FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE-USAID and Congress: Stop funding industrial agriculture in Africa

For immediate release: August 30, 2022

Contact: Ashley Fent, [email protected], 253-686-6081

Community groups and taxpayers call on USAID and Congress to stop funding industrial agriculture in Africa

In solidarity with African civil society groups, more than 1,100 letter signers demand that taxpayer money no longer be spent on the failing Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa

SEATTLE, WA August 30, 2022 – Over the past four months, USAID has received more than 1,100 letters from members of community groups and the wider public, who have expressed their concerns about US taxpayer funding of the “Green Revolution” in Africa. This agricultural model ramps up the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, corporate-owned seeds, and exploitative market and credit systems.

On the eve of the African Green Revolution Forum September 5-9 in Rwanda, community groups and taxpayers are calling on members of Congress and USAID Administrator Samantha Power to heed African farmers’ concerns about the agency’s funding of industrial agriculture through the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). As Anne Maina, National Coordinator of the Biodiversity and Biosafety Association of Kenya wrote in a recent op-ed, USAID “quickly dismissed critical findings of donors’ own evaluation which found little improvement in productivity or food security, with most benefits going to wealthier male farmers. USAID says it sent a mission to Kenya and Ghana to consult with ‘stakeholders’ but never talked to my organization or any others that are on the record asking for change.”

The letter campaign focused on USAID was launched by Community Alliance for Global Justice (CAGJ), in collaboration with the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), Africa’s largest civil society network, which represents over 200 million food producers on the continent. CAGJ Executive Director Heather Day explains, “As taxpayers who fund USAID’s programs, we want to be clear that we are not in support of forcing an industrial and corporate-led agricultural model on other countries. This model has been disastrous for our own rural communities, farmers, and environments at home, and we should not be exporting it abroad.”

In March, AFSA and other African allies briefed staffers from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, hosted by Representative Ilhan Omar’s office, to ask that Congress compel USAID to stop funding industrial agriculture in Africa through AGRA. They demanded that USAID instead devote more funding to agroecology—a holistic and farmer-led approach that applies ecological principles and relationships to agricultural production, as well as addressing issues of equity, social justice, and fair distribution.

During the briefing, Million Belay, Coordinator of AFSA, stated: “The ‘Green Revolution,’ which is promoted by USAID and AGRA, is not working. It’s clear that it’s time to change. Our solution is agroecology. Agroecology increases productivity, is good for nutrition, increases diversity, increases the cohesiveness among farmers, increases soil richness–all are critical factors for adaptation to the climate crisis, and also for resilience.”

Established by the Gates and Rockefeller Foundations in 2006, AGRA has been funded primarily by the Gates Foundation, but has received support from numerous nongovernmental and governmental donors, including USAID. AGRA increases reliance on expensive and toxic chemical inputs, privatizes seed systems, increases farmers’ indebtedness, and fails to produce higher yields in the long term. A donor-commissioned evaluation has confirmed that AGRA has failed to meet most of its goals related to farmer impact. At the same time, AGRA (along with US philanthropic foundations and agribusiness corporations) has influenced African governments, encouraging them to pass seed and fertilizer policies that infringe on farmers’ access to seed, push imported farm inputs, enable profiteering by the fertilizer industry, and undermine efforts to boost self-sufficiency. The national and regional frameworks that have emerged from AGRA’s lobbying efforts go directly against the advocacy work of civil society groups and farmers’ associations.

On Monday, August 29, CAGJ updated USAID Administrator Samantha Power on the status of the letter campaign, and notified members of Congress, including Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell (WA), Representatives Adam Smith and Derek Kilmer (WA), Senator Patrick Leahy (VT), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Senator Jeff Merkley (OR).

As world leaders are set to gather at the African Green Revolution Forum, AFSA is once again demanding that USAID and other donors immediately cease funding AGRA, and instead redirect this money toward agroecology. USAID’s funding of AGRA goes against the wishes of African small-scale farmers (the intended beneficiaries of African agricultural development funding), African civil society organizations and their allies, and US taxpayers. It is well past time for USAID to reverse course, engage in more robust consultations with African farmers and intended program beneficiaries, and devote more funding to community-based and African-led agroecology initiatives that can build ecologically- and socially-resilient futures.

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