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.
50 Comments Add yours
Reblogged this on Peddling and Scaling God and Darwin and commented:
A superb demolition of green double-think. They say they care for Planet and People yet put forward policies which don’t help the planet (ban fracking) and will kill lots of people.
Their irrational and immoral objection to GMO sums all this up
I’m very new to this particular issue but I think many Green supporters genuinely believe that GMOS = Monsanto = bad and organic = good, with no nuance or understanding of agriculture. They don’t question those beliefs – which are often reinforced by romanticised media representations of traditional farming such as this one: http://www.theecologist.org/campaigning/2874165/ghanas_women_farmers_resist_the_g7_plan_to_grab_africas_seeds.html – and rarely take the time to properly research the issues.
Speaking as someone from the left, I can tell you that the average green supporter would be appalled at your assertions that the EU lobbying is malicious & neo colonialist, because they would claim the moral high ground for themselves, when it comes to supporting poor farmers in developing countries. There’s just a lot of real ignorance out there, and a tendency to believe what emotionally ‘feels right’, or confirms prejudices about ‘big ag’ or ‘big pharma’, rather than be prepared to have those assumptions challenged.
To me this shows the true damage of the whole anti-GMO campaign, that it has set people against each other who could have been allies in figuring out the best ways to feed the world without violating sovereignty or harming the environment.
Thanks – my writing tends to highlight contradictions and hypocrisy – the anti-GMO dogma prevents many from seeing that. The good v evil narrative blocks open thinking. Many of the reports in favour of the Heubuch report state that Monsanto is trying to poison Africa … On the information on the New Alliance website, Monsanto is not one of the industry partners.
We need to start thinking openly and out of our silos and tribal reaffirmations – the reason my text is so strong is to try to wake up those on the left of the strength of their dogma over their reasoning.
Thanks for your comments.
Yes, absolutely agree, but people do love their silos 😦 And it’s clear that as soon as Monsanto is mentioned many people stop being able to think; is just this massive trigger. Thanks for your blog, it’s always thought provoking.
Farming and ranching are now and have always been dependent on skillfull genetic manipulation for every plant and animal we eat. Domestic plants and animals have very little genetic connection to the wild forebearers. Today it is done with even more skill than before, and it will get better as time goes by. Environmental groups all agree, there are too many of us, somebody has to go. You cannot eliminate 90 % of the human population by ” saving lives “, people have to die. The easiest way is starvation, policies will work more effectively than gas chambers, less messy and the dying tend to the dead. Any policies that drive up the price of reliable energy and food, obviously affects the poorest the most. Starvation is no longer a natural phenomenon, is is a policy decision or tactic of war. Environmental groups hate people, but the truth makes a lousy fundraising slogan.
We have been very lucky that there have been no major crop failures and subsequent famines in the last decade – clearly the ag-scientists have been doing their jobs! Most of the global population increase (following Hans Rosling’s data) is in Africa – and most of the untapped agricultural potential is in Africa. What’s missing is the technology … and we have that!
Famines are less a result of crop failure today as they are a failure of policy, we have the incredible ability to put food anywhere on earth almost in a timely manner, assuming there is cooperation all along the supply chain. In Africa the chain is very fragile.
Good piece everyone should read.
UVIC mean anything to you?
Yes I am at VIU in Nanaimo now. drop me a line.
I generally agree but…I’m not anti-GMO like the Greens, but I understand how that can be used to also impose a neo-colonialist solution. The use of seed patents locks farmers into kind of debt/reliance situation (as in India) and does in fact prevent them from saving seeds. This is not an important issue in the agro-industrialized west but it is *during the process of getting there* where farmers have been improvised because of this.
Secondly, World Bank funding is not only about increasing agricultural output…look at the utter disaster Mexico finds itself in…when the Big Ag companies go a hold of land there and cash cropping was *forced* in the remaining peasants (many *millions* were tossed off their land in the last 20 years as Big Ag bought up the rights to produce, the land, and the rights to water there forcing millions into unemployment and migration to the U.S.) the food was NOT used there, where it was needed, but to the United States for the consumer market. Mexicans eat *less* today than they did before NAFTA/World Bank got a hold of the land. Much/Most/Lots of these agro-industrial projects in Africa as explicitly designed not to feed the indigenous people but to *export* to Europe. The wealth is never returned the poor masses and they are left destitute. During the last big famine in Ethiopia (not the most recent one) that nation was actually exporting grain to Asia and Europe? Sound familiar? It should…Ireland continued to feed England during the potato famine while millions died of starvation.
