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), set up by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in order to achieve a

food secure and prosperous Africa through the promotion of rapid, suatainable agricultural growth based on smallholder farmers"

Their definition of the "green revolution" that is needed is one in which:

increased agricultural productivity is guaranteed through investments in research and technology, infrastructure, as well as providing the enabling environment for the private sector, including farmers to promote agribusiness"

 AGRA aims to complete the following goals by the year 2020: doubling the income of 20 million small holder farmers, reducing food insecurity 50% in 20 countries, and ensuring that at least 15 countries are on a path toward sustainable and climate-friendly green agriculture. The basis of AGRA's aim is noble and one which everyone should support, however, in practice it would appear that they garner a lot of criticism in regards to the ways in which they work and the types of farmers they support. Not only this, but there is an argument against their belief that they are "African led" when in fact 50% of their board are not Africa, and all of the investors are American. Obviously it is crucial to have the correct funding, but to claim that a cause is being led by Africa when in fact the majority of people who will have a say in what happens, is misleading and potentially worrying for the projects they will decide to pursue. 

The foremost argument levered against AGRA is that it has the potential to make the same mistakes of the original green revolution, which did not cover Africa, but was a similar notion led by Norman Borlaug, American Agronomist. 

For example one of the largest criticisms is that it will only actually benefit big farms, and leave small farmers out in the cold because they will not be able to afford the technologies that are being introduced. This is what is often argued happened with the original 'green revolution':

gaps between social classes widened as wealthy farmers got wealthier and poor farmers lagged behind"

But claims such as this are strongly denied by members of AGRA, in a Q&A session with Humanosphere, Deputy Director of Agro, Roy Steiner, had this to say against allegations of ignoring small farmers:

If you look at our grants, it's clear that our focus is on smallholder farmers, particularly women farmers. The seed companies we support sell packs of seeds in one or two kilogram packets because that's what individual farmers buy. The materials we develop are in hundreds of different languages and our support often goes to smallholder organisations"

This does not mean however that they are completely focused on small holder farmers as they claim to be. Not only this, there have been protests in the past couple of years against the organisation associating itself with an American conglomerate Monsanto, stemming from the fact that the company:

supports research into genetically modified (GM) crops and other projects the activists believe will harm poor farmers overseas and only work to advance the interests of American or Western agri-business"

This is the main issue that is held against the group, that its methods might not be the best for Africa, and therefore could be counter-effective. 




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