by Community Alliance for Global Justice/AGRA Watch
Earlier this year, multiple news outlets ran alarming headlines about Bill Gates’ status as the single largest private owner of farmland in the U.S. What has still remained fairly underreported is Gates’ outsized influence on agriculture globally — especially in Africa through his foundation’s support for the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). African civil society organizations have spoken out against AGRA’s industrial agricultural model for over a decade, and the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), the largest civil society network on the continent, recently asked wealthy donors to “stop telling Africans what kind of agriculture Africans need.” So how does the Gates Foundation’s agricultural development still seem positive to so many in the U.S.?
First, Gates has spent millions of dollars financing media outlets. A 2019 analysis, along with our own examinations, suggest that AllAfrica.com, Al Jazeera, the Guardian, Le Monde, National Public Radio, and Public Radio International are among the outlets that have received large grants from the Gates Foundation to expand their coverage of development and public health issues. Some journalists at Gates-funded outlets have suggested that this “philanthro-journalism” stymies public criticism of the Foundation, encouraging reporters to cover development aid “success stories” rather than failures.
Second, the Gates Foundation claims that its interventions are backed by “science.” By extension, critics of their work are cast as “anti-science” — a serious charge in this era of “alternative truths” and disinformation campaigns. The Foundation only supports certain forms of science — namely, genetically modified seeds, increased use of chemical fertilizers, and other inputs that farmers have to purchase from large agribusiness corporations and their African subsidiaries. They have also funded programs, like the Cornell Alliance for Science, that train communications professionals to write convincing pro-biotech and anti-agroecology propaganda.Continue reading OPINION: Bill Gates — Do Better, and Listen to African Civil Society