Kategorija: Afrika

How Barack Obama Destroyed Libya

Libya’s long-running civil war has taken a new turn in recent weeks after the Turkish-backed Government of National Accord launched an offensive against would-be strongman Khalifa Haftar, pushing him and his Libyan National Army out of Tripoli and a number of near-by strongholds. But anyone who thinks that peace is at hand after nine years of anarchy and collapse should think again. Odds are all but certain that all it will do is introduce new chaos into a country that has already seen more than its fair share.

But before we speculate about the future, let’s pause for a moment to consider the past and how the craziness began. When historians conduct their post-mortem analyses, chance are good that they’ll zero in on one date in particular – Apr. 13, 2011. That’s the day Barack Obama welcomed Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, emir of Qatar, to the White House. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had just spent weeks lining up support for the effort to topple Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi in the wake of the Arab Spring. But in mid-March, she decided that the coalition was too western, too Euro-centric, for delicate post-colonial sensibilities, and so she set out to woo energy-rich Qatar as well. When Al-Thani at last agreed to come on board, his reward was an audience with His Coolness himself, the U.S. president.

But Obama should have paused before leaping into the unknown. Although Qatar enjoys a benign reputation thanks to its extensive economic and cultural ties with the west, its political profile has long been strangely bifurcated – liberal in some respects, increasingly Islamist in others. By the late 1990s, it was making a name for itself as a center for the ultra-austere branch of Islam known as Salafism. By 2003, reports were growing that local charities were funneling money to Al-Qaeda. But Washington paid little attention. How could such reports be true if Qatar was helping to depose the Gaddafi, long a thorn in the side of American imperialism? If he was working in behalf of U.S. hegemony, which is to say the ultimate good, didn’t that mean that he had to be good as well?

Such is the cartoonish mindset that prevails in Washington. After privately conferring with Al-Thani, Obama then paraded him before the press. “I expressed to him my appreciation of the leadership that the emir has shown when it comes to democracy in the Middle East,” he told reporters, “and, in particular, the work that they have done in trying to promote a peaceful transition in Libya.… He’s motivated by a belief that the Libyan people should have the rights and freedoms of all people. And as a consequence, Qatar is not only supportive diplomatically but is also supportive militarily.”

At which point, some emperor-has-no-clothes type might have popped up to ask: how can an absolute autocrat like Al-Thani care about rights and freedoms in Libya when it denies such privileges to his own people at home? A few hours later, Obama offered a few comments at a Democratic fundraiser in Chicago that were picked up by na open mike.

“Pretty influential guy,” he said of Al-Thani. “He is a big booster, big promoter of democracy all throughout the Middle East. Reform, reform, reform – you’re seeing it on Al Jazeera.”

Then he added: “Now, he himself is not reforming significantly. There’s no big move towards democracy in Qatar. But you know part of the reason is that the per-capita income of Qatar is $145,000 a year. That will dampen a lot of conflict.”

Immense energy wealth – adjusted for inflation, oil prices at the time were pushing $130 a barrel – evidently means that Qatar gets a free pass when it comes to democratic niceties that other countries are expected to observe.

But Obama was wrong about what all that money would do. Rather than tamping down conflict, it fanned it. Using his position in the U.S.-led alliance serving for political and diplomatic cover, Al-Thani seized the opportunity to distribute an estimated $400 million to Libyan Salafist rebels in the form of machineguns, automatic rifles, and ammo. Within months, insurgents were hoisting the maroon-and-white Qatari flag over Gaddafi’s once-impregnable presidential complex in Tripoli.

The result was bedlam. Even though Libya would eventually elect a national parliament, gunmen flush with Persian Gulf cash forced it to adopt a host of Islamist “reforms” – burkhas, gender segregation, compulsory hijabs at universities, the works. Islamists went on a rampage, killing U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens in September 2012, kidnapping Prime Minister Ali Zeidan in October 2013, kidnapping a group of Egyptian diplomats the following January, and then storming the national parliament two months later, shooting and injuring two lawmakers. The Obama administration thought of punishing Qatar by holding off military assistance and the like. But after objections from both the Pentagon and the State Department, and the administration held its tongue. A Libyan politician named Mohammed Ali Abdallah would later say of the Americans:

“They created the monsters we are dealing with today, which is these militias that are so empowered they will never subordinate themselves to any government.”