I’m an active socialist. Which means *first* I’m for science and reject all the quackery and nonsense of the Greens and those like them. But it’s not simply as simply as being “pro-science” in agriculture without *at the same time* addressing the huge issues of social inquanlity..in equality that malevolent organizations like the IMF and World Bank impose on developing countries.
Thanks David – I think one of the most interesting parts of the New Alliance process is that they recognise the need to reform land titles – at the moment, and with the biofuel land grab, there were cases of village elders signing away all of the village land. This programme is designed to prevent that, but the Heubuch report did not examine the subject but only cited past cases, and I doubt many MEPs had read the New Alliance commitments.
The interest to keep Africa organic solves an EU structural issue, but it does not offer Africa the best opportunities to develop. A bigger moral question – why should Europeans be trying to stop them?
I surely like how you challenge conventional “green” thinking and point out blind spots. However, I find your practice questionable to occasionally oversimplify aspects that may challenge your storyline and lessen its punch. For example, “the biofuel land grab” may or may not have that much to do with biofuels. Add to that the fact hat much of that stuff (like palm oil) goes into cosmetics and food production, both conventional and organic, and you see why such simplifications weaken your argument.
Furthermore, the “colonialism” argument goes both ways. The original New Alliance plans have likewise been called colonialist, just as you call the Green’s alternative ideas colonialist. Even without a detailed analysis one has to see that a plan by the G8 to do or to do not whatever is planned with African farmland is by definition not based on bottom-up, genuinely African ideas.
So tossing around bold words and calling names while lacking the thoroughness to actually cover various aspects makes you blog less a joy to read than it could be. Apart from that, I stand by my first sentence that I like being challenged through it.
Thank you for your comments and points well taken. I often I make passing side shots like the biofuels debacle where I have written elsewhere and don’t give the shorthand the time or diligence required. I’m merely piling up the hypocrisy of that argument in a type of drive-by manner knowing that I risk getting too far off topic.
For the two-sided neo-colonialism argument – I have general feelings that the G8 multi-stakeholder approach brings in local partners and co-ops – that the international NGOs are not involved, I believe taints the perception we have of how Africans feel about the New Alliance – the diplomats I have spoken to in Brussels feel very strongly and I am considering doing an interview with one (as soon as I finish grading papers!). This is another blog to consider – to get more into detail on how ag-tech helps development – for the summer I am afraid.
I like to challenge hard decisions and I enjoy being challenged, so thank you for helping to keep me honest.
You know it’s ironic, because for decades it was the left screaming for help for undeveloped countries. Now due to work from people like Hans Rosling we know what works and what does not and we have the tech to do it. But what does the left do, a 180 degree turn on everything they have been asking for. I can’t help but believe a lot of this is due to their realizing that what works for those countries does not include left wing ideology.
Thanks Victor – France is a good example of the Left losing ground to the environmentalists (Austria too) and in order to protect their base, they need to swing harder to the extreme green.
Rosling’s work on how Africa can pull itself up and develop is inspiring. Too bad not everyone wants to listen to him. I would love to interview him!
…I need to ask this question: Why do environmentalists hate Africa?…
They don’t – not especially. They hate ALL humanity. They would collapse Western and Asian agriculture as well, if they could. They have already managed to cripple our energy generation. Look at their manifestos if you don’t believe me…
I think they don’t trust humanity … there’s something in their inner wiring. I was once in a debate with an activist and after he had finished a long “can’t trust anyone” tirade, I paused, looked at him and asked: “Did someone drop you when you were a baby?”. Funny, the organisers never asked me back …
So why is it these eco maniacs enjoy the choice of cheap foods at the convenience of their supermarkets?
1. Improved production technologies.
2. Economies of scale
3. Global transport
4. Cheap reliable mass energy
5. Competition (that improves efficiency)
…but they won’t allow the under-developed nations to do the same. How charming!
They have lost their moral compass – I put this meme up on twitter and FB just to put their sanctimony into context:
Very interesting, thanks.
