Failing policies

Million Belay
Friday, Sep 22, 2023

As delegates fly home from two African Summits in the same week, I reflect on what they left behind – false solutions and empty promises.

The Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi and the African Food Systems Summit in Dar-es-Salaam, the week of September 4, took on critically important issues. But they suffered from the same flaws – doubling down on failing policies, excluding farmers and civil society, and endorsing the talking points flown in from rich-country boardrooms.

Time is running out. Each day, rising temperatures, floods, storms, droughts, and land degradation disproportionately affect African small-scale food producers and communities, amplifying their vulnerabilities. The climate emergency and the hunger crisis clearly demand an urgent change of direction.

But where is the vision for change? Climate delegates from the global North continue to brandish carbon credits as their answer. Meanwhile, donors, business leaders and African governments keep pushing yet more agrochemicals and hybrid seeds on African farmers, oblivious to the Green Revolution’s proven harm to food security and the environment.

It doesn’t take an Einstein to realise that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. After witnessing these summits, I wonder if they even want different results. They may be content with policies that guarantee fat corporate profits from price-gouged agrochemical sales and provide get-out-of-jail-free cards for the biggest climate polluters.

Short-term profits, long-term pain.

While the Africa Climate Summit’s call to tax carbon emissions was welcome, bolder action is needed, particularly at the intersection of agriculture and climate change.

Large-scale monoculture plantations lead to deforestation and biodiversity loss.

Carbon credit projects are masked as conservation initiatives, leaving the poor landless. So-called ‘climate smart’ projects erode the very soils essential for growing healthy food. Agrochemicals on monocultures of hybrid maize degrade our soils and pollute our rivers.

AGRA, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, has rebranded itself, insisting that the GR in its name no longer stands for ‘Green Revolution.’ So, too, is its annual carnival, the African Green Revolution Forum, now renamed the African Food Systems Summit. What is left of their mandate if the spin doctors have purged their core message?

Meanwhile, people are dying. According to this year’s UN hunger data, the number of hungry people in AGRA’s 13 focus countries has increased by 50 per cent since 2006, not decreased.

Yet the Gates Foundation pours another $200 million into AGRA’s new 5-year strategy, despite its failure to meaningfully address the many shortcomings flagged in Gates’ own donor evaluation.

Excerpted: ‘Empty Promises and False Solutions Won’t Help Africa’. Courtesy: