Tag Archives: Industrial Agriculture

OPINION: Bill Gates — Do Better, and Listen to African Civil Society

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

Seedcast: Getting Back to the Dirt

by Edgar Franks

Since time immemorial, Indigenous people have celebrated storytelling as a way to connect the present to past lessons and future dreaming. Narrative sovereignty is a form of land guardianship, and Nia Tero supports this work through its storytelling initiatives, including the Seedcast podcast, as well as in this column for media partner the South Seattle Emerald.

I grew up in the 1980s in Texas in a family of migrant farmworkers. We spent half of the year in Texas; the other half of the year we lived in Washington State. When I was about 6 or 7, my mom settled in Skagit County, and I’ve been here pretty much ever since then. At age 10, I joined my family members at work. I grew up in the fields and stayed there for a decade and a half.

These days I spend most of my time serving as the political director for an independent farmworker union called Familias Unidas por La Justicia (FUJ). While most people associate unions with strikes, work stoppages, and picket lines, my day-to-day job at FUJ is based in quieter activities. I mostly talk one-on-one with members of the union, whom I consider to be my bosses, prioritizing my tasks based on what they need. I help with work-related problems but also rent-related or immigration-related issues. Care for our members extends past the fields and into the lives of their families.

In June, for example, we focused on getting ready for berry harvesting season — strawberry, raspberry, and blueberry — going out to sites of employment and letting workers know about their rights. When it’s safe to travel, I also represent the union across the state and country as well as around the world, coordinating initiatives with partners then reporting back to our executive committee and our workers. I enjoy my work and the people I get to work for. I’m lucky.

Continue reading Seedcast: Getting Back to the Dirt