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MP Greg Barker proved impervious to the lobbying efforts of the local WDM group.

Lobby of local MP proves futile

As a follow-up to their campaign to Stop The Corporate Take-Over of Africa’s Food, members of the Bexhill and Hastings group of the World Development Movement (WDM) met recently with Bexhill and Battle MP Greg Barker. They expressed their grave concerns about the G8’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition and the financial support it receives from the UK government. Mr Barker’s main concern, however, was that corporations should get a good return on their investments. The WDM group’s Christina Lucey describes the meeting.

Group chairman, Denis Lucey opened the lobby, stating briefly WDM’s objections to the New Alliance. “£600 million pounds of UK aid money is being given to support this G8 initiative, which provides aid money and pledges of corporate investment. In return, countries have to make changes in their land, seed and trade rules, which will help corporations to increase their control over Africa’s land, seeds and markets. Far from helping the African people to prosper and raise themselves out of poverty, this is nothing less than huge land grab for the benefit of powerful corporations, looking to enrich themselves at the expense of the majority of the African population.”

John Fowler broached the subject of food sovereignty as the solution to ending hunger and malnutrition, quoting Olivier De Schutter, the outgoing UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food: “We now recognize that poor, food-deficit countries should be supported not by trade and aid alone, but first and foremost by supporting them in their ability to feed themselves. ….there are promising signs that things are moving in the right direction. Small-scale food producers’ organisations are more visible in decision-making than they ever were….creating conditions for a ‘transition from below’ towards more sustainable food systems.”

According to the UN, said Jack Doherty, 70% of the world’s food is produced by small scale farmers and in sub-Saharan Africa, at least 70% of farms are small-scale. “The New Alliance will have a huge impact on the livelihoods of small-scale farmers…These hard-working small farmers, the majority of whom are women, produce enough food to feed most of the continent. However, they are held back by their inability to travel any distance to market their crops, due to very poor roads within regions and between adjoining countries. Aid money is urgently needed for local infrastructure, as a priority before export-driven crops. The farmers also lack storage facilities and are unable to get the best price for their produce. Addressing these basic needs would enable African producers to lift themselves out of poverty and free them from dependence on foreign aid.”

Barbara Echlin was incensed that big companies are getting more control over seeds through the New Alliance, by demanding of African governments conditions on control of seeds in exchange for investments. “This goes against our own government’s policy that there should be no conditionality for UK aid recipients. The result is that small-scale farmers are being banned from seed saving and are locked into buying from big seed companies each year.” She referred to the current legislation going through in Ghana and gave Mr Barker a WDM letter, asking him to sign Early Day Motion 466 in Parliament concerning seed sovereignty and the New Alliance. She also quoted from the leader of the Ghanaian farmers and fisherfolk organisation to make the point that our message was not just from Westerners, but was echoed by the representatives of small-scale African food growers.”

Barbara noted that it is not just in Africa that food growers have problems accessing the seeds they want to use. With all seeds having to be registered in Europe, through a very expensive process, many older varieties can no longer be legally sold. They can however still be given away. She gave Gregory a gift of Broad Yellow Ripple tomato seeds harvested from her own garden, explaining that it was a free gift, as it would be illegal for him to offer her money for them!

Greg Barker’s strong defence of the big businesses involved in the New Alliance came as no surprise. His insistence that corporations have a right to expect a good return on their investment was in stark contrast with the sentiments expressed by the WDM lobbyists. Our concern is for the rights of the millions of small-scale farmers threatened with losing their land and their livelihood to satisfy corporate greed. No wonder farmers’ groups from across Africa have condemned the New Alliance as “a new wave of colonialism.”

See here for more information on this campaign and to join it.

For information about the local WDM group, contact luceys@talktalk.net.

Early Day Motion 466.

Olivier de Schutter quote.

Posted 16:07 Wednesday, Dec 3, 2014 In: Campaigns


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