USAID: DEFUND AGRA, SUPPORT AFRICAN FARMERS
The United States Agency of International Development (USAID), funded through Congressional appropriations of tax dollars, is a major contributor to agricultural development programs in Africa and globally. USAID has increasingly aligned itself with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), a highly unpopular initiative created by the Gates and Rockefeller Foundations in 2006 to promote chemical-intensive, private sector-dominated industrial agriculture in Africa. In 2011, USAID committed $5.2 million to AGRA, and remains a significant funding partner of many of AGRA’s programs (for example, in 2020 it contributed $14 million to AGRA’s PIATA program, which a recent evaluation has deemed a failure). Federal spending data from usaspending.gov reports more than $100 million in grants from USAID to AGRA since 2011. AGRA has failed at its own stated goals of increasing yields and reducing hunger, and African farmer organizations have repeatedly spoken out against it and demanded that donors stop funding it. Yet USAID has expressed intentions to continue supporting it, even amid numerous reports of failure.
African farmers and civil society organizations have recently made their case to members of the US Congress, encouraging them to put pressure on USAID to fund more promising agroecological alternatives, particularly as Congress gears up to vote on re-authorizing the Global Food Security Act this year. As these discussions continue in Congress, we are asking individuals to take action—tell USAID that enough is enough! Enter your info and click "Start Writing" to add your name to the letter and send it to USAID.
With enough signatures, we will report the results of this campaign to members of Congress, demonstrating widespread public support for the demands made by African organizations. Please share widely and help us get to 10,000 signatures!
*This call to action was reviewed and approved by the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA)--composed of 30 civil society networks that together represent over 200 million African farmers—and the Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute (SAFCEI).
To: Dr. Jim Barnhart, Assistant to the Administrator in USAID’s Bureau for Resilience and Food Security, & Deputy Coordinator for Development for Feed the Future; Mr. Mike Michener, Deputy Assistant Administrator in the Bureau for Resilience and Food Security; Dr. Diana Putman, Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Africa
Using taxpayer money, USAID has funded the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), which largely benefits multinational corporations at the expense of small farmers and the environment. Yet hundreds of African organizations and allied international organizations have called on USAID and other donors to stop funding AGRA and other industrial, Green Revolution-inspired models of agriculture on the continent. Meanwhile, a recent evaluation commissioned by a major AGRA funder, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has found that AGRA’s PIATA program has failed to meet its own goals and targets.
USAID must change course and prioritize funding agroecology , as demanded by Africa’s hundreds of millions of smallholder farmers. Specifically, the agency should:
Immediately stop funding AGRA and other Green Revolution programs.
Institute a formal mechanism of consultation with a wide range of African farmer associations, civil society groups, and social movements, and implement a monitoring and evaluation process to ensure that their input shapes USAID programs.
Devote more funding toward community-based agroecological research and initiatives that break down structural barriers and work holistically for African self-sufficiency. (see footnotes for examples)
AGRA is a wasteful and disingenuous use of taxpayer money. It is an ineffective program that does not merit donor confidence or renewed funding.
AGRA is not “African-led.” Fewer than half of AGRA’s board members are African, and it is registered as a 501(c)3 in the United States, with its legal office based in Olympia, WA. There is not a single person on the board who represents the interests of the hundreds of millions of small-scale farmers, farmer associations, or civil society organizations in Africa.
After 15 years of operations, AGRA has failed to improve food security in Africa. Hunger increased by 30 percent in AGRA countries since 2006, and yield increases were on par with rates of increase pre-AGRA. Furthermore, AGRA’s programs have benefited larger, wealthier, and more commercial farmers, who are typically men—this is in direct conflict with USAID’s commitment to empower women farmers.
The one area where AGRA has demonstrated the most impact is in pressuring African governments to change laws, regulations, strategies, and policies in favor of corporate and foreign interests. This undermines communities’ ability to participate in the policy formation process, impeding democracy and food sovereignty and violating people’s right to a nutritious, sustainable diet and a healthy environment.
Funding should be pulled from AGRA and directed toward programs that have a demonstrated record of effectiveness and a high degree of local support and buy-in from African small-scale farmers . Specifically, African farmer associations and faith leaders are explicitly demanding that donors fund agroecology:
The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), composed of 30 civil society networks representing over 200 million African farmers, has demanded that donors “switch their funding from AGRA to programmes that help small-scale food producers, particularly women and youth, to develop climate-resilient ecologically sustainable farming practices such as agroecology.”
In a letter signed by nearly 500 faith leaders, the Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute (SAFCEI) has asked donors to support “locally-defined, holistic approaches that enable agroecological transitions to sustainable food systems in Africa.”
By focusing on agroecology, USAID could have a more positive and sustainable impact on farmers, communities, and economies.
It is time to listen, learn, and adapt to local demands: stop funding AGRA’s failed and locally-unpopular initiatives, and support African small-scale farmers instead.
 Agroecology applies ecological principles to food production, as well as addressing issues of equity, social justice, and fair distribution. To meet these criteria, projects should fulfill all of the key principles of agroecology. While there are myriad examples, some programs and organizations like this can be found here. These include Bio Gardening Innovations (BIOGI) in Kenya, the Tanzanian Department of Agriculture’s work implementing agroecology, the Project for Adaptation to Climate Change in Benin (PAda-Clim-Benin), and associations of women and youth farmers in Casamance, Senegal—among many other initiatives.