Ending Africa’s Hunger

Urban than in rural areas theyre returning to family

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Unformatted text preview: al areas. They’re returning to family land that has been farmed by women, who have developed rich knowledge about agricul- in East Africa by means of town meetings, national radio broadcasts and farmer field schools. It’s a farming system that’s much more robust, cheaper, less environmentally harmful, locally developed, locally owned and one among dozens of promising agroecological alternatives on the ground in Africa today. I t was innovative ecological technologies like push-pull (and not traditional Green Revolution approaches) that were praised by a recent international effort to assess the future of agriculture. “The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development” (IAASTD), a report modeled after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, took more than four years to complete and relied on the expertise of more than 400 scientists. It was adopted by fifty-eight countries in the global North and South (though not the United States, Canada or Australia). The IAASTD found that a focus on small-scale sustainable agriculture, locally adapted seed and ecological farming better address the complexities of climate change, hunger, poverty and productive demands on agriculture in the developing world. That report—the most comprehensive scientific assessment of world agriculture to date—recommended development strategies that are in large part the opposite of those backed by the Gates Foundation. The Gates Foundation acknowledges the relevance of the IAASTD’s insights. But it continues to invest heavily in biotech solutions to the problem of hunger and gives short shrift to the agroecological approaches recommended by the report. What’s more, there’s empirical reason to doubt whether biotech can deliver what Gates is hoping for. Genetically modified (GM) seeds are expensive, proprietary and contribute to the corporate monopolization of the world’s seed supply. Despite extraordinary restrictions on research into the effects of GM products—the industry refuses to allow independent researchers to study patented seed—evidence is finally emerging of the significant environmental and health risks they pose, prompting the American Academy of Environmental Medicine earlier this year to call for an immediate moratorium on GM food. Prestigious research organizations like the Union of Concerned Scientists have demonstrated that GM crops (which are legal for commercial use in only three African countries) do not increase intrinsic yields, and, in the developing world especially, can increase costs and risks to smallholders, with mixed, often negative effects on their incomes. Although the Gates Foundation has promised crops genetically engineered for drought tolerance, these crops have yet to outperform traditional varieties, according to an assessment by the Australian government. The foundation has also spent more than $111 million to “biofortify” (genetically engineer) crops to have a high...
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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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