Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa
Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) is an organization dealing with agricultural products in Africa. It is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as well as the Rockefeller Foundation. Broadly, it deals with improving agricultural products and supporting local farm owners and labor.
Kofi Annan is on its board of directors; various other members are internationally eminent in fields such as agriculture, policy management, planning and coordination, etc.
AGRA's stated goals (for 2020) are:
- doubling the income of 20 million small farmers
- reducing food insecurity 50% in 20 countries
- ensuring that at least 15 countries are on a path toward sustainable and climate-friendly green agriculture
In an interview with This Is Africa, Jane Karuku, President of AGRA, explained their focus: “The first and most important thing is that we have to continue building on the capacity of Africans themselves to do agricultural research. That requires investment in scientists and in research institutions, which receive very little funding by government, so that we can breed more seed varieties that are high yielding and resistant to pests and diseases.”
- Development of disease-resistant strains of cassava. The genetically-engineered cassava are reportedly immune to cassava brown streak virus disease and the cassava common mosaic virus.
- PhD programs at universities in Ghana and South Africa
A "Voices From Africa" conference has suggested that AGRA was planned without African voices, and imposes quick-fix technological solutions on complex and historically deep social issues, that it will impose a regime in which farmers lose power over their own seeds and are forced to buy them back from large corporations year after year. This system may also contribute to the marginalization of women. The conference compiled a set of papers containing various arguments:
- The Foundation's plan for Africa involves the production of cash crops which can be sold on the global market. This may leave countries unable to produce food for themselves, and dependent on fluctuations in the global market.
- Some worry that AGRA will push genetic use restriction technology on African farmers, again leaving them dependent on outside companies for new seeds.
- Some critics have said that AGRA misrepresents Africa by cherry-picking spokespeople to support one viewpoint on genetically modified crops.
- Some technologies promoted by AGRA may create dependence on herbicides, which raises the possibility of super-weeds.
- Hunger in Africa results more from poverty than from actual food shortages; people will not be able to buy any additional food that gets produced without larger systemic changes.
Most of these papers call for local control and food sovereignty as an alternative.
Other sources, including the African Centre for Biosafety, Ecoterra Intl. and The Guardian, have reported that the Gates Foundation, allied with Monsanto and Cargill, plans to aggressively promote strains of genetically modified soy in Mozambique and beyond.
A conference titled "Living With the Gates Foundation" contained some criticism of Gates Foundation sponsorship. One author suggested that the foundation's influence on media and global health was so great it could chill almost all criticism. The above-cited Guardian article, for example, is written by the Director of Agriculture for Impact, a separate Gates-funded endeavor. And the blog series of which the article is a part sports a "Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation" graphic in the top right corner of its page.
- "Strengthening Food Security: Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)". Rockefeller Foundation. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
- Conway, Gordon (31 May 2011). "Global food crisis: Towards a 'doubly green' world". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
- "Interview: Jane Karuku, President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa". This Is Africa. 30 July 2013. Retrieved 5 September 2013.
- "Good news for cassava as new varieties to combat deadly viral diseases are officially released in Tanzania". Newstime Africa. 24 January 2012. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
- Hultman, Tami (24 January 2012). "Africa: Aid Can Spur 'Historic Progress' - Bill Gates". AllAfrica. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
- Austin-Evelyn, Katherine (16 June 2011). "The ‘keepers of seed’: The impact of the ‘Green Revolution’ in Africa on female farmers". Consultancy Africa Intelligence. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
- Melissa Moore (2011). Anuradha Mittal, ed. Voices From Africa (PDF). Oakland: Oakland Institute. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
- Vidal, John (29 September 2010). "Why is the Gates foundation investing in GM giant Monsanto?". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
- Ogden, Timothy (1 September 2011). "How much difference is it making?" (PDF). Alliance Magazine. Retrieved 2 February 2012.