West Africa is an increasingly important hub of resistance to the globalization of industrial agriculture and corporate control over food. Organized groups of peasants, women, urban farmers and consumers are engaged in multiple struggles to strengthen their local food systems and to resist genetically-modified seeds, land grabs and other non-democratic forms of development. Food Sovereignty Tours provides you with unique access to these dynamic movements and agro-ecological projects. Led by a local guide, translator and Food First analyst, you will gain invaluable contacts, first hand experience, and critical insight into large-scale development efforts like the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).
Since the 2008 food and finance crisis, transnational agribusiness has sought to expand its markets by promoting their products to the millions of African farmers who currently use few or no external inputs. AGRA, funded in large part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is a powerful player in promoting hybrid seeds, GMOs and fertilizer use in Africa. Under the pretext of food security, the introduction of these technologies favors large, capitalist farmers and undermines traditional systems of seed saving, agro-ecological knowledge and customary land use that have sustained African communities for centuries and through periods of severe social and ecological crisis.
The renewed interest by multinational capital in “investing” in African agriculture is coupled with a surge in land grabs. For foreign investors, high cereal and fuel prices plus cheap land equals windfall profits. French, South African, Chinese, Korean and Libyan firms (among others) have bought up hundreds of thousands of acres of prime farmland. Estimates for Mali alone range between 600,000 and 1.5 million acres. Of course, the phenomenon of land grabs in Africa is not new, nor is their justification in the name of “progress.” Indeed, the new land grabs are being carried out in the name of “development” and, ironically, “food security.”
West African farmers have organized powerful networks and alliances to resist the corporate takeover of their lands and livelihood. For example, ROPPA (the Network of West African Peasant Organizations) is perhaps the most established and intraregionally connected organization in West Africa. Formally founded in 2000, ROPPA has its roots in the devastating droughts of the 1970s in which farmers organized across borders in solidarity. In partnership with local and regional organizations, movements, and campaigns, focuses its efforts on protecting the small family farmers that characterize West African agriculture by ensuring their access to West Africa’s rich genetic resources. As part of COPAGEN—The Coalition for the Protection of African Genetic Resources—ROPPA and others have spoken out, using the campaign slogan: Don’t touch my land, It’s my life! (Touches-pas a ma terre, c’est ma vie!).
Women are the main food producers in Africa, and they are fighting for the right to continue producing food for their families and communities. In February 2011, the campaign “We are the solution: celebrating African family farming” was officially launched at the World Social Forum in Dakar, Senegal. A Food Sovereignty Tours delegation was present to bear witness to this historic event. The campaign unites a broad coalition of peasant organizations, farmer federations and NGOs against the Green Revolution and for agroecological, family-based agriculture. Rural women are playing a leading role in shaping and implementing the campaign. The “Dakar Declaration” was issued on Feb. 7, 2011 by the campaign’s Women’s Group, composed of leaders from 12 rural African women’s associations from six West African countries.
Food Sovereignty Tours provides a unique opportunity to meet with farmers, peasants, NGOs, movement leaders, researchers, activists, journalists and policy-makers. You will hear first-hand how Africans are resisting land grabs and corporate control and building food sovereignty from the ground up.
Please check back as we post details about our next Food Sovereignty Tour to West Africa. Or contact us about creating a customized tour for your group of six or more at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (510) 654-4400, ext. 223