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African agriculture without African farmers – NewsDay

WITH the passing of the United Nations’ highly contested Food Systems Summit last month, the task of “feeding the world” has taken on a newfound urgency.

But one point apparently lost on the summit’s attendees is that the project of “agricultural modernisation” which many of them have supported for decades is only making food insecurity worse in recent years, especially in Africa.

Since the 2007-08 world food price crisis, Western governments and philanthropists, led by the United States and the Gates Foundation, have backed a multitude of programmes across the continent to raise farmers’ productivity and connect them to commercial supply chains. Together, these efforts carry the banner of an “African Green Revolution” — an approach not unlike the primarily Asian and Latin American Green Revolution before it.

But at the heart of this massive philanthropic and governmental undertaking lies an essential contradiction: agricultural “modernisation”, we are told, will benefit Africa’s smallholder farmers by giving advantages to farmer-entrepreneurs with larger landholdings. The result is a “revolution” ostensibly meant to help the poor which actually makes rural life difficult for anyone but the most well-off, well-connected, commercially-oriented, and “efficient” businesspeople.

In our research, we have both encountered the reality of the African Green Revolution in Ghana, a country that has experienced a surge in agricultural foreign aid in recent years.

British colonialists developed production and market systems for cocoa — a crop not widely consumed in the country but which continues to attract significant investment and subsidies today.

In the post-colonial period of the 1960s and 1970s, the government of Ghana, with support from Western government donors, introduced high-yielding varieties of rice and maize, as well as imported chemical fertilizers.

In a 2011 paper, Kojo Amanor also explains that from 1986 to 2003, Sasakawa Global 2000, a development organisation founded by Japanese industrialist Ryoichi Sasakawa and Norman Borlaug, the initiator of the Asian Green Revolution, tried unsuccessfully to bring new farm technology to rural Ghana and much of sub-Saharan Africa.

Sasakawa Global 2000 took over the government’s previous role, distributing low-interest credit packages to smallholders willing to buy hybrid seed, chemical fertilizer and other agrochemicals, and become part of global, commercial supply chains.

The organisation found many farmers willing to accept their assistance. But according to Amanor, many of the farmers, who initially adopted the technology, reverted to traditional practices and local seed varieties after the project ended.

Even after years of working in rural Ghana, the organisation saw only a 45% recovery in crop investment.

These days, there are many reasons why smallholders do not co-operate with the “modernisation” programmes of the African Green Revolution. In their 2015 study, Nyantakyi-Frimpong and Bezner Kerr found that smallholder farmers often preferred to plant their own maize varieties, even when government and development organisations made more “advanced” hybrids available.

As the farmers understood well, their own hardier, local varieties of maize were more resistant to drought, required less labour, cost less, and required little or no chemical fertilizer.

Moreover, unlike hybrids, whose wide leaves obstruct the sun for neighbouring plants, farmers could plant their own maize varieties alongside peanuts, cowpea, and bambara beans — all nutritious crops well adapted to the local ecology.

Development planners have long touted technologies like hybrid seeds as “solutions” to the many problems resulting from climate change, and it is true farmers sometimes turn to them in their struggle to adapt to unpredictable ecological conditions. In one study, one of us found that many smallholders in an area of northern Ghana reluctantly turned to those technologies in a desperate gambit to adapt to increasingly erratic rainfall, shortening growing seasons and drier, less fertile soils.

But beyond climate change, farmers have also adopted technology to deal with the problems induced by the African Green Revolution itself, such as increasing competition for land, as local businessmen (and they are overwhelmingly men) acquire farms to capitalise on the very programmes supposedly meant to help smallholders.

Despite the apparent need for more technology, smallholders find themselves trapped in a vicious cycle, sacrificing tomorrow’s soil for today’s planting. While even some of the poorest farmers in Ghana rely on chemical fertilizer to grow enough food to survive, a number of farmers said their soils were infertile requiring ever-larger doses of chemicals. Or as some put it, the land was “addicted to chemicals”. This dependency increased their debt and their risk of land dispossession, particularly for women.

Far from levelling the playing field so that any farmer can succeed, the emphasis on expensive technology and commercial access has only made it harder for smallholder farmers to survive in their native lands, while opening the door to local businessmen who see in the African Green Revolution their own investment opportunity.

As one farmer said, “(donors) are supposed to help, but what do we see? you see big cars. This district executive wants 50 acres, the party head wants 100 acres.”

As another put it, development workers “treat farmers like they are so stupid”.

