09.06.2016 |

EU Parliament slams G7 New Alliance as threat to African small-scale farmers

Will African farmers benefit? (Photo: CCO, Pixabay, skeeze)

The European Parliament has heavily criticised the G7 New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (NAFSN), saying it benefits agribusiness while posing a threat to small-scale farmers and the environment. MEPs voted on 7 June to adopt a report from the parliament’s development committee. They called on the G7 to ensure projects under the New Alliance include environment protection measures and safeguards against land grabs - or to abandon the initiative altogether if it does not radically alter its mission. “Supporting family farmers and smallholders would be the most effective way to fight hunger in many African regions. Instead, the EU is contributing its scarce development funding to the New Alliance, which actually undermines sustainable small-scale food production and local food systems,” said Maria Heubuch, a German Green MEP and rapporteur on the alliance. Launched in 2012, the NAFSN aims to boost agriculture and relieve poverty by working with private companies in ten participating Sub-Saharan African states which are in turn expected to change their legislation on land, seeds and foreign investments. However, the report notes that the Alliance prioritizes the interests of agricultural companies over those of small-scale farmers who have been largely excluded from negotiations. “As recent studies showed, there are cases of land grabbing by private companies, which the EU co-funded indirectly. If the New Alliance does not address the severe problems that we witness, the EU should withdraw from the initiative“, urged Heubuch. The report warns against “replicating in Africa the Asian ‘Green Revolution’ model of the 1960s and ignoring its negative social and environmental impacts.” It stresses that the NAFSN must restrict the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides and warns that the development of extensive irrigation in the targeted geographical investment areas may reduce water availability for other users, such as small-scale farmers or pastoralists. The report also highlights the need to uphold farmers’ rights to produce, exchange and sell seeds freely, as this underpins 90% of agricultural livelihoods in Africa and is vital to build resilience to climate change. It warns against “the dangers of deregulation of the seed sector in participating countries, which may lead to smallholders becoming over-dependent on seeds and plant protection products manufactured by foreign companies.” While commercial seed varieties may improve yields in the short term, traditional farmers’ varieties, landraces and associated knowledge are best suited for adaptation to specific agro-ecological environments and climate change, MEPs said. “The report calls on the countries of the G7 to stop promoting genetically modified seeds in Africa. This is a real success,” said Heubuch. With the adoption of the report, the EU Parliament took its first official stance on the controversial alliance. MEPS called for support to be given instead to policies which protect and assign priority to small-scale food producers, particularly women, and promote sustainable land use. (ab)

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