Politicians sometimes seem to think that they are free to vote on things they know nothing about. They are of course, but instead they should consider abstaining more often, leaving things they don’t understand to their better informed colleagues. Or they should seriously inform themselves before voting. But if they simply vote on emotion or gut feeling, without clear reasons, they are not doing their job. They’re slacking and failing the voter, in my opinion.
Thanks Joris – I was watching the debate in the EP on Monday (before the vote on Tuesday) and there was almost no one in the building. Most likely had no idea on what they were voting on and followed party lines.
They were all in the UK delivering ‘Brexit’ / ‘Remain’ speeches.
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The opposition is about population numbers, energy use and material consumption. The Greens haven’t got renewable energy setup or capitalism and consumerism knocked down yet. The timing is wrong: more affluence now means more fossil fuel use and natural resource consumption. The end of the nonhuman biosphere.
Population control and anticapitalusm are at the heart of Green ideology.
Their goal, ultimately, is to cut the global population (goal is below 4 billion). I cannot believe it has been five years since I criticised these jackasses: http://risk-monger.blogactiv.eu/2011/11/01/population-matters-not-in-my-world/
The only thing I don’t like about this advancing science is the affects it has had on Indian Farmers that go deeply into debt to finance it. Lots of them apparently have killed themselves.
Thanks Chris – the Indian farmer suicide increase is a myth that has been around for about a decade and even though debunked is still largely repeated by NGOs who know themselves it is not true. See http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2008/nov/05/gmcrops-india. Suicide is a human tragedy – that people like Vandana Shiva use it for campaign opportunity is disgraceful.
Is DDT even banned? I thought it was still used, strategically and sparingly, in many parts of the world?
It can be used in limited situations to be sprayed on walls in homes as a local preventative measure, but there are no widespread mosquito eradication programmes like in the 70s where regions in North and South America were fogged to get rid of the mosquitoes. This was recently suggested as a measure for preventing Zika in Brazil and the NGOs went crazy.
Political leaders in Africa, please decolonise your mindset, make GM SEEDS AVAILABLE TO YOUR FARMERS. invite your farmers, media & opposition on awareness day.
Countries such as RSA are disconnecting from the Hague be course courts seems to be Anti Africa
GM TECHNOLOGY originated from the EU.
Prof Mark Von Montague is European scientist who made the first gmo successfully and safely in 19th . Monsanto originally from Europe. It’s now in USA how the technology & Monsanto ended there is the issue, safety!
Remove politics from Agriculture! !
Africa was not set free from a colonial rule! We brake the chains loose, same must happen to our Agricultural practice.
Prof Mark Von Montague from Belgium & his team of scientists made the first GMO safely and successfully in 1976,
Fortunately narrow minded missionaries such as Dr. David Livingstone and C.T. Studd, among many brave and pioneering faith-based souls, leveled the way for a number of new approaches to farming development on the last continent. One of the many challenges in rural and hungry Africa is participative sustainability. Most at ground zero had never benefited from top-down and massive commercialized enterprise in Africa. Next time I humbly journey to and along the Congo River to encourage better use of indigenous plants as food and medicine, I will keep a lookout for risk-mongers and computer geeks.
I read this and was appalled. I have long been a fan of Norman burlap and his green revolution in India et al.. But here’s the thing – when I actually go online to research what the nafsa have achieved and the benefits that are being experienced all I get is a few official looking websites filled with meaningless gobbledygook. Either the new alliance are the worst self publicists known to man or something fishy is going on. Can anyone out there shed some light on this for me?
This is the problem – people with agendas have the communications tools and the PR skills to poison the well; people who are working to try to do something in the field don’t have the time, the messaging skills or the moral flexibility of the activist campaigners.
It is very sad.
That doesn’t answer the question. What exactly does the new alliance do. What exactly has it achieved? I just can’t seem to find any info about this at all
Their last progress report is at: http://www.new-alliance.org/resource/2014-2015-new-alliance-progress-report – there seems to be a gap between committed and disbursed fund but I suspect that is related to the speed of reforms in the ten countries.
It would indeed be nice if they could tell some stories and case studies … basic communications tools most of my second year students know intuitively!
I hope it is just incompetence – but I have my suspicions….