As the United Nations gears up for its Food Systems Summit September 23, the urgent need for structural changes in how we grow, harvest, distribute, and consume food has never been more apparent.
Since the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) was launched in 2006, yields have barely risen, while rural poverty remains endemic, and would have increased more if not for out-migration.
The battle for the future of food has grown contentious, and José Graziano da Silva has become a lightning rod for criticism. In 2014, as Director General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), he presided over the institution’s first International Agroecology Symposium, opening what he called “a new window in the Cathedral of the Green Revolution.” The FAO has since then formalized support for “Scaling Up Agroecology” while continuing to promote the kinds of chemical-intensive agriculture associated with the Green Revolution.
Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador quietly rocked the agribusiness world with his New Year’s Eve decree to phase out use of the herbicide glyphosate and the cultivation of genetically modified corn. His administration sent an even stronger aftershock two weeks later, clarifying that the government would also phase out GM corn imports in three years and the ban would include not just corn for human consumption but yellow corn destined primarily for livestock. Under NAFTA, the United States has seen a 400% increase in corn exports to Mexico, the vast majority genetically modified yellow dent corn.
As COVID-19 threatens farming communities across Africa already struggling with climate change, the continent is at a crossroads. Will its people and their governments continue trying to replicate industrial farming models promoted by developed countries? Or will they move boldly into the uncertain future, embracing ecological agriculture?
African organizations are demanding answers after a recent report found that Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) strategies have failed spectacularly to meet its goals of increasing productivity and incomes for millions of small-scale farming households by 2020 while reducing food insecurity on the continent.