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Unformatted text preview: er. When Obama
made his remarks on the Green Revolution, one Seattle Times
journalist suggested that “President Obama and other world
leaders seem to be taking their cue from the Gates Foundation.” September 21, 2009 It’s not hard to see the paths through which the thinking in
Seattle might have made it to Washington, DC. Many AGRA
and Gates Foundation employees are former industry and government insiders. Rajiv Shah, a doctor with no previous agricultural experience who was headhunted by the Gates Foundation,
is now at the Department of Agriculture, as under secretary for
research, education and economics, and also chief scientist.
The foundation’s reach extends far beyond Washington.
With billions committed to agricultural development, the
Gates Foundation has a financial heft equal to that of a government in the global North. In 2007 the United States contributed $60 million to the system of international public
agricultural research centers. Gates has pumped $122 million
into the system in the past eighteen months alone and given
a total of $317 million to the World Bank.
Africa’s Green Revolution has another similarity with the first
Green Revolution: the technological preferences of the philanthropist shape the approaches on the ground. For the Rockefellers, that meant agricultural technology based on industrial
chemistry and oil. For Gates, it’s about proprietary intellectual
property. Africa’s Green Revolution is, in other words, just a new
way of doing business as usual. I n its push for technological solutions, its distaste for redistributive social policy and disregard for extant alternatives—
as well as in the circumstances that have made food an
international security concern—this Green Revolution looks
very similar to its predecessor. The biggest issue, however,
isn’t one of commission but of omission. Just as in India, where
peasant demands for land reform in the 1960s that might have
led to more sustainable and durable progress (as such reforms
did in China, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea) were ignored,
African farmers advocating their own solutions to the food crisis
are being marginalized. In particular, the vocally articulated demands—for agroecological alternatives, state support for farmerled research, for land reform, for women’s rights in agriculture,
and for sharing access to water—all fade into the background
when Gates’s answers are amplified.
It will take a suite of policies, addressing both the technical
and sociopolitical reasons for hunger in Africa, to make lasting
change. Technologies for development need to be accompanied
by other, political reforms, including canceling debt, removing
food and agriculture from the World Trade Organization, investing heavily in farmers’ organizations and their proven
sustainable agricultural technologies, and supporting the peerreviewed approaches generated by the science of agroecology.
Models for this kind of change already exist. In Mali, peasant
movements have successfully persuaded the government to
adopt as a national priority the idea of “food sovereignty,” a
shorthand for the democratization of the food system. Similar
efforts are happening at regional and local levels in other countries. But for those initiatives to register in the United States,
the conventional wisdom regarding the Green Revolution needs
to be replaced. The tragedy here is not that Africa hasn’t had a
Green Revolution but that the mistakes of the first may be repeated once more, and that one foundation has the power to
make the rest of the world bend to its misguided agenda....
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This note was uploaded on 11/26/2012 for the course MATH 2313 taught by Professor Staff during the Spring '08 term at Texas El Paso.
- Spring '08