by Dr. Vandana Shiva – The Asian Age, 29 August 2014
The branding exercise that resulted in ‘One Agriculture-One Science’ is a failure in itself. For ‘experts’ to believe that different climates, ecosystems and cultures can be prescribed ‘one’ solution is laughable.
On July 22, 2014, an international partnership across India, Africa and the US launched the “One Agriculture-One Science: A Global Education Consortium” initiative aimed at revitalising global agricultural education, capacity building and technology transfer.
This was made possible with the collaboration of Hyderabad-based International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and some top universities from all these continents.
“One Agriculture-One Science” is a consortium of agricultural education institutes, research organisations and other related agencies specifically focusing on addressing changes required for agricultural education to better contribute and more effectively impact development goals, particularly the attainment of food and nutritional security along with sustainable agricultural production in developing countries.
Though it’s being promoted as a new and innovative step, it is, in fact, a repeat of how the Green Revolution was launched in the 1960s. “Green Revolution” is the name given to chemical agriculture, based on seeds adapted to chemicals and not to the local ecosystem.
During the 1960s, the US land-grant universities were involved in training our scientists in the “monoculture of the mind”, the US’ department of agriculture and US Agency for International Development (USAID) were involved in pushing the Green Revolution and in all this the World Bank-governed Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) centres played a key role. They were, in fact, created to launch the “Green Revolution”.
CIMMYT (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre) in Mexico was created to introduce the Green Revolution in maize and wheat. International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines was established to spread the Green Revolution in rice. Hyderabad’s ICRISAT was established later, to specialise in semi-arid crops.
The only difference between the 1960s and today is that big money and big agriculture are directly pushing a monoculture to create monopolies for profits through the ownership of seeds and sales of chemicals. The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) was launched by Bill Gates. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation now owns 500,000 shares in Monsanto. This indicates that philanthropy and business merge when big money meets big agriculture. Monsanto is not just the biggest seed corporation today, it has also bought the biggest climate data corporation called Climate Corp, and a soil data corporation named Solum. The objective is to overwhelm farmers with big data and make them dependent on Monsanto for every aspect of farming: seed, soil, climate data — all of which become commodities that Monsanto sells and farmers have to pay for. But big data is not knowledge that comes from experience, interconnectedness and participation; big data from one corporation is “information obesity” and a means of exercising control.
Locking 42 African universities, which work in diverse ecosystems, into “One Agriculture-One Science”, is a recipe for impoverishing and enslaving Africa.
There are three major reasons why this grand announcement will aggravate instead of solve problems in agriculture.
The branding exercise that resulted in “One Agriculture-One Science” is a failure in itself. For “experts” to believe that different climates, different ecosystems and different cultures can be prescribed “one” solution is laughable. Either they are not aware that the rainfall in Cherrapunji is different from the rainfall in Oaxaca, Mexico, that it’s hotter in Maharashtra than in Oregon, or they simply don’t care whether a farmer’s crop fails or succeeds as long as they have extracted every last dollar, rupee or rand from him/her.
Agriculture varies according to water availability. For example, in the desert of India the khejri trees, and in the desert of Africa the baobab, are critical to ecological and food security. In the rainforest ecosystems of the Western Ghats, the spice gardens mimic the multi-tier structure of a forest. In the high altitudes of the Himalayas, we grow crops like amaranth and buckwheat that cannot grow in the hot plains.
The “one agriculture” push by big corporations ignores the findings of all UN agencies, including the International Assessment of Agriculture, Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), whose team of 400 scientists have been working for over six years and say that “we must look to small holder traditional farming to deliver food security in Third World countries through agro-ecological systems which are sustainable. Governments must invest in these systems. This is the clear evidence.”
“One Agriculture-One Science” is ignoring the evidence of failure of Green Revolution chemical monocultures and the success of diverse agro-ecological systems in addressing hunger while protecting the planet.
In the five decades since the Green Revolution, science has taught us the value of diversity to ensure sustainability, increase in food production and resilience.
Diversity creates abundance in our agriculture systems and benefits the quality of our food systems, and thereby, our health.
“One Agriculture-One Science” is a call against diversity and will further erode the ecological foundations of agriculture, leaving the world’s food systems at the mercy of billionaires and big corporations.
While farmers have bred hundreds of thousands of varieties of food, the Green Revolution has reduced the agriculture and food base to a handful of globally traded commodities. Genetic engineering has further narrowed the commercially planted crops to four — corn, soya, cotton, canola and two traits, Bt and HT (herbicide tolerant).
Indian farmers evolved 200,000 kinds of rice, they evolved thousands of varieties wheat and pulses and oilseeds. They evolved thousands of varieties of brinjal, banana and mangoes.
The new mega monoculture has no place for the diverse knowledge of our diverse culture. It is top-down, driven by “experts”, who have no knowledge of diversity and no respect for the knowledge of farmers.
To them the best response comes from Jose Maria Arguedas, a Quechua poet from the Andes:
They say that we not know anything.
That we are backwardness
That our head needs changing for a better one
They say that some learned men are saying this about us
These academics who reproduce themselves
In our own lives
What is there on the banks of these rivers, Doctor?
Take out your binoculars
And your spectacles
Look if you can
Five hundred flowers
From five hundred different types of potato
Grow on the terraces
That your eyes don’t reach
Those five hundred flowers
Are my brain
The writer is the executive director of the Navdanya Trust