Local call to oppose new colonialisation of Africa
On Sunday 3 August campaigners from the Bexhill and Hastings World Development Movement (WDM) group will once again be active participants in St Leonards Gardens Festival, this time highlighting the government’s support for what they see as a new colonialisation of Africa. The group’s Christina Lucey reports.
The UK government is colluding with multinational companies like Monsanto to enable them to take control of Africa’s food system. This is bad news for ordinary Africans: it will lead to more land-grabbing and corporate controlled seed markets, while threatening the livelihoods of small-scale farmers. We are calling for a new approach to agriculture that prioritises the needs and interests of small-scale farmers who feed the continent of Africa.
This fresh bout of colonialisation is taking place under the aegis of the G8’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. Launched in 2012, the New Alliance uses aid money to facilitate investment by big business in Africa’s agricultural sector. There are currently 10 African countries signed up to it: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal and Tanzania. On the corporate side around 50 multinational companies are involved, including Monsanto, Cargill and Unilever, as well as some 100 African companies.
In return for aid money, including £600 million from the UK, and corporate investment, African countries signed up to the New Alliance are required to make policy changes in land, seed and trade rules. These changes will:
- make it easier for big corporations to grab land in Africa;
- prevent farmers from adhering to age-old traditions of breeding, saving and exchanging seeds;
- heavily promote the increased use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides.
African farmers and civil society groups, including War on Want, Oxfam, Friends of the Earth and La Via Campesina, have called schemes like the New Alliance “a new wave of colonialism” – a corporate grab for Africa’s land, seed and markets, sponsored by the richest governments in the world.
Denis Lucey of Bexhill and Hastings WDM group said, “Small-scale food producers feed 70 per cent of the world’s population. The last thing they need is big companies throwing them off their land or telling them what they can and can’t plant. UK aid money should go to supporting these independent farmers.
“We urge the people of Hastings and St Leonards to come along to St Leonards Gardens on Sunday afternoon and support our campaign calling on the UK government to withdraw funding for the G8’s New Alliance. We will be happy to explain what it’s all about and answer your questions. You can support our campaign by signing an action card to your MP.”
Earlier this year local WDM members launched their campaign against the New Alliance at the annual Bexhill and Hastings United Nations Association open garden and coffee morning. Dressed to represent big businesses that will benefit from the scheme at the expense of small-scale farmers, they carved up a huge cake in the shape of Africa and greedily gobbled as much as they could. As each slice was removed the cake board showed which countries had been consumed, graphically bringing home the threat to Africa of the New Alliance and the benefit to big companies like Unilever and Monsanto which want to take over farming in Africa.
Barbara Echlin, co-host of the event with her husband Dr Edward Echlin, said: “2014 is the UN International Year of Family Farms. This campaign has our full support. Large-scale industrial agriculture is not the answer to world hunger. Currently it only produces around 30 per cent of the world’s food, yet uses 70 per cent of the arable land.”
Visit the WDM website for full background information, videos to launch our new campaign to stop the corporate takeover of Africa’s food and online action, and try WDM’s interactive infographic exploring the corporate scramble for Africa.
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