A small setback for intensive agriculture in Africa

Burkina Faso is a member of NASAN [Gilles Paire/Shutterstock]

Frequently criticised, the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition just lost France’s financial support. For now, the project aimed at helping Africa’s agriculture is still supported by Germany and the EU. EURACTIV.fr reports

Whilst in the middle of rewriting its policy on development aid, the French government decided on 8 February to withdraw support for the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (NASAN).

This large-scale G7 led programme, partly financed by the EU, aimed to facilitate the development of public-private partnership in Africa to boost agricultural productivity.

Through this agricultural transformation, the NASAN hoped to improve food security in a continent that is still very much affected by malnutrition and raise 50 million people out of poverty by 2022.

NASAN’s goal is to establish an intensive agriculture model in Africa by bringing together donor countries, ten African countries (Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mozambique, Tanzania, Benin, Malawi, Nigeria, Senegal) and major agribusiness companies such as Cargill, Monsanto or Louis Dreyfus.

However, since the launch of the initiative, criticisms of the Alliance’s development model have multiplied. Civil society believes that the Alliance’s project offers more benefits for multinational companies than for the family smallholdings that account for the vast majority of the agricultural sector in Africa.

Favouring investors

According to the latest progress report published by several NGO’s in 2016, the benefits of the NASAN are clearly in favour of private investors.

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Since 2012, the ten partner countries have implemented 92% of their 210 commitments for legislative or regulatory changes, stated the report. On the other hand, according to the latest available data, only 18% of the projects announced in Benin and 22% of the projects announced in Côte d’Ivoire have been implemented.

France goes solo

“The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition has had devastating consequences for affected local communities, and has worsened food and nutrition insecurity among the poorest,” the NGO Oxfam stated in a press release.

Held responsible for the implementation of the project in Burkina Faso, France decided in the end to withdraw aid. France has acted alone for now, as none of the other partners have announced their intention to withdraw.

In Germany, NGOs also call for a withdrawal of support by the federal government. At the European level, the Parliament raised the alarm in 2016, but with no results so far.

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“Other partners of the alliance such as the EU and the African partner countries will have to take France’s withdrawal into account. Germany, another major contributor to the New Alliance should also announce its withdrawal,” the NGOs said.

The United Kingdom, another contributor country, has not renewed its funding for the project since late 2016. “However, without making an official announcement on the withdrawal”, said Bertrand Noiret of Oxfam France.

A shift in focus towards family farming

In France, it was a study carried out by the Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD) on the results of the New Alliance projects in Burkina Faso, and more specifically the Bagre growth pole, that prompted the government’s withdrawal from the initiative.

“The Bagre growth pole planned an irrigation project that led to the eviction of small farmers from the area, and this led to fairly obvious land grabbing,“ said Bertrand Noiret.  “The fact that France alone withdraws does not call into question the very existence of the Nasan. France now needs to persuade other contributors to pull out of the alliance.”

In France’s summary of decisions, the government stated its intention to enforce its “support, particularly in Africa and especially in the Sahel region, for inclusive rural development and family farming”.

This shift in the focus of French aid to family farming has yet to be followed by Germany, another contributor to the New Alliance.

“Since its launch, NASAN has not met the requirements of smallholders in the member countries,” said Jan Urhahn, a specialist for global food and agriculture and EU agricultural policy from the INKOTA network.

In 2017, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) had agreed to promote the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) with €10 million. Like NASAN, AGRA also relies heavily on distributing mineral fertilisation rather than encouraging the use of organic fertilisers.

“All these programs stand for an obsolete agricultural model,” says Jürgen Maier from the Environment & Development Forum. Instead, German NGOs call on the federal government to meet the demands of small farmers for food sovereignty, the realisation of the human right to food and an environmentally and climate-friendly agriculture.

“We urge the federal government to finally promote agro-ecological approaches and alternative forms of marketing and promote a nutritional change,” explained Sarah Schneider from MISEREOR.

It remains to be seen whether Germany’s new government will follow these proposals. Experts and representatives of the civil society do not consider that the 2030 Agenda and the German Sustainability Strategy guidelines have been given sufficient importance in the new Coalition Agreement.

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The French government recently unveiled a plan to reach its goal of allocating 0.55% of gross national income to development aid by 2022, but French development aid will only start increasing from 2020. EURACTIV.fr reports.

 

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