By Ruth Tene Natsa, Abuja
83 Civil Society organisations on the platform of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) have rejected the call for Cimate Smart Agriculture at the ongoing Dakar Summit on Agriculture and Agribusiness (Dakar II), Senegal.
The CSOs which include Nigeria’s Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) , Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Earth, Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), Urban-Rural Environmental Defenders (U-RED), SPEAK, Network of Women in Agriculture Nigeria (NWIN), Youth for Environmental Sustainability and Development (YESD) , Friends of Earth Africa (FoEA), among others say, climate smart agriculture will worsen the climate crisis
The Alliance expressed deep concern at the aims and assumptions that appear to underlie the summit stating that “While climate change is a serious threat to farmers in Africa, with 70 per cent of farmers depending on rain-fed farming, CSA approaches, including WEMA and drought tolerant maize varieties, are not the solution”.
“Not only does CSA strengthen the very agribusiness and seed companies responsible for destroying farmers’ livelihoods and the agricultural biodiversity which is needed for robust food systems, but it also contributes to, rather than solves, the climate crisis by strengthening the industrial food system.
According to GRAIN and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), the world’s five 8 largest meat and dairy corporations are responsible for an even greater volume of greenhouse gas emissions than oil companies like Exxon, Shell, or BP.
AFSA whose members include smallholder farmers, pastoralists, hunter-gatherers and indigenous people have explained how agroecological and indigenous practices are the right way forward for African farmers to survive the climate crisis.
“We urge participants at the Dakar II Summit to consider ways of eliminating land-grabs from farmers, reject CSA-based approaches that strengthen large seed and agribusiness companies and support the organizing initiatives of African farmers and organizations who are fighting for food sovereignty and agroecology, and those who are fighting back against land grabbing by agribusiness and private investors.
The stated aim of the summit, organized by the African Development Bank (AfDB) together with the government of Senegal, is to raise agricultural productivity and support infrastructure and “climate-smart” agricultural systems using private sector investments in order to “help turn Africa into a breadbasket for the world.” The organizers of the summit claim that this will require between $28.5 billion and $36.6 billion annually.
However, the underlying structural problem with food insecurity in Africa is not simply one of insufficient land being cultivated in Africa, or of an overall shortage of food, as stated by AfDB, the Alliance stated
“Over the last ten years enormous swathes of land across the continent of Africa have been grabbed by agribusiness interests, resulting in oil palm plantations that have razed forests in Liberia and Sao Tomé, and waste from sugarcane plantations destroying the environment in Nigeria. The Land Matrix estimates that 50 per cent of land investment deals in Africa have taken place on land used by small scale farmers, mostly in Ethiopia, Senegal, Ghana, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, and Uganda: they said.
The Summit’s assertion that CSA is required to address food insecurity is also not supported by the evidence. As explained by GRAIN, CSA includes practices which claim to reduce greenhouse gases, but avoids addressing the root causes of the climate crisis including the industrial food system: for instance, CSA can include spraying a field with toxic herbicides as a way to avoid plowing the soil and releasing carbon into the atmosphere. It can also include harmful practices such as turning land into soybean plantations which can be labeled as “climate smart” since soybeans do not require nitrogen fertilizers.
Among the CSA technologies promoted at the Dakar 2 summit include climate smart water efficient maize, which is being pushed by the African Development Bank’s Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT)’s Maize Compact. Such technologies include the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA).
According to the bank, drought tolerant maize helped farmers in Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Zambia to survive the drought in 2019.
However, the African Centre for Biodiversity, ACB, has revealed how the WEMA project, which has been shrouded in secrecy, aims to build a private-sector seed industry in Africa and to spread the adoption of hybrid maize varieties, adding that both Monsanto and BASF have donated to the WEMA project.
ACB explains how WEMA is being used to smooth the path toward the introduction of GMOs in African countries and to weaken biosafety regulations for instance in Tanzania and Mozambique. The Dakar II summit is also promoting heat tolerant wheat varieties in Sudan and in Ethiopia in partnership with seed companies