How We Got a Story Critical of Gates on the Front Page of The Seattle Times

Special Appeal from CAGJ Director Heather Day

On one of the hottest days of the summer, I was joined by three fantastic CAGJ members for a fun action. With 200 flyers, tape and a staple gun in my bag, I set out with Ashley Fent (AGRA Watch Research Coordinator), Molly McMahan (Rise-Up Summer School Collective member), and Katherine Hillesland (long-time intern and SLEE 2022 Coordinator), to find light poles and other surfaces all around the Gates Foundation and Seattle Times. Even though the conditions were challenging, I was so energized to be taking direct action with these CAGJ leaders! Please consider a year-end donation TODAY, to make CAGJ’s leadership development and direct actions possible in 2023!

Our purpose was to have fun while calling out the Times for never accepting our Op-Eds or publishing critical views of the foundation. For the past year we have tried many strategies to get US media to cover the story of how democracy is undermined and corporate agribusiness power expanded by Bill Gates under the guise of “philanthropy”. While African media have covered how AGRA (formerly known as the Alliance for a Green Revolution – more on that later) has failed, US media have been largely silent.

The next week, we were buzzing with activity: working with US, EU and African partners, we helped organize a press conference on the eve of AGRA’s annual summit. We aimed to amplify the message African food sovereignty leaders had been sending to Gates and other AGRA funders for months: The model has failed and is harming small-scale producers, so it’s time to pull the funding, and redirect it to sustainable, agroecological, regenerative solutions instead. Though we only had a short time to organize it, the press conference was well-attended. We know speaking truth to power matters to you: Please donate generously to help CAGJ reach our 20K year-end fundraising goal so we can keep up the good fight!

That same week, we were contacted by Nina Shapiro, Seattle Times reporter who wanted to write a story and interview me. When the AGRA Summit launched in Kigali Rwanda, it was met with big questions about the future of the “green revolution” – how is a model dependent on fossil-fuel-fed fertilizers viable in the age of climate chaos and disruption of industrial supply chains during war and pandemics? By the end, AGRA announced it was dropping “green revolution” from its name, as it wanted to change its “brand”!

On the closing day of AGRA’s forum, Bill Gates’ home-town newspaper, The Seattle Times, published Shapiro’s article on the front page, with the headline: “Gates-funded ‘green revolution’ in Africa has failed, critics say”. The article quotes farmer Celestine Otieno stating, “I think it’s the second phase of colonization”, as well as me, and other key African leaders. This was a stunning turn of events for AGRA Watch.

And yet, we know these results come from the fact that AGRA Watch has been organizing for over fifteen years, building relationships of trust with our African partners, and expanding our work in the past years to build alliances with respected organizations including GRAIN, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, A Growing Culture, ETC. Group and Oakland Institute. Together we are making a real difference, and the African food sovereignty movement is getting stronger by the day!

I know, as I just had the privilege of traveling to Cameroon for the Africa Food Systems Conference of AFSA – Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa; I am so impressed by how much they’re accomplishing, it’s absolutely incredible.

And I am so proud of how much AGRA Watch has accomplished this past year too, especially our Rich Appetites short film series, which includes in-depth companion guides for each film – special shout-out to Ashley Fent, the films’ producer!

We will keep pushing to expose the harms of philanthrocapitalism, and we know we can count on you to support us. I am sending a big heartfelt THANK YOU to all of CAGJ’s members for being the strong foundation that allows us to be an independent voice for justice and food sovereignty.

If you are not already a member, please donate today, and consider becoming a Monthly Sustainer! And if you’re already a member, thank you for making your year-end gift today, we truly appreciate donations of all sizes.

Happy New Year!

In peace and solidarity,
Heather Day

P.S.  If you can’t donate, consider becoming a Member and contribute by sharing your time, skills and ideas!


Posted in Agra Watch Blog Posts, News, Slider.

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