Controversial G8 agriculture initiative accused of ‘land grabs’ debated in parliamentary hearing in Brussels

A European Parliament hearing [has taken place on December 1st, 2015] to scrutinise the controversial aid initiative, the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. The New Alliance has been widely criticised by civil society organisations across the world for facilitating the grabbing of land and  natural resources, undermining small-scale farmers and their right to adequate food and nutrition, and accelerating seed privatisation.

Launched in 2012, the New Alliance provides aid money from the G8 countries and the European Union, aiming to lift 50 million people out of poverty in 10 partner countries in Africa. It is based on the assumption that corporate investment in agriculture will increase production and automatically improves food security and reduces poverty of local people.. However, several risks have been ignored. Instead of achieving its promises, the initiative has in many places undermined local livelihoods by benefiting multinational companies at the expense of small scale farmers who produce most of the food on the continent.

Campaigners from across Europe welcome the move in the European Parliament to scrutinise and call to account this controversial initiative which has attracted mass opposition. In June 2015, over 100 farmers organisations, social movements, and civil society groups from Africa and around the world released a statement calling on the G8 and African governments to stop supporting the New Alliance.  

Earlier in 2015, an independent audit of the UK’s aid partnerships with corporate partners singled out the New Alliance as being particularly ineffective. The report suggested that the £600 million that the UK had poured into the scheme was effectively subsidising the PR campaigns of the large agribusiness companies involved

Former UN Special Rapporteur on Right to Food, Professor Olivier de Schutter, was commissioned to produce an assessment report which [has been  presented during the] hearing. The report concludes that the New Alliance ‘is seriously deficient in a number of areas.’ For example, the New Alliance is ‘silent on the need to favour a shift to low input, sustainable agriculture.’ The report also criticises risks around land grabbing and seed privatisation.  It calls for EU and its Member States to make their support to the New Alliance conditional to a number of improvements, highlighting that ‘none of the improvements will be sustainable unless they are grounded in a rights-based approach to agricultural development’.

The funds that are directed to the New Alliance could instead be used to invest more in small-scale agriculture driven by local food producers. This would involve supporting farmers organisations in order to strengthen their position, facilitate farmers’ access to land and natural resources with a specific focus on women’s land rights, and promote local communities’ legal empowerment.

Read the ActionAid blog on the European Parliament hearing

Notes to Editors:

- In Ghana, a proposed bill – dubbed the ‘Monsanto Law’ - would bolster the power of multinational seed companies whilst restricting the rights of small farmers to keep and swap seeds. This bill, which is being brought in as part of the Ghanaian government’s commitment to the New Alliance, will see the control of seeds being transferred away from small farmers and into the hands of large seed companies.

- Farmers in Nigeria’s Taraba State are being forced off lands that they have farmed for generations to make way for US company Dominion Farms to establish a 30,000 ha rice plantation. The project is backed by the Nigerian government and the New Alliance.

- In Tanzania, about 1,300 people are at risk of losing their land or homes to make way for a sugarcane plantation, which is a New Alliance project. An area of land the size of Washington D.C. will be used by a plantation to produce sugar for biofuels.