Sixteen years after the launch of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), funded by the Rockefeller and Gates family foundations, what results for the “green revolution” in Africa?
The NGO Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) has drawn the wrath of almost all African leaders in terms of ecology, agriculture and sustainable development.
Launched in 2006 in Kenya, the NGO has promised colossal funding, notably from the Bill and Melinda Gates (BMGF) and Rockefeller foundations. Promises, which are slow to turn into actions. The activity of the NGO, in 13 African countries, raises questions.
On September 2, 2021, during the annual press conference preceding the opening of AGRA's "Green Revolution Forum", African civil societies denounced the NGO's poor strategy and ineffectiveness.
"What African farmers need is support for climate resilience, rather than industrial-scale, profit-driven farming systems," said Francesca de Gasparis, director of the Institut de l'Institut. Environment of Religious Communities in Southern Africa (SAFCEI).
But it was an open letter addressed to AGRA on the part of its first African partner, AFSA, which set things on fire: AFSA, in this text, denounced the failure of the Kenyan NGO and the ineffectiveness of its American donors.
“African farmers, fisherfolk, Indigenous, pastoralists, women networks, youth networks, consumer organizations, faith-based institutions, civil society organizations, under the leadership of AFSA, send a letter to AGRA donors, demanding an end to funding.” https://t.co/UPOVDNDtgU
— Sharon Brookbank Honisch BA BEd BComm MBA, retired (@sharonhonisch) September 29, 2021
The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), which brings together 35 entities - unions, associations and conglomerates - and represents 200 million food producers, has launched a campaign portraying AGRA as "a misguided project". According to AFSA, AGRA had “failed in its mission to increase the productivity of agriculture in Africa and reduce food insecurity”.
For AFSA, as well as the 176 NGO signatories to its open letter, “AGRA has undermined broader efforts to support African agriculture”.
Since then, AGRA's loss of credibility has had fatal consequences on the NGO's activity and the image of its benefactors. The Gates couple's foundation and the Rockfellers were accused, in particular, of having simply lied about their declarations. They would have, according to several American media, used AGRA to “promote the personal images of the Gates and the Rockefellers, without spending a penny in the project”.
Charges that no one seeks to confirm or deny. For the think-tank Oakland Institute, AGRA was planned without real African participation, and “imposes unrealistic technological solutions to complex and deep social problems”.
“AGRA forces the hand of farmers who participate in the program, who lose power over their seeds and are now forced to buy from big companies. This causes the marginalization of African farmers that the NGO aimed to help, and promotes the agenda of foreign companies whose competitiveness in Africa remains questionable,” says the Oakland Institute.
Where has the promised “green revolution” gone?
Nevertheless, AGRA is not changing its tune. Aggie Asiimwe Konde, Vice President of AGRA, says, “We have had tremendous success in that we have seen farmers double their incomes, diversify crops and integrate into the market”. A statement among many others, which is not based on any figures or testimony.
In 2006, the launch of AGRA aimed to double the incomes of 30 million farmers in 13 African countries and reduce food insecurity by 50%. Ambitious objectives which AGRA, year after year, announces the progressive realization, while raising funds from Western donors.
For Timothy Wise, sustainability researcher at Cambridge, “AGRA is unable to provide evidence of this progress”. The professor reportedly undertook an audit of AGRA's impact in Africa. He even visited the sites of certain projects supposed to be completed in Kenya, Ethiopia or even Tanzania… And he found nothing. “AGRA refused to respond to my request for data on its beneficiaries. So I looked at the development indicators in the 13 beneficiary countries to look for clues on the increase in agricultural income, but nothing supports AGRA's statements,” Wise denounces in an article published on the site The Conversation.
False promises: The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa: Timothy Wise writes: “According to a new report from a broad-based civil society alliance, based partly on my new background paper, AGRA is failing on its own terms.”https://t.co/xhlTljpwUG pic.twitter.com/Nh9iSNnekf
- GMO Free USA (@gmofreeusa) July 16, 2020
AGRA blames African states
Several NGOs have attempted, since 2020, to deepen Wise's research. A report by 12 experts from around the world, titled “False Promises: AGRA”, called on the African countries which participate in the financing of the NGO to put an end to their donations. These amount to “one billion dollars per year, from the 13 priority African states of the program” according to the research.
The report, published by the German foundation Rosa Luxembourg Stiftung, specifies that the program is not totally ineffective. An increase of 87% in 12 years was recorded in the cultivation of maize in the countries concerned, but “this increase came from the farmers who devoted their land to the cultivation of maize, encouraged by the promises of subsidies”. "Yield has only increased by 29% over 12 years, but the land devoted to corn production has increased by almost 50%, which is not a sustainable farming method", lament the specialists.
But while hunger threatens a large part of Africa, in particular "because of the lack of crop diversity" according to another report, from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, AGRA seems more more harmful in African countries.
With an increase of 244 million food insecure people between 2014 and 2022 in Africa, AGRA is also very far from its second goal, to reduce food insecurity in Africa by 50%.
For AGRA, research denouncing the harmful effect of its program would be “neither professional nor ethical”. According to Agnes Asiimwe Konde, vice-president of the NGO, “African governments have not kept their end of the bargain in terms of the execution of the program”. “We have nevertheless managed to provide 10 million farmers (among the 30 million targeted, editor's note) with a minimum of technology. And apart from Rwanda, Ghana and Nigeria which allocate 10% of their budgets to agriculture, the rest of the African states only subsidize this sector by a maximum of 2% of the budget”, deplores the head of AGRA.