Quite right – and those monsters have only grown bigger and more vicious as the years have passed. So why did the U.S. allow a close ally to overturn the apple cart? One reason is incompetence, but another is America’s longstanding alliance with Sunni extremism. Remember – rather than merely cooperating with such elements, America helped call them into existence by partnering with the Saudis to create an anti-Soviet holy war in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Even though the effort left Afghanistan in ruins, the pattern has repeated itself again and again in Bosnia, Syria, Yemen, and Libya as well. Whenever Americans intervene in the Muslim world, Sunni jihadis backed by Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and other Persian Gulf oil monarchies invariably follow. Despite occasional blowback in the form of 9/11 and other such incidents, the U.S.-jihadi alliance has continued without major interruption.

The result in the case of Libya is a black hole where a more or less functional state used to be. Since geopolitics abhor a vacuum, outside powers can’t resist throwing themselves into the fray. But not only are Islamists on the GNA side – they are increasingly prominent in the Haftar camp as well. Since such elements are ultimately loyal only to their paymasters in the gulf, deepening chaos can be the only result.

Keep that in mind as the anarchy in Libya intensifies and spreads, leading in the worst-case scenario to a military blow-up between Turkey and Russia, which is among Haftar’s prime supporters. While no one knows how far the process will go, we have a good idea of how the breakdown began – with Barack Obama’s belief that money would buy peace. This is how corrupt oligarchies think. But it made no sense then, and it makes even less now that energy prices are crashing through the floor and the region is sliding deeper and deeper into ruin.

Kategorija: Afrika

False promises: The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa

Fourteen years ago, the Bill and Melinda Gates and Rockefeller foundations launched the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) with the goal of bringing Africa its own Green Revolution in agricultural productivity. Armed with high-yield commercial seeds, fertilizers and pesticides, AGRA eventually set the goal to double productivity and incomes by 2020 for 30 million small-scale farming households while reducing food insecurity by half in 20 countries.

According to a new report from a broad-based civil society alliance, based partly on my new background paper, AGRA is “failing on its own terms.” There has been no productivity surge. Many climate-resilient, nutritious crops have been displaced by the expansion in supported crops such as maize. Even where maize production has increased, incomes and food security have scarcely improved for AGRA’s supposed beneficiaries, small-scale farming households. The number of undernourished in AGRA’s 13 focus countries has increased 30% during the organization’s well-funded Green Revolution campaign.

“The results of the study are devastating for AGRA and the prophets of the Green Revolution,” says Jan Urhahn, agricultural expert at the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, which funded the research and on July 10 published “False Promises: The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).”

A Record of Failure

As I document in my background paper, “Failing Africa’s Farmers: An Impact Assessment of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa,” AGRA has received nearly $1 billion in contributions, the vast majority from the Gates Foundation but with significant contributions from donor governments, including from the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and other countries. AGRA has made over $500 million in grants to promote its vision of a “modernized” African agriculture freed from its limited technology and low yields. The campaign has been fortified with large financial outlays by African governments, much of it in the form of subsidies to farmers to buy the seeds and fertilizers AGRA promotes. These subsidy programs have been estimated to provide as much as $1 billion per year in direct support for such technology adoption.

AGRA has been controversial from the start. Many farmers’ groups on the continent actively opposed the initiative, pointing to negative environmental and social impacts of the first Green Revolution in Asia and Latin America. Since AGRA’s founding, scientists and world leaders have gained growing awareness of the limitations of input-intensive agricultural systems, particularly to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2019 documented the many ways industrialized agriculture contributes to climate change, calling for profound changes to both mitigate and help farmers adapt to climate disruptions.

Surprisingly, as AGRA reaches its self-declared deadline of 2020, the organization has published no overall evaluation of the impacts of its programs on the number of smallholder households reached, the improvements in their yields and household incomes or their food security, nor does it make reference to its goals or progress in achieving them. Neither has the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has provided two-thirds of AGRA’s funding. This lack of accountability represents a serious oversight problem for a program that has both consumed so much in the way of resources and driven the region’s agricultural development policies with its narrative of technology-driven, input-intensive agricultural development.

Our research seeks to fill that accountability gap. Unfortunately, AGRA declined our request to provide data from its own internal monitoring and evaluation of progress. In the absence of data on AGRA’s direct beneficiaries, we use national-level data from 13 AGRA countries through 2018 on production, yield and area harvested for most of the region’s important food crops to assess the extent to which Green Revolution programs are significantly raising productivity. We also examine data on poverty and hunger to gauge whether there are signs that smallholder farmers’ incomes and food security are improving across the region at levels commensurate with AGRA’s goals of improved farmer welfare.

