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Why’s the AfDB siding with the Agrochemical Industrial Complex?

March 10, 2023
African Arguments


After the largest food price spike in recent decades, 2022 was dubbed the “year of unprecedented hunger”. Africa was once again at the forefront of the catastrophe, with hundreds of millions suffering from severe food insecurity.

In May that year, the African Development Bank (AfDB) launched a $1.5 billion African Emergency Food Production Facility with the stated goal of boosting food and nutrition security on the continent. This strategy is largely geared towards expanding an industrial model of agriculture centred on monocropping and increased reliance on inputs such as “improved” seed and chemical fertiliser.

To boost food production – with a focus on wheat, corn, rice, and soybean – the facility is to deliver “certified seeds, fertilizer and extension services to 20 million farmers” and provide “financing and credit guarantees for large-scale supply of fertilizer to wholesalers and aggregators”. Additionally, and in a concerning echo of Structural Adjust Programmes, the AfDB also announced that it is working to “secure commitments from African governments on implementing policy reforms on fertilizer”, after consulting with “fertilizer company CEOs”.

Framed as a crisis response, this corporate-led strategy has actually been at the core of the AfDB’s agenda for years. Its Strategy for Agricultural Transformation in Africa (2016-2025), for instance, seeks to expand the use of commercial inputs and liberalise input markets. Meanwhile, through its Africa Fertilizer Financing Mechanism, the AfDB has worked closely with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and the International Fertilizer Development Center as well as controversial corporate giants like Syngenta, Yara, Dangote, Export Trading Group, and Omnia Fertilizer.

Is this approach what African farmers want or need amidst shifting precipitation patterns, rising temperatures, and more extreme weather? Is it compatible with the AfDB’s commitment to support a “transition [of] food systems compatible with climate and biodiversity imperatives”? Who truly benefits from this agenda?