AGRA Watch is a grassroots, Seattle-based group challenging the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s questionable agricultural programs in Africa, including its Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). The Gates Foundation and AGRA claim to be “pro-poor” and “pro-environment,” but their approach is closely aligned with transnational corporations, such as Monsanto, and foreign policy actors like USAID. They take advantage of food and global climate crises to promote high-tech, market-based, industrial agriculture and generate profits for corporations even while degrading the environment and disempowering farmers. Their programs are a form of philanthrocapitalism based on biopiracy.
Recent updates and actions:
On September 8, 2022, the Seattle Times published excellent and critical coverage of the Gates-funded Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). The article also made the front page of the print newspaper on September 9!
Nina Shapiro writes:
As an annual African farming summit takes place this week in Rwanda, activists, farmers and faith leaders from Seattle to Nairobi are calling on the Gates Foundation and other funders to stop supporting an effort they say has failed to deliver on promises to radically reduce hunger and increase farmer productivity and income.
Worse, critics say the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), founded in 2006 with money from the Gates and Rockefeller foundations, has promoted an industrial model of agriculture that poisons soils with chemicals and encourages farmers to go into debt by buying expensive seeds, fertilizers and pesticides.
As a result of that debt, some farmers have had to sell their land or household goods like stoves and TVs, said Celestine Otieno and Anne Maina, both active with organizations in Kenya advocating for ecologically-friendly practices.
“I think it’s the second phase of colonization,” Otieno said.
The article also quotes CAGJ’s Executive Director, Heather Day:
Heather Day, co-founder and executive director of the Seattle-based Community Alliance for Global Justice, a group that came out of the World Trade Organization protests here in 1999, said she knew AGRA’s model was flawed when she heard a Gates Foundation staffer talk about a green revolution in the movement’s early days.
“It was something that just immediately raised alarm,” said Day, who was familiar with the original green revolution’s track record.
She said she was shocked the Gates Foundation was promoting a similar model.
Her organization, whichhas worked with an array of African activist and farm groups, helped organize a news conference last Thursday to pressure AGRA’s funders.
Of note, Shapiro’s article publicizes some very important new developments: namely, that AGRA plans to address criticism by dropping the “Green Revolution” terminology from its name (and using only an empty signifier of an acronym instead), and that the Gates Foundation has committed $200 million to the initiative over the next 5 years.
Additionally, Shapiro finds that AGRA’s own leadership acknowledges the initiative’s shortcomings and recognizes that it has not met its objectives–but they blame this on climate change. This is nonsensical, because AGRA promotes a chemical-intensive and industrial model of agriculture; this model accounts for over 1/3 of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide and is a key driver of climate change and biodiversity loss.
The publication of this article is in part the outcome of our hard work, as an organization and as part of wider coalitions and networks, to pitch the AGRA story to US media outlets. We are so excited to see criticisms of AGRA becoming more and more widespread in various outlets, including the Seattle Times. Read the full article here…
Additionally, Million Belay of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) recently commented on the ongoing food and hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa on Democracy Now! He had this to say about AGRA specifically:
Even now new actors are coming in, instead of — in addition to governments. New philanthrocapitalists are coming with their own methods of — with their own solution for Africa. We can mention the Gates Foundation, for example, as one of the foundations, which has an institution called the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, basically promoting agrochemicals, you know, high-yielding variety of seeds, market-oriented agriculture, this kind of — which sucks again the resilience of our agriculture for the future. It doesn’t build sustainability, doesn’t build resilience. So, you know, that all the problems that we face, with army war, with the [inaudible] war, with the drought, these are all exacerbated by the bad motives of development that we are following as an Africa, and that’s also the influence from outside, yeah.
You can also read critical reporting and op-eds published recently in the African and international press, which US Right to Know is tracking here.