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Looking in a Gift Horse's Mouth: The Gates Foundation and Monsanto

The persistence of food crises and food price volatility has spawned some false solutions. The most notable of these is the 'New Green Revolution for Africa', launched by the philanthropic foundation established by Microsoft founder Bill Gates. As Philip L Bereano and Travis M English reveal, this revolution may not be so green after all.

THE largest 'private charitable operation' in the world today is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, headquartered in our hometown, Seattle, in the United States and distributing about $4 billion each year.  A major thrust of the Foundation, announced in 2006, was to join with the Rockefeller Foundation in creating an 'Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa' (AGRA) which would tackle hunger in Africa by working to achieve a food secure and prosperous Africa through the promotion of rapid, sustainable agricultural growth based on smallholder farmers'.

AGRA, according to the Gates Foundation, 'is an Africa-based and African-led effort to develop a thriving agricultural sector in sub-Saharan Africa'.  Yet large numbers of African farmers and rural community groups in Africa are raising critical concerns about the Foundation's activities and its reliance on high-cost inputs and new technologies. And they have also raised concerns about transparency and lack of opportunities for participation in these processes of decision-making for African agriculture. The following account of the current dynamic is based on recent research on the ground in East Africa as well as web-based content analysis.