Even at the smallest scale, farming is more than a livelihood. Studies show that a major share of the world’s food is grown by smallholder farmers. Yet many critical agrarian thinkers like Henry Bernstein have argued that smallholder farming is becoming increasingly difficult, and even impossible in some places. Developmental aid that largely goes to the agri-food companies and well-capitalised businessmen, while smallholders lose the very farmland they need to survive, is undoubtedly one of the underlying causes of this phenomenon.

It is tempting to think of mass displacement as an unforeseen consequence of the African Green Revolution. But displacement and marginalisation were always bound to result from an effort that rarely envisions smallholders as anything more than a component in a supply chain managed by other more powerful actors.

In Ghana, several organisations, including World Vision, the Gates-funded Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, and the World Bank have empowered relatively well-off businesspeople to provide assistance to farmers that the state once provided. As part of one project we researched, USAid supported a group of relatively well-off “nucleus farmers” to distribute seeds and facilitate the occasional service of a tractor for smallholders in exchange for a portion of their crop. The aid agency and its contractor said the multi-year project, which ended in 2020, directly involved tens of thousands of impoverished farmers in an effort to modernise one of the country’s agricultural processing chains.

But when one of us travelled to Ghana in 2016 and asked some of the nucleus farmers how they dealt with smallholders who, despite the assistance, could not grow enough soy to compensate them, these agro-entrepreneurs revealed a darker side to the programme. At their direction, struggling smallholder farmers borrowed money from local banks to buy snacks to sell by the roadside to pay off the debt. When a farmer repeatedly failed to grow sufficient amounts of the crop, one nucleus farmer said, he instructed the farmer to let someone else take over their plot for the rest of the season. While some returned the next season, many did not.

When asked about these outcomes, one executive for the development contractor managing the programme deferred to a standard refrain. Nucleus farmers were “independent businesses” and how they dealt with farmers was none of their concern. But the fact that smallholder farmers in Africa were leaving their farms was no reason for concern.

“That’s an evolutionary process,” this person said. “I don’t think that’s anything anyone is trying to counter.”

Proponents of a Green Revolution in Africa often employ justifications like these when confronted with unflattering stories about rural life in Africa: smallholders are leaving the countryside, but that is their choice. And if it is not their choice, their departure is only part of a natural process outside anyone’s control. In any case, when smallholders drop their hoes and head to the nearest city, they are only doing so to find a better livelihood.

But among like-minded people, enthusiasts will often make their position on rural depopulation quite clear. Speaking to an audience that included several African heads of State and numerous development contractors in Kigali, Rwanda, in 2018, Rockefeller Foundation President Rajiv Shah — one of the most prominent supporters of the African Green Revolution — had this to say: “A uniquely African agricultural revolution was meant to beat hunger by making food more available and accessible. But this revolution was also meant to create a diversified, modern economy, where food production no longer dominated how nations deployed the majority of their labour.”

Like other development planners who cheer the collapse of smallholder agriculture in Africa, Shah — who previously headed USAid under the Obama administration and the Gates Foundation’s agriculture programme — did not acknowledge some of the bleaker consequences of this population shift: growing slums and joblessness in Africa’s cities (and the cities of other continents), rising food insecurity, and a growing reliance on monocultures and other environmentally destructive farming techniques in rural areas.

Instead, he went on to say that from 2003-18, sub-Saharan Africa’s population had increased from 700 million to over a billion people, while the proportion of people working in farming on the continent had fallen from 65% to 57%.

“Real progress,” he said. “But the eight-point drop over 15 years in the share of labour employed in agriculture is simply too small to celebrate.”

In other words, a mass displacement of smallholder farmers is not a natural process or a side-effect of the African Green Revolution. It is exactly the outcome development planners want and expect.

As the many grassroots organisations representing smallholder farmers in Africa and around the world understand, this story is fundamentally about who deserves to farm and reap the rewards from Africa’s farmland. It is one reason why so many of them boycotted the Food Systems Summit in September. But to succeed, groups standing up for smallholders will have to continue on many other fronts.

We call on activists to continue to speak the truth about the Green Revolution in Africa, and to take a stand against the donors, philanthropists, diplomats and academics promoting it. Let us call out actors that claim to help smallholders, but actually strive to kick smallholders off their land.

Alex Park is a journalist and researcher based in California.

