Meeting in Strasbourg, MEPs said projects under the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (NAFSN), an initiative started by the G8 countries and backed by the European Union, must include environmental protection measures and safeguards against land grabs.
Launched in 2012, the NAFSN aims to boost financial support from donor countries and help big companies to invest in African farming. In return, 10 participating Sub-Saharan African states — Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’ Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal and Tanzania — are expected to change their legislation on land, seeds and foreign investments.
One in four people in Sub-Saharan Africa — the region with the highest prevalence of hunger — are undernourished, according to the EP. Poor nutrition causes nearly half of deaths in children under five. Family farmers and smallholders account for 60 percent of jobs in the region.
Backing a non-legislative resolution by 577 votes to 24, with 69 abstentions, the EP stressed that some features of the NAFSN could pose a threat to farmers’ rights and the environment.
In particular, MEPs believed family farmers and smallholders have been largely excluded from negotiations under NAFSN, calling on private companies to create appeal mechanisms and publish publicly accessible annual reports.
To protect farmers’ land rights and prevent land grabbing Parliament wants all investments to be subject to independent prior impact studies.
The resolution also warned against repeating past mistakes in industrialized agriculture when it comes to aiding development in Africa. For example, the NAFSN should restrict the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and also warned that extensive irrigation in some areas could reduce water availability for small scale farmers.
The Green/EFA group in the Parliament said NGOs in Africa and Europe have been pointing to flaws in the NAFSN over recent months, but more still needs to be done.
Green MEP Maria Heubuch commented: “Supporting family farmers and smallholders would be the most effective way to fight hunger in many African regions. Instead, the EU contributes its scarce development funding to the NAFSN, which actually undermines sustainable small scale food production and local food systems.
“The cases of land grabbing by private companies, which the EU co-funded indirectly, are unacceptable,” she continued. “If the NAFSN does not address the severe problems that we are witnessing, the EU should withdraw from the initiative. Enditem