Ending Africa’s Hunger

That it was systematically biased against

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Unformatted text preview: was systematically biased against smallholders. The Gates Foundation is clearly aware of the importance of smallholder agriculture; but a leaked internal strategy docu- Gates’s reliance on technology to address a political and social problem echoes the flawed approach of the first Green Revolution. was made possible through the philanthropy of a billionaire American family—the Rockefellers; the second is bankrolled by Gates. This is not a superficial coincidence: the destinies of millions of the world’s poorest farmers are again being shaped by the richest Americans, and philanthropic choices are very different from democratic ones. One of the most important choices involves the role of technology. At the Gates Foundation, Roy Steiner emphasized that “we believe in the power of technology.” It’s a belief with clout: about a third of the foundation’s $1.3 billion in agricultural development grants have been invested in science and technology, with almost 30 percent of the 2008 grants promoting and developing seed biotechnologies. Through a range of investments, the Gates Foundation is turning its faith into reality. This reliance on technology to address a growing political and social problem loudly echoes the thinking behind the first Green Revolution. Why Africa Is Hungry and Knowledge Is Never Neutral S ome of the changes made possible by Gates’s funding are welcome. An African Centre for Crop Improvement has been set up at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, which is designed to change the way African agricultural scientists work. Rather than carting them off to Europe or North America, where they learn about the pressing agricultural issues facing French or American farmers, the new center encourages African scientists to face African challenges while based in Africa. Other Gates investments are geared toward training more women PhDs and September 21, 2009 20 The Nation. ment suggests that something else is more important: “Over time, this [strategy] will require some degree of land mobility and a lower percentage of total employment involved in direct agricultural production.” “Land mobility” is an Orwellian term meaning the land stays where it is but the people on it are driven off. The foundation stands behind this idea, saying that peasants will head to cities “because there are a lot of them who don’t want to be farmers [and] people make their own choices.” This idea of choice is an integral part of the conventional wisdom about agriculture in Africa. At least until the financial crisis, it was true that young men tended not to want to remain in agriculture if they could avoid it; but that choice was conditioned, in part, by policies that underinvested in rural areas compared with urban ones. One of the consequences of the financial crisis has been to change that field of choices. For the first time in years, men who had migrated to the cities find there’s less opportunity in urban than in rur...
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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.

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