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Outcome of conferences at Nyéléni center in Selengue, Mali

November 26th  – December 2nd 2007

More than 150 participants from 25 African countries and 10 countries from other continent representing farmers, pastoralists, environmental, women, youth and development organizations, gathered at the Nyéléni center in Selengue, Mali from November 26th to December 2nd. Different networks and organizations joined hands to cooperate and organize field trips to visit farmers and to discuss issues of crucial importance for the majority of people in Africa and the environment;

We, the participants, shared information and viewpoints, and discussed our responses to the challenges. We have undertaken to take back these discussions and information which we found to have been inspiring and useful to our organizations and networks. We agreed that the real test of the significance of our week at the Nyéléni centre will be what we are doing in practice in the next weeks, months and years.

There was a rich diversity of experiences and viewpoints, but there was also a broad consensus on key issues. We have, however, decided not to make declarations from the conferences because we did not have any mandate to sign on to declarations which it had not been possible to discuss in the organizations. In this document we therefore outline some of the main common viewpoints, some information and proposals for further work. Presentations and notes from the group discussions will also be available on the websites of the organizers. 

New policies and practices are needed

The situation with tremendous poverty and hunger in Africa is totally unacceptable. Women are especially effected and carry the heaviest burdens. Climate  change, mainly caused by the unsustainable way of production, transport and life style in  industrialized countries, is killing people and destroying livelihoods today, and will create even worse problems in the future. Africa’s situation is closely linked to the colonial oppression and continuous oppression by rich countries. But the political leaders in Africa have also failed its people. There is an urgent need for new policies and practices.

Multinational companies, some international institutions and Foundations, and some political leaders and scientists are now pushing very hard for a “New Green Revolution in Africa”. They say that such a “green revolution” will eradicate hunger and poverty in Africa, and make it possible for peasants to overcome the problems caused by climate change. The experiences from the first “green revolution” show that it did not eradicate hunger and poverty (India has still more than 200 million hungry people), and it has had very negative impact on the environment, for instance loss of biodiversity and soil fertility.  We will strongly oppose and fight against such policies and practices promoted as “a new green revolution for Africa”.. Instead of solving the main problems for Africa, the Green Revolution will exacerbate current problems and create new problems in the long run. Their policy is environmental unsustainable, and will create more hunger and poverty.

Our overall alternative is food sovereignty, agroecology and other sustainable forms of sustainable food production, and strengthening of the social movements, especially the farmers’ and pastoralists’ organizations.

Food sovereignty is increasingly getting more support as the alternative political model for food, agriculture, fisheries and pastoralism. We encourage organizations and individuals to study the documents from Nyéléni 2007 – World Forum for Food Sovereignty  that took place here at the Nyéléni centre in February this year (www.nyeleni2007.org)  

Agroecology and other sustainable food production systems are preserving the biodiversity and increasing food productivity. These systems have in practice shown alternatives to the high tech, expensive and unsustainable model of the “green revolution”. We will share experiences of and knowledge about agroecology and other methods for sustainable food production, and we encourage everybody to study and use such production methods.

 Strengthening of the social movements, especially the farmers’, pastoralists’, rural women’s and youth organizations is needed to mobilize the majority of people, to put pressure on the political leaders to change policies, to stop the attempts from multinational companies to take over and industrialize agriculture, and to put into practice sustainable production methods. The eradication of hunger and poverty, stopping the climate change, preserving the natural resources and create sustainable development will not be possible without strong and democratic social movements.

Climate change and agriculture, fisheries and pastoralism in Africa

Climate change has for a number of years had serious and damaging impact on farmers, pastoralists and fisherfolk. Women are especially hard hit.  People have been pushed into poverty, millions have died and many more have been forced to migrate. The large scale use of fossil fuels since the industrial revolution, mainly in the rich countries, is the main cause for climate change.  The production, transport systems, and energy production based on fossil fuels are not sustainable. However, industrialized agriculture, accounting for almost 20% of green houses emissions in rich countries, has also contributed to climate change. Several developing countries are now also following the same unsustainable model of development.

