Activists Protest Gates Foundation Plan for African Farmers
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Activists in Seattle and London held demonstrations on Monday to protest efforts by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and others to privatize seeds as part of a push to industrialize farming in Africa.
“Most of Africa’s farmers are smallholder farmers who farm for subsistence and a little bit for the market,” said Matt Canfield, one of the protesters with Community Alliance for Global Justice who carried signs outside the Seattle headquarters of the Gates Foundation claiming the world’s biggest philanthropy is championing the ‘corporate takeover’ of African agriculture.
“The goal of the Gates Foundation is to bring (African farmers) into global market value chains,” said Canfield, a member of a group called AGRA Watch, which was launched to watchdog a Gates Foundation initiative known as AGRA, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa.
In London, at a simultaneous demonstration, protesters with Global Justice Now chastised USAID for agreeing to a ‘secret meeting’ with the philanthropy (closed to the public, with its location undisclosed). The London protesters contended, as reported by IPS, that the focus of the conference was to discuss a report prepared by the consulting firm Monitor-Deloitte on how corporate seed producers could penetrate the African market.
Chris Williams, a spokesman for the Gates Foundation, issued a statement in response to the protests:
“The Gates Foundation is focused on helping smallholder farmers grow more food and lift millions of people out of poverty across Africa and South Asia. Poor farmers in Africa face many challenges – including droughts, pests and crop disease – all of which make it difficult to grow enough food to feed their families and earn an income.