Negative impacts of the industrial agricultural under discussion
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Cape Town - Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI) executive director Francesca de Gasparis says the current approach to food security, in the face of the intensifying climate crisis, will do more harm than good on the continent.
Speaking during a virtual briefing focused on the real-life examples of the negative impacts of the Industrial Agricultural model in Africa and the alternatives, De Gasparis said African farmers need support to find communal solutions that increase climate resilience, rather than the top-down profit-driven industrial-scale farming systems proposed.
On behalf of faith leaders, the institute wrote an open letter to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation appealing to the foundation to reconsider its approach to “food security and food production” and to stop their push for “input-intensive crop” monoculture agriculture and industrial-scale farming in Africa.
De Gasparis said in addition to damaging ecosystems, threatening local livelihoods and increasing climate vulnerabilities, monocrop farming ignores and undermines smallholder farmers, whose efforts promote sustainable food production and protect the environment. “When it comes to the climate, African faith communities are urging the world to think twice before pushing a technical and corporate farming approach.”
Faith leaders in Africa have yet to receive a reply or acknowledgement from the Gates Foundation.
According to De Gasparis, what is currently promoting in sub-Saharan Africa is based on a fossil fuel and extractive business model and reduces farmers to nothing more than “food factories”, rather than meaningful stakeholders and contributors of the global food system.
The N2Africa project, which was funded by the Gates Foundation, pushed toward a modernisation agenda which would only benefit a few. She explained that while soil health and nutritional benefits are used to justify investment in legume commercialisation, the actual baseline measurement for success is production for external markets. “As a result, local legume crops and varieties that are within existing seed banks and have been grown for generations in ecosystems are bypassed in favour of imported commercial varieties that are developed for industrial feed and processing markets. This threatens local varieties that African farmers and consumers prefer, impacting the affordability of foods, local nutrition and cultural cooking practices.”
She said another concern of the foundation’s work in the continent is how laws are being altered. “The foundation is working to fundamentally restructure seed laws, which protect certified varieties but criminalise non-certified seed. This is particularly problematic for small-scale farmers in Africa, who nourish their families and their communities through seeds that are not certified.”
SAFCEI’s climate justice co-ordinator, Gabriel Manyangadze said through initiatives, they have seen that the foundation puts its full faith in technological fixes without seeking to address the vitally-important issues of morality and political economy involved. “People of faith, with reverence to the Almighty and with concern and respect to creation, must stand for agroecology. Faith leaders across Africa are witnessing the negative impact of industrialised farming to the land and in their communities. The data shows that industrialised mono-crop farming practices and food systems do not and will not provide the people of Africa with a nutritious and chemical-free, nor a diverse and culturally-appropriate diet that is affordable.”
SAFCEI has thus called for the Gates Foundation to stop pushing profit-driven industrial agriculture that impose technologies and seeds that are controlled by companies with vested interests, under the guise of a green “revolution”.