Mount Kenya Declaration on the Global Crisis and Africa’s Responsibility – Statement from the African Biodiversity Network
“The time has come for national governments to prioritise the regeneration of ecosystems, self-reliant communities and diversified local economies over export oriented policies, free trade agreements and the current wave of expansion of the food system.”
From 23 – 31 May 2009, the African Biodiversity Network (ABN) have gathered together near Mount Kenya, 25 organisations from 10 countries that work with farmers and local communities on the issues of biodiversity, food sovereignty, livelihoods, climate change, traditional knowledge, culture and community rights in Africa.
We are deeply aware that the planet is facing multiple interconnected crises which will have an even bigger impact on Africa, even though Africa is not responsible for these crises. On the one hand, there is the stark and devastating impact of the food and financial crises, which will be compounded by the impact of climate change.
We are very concerned about the devastating impact that the food and financial crises and climate change is having on the people of Africa and their environment. People are losing their livelihoods, houses, jobs at an alarming rate and at the same time, farmers, pastoralists and local communities have to cope with unpredictable changes in their environment. We concur with the Indigenous Peoples , that the Earth is no longer in a period of climate change but in a climate crisis.
We are outraged at the financial crisis which was caused by global financial institutions accumulating unimaginable wealth while speculating with ordinary people’s hard-earned savings. This economic meltdown is now pushing many countries over the brink and is adding another estimated 104 million people to the 1 billion permanently hungry people in the world.
We are also aware that the food crisis and recurring famines in Africa are not something new but is caused by basic structural injustices entrenched over decades, now reaching new levels of deprivation because of the speculative trading of food on international markets.
We find the current scale of ”crisis capitalism” intolerable and strongly reject the cynical attempts of corporates that target Africa for further exploitation of the food and climate crises by turning it into economic opportunities rather than trying to solve it.
We see the underlying cause of the crises as the globalisation of the industrial system which inevitably results in the concentration of capital and power in the hands of a few, generating ever growing poverty and ecological destruction resulting in global climate change. Now the same thinking that created these numerous toxic debts is promoting many “False Solutions” that are exacerbating the crises. There is an intensified scramble for Africa’s land and ecological wealth facilitated by governments who continue to be dominated by corporate interests.
We reject these False Solutions which include:
? Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), which, we are told will solve hunger and climate change, but have instead caused widespread contamination of farmers’ crops and our food while increasing the use of pesticides which destroy biodiversity and health. The ultimate aim of GMO companies is control over our seed and thus food system through the patenting of all forms of life. These crops require highly industrialised farming conditions, which release huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, thus a major contributing factor to climate change. In spite of this, GMO proponents are now claiming that they can find GMO fixes for both the climate change and the food crisis.
? AGRA – A New Green Revolution is imposed on Africa by a collaborative effort between amongst others, the Bill and Melinda Gates and Rockefeller Foundations, the World Bank, and agro-industries to replace Africa’s seeds, crops and knowledge with hybrids, GMOs, fertilisers and pesticides. Because this industrial system needs large tracts of land, AGRA is also funding the push to change land tenure systems, privatise land and so facilitating the rapid change of land from community custodianship to just another commodity in the pockets of investors. The sheer amount of money and political influence the Green Revolution push has behind it, is now dominating the debate on agriculture, pushing for stricter intellectual property rights on seeds, weak biosafety legislation, in the process narrowing Africa’s options for food sovereignty both on country and local level.
? Agrofuels (or biofuels) are promoted in Northern countries as the solution to climate change, as providing an alternative to fossil fuels. But they are driving an unprecedented land grab across Africa, and leading to forced evictions, deforestation, and rising food prices. We challenge the myth spread by corporations and corrupt governments that there is plenty of free land, going spare in Africa. We in Africa know of the challenges and conflicts we already face from the competition for land and water. A number of other solutions to climate change are also turning out to be little more than business opportunities, including biochar, carbon trading, geo-engineering.
It is clear that these proposed solutions by corporate interests are based on acquiring large tracts of land and cheap labour for industrial scale production, serving to maintain the lifestyle of societies of over-consumption thereby exacerbating the crises both in the North and the South. All of these developments claim that they bring progress to Africa. But not only will they fail to address hunger and climate change, they will make them worse. These false solutions are cynical attempts by the corporations to reach new markets, and to make a business out of a crisis
ABN believes that the solutions to climate change and hunger are the same: healthy resilient communities depend on healthy resilient ecosystems and biodiversity.
We are certain that the role of healthy, biodiverse ecosystems in maintaining a stable climate is critical, and that it is completely underestimated in most predictions and discussions about climate change. When dealing with climate change, we must both reduce carbon emissions and enhance biodiversity as equally important. Healthy soils built up by ecological agriculture and livelihood systems sink carbon as well as having more capacity to hold water in times of drought or flood.
Food sovereignty at local and national level requires locally adapted crop and livestock diversity and land tenure systems that will enable communities to produce and market food in a way that really feeds people, promote equity and at the same time deal with climate instability.
We also believe that local and indigenous ecological knowledge and governance systems must be urgently revived and enhanced to maximise Africa’s capacity to read, anticipate and adapt to climate change.
The time has come for national governments to prioritise the regeneration of ecosystems, self-reliant communities and diversified local economies over export oriented policies, free trade agreements and the current wave of expansion of the food system.
Africa needs to have the courage to free itself from its colonial legacy and build on its rich heritage through reviving the wisdom of its people as a responsibility to past and future generations. Based on this wealth, it has the capacity to take a lead in finding true solutions by disengaging from the very thinking that has created the crises in the first place.
Here, as the birthplace of the human species, African communities have adapted and evolved over 1000’s of years, without destroying their life support system. Africa needs to reclaim its responsibility and legacy as a basis from which to build a viable future for all.