Siera Vercillo is a social sciences and humanities research council of Canada post-doctoral fellow of Development and Environmental Studies at the University of Waterloo

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Pensioners Of Closed Companies In A Quandary, Fail To Access Payouts – New Zimbabwe.com

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By James Muonwa 


THOUSANDS of former workers of companies that ceased operations are failing to access their pension payouts from the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) after years of contributing religiously to the scheme.

Mashonaland West Pensioners Forum chairperson, Rumbidzai Zingwari-Tandi lamented NSSA was demanding signatures from officials at the closed companies, a development that has thrown thousands of deserving social security beneficiaries in a quandary.

She requested for a relaxation of the application process and criteria for eligibility for pensioners, who worked hard for the country’s development through contributions to the welfare fund.

Zingwari-Tandi said: “Some pensioners whose companies ceased operations are facing difficulties in having their applications processed by NSSA as they are asked to have application forms signed by company officials who no longer exist in view of the closure of the respective companies.”

She added: “I cite Golden Kopje Mine (in Chinhoyi) as an example. We request that there be security measures that these pensioners may be able to access their pensions.”

Former workers at commercial farms were also suffering the same fate as most dispossessed white farmers have fled the country following the controversial seizure of their land by the government to pave way for black Zimbabweans.

“As for pensioners who used to work on farms, the farmers are no longer there so when you ask them to have forms signed by their former employers who are no longer there, where should they go?”

Participants at an interactive engagement with Labour Minister Paul Mavima last week in Chinhoyi suggested evidence such as payslips and long-service awards should suffice to prove one’s employment history.

Since the turn of the millennium, hundreds of companies have folded, leaving millions jobless as the country’s economic implosion continues to worsen.

Closed companies were mainly from the construction, clothing, motoring, and agriculture sectors.

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COVID-19 jobs carnage : The numbers – NewsDay

BY TATIRA ZWINOIRA

“THERE were unprecedented global employment losses in 2020 of 114 million,” the International Labour Organisation (ILO) reported early this year.

A new report by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstat) shows that job losses locally were nearly 1,5 million last year from both the formal and informal sectors.

The statistics confirm how millions of Zimbabweans were affected by the COVID-19-induced job carnage.

According to the 2019 labour force and child labour survey report by Zimstat, almost 2,9 million people aged 15 years and over were found to be employed.

But, in a new joint 2020 survey report on ICT usage in the country by Zimstat and Postal and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz), there were only 1 426 744 people identified as either permanent or part-time workers, a significant decline from the 2019 levels, and a worrying development for the country.

The drop is further proven in the increase in persons within the stipulated age group doing an economic activity, which rose to 8 989 981 from a 2019 comparative of 8 101 515. Zimstat defines economic activities as activities in which people are engaged in work to produce goods or provide services for pay or profit only, which covers both formal and informal sectors.

The joint report is titled ‘2020 Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Access By Households and Use By Individuals Survey Report.’

“(According to) details of individuals 15 years and above…highest proportions of 29,5% for the male population and 37,8% for the female population, indicated that they were own account workers in agriculture who produced mainly for subsistence,” part of the report read.

“Countrywide, 33,6% of individuals (aged) 15 years and above were subsistence own account workers in agriculture. The female category also recorded 17% of its population aged 15+ as homemakers, compared to 2,3% which was reported in the male category for the same age reference.”

In the report, 1, 4 million were recorded as being employed from the total number of economically active persons.

Another 1,2 million were own account workers (people working for themselves), while 165 330 were contributing family workers.

The report said  421 213 were uncategorised.

Lastly, 909 649 were recorded as homemakers with 334 646 being retired or too sick or old to be engaging in any form of economic activity.

“When asked the main kind of economic activity in which establishments they work for are engaged in, close to a third (26,2%) of the individuals aged 15 years and above indicated that they worked for institutions mainly involved in wholesale and retail trades; repair of motor vehicles and motor cycles sector,” the report read.

It is a worrying development, because almost all of these sectors are in the service economy of which productive sectors are not being utilised to their maximum potential.

Most foreign currency-generating exports are derived from manufacturing sector operations.

“Just above a fifth (21,8%), of the surveyed people said they worked for establishments mainly engaged in agriculture, forestry and fishing.

“The highest proportion (39,6%) of the female population, 15 years and above, worked in wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motor cycles sector, while the highest proportion of male individuals (22%), was employed mainly in agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors.”

Last year, the global market came to a standstill owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced government to apply hard lockdowns which allowed only a few sectors to continue operating.

As a result, companies began to reduce working hours to try and contain the spread of the virus, which meant lower profit margins.

