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Whither AGRA?

AGRA and the Gates Foundation have now reacted to the white paper by Timothy Wise entitled “Failing Africa’s Farmers: An Impact Assessment of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa.” We recently Nibbled a report based on the study put out by a group of NGOs.

Wise’s paper suggests that AGRA has been changing its impact targets to make itself look better, and that in any case there has been…

…slow productivity growth, no significant increases in food security or small-farmer incomes in the target countries, and worsening hunger.

It then calls for a change in approach, jettisoning the Green Revolution model and embracing agroecology1. In reply, AGRA calls the research “not professional and ethical,” does some ad hominem, says it is doing its own thoroughgoing evaluation, refers to its annual reports and basket of indicators (some of which it admits have changed over time, but for good reasons) for evidence of impact, and points out that some things it can’t control anyway. The Gates Foundation stands by AGRA in its own response.

The disagreement about what’s needed is powerfully encapsulated by Million Belay, of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa:

We are told that our seeds are old and have little capacity to give us food and they have to be hybridized and genetically modified to be of use; we are told that what we need is more calories and we need to focus on seeds of few crops; we are told that we are not using our land effectively and it should be given to those who can do a better job of it; we are told that our knowledge about farming is backward and we need to modernize with knowledge from the West … we are told, we need business to invest billions of dollars, and without these saviors from the North, we cannot feed ourselves. Our world is defined simply by producing more, not in having healthy, nutritious and culturally appropriate food, produced without harming the environment.

I expect this will run and run. It already has.

  1. Which, despite the title of an article on a recent meta-analysis, is not the same as conservation agriculture. It may, however, be the same as syntropic agriculture. []

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