By Susanne Schuster
In the course of the last year several initiatives addressing global hunger and food security were launched. It is very touching to see how concerned our leaders are with hunger and poverty. At the Camp David G8 summit in May 2012 president Obama launched the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition which aims to achieve global food security based on a partnership between the G8, a number of African governments, transnational corporations and some domestic African companies. The emphasis is on growing domestic and foreign private investments in African agriculture with the support of institutions like the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the UN World Food Programme and the FAO amongst others. The investments are supposed to be regulated by voluntary guidelines.
The UK government organised the first Hunger Summit in the summer of 2012 to coincide with the Olympic Games and a second Hunger Summit is being held in London on 8 June on the occasion of the G8 summit hosted by the UK government in Northern Ireland on 17 and 18 June 2013. The UK Prime Minister Cameron claims he wants to solve malnutrition in children through high-tech enriched foods.
Then in January 2013 a new campaign IF on hunger and food security has launched in the UK, run by a group of more than 200 development and other organisations including well known charities such as Oxfam, Action Aid and Christian Aid. This campaign is running also in the context of the G8 summit. The IF campaign is centred on four big issues: aid, tax, land and transparency.
It doesn’t take much to find that behind all the nice words and PR spin it’s business as usual – capital accumulation forever.
None of these three initiatives challenge the systems of power, control and property rights at the heart of the global food system. Indeed, the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition and the Hunger Summit work in tandem with the most powerful agribusiness corporations on the planet like Monsanto, Syngenta, Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland and foundations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. They are not in business to solve hunger and poverty but to maximise profits for their shareholders, that’s their legal duty. Everything else is propaganda. When there is talk of more private investment and growth in Africa it really means that they want a bigger share of the African cake for the benefit of their shareholders. Ordinary Africans will just get the crumbs.
None of these campaigns have involved any of the grassroots movements such as La Via Campesina, the international peasant organisation representing 200 million farmers in 70 countries, who have already developed a framework to deal with the global food crisis – food sovereignty. Food sovereignty means not only having enough food but having control over food production and distribution in order to produce culturally adequate, nutritious food for one’s own needs as a priority. It is based on self-sufficient methods that do not rely on expensive inputs that would tie farmers into a cycle of dependency and debt to those corporations, which has for example already driven a quarter of a million cotton farmers in India to suicide.
Mamadou Cissokho said on behalf of farmers who are members of 15 organizations in Africa in a letter to the president of the African Union: “I would simply like to recall that food security and sovereignty are the basis of our general development, as all of the African governments underline. It is a strategic challenge. This is why we must build our food policy on our own resources as is done in the other regions of the world. The G8 and the G20 can in no way be considered the appropriate fora for decisions of this nature.”
World Development Movement Director Deborah Doane criticised that while the demands of the IF campaign are welcomed, it “will not be challenging the power and impact of the financial system on food prices, nor is it grounded in the principles of food sovereignty.” Intense criticism also comes from War on Want Director John Hilary, who stated that the political causes of poverty and hunger have not been addressed. Even more damning, War on Want exposed how David Cameron has been abusing the IF campaign to promote himself as a leading crusader for social justice at a time when the UK government’s actions are causing unprecedented hardship at home and fuelling poverty in Africa. “The IF campaign is promoting a wholly false image of the G8 as committed to resolving the scandal of global hunger, rather than (in reality) being responsible for perpetuating it.”
There are abundant studies and data that prove that small-scale farming using agro-ecological methods is more productive per hectare than industrial agro-operations; it also provides greater biodiversity, healthy soil, clean water and air, essential for our health and happiness. About 80 % of food in Africa is produced by peasant farmers. They are the ones who know the problems and they know the solutions. We must fight against these patronising top-down false solutions in solidarity with farmers around the world.
Sign-on statement: stop UK aid giveaway to multinationals
Africa civil society statement on the G8’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition
For my writings, articles and translations in German visit missubuntu.wordpress.com
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