We found no evidence that productivity, incomes or food security were increasing significantly for smallholder households. Specifically, we found:

* Little evidence AGRA was reaching a significant number of farmers. Its last progress report says only that AGRA had trained 5.3 million farmers in modern practices with “1.86 million farmers using” such practices. This is vague and far short of the stated goal of doubling productivity and incomes for seven million farmers directly and another 21 million indirectly.

* No evidence of significant increases in smallholder incomes or food security. For AGRA countries as a whole, there has been a 30% increase in the number of people suffering extreme hunger since AGRA began, a condition affecting 130 million people in AGRA countries. Kenya, home to AGRA’s headquarters, saw an increase in the share of its people suffering undernourishment in the AGRA years.

* No evidence of large productivity increases. For staple crops as a whole, yields are up only 18% over 12 years for AGRA’s 13 countries. Even maize, heavily promoted by Green Revolution programs, showed just 29% yield growth, well short of AGRA’s goal of doubling productivity, which would be a 100% increase.

* Where technology adoption has taken place, input subsidies provided by African governments seem far more influential than AGRA’s programs. It is difficult to find evidence that AGRA’s programs would have any significant impacts in the absence of such large subsidies from African governments.

* Even where production increased, as in Zambia, a near-tripling of maize production did not result in reductions in rural poverty or hunger. Small-scale farmers were not benefiting; poverty and hunger remained staggeringly high with 78% of rural Zambians in extreme poverty.

* Green Revolution incentives for priority crops such as maize drove land into maize and out of more nutritious and climate-resilient traditional crops such as millet and sorghum, eroding food security and nutrition for poor farmers. Millet production declined 24% with yields falling 21% in the AGRA years.

* No signs of “sustainable intensification,” the goal of sustainably increasing production on existing farmland. Environmental impacts are negative, including acidification of soils under monoculture cultivation with fossil-fuel-based fertilizers. Production increases have come more from farmers bringing new land under cultivation — “extensification” — than from productivity increases. Both trends have implications for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Rwanda: “Africa’s Hungry Poster Child”

Rwanda, widely considered an AGRA success story thanks to rising maize production and yields, illustrates AGRA’s failings. Overall productivity improvements across staple crops have been weak, while the number of undernourished has increased 15% in the AGRA years. Rwanda’s former Agriculture Minister, Agnes Kalibata, now heads AGRA and was recently named to lead a planned U.N. World Food Summit in 2021.

“AGRA’s questionable approach cannot provide the necessary impetus for the U.N. Summit on Food Systems,” says Stig Tanzmann, agricultural expert at Bread for the World and one of the report’s authors.

That summit should instead actively consider agroecology and other low-cost, low-input approaches, which have shown far better short and long-term prospects than high-input Green Revolution practices. One University of Essex study surveyed nearly 300 large ecological agriculture projects across more than 50 poor countries and documented an average 79% increase in productivity with decreasing costs and rising incomes. Such results far surpass AGRA’s.

“In view of the results of the study, the German government must change course consistently and use agroecology and the human right to food as a compass for its policy,” according to Lena Bassermann, agricultural expert from the development organization INKOTA, a co-author of the report and one of the organizations asking the German government to withdraw from AGRA.

“AGRA is a vicious circle that drives small-scale food producers further and further into poverty, destroying their natural resources,” says Mutinta Nketani, an agricultural specialist from PELUM Zambia and author of the report’s case study on Zambia.
As the report makes clear, as AGRA reaches its 2020 deadline, it is time for African governments and the donor community to change course. The report recommends that:

* Donor governments withdraw their funding from AGRA and shift it to programs that help smallholder farmers, particularly women, develop climate-resilient ecologically sustainable farming practices such as agroecology, which is increasingly recognized and supported by FAO and the international donor community.

* African governments withdraw from AGRA and other Green Revolution programs, including input-subsidy programs, and transition their agricultural development programs toward a more robust array of policies that respond to smallholder farmers’ expressed needs.

As former FAO Director General Jose Graziano da Silva indicated, “We need to promote a transformative change in the way that we produce and consume food. We need to put forward sustainable food systems that offer healthy and nutritious food, and also preserve the environment. Agroecology can offer several contributions to this process.”

The study “False Promises: The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)” can be downloaded here. It is published by: Biba (Kenya), Bread for the World (Germany), FIAN Germany, Forum on the Environment and Development (Germany), INKOTA (Germany), IRPAD (Mali), PELUM Zambia, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung (Germany and South Africa), Tabio (Tanzania) and TOAM (Tanzania). Timothy A. Wise’s working paper, published by Tufts University’s Global Development and Environment Institute, is available here

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