Of course, companies were forced to downscale with jobs being the first to be affected.

This problem has affected many countries.

However, in Zimbabwe’s case, existing economic challenges, including a depreciating currency piled more pressure on businesses to implement cost-cutting measures, with job cuts being the solution for most companies.

As a result, companies and those running small businesses in the informal sector were forced to cut jobs.

Recently, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions described the job market as volatile.

“If that is the number, then that is correct in the sense as what is counted as employed people include people that are in the informal economy. Remember in the last labour force and child labour survey of 2019 it was indicated that 76% of the jobs were informal jobs. So, with COVID-19 the sector that was mainly affected was the informal economy,” Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions president Peter Mutasa said.

“We lost a lot of jobs in the formal economy…but we also lost a lot of jobs in the informal economy. People are no longer working because of COVID-19 around the country. Many people even had to migrate back to rural areas and the unfortunate part is that we are not very robust in terms of reporting our labour market information.”

He said the trend of jobs losses had continued up to now owing to mostly technological advancements and economic challenges with COVID-19 only accelerating the process. The loss in income has been catastrophic, owing to the rise in the cost of living.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) says in September, prices of most basic food and non-food commodities increased mainly in Zimbabwe dollars.

Parallel market exchange rates saw increases of up to 15%, contributing significantly to price increases.

Maize grain prices went up in Zimbabwe dollar terms by between 10% and 15% across FEWS NET’s main sentinel markets.

While the government has relaxed most COVID-19 restrictions, allowing for improvements in transport availability, economic activity, and recovery of livelihoods and income-earning opportunities, the improvements have not been enough to stave off job losses.

“Improvements in income are expected to be limited as national borders remain closed to non-essential goods and services, continuing to constrain informal cross-border activities, remittance flows, and other livelihood activities,” FEWS NET said. Harare Residents Trust director Precious Shumba said the majority of households are struggling owing to “declining incomes that could not meet the rising cost of living…household income has shrunk to very depressing levels”

Government must quickly address the situation otherwise the poverty rate which is currently close to 50% will further increase.

  • This article first appeared in Weekly Digest, an AMH digital publication

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Corruption Busters In Court For Extortion – New Zimbabwe.com

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By James Muonwa, Mashonaland West Correspondent


TWO employees of an anti-corruption organisation have appeared in court following their arrest for extortion.

Mind Musokeri (33) and Wilfred Nyahunda (44), who are employed by the Southern Africa Regional Anti-Corruption (SARACO) appeared before Chinhoyi magistrate Rumbidzai Tshuma charged with two counts of extortion and were remanded in custody for the next fortnight.

Prosecutor Knight Tawanda Rwodzi pleaded with the court to deny the pair bail due to the seriousness of the offence.

The first complainant is Kudakwashe Faranando (34) of Murereka, Chinhoyi who is employed as a fuel attendant at Ram Petroleum, Lion’s Den.

He is also a farmer and beneficiary of the Command Agriculture Scheme for the 2020/2021 season.

In count one, the state case is that sometime in September last year, around 8 am, Musokeri met Faranando while in the company of his friend Tendawakura Kanyenze at D&R Service Station.

During the course of their discussions, Musokeri revealed he was a member of SARACO tasked to make follow-ups of all beneficiaries who had not paid back money for Command Agriculture inputs.

On the same morning, Musokeri met with Nyamunda at D&R Service Station in Chinhoyi.

They were joined by Faranando and his friend Kanyenze.

It is at this point that accused persons advised Faranando and Kanyenze that their names were on the list of defaulters to be arrested for failing to repay the inputs loans.

Accused persons demanded a US$1 000 bribe in order to strike off the names from the defaulters’ list.

Musokeri was handed US$15, before telling Faranando to raise the required kickback which they would collect the following day.

On the second count, the complainant is Ludi Zuze, who is also a beneficiary of the inputs loan scheme.

The court heard that on October 3 this year, at around 1 pm at Lion’s Den shops, Zuze, Tennis White, and Raymond Mapambawenyu were advised they were among the list of people who had not paid back for inputs they had received.

On that same day at around 8 pm, Musokeri and Nyahunda arrived at Lion’s Den to meet Zuze and his colleagues.

The two then introduced themselves to Zuze as members of SARACO, who were on an operation to apprehend defaulting clients of the scheme.

Out of fear, Zuze handed over US$100 to Nyahunda.

The pair was arrested after complainants reported the cases to the police.

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