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DFID and agribusiness in Africa: a toxic mix

The Hunger Games coverNew research from War on Want reveals that the UK government’s Department for International Development (DFID) has been using the aid budget to promote the interests of multinational food companies in Africa – with potentially devastating effects on small-scale farmers and rural communities.

Hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money are being channelled towards projects with the express purpose of extending the power of agribusiness over the production of food in sub-Saharan Africa. While this will boost the profits of corporate giants such as Monsanto, Unilever and Syngenta, it threatens to disempower small farmers and rural communities and condemn them to long-term poverty. DFID’s promotion of genetically modified crops will also lock small farmers into dependency on corporate providers of seeds and chemical inputs, undermining any chance of defeating hunger.

Our report also lifts the lid on DFID’s support for a complex network of companies and investment funds registered in one of Africa’s foremost tax havens. Not only is the UK aid budget being used to support some of the world’s largest multinational corporations, but several of the companies and agricultural investment funds being supported by DFID are incorporated in the secrecy jurisdiction of Mauritius. This means that UK aid to agribusiness is being routed through a known ‘conduit haven’, allowing companies to avoid paying taxes that could be used by national governments to support small farmers and genuine agricultural development.

Please send the following tweet to DFID: Hey @DFID_UK why are you spending #UKaid to help multinationals take over African farming? Via @WarOnWant http://waronwant.org/hungergames

War on Want has focused on challenging the root causes of the global food crisis, as well as supporting positive solutions that are socially equitable as well as environmentally sustainable. This includes our longstanding partnerships with farmers’ movements across the world to promote the framework of food sovereignty as a positive alternative to a capitalist food system that has condemned hundreds of millions to despair. As described in our report Food Sovereignty: Reclaiming the global food system, this framework offers a positive solution to the food crisis based on principles of local empowerment, equity and agroecology.

The continuing scandal of global hunger is a testament to the failure of the globalised food system. There is a growing consensus that this failure is the result of deliberate political choices that favour corporate interests while condemning hundreds of millions to despair. DFID’s support for that system by promoting the interests of multinational companies seeking to expand their control over agriculture in Africa is an abuse of the aid budget, and must be stopped.

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