The political leaders, big business and other elites in rich countries have for many decades, at least the last 20 years, known that they are responsible for the killing of people and destroying livelihoods in the developing world, as well as for the destruction of biodiversity and natural resources, caused by the climate change.  Despite of this, they have continued their destructive policies and practices. It is time for them to pay for their destruction, and it’s time to pressure them to change policies.

Peoples’ lives, livelihood and the destruction of nature cannot be measured in money. Nevertheless, it is time for the rich countries and big companies to pay compensation to the developing countries. The total development aid from the rich countries is just a very small portion of what they should pay.

The concerns for the consequences of climate change are now being used as a cover for promoting the interests of the multinational companies and the rich. The big scale production of agrofuels is one example. It is not possible to replace most of the fossil fuels with agrofuel because of the enormous quantities needed. Most of the production of agrofuel is very harmful for the environment, especially biodiversity, people’s livelihoods and food production, and does not reduce but will increase greenhouse gas emission in the long run. With agrofuels, multinational companies will be able to earn huge profits and provide rich countries an opportunity to reduce their dependence on oil imports.

Some initiatives which pretend to combat climate change are also being used to promote the “new green revolution in Africa” and GMO’s. We will strongly oppose and protest against such misuse of this serious threat for people and nature to promote the interest of the biotech, fertilizer and chemical companies. 

No technical  fix can stop the climate change or solve the problems caused by climate change. Substantial changes in industrial production, transport systems, energy production and life styles, especially in the rich countries, are urgently needed. New policies for production, transport and consumption of food is also necessary. Our alternatives are respect for and implementation of food sovereignty and the promotion and use of agroecological and other sustainable farming methods.

People, especially peasants, pastoralists, herders, gatherers and fisherfolks, need to find ways to overcome the effects of climate change.

Strong social movements with alternative policies and practices for sustainable development are needed to pressure decision makers to follow policies and take actions which can stop the climate change and support people to overcome the consequences of climate change.

We commit ourselves to

The fight against hunger

The right to food is a human right. It is totally unacceptable that 200 million people in Africa are permanently undernourished. The political leaders in the world, including the elites and people in power in Africa, are responsible for the continuation of hunger in Africa. While they have been talking and setting new targets for the fight against hunger, for instance, at the World Food Summits and the Millennium Development Goals, the number of hungry people in Africa and the world has increased.

The causes of hunger are many and diverse, but some of the main causes of hunger in Africa include:

What is needed to eradicate hunger in Africa?

There is no doubt that Africa can feed itself. Africa is a rich continent with huge resources for food production, rich biological and cultural diversity, good and sustainable traditions and practices for food production.  There are strong needs for fundamental changes in many polices and practices. Here we just point out a few:

We commit ourselves to

Development aid for agriculture and rural development in Africa

More and better support for sustainable agriculture, pastoralism and fisheries is needed to eradicate hunger and poverty. The support for agriculture and rural development in Africa has drastically been reduced especially in the last two decades. Governments in Africa and donor countries and agencies have given very low priority to agriculture and rural development.  This might change now. The governments in Africarests of big farmers, multinational companies and agribusiness. We fear it will be the latter. have committed themselves to increase the share of their national budgets for agriculture to 10% by 2010, many donor countries and agencies have said they will prioritize agriculture. The World Bank Development Report 2008, Agriculture for Development, is arguing that more support for agriculture is needed to fight poverty and hunger. The big question is if this will promote sustainable food production and the livelihoods of the small scale farmers, or support the industrialization of agriculture and the inte

Social movement and non governmental organizations (NGO’s) working on development issues are concerned about the quality of aid and aid effectiveness. The support must be based on policies and programs developed by the food producers, their communities and organizations, and support ecological, social and economical sustainable development. The support must strengthen diversity and especially support women.

