Whose 'Green Revolution'? African and Canadian Farm Leaders Say African 'Green Revolution' Won't Benefit Farmers



    OTTAWA, March 21 /CNW Telbec/ - It's being called a new "Green
Revolution" for Africa - but who will this revolution really benefit? That is
the question that farm leaders and scientists from Mali, Cote d'Ivoire,
Ethiopia and Canada will ask at a public forum in Ottawa on Monday March 26
entitled "Green Revolution: Whose Revolution?"
    The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has joined forces with the
Rockefeller Foundation to launch a new "Green Revolution" in Africa. The
$US150 million initiative intends to spur agricultural development in Africa
by bringing more chemical fertilizers, pesticides and "improved seeds" to
farmers. The idea has captured the interest of many Canadian parliamentarians,
including MP Belinda Stronach.
    Pat Mooney, Executive Director of the Ottawa-based ETC Group, welcomes
the attention to agriculture, but has serious concerns about the approach. "To
those of us who witnessed the first Green Revolution in Asia in the 1960s and
70s, this is all déjà-vu," he says. "There's no doubt that productivity and
yields were increased in some crops, but the damage caused by that model of
industrial agriculture is clear today. With farmers growing a handful of
export crops with heavy use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, we've seen
an alarming erosion in biodiversity and soil fertility."
    "We'll be watching closely to make sure hundreds of millions of dollars
aren't spent making the same mistakes again," he says.
    Canadian farmer Colleen Ross, Women's President of the National Farmers
Union, is just back from the World Forum on Food Sovereignty in Mali. She says
Canadian farmers can relate to the global perspectives heard there. "We've
been going down this road for a while ourselves. We're seeing how modern
farming is disenfranchising the very people who produce our food," says Ross.
"Whether in Africa or Canada, high input agriculture is taking money out of
our hands and putting it in the pockets of agribusiness."
    She notes that in the past few years agribusiness companies have posted
record profits while Canadian family farms have reported some of the lowest
incomes ever recorded.
    Farmers from around the world who gathered at the conference say a new
Green Revolution in agriculture is not the solution to hunger and poverty in
Africa. Malian farm movement leader Mamadou Goita says the high costs of
agricultural inputs, coupled with unfair trade rules and prices, mean that
farmers will remain in debt, and economically dependent on others. "This Green
Revolution will bring a flood of experts, seeds and inputs from outside," says
Goita. "We will lose control of our seeds, and the ability to make our own
choices about what we grow, and for whom. And the global market works against
African farmers. The result will be more, not less, hunger and poverty in our
communities."
    Faris Ahmed of USC Canada, one of the organizers of the upcoming forum,
says we only have to turn to farmers themselves for the answer. USC has been
working with thousands of farmers for 20 years through the acclaimed Seeds of
Survival Program. "Farming communities we work with in Mali, India or Ethiopia
see their fields as places of innovation, and are constantly improving their
seeds," says Ahmed. "These crops are affordable, often nutritionally superior,
and better adapted to difficult growing conditions. The community has the
freedom to save them, plant them, experiment with them, and even feed their
families in times of crisis. And that's what I would call a homegrown green
revolution."




For further information:

For further information: For media inquiries: Faris Ahmed, USC Canada,
(613) 234-6827, ext. 223, fahmed@usc-canada.org; Pat Mooney, ETC Group
613-241-2267, etc@etcgroup.org; Colleen Ross, National Farmers Union, (613)
652-1552, cjweat@sympatico.ca

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