One in nine people in the world does not have adequate food. Many of them live in the Global South, and Sub-Saharan Africa in particular. It’s within this context that members of the G8 announced the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition in Africa (NASAN) in 2012. Through partnership with Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), African states, and multinational agribusinesses – such as Monsanto – NASAN would mimic Asia’s failed “green revolution” of the 60s and 70s that hurt small farmers, caused massive soil degradation, and created big new markets for corporate agriculture and chemical companies. NASAN is sure to have similar impacts to African smallholder farmers and the environment.
During NASAN’s creation, the smallholder farmers were ignored and left out of the conversation. African agriculture is family agriculture as Issouf Sanou, coordinator of the National Federation of Producer Organizations of Burkina Faso (FENOP) – a We Are the Solution Campaign member and Grassroots International grantee – reminds us: « [African] agricultural policies that do not include family farms are doomed to failure. A super-majority of farming in Africa is family farm-based.”
Following a comprehensive assessment of NASAN, which included input from peasant farmers organizations, such as FENOP, France declared NASAN a failure in Burkina Faso and announced it would withdraw from the Alliance at the inter-ministerial committee meeting on international cooperation and development on February 8, 2018. (The United Kingdom and Germany also plan similar studies.) NASAN has failed in Burkina Faso for the very reasons articulated by Sanou and other African food sovereignty activists.
Though France did not provide a detailed explanation for its departure, a government official from the ministry of foreign affairs provided context by saying, “France will strengthen its support to family farming through agroecological intensification. The approach of this initiative is too ideological, and there is a real risk of land grabbing at the expense of peasants.”
This is a great evidence-based win for food sovereignty activists in Africa who are bombarded with “Green Revolution” theories with scant evidence that it’s a better model than agroecology. In fact, a report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization suggest that agroecology produces better than industrial agriculture. Farmers who use agroecological practices build healthy soil, conserve water, protect pollinators and keep the air and water clear of harmful pesticides.
But food sovereignty activists must not spend too much time celebrating as Sanou says, “We have won a battle but not the war.” Dismantling the house that NASAN and AGRA built will take time and energy. One brick has fallen, but let’s make sure others follow suit. We’re looking at you Germany and the United Kingdom.
About the Author: Nicholas Johnson began his internship with Grassroots in January of 2018. He is currently a Multicultural Leadership facilitator and master’s student at Northeastern University in the Global Studies & International Relations program, with a concentration in Conflict Resolution. Upon graduation, Nicholas plans to participate in joint efforts to further secure human rights and self-determination for marginalized communities internationally.