Initiatives like the “Aid effectiveness” by the OECD countries and the “Rural Donor Platform” by the European Union are totally top-down. The food producers, their organizations and local communities have not been involved until recently, and in a very small scale. The same applies to governments in developing countries.

We commit ourselves to

African Agroecological Alternatives to the Green Revolution

There are many initiatives from multinational companies, foundations and politicians to push  a “new green revolution” in Africa. One of them is  Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). In 2006, The Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced a joint $150 million Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) to save Africa from hunger. AGRA is actually the philanthropic flagship of a large network of chemical-seed, fertilizer companies and Green Revolution institutions seeking to industrialize African agriculture. AGRA’s high-profile campaign for a new Green Revolution is designed to attract private investment, enroll African governments, and convince African farmers to buy new seeds and fertilizers. AGRA is preparing researchers, institutions, and African farmers for the introduction of GMO crops—not only for rice, wheat and maize, but also for cassava, plantain and other African food crops.

The first Green Revolution, introduced by Ford and Rockefeller Foundations in 1960-90 deepened the divide between rich and poor farmers and degraded tropical agro-ecosystems, exposing already vulnerable farmers to increased environmental risk. It led to loss of farmer varieties and agro-biodiversity, the basis for smallholder livelihood security and regional environmental sustainability. While production per capita increased in Asia and Latin America, the percentage of hungry people increased even more. Because it responds to corporate interests rather than the needs of African farmers, the new green revolution, based on an industrial model, is likely to worsen—not improve—the condition of Africa’s small farmers.

The AGRA-led Green revolution not only threatens the richness of African traditional agriculture, it ignores (and is attempting to co-opt) the many successful African alternatives in organic agriculture, sustainable agriculture, agro-forestry, pastoralism, integrated pest management, farmer-led plant breeding sustainable watershed management and many other agroecological approaches. Because AGRA is but one—highly visible component of a wide industrial push, we need to decide where to put our energies, and be prepared for the divisive nature of involvement with AGRA.

At its core, the Green Revolution undermines Africa’s food systems and food sovereignty: People’s right to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.

There is an urgent need for information and public debate at local and national levels about the push for a “new green revolution”. We also have the right to transparency and accountability from AGRA and all Green Revolution institutions, including our own government and Green Revolution researchers. We need to work at the national level to mobilise, building on existing struggles against GMOs, agrofuels, and for food sovereignty. Sustainable agriculture alternatives are linked to socio-economic and political reforms.

We seek to advance a campaign for African alternatives to AGRA’s campaign for a new Green Revolution. These alternatives are locally rooted in local agroecosystems and struggles for food sovereignty.  Farmer to farmer learning and research, grassroots information campaigns, and policies that support our agro-biodiversity and the rights of pastoralists, women farmers, and all small farmers are important pillars of this campaign.

We commit ourselves to:

Organizers of the conferences

Climate Network Africa, International Alliance Against Hunger, More and Better, Union Nacional de Camponeses Mozambique, Coordination Nationale des Organisations Paysannes (CNOP – Mali), IRPAD-Mali (Institut de recherche et de promotion des alternatives en développement), African Centre for Biosafety, FoodFirst, Terra Nuova (Italy), Development Fund (Norway)
Contact persons
Ibrahima Coulibaly, CNOP-Mali: i_ibracoul@yahoo.fr
Diamantino Nhampossa, UNAC, Mozambique: diamantino.n@gmail.com
Mariam Mayet, African Centre for Biosafety, South Africa: mariammayet@mweb.co.za
Mamadou Goita, IRPAD, Mali, mamadou_goita@yahoo.fr
Eric Holt-Giménez, Food First, USA, eholtgim@foodfirst.org
Aksel Naerstad, More and Better campaign / Development Fund: aksel@utviklingsfondet.no

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