Response to New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (NAFSN) initiative

Molly responds to the many constituents who have contacted her about NAN, a new agricultural initiative in Africa.

Many thanks for contacting me regarding the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (NAFSN). Although this development initiative claims to promote ‘sustained inclusive, agriculture-led growth in Africa,’ my Green colleagues and I share your concerns that it privileges agribusiness corporations over smallholder farmers and their communities. This is why, in the European Parliament, my Greens-EFA colleagues and I have launched an own-initiative report to challenge this development. My Green colleague Maria Heubuch and I are leading this report in our respective Committees – Maria in Development and myself in Agriculture. Please take a look at my video message for further information.

The NAFSN initiative, launched in May 2012, following the global food price crisis, is a partnership between the G8 countries, 10 participating African countries, private sector and civil society. An expert report by Olivier De Schutter, former UN special rapporteur on the Right to Food, is highly critical of this initiative, arguing that its proposed model of agricultural development is outdated and damaging, both to smallholder farmers’ livelihoods and the environment. In recent months, our group has had several meetings with Mr De Schutter to discuss issues of food security, and we have sought to bring his critical findings to the attention of other MEPs, of all groups and all countries.

In this initiative, we are concerned that food security and nutrition appear to be secondary to export opportunities and growth. To truly put nutrition at the heart of (re)building food systems, we must shift the focus away from global profitability of the land, towards the quality of soil and its produce in local communities. Likewise, we are concerned that policies proposed are not taking into account the primary role of women, whom it is vital to consult, empower and involve equally in any initiative claiming to address food security.

In recent decades, agricultural policies have prioritised the maximisation of outputs, rather than the diversification of diets with nutritious foods. The NAFSN continues down this misguided path of maximisation: it claims to tackle food insecurity through the promotion of large-scale farming of produce to enter the global supply chain. Yet our goal is not to increase the production of agricultural commodities for markets – it is to enable populations to feed themselves. My draft report argues that over-reliance on imported food should be countered by establishing resilient domestic food production. We need a shift to sustainable farming, moving away from expansive monocultures which cause land degradation and increase susceptibility to the effects of climate change.

Many land and seed reforms promoted within this initiative have a substantial effect on smallholder farmers. The initiative must protect their interests, by enacting measures against land grabbing, corruption and speculation on land. Without this, a short-sighted focus on attracting outside investments would simply end up concentrating land ownership and dispossessing communities of the resources they rely upon. Industrial farming also pushes farmers towards input dependency, locked in to buying the patented seeds and pesticides of corporations, again and again. Instead, the initiative should support farmers’ seed systems. Local seed banks, exchanges and continuous development of local seed varieties are vital to farmers’ self-sufficiency, as well as to maintaining and improving agro-biodiversity worldwide.

Participating countries and businesses – whether donors or recipients – should ensure a rights-based approach; observing responsible investments in agriculture, complying with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and working towards the right to adequate food. Likewise, we must ensure that financial, tax or administrative reforms do not exempt investors – many of which are EU-based companies – from making a fair contribution to the tax base of participating African countries.

At this stage, I have submitted my draft report, which will be presented to the rest of the Agriculture Committee in February, and voted upon in March of this year. As the reports develop over the coming weeks, you can follow the progress in both Committees. 

Further reading: Please see Molly’s article for House magazine, as part of a feature on food security.