An EU-backed G8 initiative to boost agriculture and relieve poverty by engaging with private partners in Africa was scrutinized in a resolution voted in the Development Committee on Wednesday. The New Alliance for Food Security (NAFSN) should apply more safeguards to protect farmers’ rights and the environment, MEPs said.

Some features of the NAFSN could pose a threat to farmers’ rights and the environment. To bring the initiative closer to development goals, the EU must address some deficiencies, including transparency and governance, development MEPs stressed.

‘Family farmers and small-holders are the main investors in African agriculture so they need to be at the core of efforts to combat food and nutrition insecurity and must be given a strong voice. The New Alliance runs against the objective of improving the lives of millions of these people. It promotes corporate-led agriculture and poses considerable risks to local communities and the environment. This report calls for a stricter regulation and monitoring of public-private partnerships, full compliance with the Tenure Guidelines of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, full transparency of all funding to companies and more investment in agroecology’, said Marie Heubuch, (Greens-EFA, Germany) the rapporteur of the report after the vote.

No land grabbing

Committee MEPs note that family farmers and smallholders have been largely excluded from negotiations and call on private companies to create appeal mechanisms and publish publicly accessible annual reports. To protect the land rights of farmers’ and prevent land grabbing they want all investments to be subject to independent prior impact studies.

Restrict pesticides

The text advises against ‘replicating the mistakes of the Asian ‘Green Revolution’ model of the 1960s’ in Africa by ignoring possible negative social and environmental impacts of industrialized agriculture. It stresses that given the health and environmental consequences, NAFSN must restrict the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. The report also warns that extensive irrigation in the targeted areas may reduce water availability for small-scale farmers or pastoralists.

The right to seeds

MEPs emphasise that agricultural investment policies are to support the development of the local economy. In this context African governments should invest in local food systems to boost rural economies, ensure decent jobs and labour rights, the text reads. It also highlights the need to uphold farmers’ rights to produce, exchange and sell seeds freely as it underpins 90 % of agricultural livelihoods in Africa and is vital in building resilience to climate change.

The resolution was passed by 23 votes to 0 with 1 abstention.

Next steps:

A full House is scheduled to vote on the report in Strasbourg in June.

Background:

Launched in 2012, the NAFSN aims to boost financial support from donor countries and help big companies invest in the African agricultural sector. In return, the ten participating Sub-Saharan African states are expected to change their legislation on land, seeds and foreign investments.

With one person in four undernourished, Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the highest prevalence of hunger. Poor nutrition causes nearly half (45%) of deaths in children under five. Family farmers and smallholders produce about 80% of the world’s food and provide over 60% of employment in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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