Hunger Haunts Many in Africa While …
Gates' Green Revolution Promotes False Solutions
Factory farming is the kind promoted by the Gates Foundation, yet neither the corporatists nor their critics are promoting the most basic solution -- farmers owning farms. This 2012 press release is from Friends of the Earth, Spt 25, on hunger.
by Kelly TroutDonors controlling the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) are representing the interests of biotechnology corporations rather than African small farmers, warns Friends of the Earth International on the eve of the annual AGRA Forum in Tanzania.
Multi-million dollar investments from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation --a major AGRA donor -- into shares in biotech corporations, and revolving doors between donors and these corporations skew the agenda of AGRA in favor of profit-based, corporate-led farming rather than farming benefiting local people and small farmers. To read more
“It is time African Governments stop bowing to corporate donors and instead put farmers in the driver's seat, and focus on funding ecological methods and preserving local seeds. Africa can feed itself with ecological agriculture and it is small farmers themselves who are the most important investors in farming. Through AGRA, multinational corporations are trying to control our seeds, land, food and then our lives. AGRA is not in the best interest of Africans, it is a trojan horse for agribusiness,” says Mariann Bassey from Friends of the Earth Nigeria.
The bulk of projects funded by the Gates Foundation and its brainchild AGRA favor technological solutions for high-input industrial farming methods. These include patented seeds, fertilizers, and lobbying for genetically modified crops. To read more
Evidence from the roll-out of genetically modified crops in other countries shows that these crops push farmers into debt, cause irreversible environmental damage, and encourage land concentration. Governments are being forced to protect farmers and citizens from genetically modified crops to combat biotech corporations’ stranglehold over farmers, and health scares from escalating pesticide use, according to a 2011 report. To read more
In March 2011 the UN issued a report urging 'eco-farming' as the best strategy for improving farming in the developing world. The report's author challenged the wisdom of the Gates Foundation’s approach in agricultural development. It’s the 2011 UN report 'Agro-ecology and the right to food' at To read more
“If AGRA carries on with its greenwash revolution, Africans will lose traditional and ecological farming that can feed people in the face of climate change. Instead they will have a toxic system that pushes farmers onto a chemical treadmill. This will be a disaster for their livelihoods and the environment. This is the opposite of what we need,“ says Kirtana Chandrasekaran, Friends of the Earth International Food Sovereignty coordinator.
Sustainable family farming, agro-ecological production models, and strong local markets have been recognized as the best way to feed people and to protect the planet. In April 2008 a study by 400 multi-disciplinary scientists and several international organizations (the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development, or IAASTD) concluded that agro-ecology, local trade, and supporting small farmers is the best way forward to combat hunger and poverty. To read more
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JJS: What a person can see depends on what they’re used to seeing. Amazingly, the human brain can literally not see even things right in front of its eyes, if one’s mind is not open to new experience. A famous example is the experiment with people passing a basketball among themselves who denied seeing a gorilla in their midst, blinded by their concentration on passing the ball. To read more
The most crucial blind spot of many is land, land ownership, and land rent (payments). Most Americans grow up in or own homes on land they own and so have a hard time seeing the land issue. Americans pay for land indirectly in a mortgage, so they’re not even aware of paying for land, nor that their land payments enrich Wall Street and create the problems downstream that they do complain about.
And Gates, while not a huge landowner, does own privilege. In American law, Gates and others do “plant their flag on the field of knowledge”; that is, they get patents and copyrights on ideas that others come up with, too, often sooner, or the original creator lacks capital and must work for or sell out to the Gates’ of the world. In this sense, patents differ little from land titles (which in American history were even called “land patents”).
Just as it is fair for society to expect landowners to pay land dues (or land taxes), it is equally fair for society to expect idea-monopolists to pay patent dues. Just as the land dues (or rent) depend on the value of the location, so would the patent dues depend upon the value of the idea. Both values are easily determined in an open auction of many well-informed bidders.
While society may fairly expect dues from owners of land and ideas, society is wrong to tax the improvements that owners make to land, or to tax the income from selling an original device in competition with other sellers, or to tax the sales themselves. All those taxes -- on earnings, on buildings, on purchases -- are unfair and counterproductive, shrinking their tax base. It’s only fair to charge people for what they take (via tax, dues, fees, etc), not for what they make.
Since it is society that generates the value of land and ideas (by paying for them), and since it is society that recognizes ownership and thereby creates property, therefore, it is members of society who are entitled to a share of the recovered “rents”, a la Alaska’s oil dividend.
In Africa, if people paid land dues, no one could afford to concentrate huge amounts of acreage to themselves -- the happy consequence of taxing land in Denmark, California, Australia, New Zealand, and Taiwan. And if people received rent dividends, then farmers would have a cushion, an income floor, allowing them to keep out of debt if they had a bad harvest or if they needed extra seeds or equipment. It’s the geonomic solution, and despite working wherever tried, still needs to catch the eye of those in power and those who would better the world -- and a gorilla suit won't do it.
Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics and helped prepare a course for the UN on geonomics. To take the “Land Rights” course, click here .
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