Agroecology, the last wheel of the Gates Foundation coach in Africa

Women harvest green beans from one of the Njukini cooperative farms in Taita Taveta, Kenya, in January.

If Bill Gates is a visionary, having warned in 2015 of the imminent risks of a pandemic, it seems that the capacities of his foundation to take the train of solutions for more sustainable agriculture are suffering serious delays.

This is the conclusion of the report on “obstacles to investment in agroecological research for Africa” ​​published Wednesday, June 10 by the international group of independent experts on sustainable food systems (IPES-Food) with the Swiss Foundation Biovision and the Institute of Development Studies.

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“While for the past ten years we have witnessed a growing awareness in favor of agroecology, including by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations [FAO], we note that investments in agricultural research continue to massively support an outdated industrial model to meet environmental challenges and ensure food security. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation [FBMG] as a very influential player in this field illustrates this reality “, deplores Olivier de Schutter, vice-president of IPES-Food which brings together scientists and representatives of civil society from eighteen countries.

“A role now crucial”

Olivier de Schutter, who was previously special rapporteur on the right to food, is a longtime defender of agroecology which allows production using fewer chemical inputs, protecting biodiversity and soil fertility while ensuring to farmers a more diversified and better quality food.

The report sought to understand the reasons for such a blockage by tracing the origin of the financial flows made available to public and private research centers by major donors. Research in Africa still largely depends on external funding. If multilateral institutions like the World Bank provide the largest budgets, philanthropic foundations, and the FBMG at the forefront of them, play “A now crucial role alongside governments and international organizations”, according to the authors.

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The evaluation of research projects on the development of African agriculture thus shows that 63% of the funding allocated is used only for “Consolidate existing systems” based on the intensification of production methods and integration into markets. This is even more true in the case of the Gates Foundation with a percentage that reaches 85%. Only 3% of the research projects supported by it target agroecology. These results are based on the criteria proposed by FAO to assess the transition from farming systems to more sustainable production models.

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