See the French translation
There is a commonly shared neo-colonialist expression: The Europeans have the watches; the Africans have the time. Today, the European Green Party, with the support of countless environmentalist NGOs, proposed an initiative in the European Parliament to make Africa wait for at least another generation to be able to lift itself out of poverty.
The report tabled by Green MEP, Maria Heubuch, is as vile as it is selfish in its neo-colonialist demands to impose peasant agriculture on a continent trying to develop and feed itself. The Greens are demanding that the European Union not be involved with the G8’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition which is donating billions to create a green agricultural revolution in ten of the poorest African countries. Many identify what has been achieved in Asia today as due to the World Bank’s investments in agricultural technologies in the 1960s and 70s and what is sorely lacking in Africa today.
The New Alliance is a multi-stakeholder platform based on commitments and shared strategies to end hunger and halve poverty in Africa by 2025. “It consists of high-level representatives from African governments, development partners, the African and multinational private sectors, civil society, and farmers’ organizations that monitor, support and advance progress.” It is donating $28 million to the African Development Bank to invest in agricultural infrastructure, $47 million on technology projects and millions spread across a variety of data and ICT applications for African agriculture. Then there is the commitment to the World Bank’s Food Security Program (coming up to a billion dollars). See the original commitment following the G-8-Africa Summit in the US in 2012. With over $3 billion originally committed, this is serious money, a serious commitment and a serious strategy to finally address a serious problem.
Why would the Green Party try to stop this?
The Greens seem to be unhappy that several big industrial firms are participating and also donating to the New Alliance. They are afraid that these companies (six in total) will push agricultural technologies on farmers, increasing their yields and improving their well-being. As an alternative, they are asking that African governments invest in smallholdings and family farms to practice agro-ecology.
Now I understand that the greens, environmentalists and the organic food lobby are eager to ensure a cheap supply of organic food (in the same way that the American organic industry is salivating over free trade with impoverished Cuba), but can these self-righteous eco-zealots not see that these family farms have been the reason why Africa has not developed and why so many poor children are tied to the land rather than in schools?
No, seriously, they need to have a good reason to oppose investing in African agricultural technology. Well, the greens seem to think that developing African agriculture will lead to increased land grabs by big industrial farms putting pastoral communities into greater difficulties. Not only do they not see the commitments, strategies for widely recognised land titles and the different research organisations involved, the greens are exhibiting a very short memory. Africa is recovering from a devastating land grab a decade ago for biofuel production, a folly imposed on the continent by misguided environmentalist proposals to replace fossil fuels with products they had erroneously thought were carbon neutral.
So the Greens are not serious then? Well, the Heubuch report, on top of its anti-industry bias, also worries that Malawi farmers will grow tobacco (I’m not joking … even though Malawi has perfect conditions for tobacco), that it will create a reliance on synthetic fertilisers (instead of no fertilisers at the moment) and that it will prevent farmers from saving seeds. And in case you were wondering, Heubuch, in article 72, comes right out and: “Urges the G8 member states not to support GMO crops in Africa;” … Bingo!
Essentially what this Green Party report is saying to Africa is that the EU must not fund your means to develop. Rather, you are going to do things according to our organic, smallholder agricultural ideology; to protect biodiversity through farming practices that dramatically lower yields and leave farmers vulnerable to crop losses and reduced income; to reject seed technologies, fertilisers and pesticides and compensate with labour intensive family farms that will put pressure on the youngest members from getting a chance to get an education.
I need to ask this question: Why do environmentalists hate Africa?
This is a serious question.
- The Heubuch Report is a clear indication of that “I don’t give a damn if millions of Africans die from famine, my religion is your obligation” attitude.
- That environmental NGOs today still proudly proclaim the success of banning DDT without valid evidence (today, like every day since the 1970s, almost 3000 Africans, mostly children, died from malaria).
- The continued dogmatic rejection of all GMOs has meant that Africa has not been able to enjoy the increased yields, reduced pesticide use and crop security offered by innovative seed technologies (out of fear that the European Union will block all exports should a GM seed accidentally be detected).
- On the basis of this European environmentalist initiated fear, African countries like Zambia and Zimbabwe have rejected GMO food aid during famines.
There is a certain neo-colonialism (or rather, a missionary zeal) that European environmentalists assume in their preponderance to dictate their sanctimonious life choices on others. For example, how Greenpeace wants to deny Golden Rice to those at risk of Vitamin A Deficiency (merely for their anti-GMO dogmatic purity) or how anti-industry groups want to stop global trade agreements (once again a source of Asia’s economic miracle). NGOs feel they have a right to impose their luxury lifestyles on poor countries. In the past, I have referred to them as neo-colonialists in imposing their doctrines on others in developing countries (given that their eco-ideology constrains their capacity to recognise their own woeful hypocrisy).
I wonder how Africans must feel.
An African response
Obviously Africans are sensitive to colonialist-minded Europeans or eco-religious missionaries with dogmatic zeal, so it is not surprising to see strong reactions. A rather direct statement was made by a Kenyan farmer, Gilbert Arap Bor in an open letter to the European Parliament, where he stated:
What we don’t need are lectures from Europeans whose lifestyles look luxurious to ordinary Africans. They want us to remain agricultural primitives, stuck with technologies that were antiquated even before we entered the 21st century.
He started his letter with a short history of European colonialism and acknowledged that Europeans were again trying to “subjugate” his continent. His message is clear: “Leave Africa alone!”. Africa needs to develop agricultural technologies, GMOs and fertilisers – it doesn’t need people coming in forcing them to “abandon science”.
A group of Nigerian farmers also wrote the European Parliament, citing that if Spain could grow GM crops on 137,000 hectares, why should Nigeria be denied the chance to import less food and develop more. Pot, kettle, Heubuch!
I don’t know how much more direct the position of the African farmer could possibly be: Maria Heubuch, you and your twisted ideas, are not welcome in Africa!!! But in Strasbourg, that may be another question.
A sad day for Africa
Today, in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, MEPs voted “overwhelmingly” by 577 MEPs, with only 24 against and 69 abstentions to accept the Green Party’s Heubuch Report and demand that the European Union stop funding the G8’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. It is with great hope that the world ignores this unfortunate act, considering it as a narrow-minded gesture towards appeasing a backward looking European green constituency.
In 2015, after 30 years of residence in the Brussels area, I became a Belgian citizen. Today, for the first time since officially becoming a European, I was ashamed of what ill-guided people in the European Parliament had done in the name of Europe. This act of selfish science denialism (with the potential for massive negative consequences) is no way for reasonable Europeans to act.
We need to let Africa have the chance to develop, not on our terms or demands, but on theirs. It is time to give Africans the watch and let them manage their affairs on their time, not ours.
Shame on Maria Heubuch and her band of eco-religious missionary zealots.