Report calls for agroecological rethink of Africa’s food amid $61b industrial plan

March 7, 2024 | Source: Mongabay | by Aimee Gabay

Civil society groups have criticized a new $61 billion initiative to industrialize African food systems, calling the plan a “significant threat to small-scale farmers.” The groups, under the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), say the initiative by the African Development Bank (AfDB) will marginalize smallholders through its one-size-fits-all approach, increase dependency on multinational corporations for seeds and agrochemicals, and lead to the loss of land and biodiversity.

“The emphasis on principal commodity crops, mechanized farming tools, and standardised land tenure systems condenses the practices into a uniform effort aimed at agro industrialization,” AFSA said in a report.

The “Feed Africa: Food Sovereignty and Resilience” initiative was born out of a two-day summit held in January 2023 in Dakar, Senegal, where representatives of various African governments, the private sector, multilateral organizations, NGOs and scientists met to discuss pressing food issues on the continent. Rates of undernourishment in sub-Saharan Africa are roughly at the same levels since 2005 figures, jumping after the COVID-19 pandemic, while a rapidly growing population is putting more pressure of food resources and production.

To address these challenges, the AfDB published agricultural development plans for 40 countries, known as country compacts, which are made up of concrete national policies, incentives and regulations to boost investments across the agricultural sector. Most of this financing would come from national governments and private sector partners, including seed companies, food giants such as Nestlé and Kellogg’s, as well as funds from the AfDB itself, amounting to $1.7 billion in 2022. This initiative is the latest itineration of big industrial agriculture solutions in Africa, which have a track record of failing on their own terms.