The Community Alliance for Global Justice (CAGJ) and the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) recently launched a fourth installment, Science, to the short film series Rich Appetites. The new episode details Western philanthropy’s role in undermining traditional agroecological practices in Africa.
The latest episode explores the importance of supporting localized initiatives for agroecology over industrialized agribusiness models. African farmers are calling for more support to practice agroecology.
The episode also aims to debunk the idea that agroecology is backward or unfounded by research. “What we wanted to do was demonstrate that, actually, agroecology is itself a science.” Ashley Fent, AGRA Watch Research Consultant for CAGJ, tells Food Tank. “Agroecology is really about embracing the diversity and complexity of interactions and relationships in the natural world and then trying to build those into agriculture, and that’s fundamentally scientific.”
“Time and again, scientific studies demonstrate that agroecology increases yields and provides healthy and sustainable diets, while decreasing input costs and boosting farm profitability,” the episode highlights.
The episode shows that farmers in Benin experienced 50 to 60 percent higher yields after implementing sustainable land management practices. In Malawi, household food security increased 33 percent when farmers diversified crops and added organic materials to the soil. Dr. Mamadou Goïta, Executive Director of the Institute for Research and Promotion of Alternatives in Development (IRPAD), credits high levels of production for a growing population not to biotechnology, but to agroecology. “It’s because people have been resisting, and the resilience of relying on the agroecological system, that they have been feeding themselves,” he says.
Despite the science behind agroecology in Africa, Science argues that large philanthropic organizations tend to funnel money into industrialized methods of agriculture. These models harm smallholder farmers, environmental health, biodiversity, and traditional foodways. The episode draws particular attention to The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), which funded thousands of projects centered on technology and chemical inputs. Just one project supported by the Foundation is explicitly focused on agroecology.
The episode argues that the BMGF supports a narrow set of scientific approaches. These do not address systemic issues including the climate crisis or hunger, but they do provide room for agribusiness to grow. Elaborating on this point, Fent explains that this narrow understanding of science is part of a larger issue that often elevates technology-based science above all other scientific forms.
The episode Science builds upon the film’s previous installments to scientifically prove how exporting agribusiness models to Africa is a serious mistake. “Really what we wanted to do with the films was to raise critiques of the African Green Revolution and the role of the BMGF in advancing what we believe is a really destructive and counterproductive form of philanthropy, known as philanthro-capitalism.” Fent tells Food Tank. Philanthro-capitalism, she continues, is “undermining the science that people have been doing for a really long time.”
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Photo courtesy of Annie Spratt, Unsplash