Africa’s Green Revolution “failing on its own terms”

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Fourteen years ago, the Bill and Melinda Gates and Rockefeller foundations launched the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) with the goal of bringing Africa its own Green Revolution in agricultural productivity. Armed with high-yield commercial seeds, fertilizers and pesticides, AGRA eventually set the goal to double productivity and incomes by 2020 for 30 million small-scale farming households while reducing food insecurity by half in 20 countries.
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.” There has been no productivity surge. Many climate-resilient, nutritious crops have been displaced by the expansion of AGRA-supported crops such as maize. Even where maize production has increased, incomes and food security have scarcely improved for AGRA’s supposed beneficiaries, small-scale farming households. The number of undernourished in AGRA’s 13 focus countries has increased 30% during the organization’s well-funded Green Revolution campaign.
“The results of the study are devastating for AGRA and the prophets of the Green Revolution,” says Jan Urhahn, agricultural expert at the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, which funded the research and on July 10 published “False Promises: The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) .”
[image: False Promises: The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)]
*A Record of Failure*
As I document in my background paper, “Failing Africa’s Farmers: An Impact Assessment of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa,” AGRA has received nearly $1 billion in contributions, the vast majority from the Gates Foundation. The campaign has been fortified with large financial outlays by African governments, much of it in the form of subsidies to farmers to buy the seeds and fertilizers AGRA promotes. These subsidy programs have been estimated to provide as much as $1 billion per year in direct support for such technology adoption.
Surprisingly, as AGRA reaches its self-declared deadline of 2020, the organization has published no overall evaluation of the impacts of its programs on the number of smallholder households reached, the improvements in their yields and household incomes, or their food security. Neither has the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. AGRA declined my request to provide data from its own internal monitoring and evaluation of progress. This lack of accountability represents a serious oversight problem for a program that has both consumed so much in the way of resources and driven the region’s agricultural development policies with its narrative of technology-driven, input-intensive agricultural development.
You can find a summary of key findings in this *article on the IATP website * .
Rwanda, widely considered an AGRA success story thanks to rising maize production and yields, illustrates AGRA’s failings. Overall productivity improvements across staple crops have been weak, while the number of undernourished has increased 15% in the AGRA years. Rwanda’s former Agriculture Minister, Agnes Kalibata, now heads AGRA and was recently named to lead a planned U.N. World Food Summit in 2021.
“AGRA’s questionable approach cannot provide the necessary impetus for the U.N. Summit on Food Systems,” says Stig Tanzmann, agricultural expert at Bread for the World and one of the report’s authors.
That summit should instead actively consider agroecology and other low-cost, low-input approaches, which have shown far better short and long-term prospects than high-input Green Revolution practices. One University of Essex study surveyed nearly 300 large ecological agriculture projects across more than 50 poor countries and documented an average 79% increase in productivity with decreasing costs and rising incomes. Such results far surpass AGRA’s.
“AGRA is a vicious circle that drives small-scale food producers further and further into poverty, destroying their natural resources,” says Mutinta Nketani, an agricultural specialist from PELUM Zambia and author of the report’s case study on Zambia.
*The study “False Promises: The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)” can be downloaded here **. It is published by: Biba (Kenya), Bread for the World (Germany), FIAN Germany, Forum on the Environment and Development (Germany), INKOTA (Germany), IRPAD (Mali), PELUM Zambia, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung (Germany and South Africa), Tabio (Tanzania) and TOAM (Tanzania). My working paper, published by Tufts University’s Global Development and Environment Institute, is available here . *
For more of my past work on this, visit my IATP research page on The Future of Food , my past research on Africa’s Food Future and my past work on Land and Food Rights in Africa . [image: Follow me on Twitter] Follow me on Twitter [image: Subscribe to my emails] Subscribe to my emails Follow IATP [image: Facebook] Facebook [image: Twitter] Twitter [image: LinkedIn] LinkedIn [image: YouTube] YouTube [image: Email] <communications@iatp.org> Email <communications@iatp.org> [image: Website] Website
*IATP works locally and globally at the intersection of policy and practice to ensure fair and sustainable food, farm and trade systems. IATP has offices in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Washington D.C. and Berlin.* iatp.org
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