South Sudan and the rest of the world is currently experiencing a global food crisis due to supply chain disruptions which started in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and made worse by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Early this year, The World Food Program (WFP) in South Sudan was forced to suspend some of its operation in the country due to lack of funding, attributed to donors shifting focus to Ukraine.
Now according to a new report titled, The Green Bullet; released by INKOTA network, a development organisation that is committed to fighting hunger and poverty; trade sanctions and war-related disruptions in the supply of gas and other raw materials required for synthetic fertilizer production are effectively turning fertilizers into a geopolitical weapon, with potentially dramatic consequences for farmers and consumers alike.
According to Dr. Gideon Tups, whose research INOKTA relied on for this report, even though South Asia and South America have been able to increase their yields and experience so-called Green Revolutions through the use of fertilisers and constructed irrigation, much of this increase contributes neither to an ecologically sustainable nor a socially just food system to feed the world’s population. On the contrary, excessive consumption of animal products, the combustion of cereals and oilseeds for agrofuels, and the massive amounts of wasted foods would not have been possible without the widespread use of fertilisers.
The INOKTA report comes at a time when Africa’s largest food producer network and its allies are boldly demanding a decisive shift away from imported fossil-fuel based fertilizers and chemicals, and towards self-sufficient, ecological farming that revitalizes soil and protects ecosystems.
The network comprising of over 200 African civil society Organisations, faith groups, and farmer leaders are calling for an end to the failing Green Revolution according to a press advisory seen by The Times.
“The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) has deepened the continent’s dependence on costly imported inputs and undermined the resilience of Africa’s food systems.”
AGRA will hold a forum on Sept. 5-9 where corporate executives, governments and donors will gather in Kigali under the banner of “Bold Action for Resilient Food Systems.”
According to the network, AGRA and its donors (Gates Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, USAID, etc…) failed to heed urgent calls to change course.
“A recent AGRA donor-commissioned evaluation has confirmed that the programs have failed to increase farmers’ yields, incomes and food security. Despite the evidence from their own evaluation, AGRA continues enriching fertilizer multinationals with record profits while hunger in Africa surges to alarming levels. International Financial Institutions, including the African Development Bank, are using the current food crisis to channel public money towards these corporations and further the adoption of chemical agriculture and monocrops in Africa”, according to the press advisory.
Related to the food producers network, The INOKTA report highlights that Our food system’s dependence on synthetic fertilisers is unsustainable and inevitably increases the amount of gas, oil, and coal on our plates. Along with the environmental and climate-related damages, increasingly complex economic and political inter dependencies linked to fertiliser as a global commodity are exacerbating global inequality and long-term risks. The current international crisis affecting the prices for fertilisers and food is no exception to this trend. In the Global South, small-scale food producers and consumers are likely to be hit with full force by the the crisis.
The report continues that farmers either reduced their investment in inputs or were forced to produce at significantly higher costs. This had a particularly dramatic impact on urban populations in the Global South: prices for staple foods exploded, provoking civil uprisings, especially in the urban centres of Africa and Asia, for instance in the context of the Arab Spring. At the same time, we see not only fertiliser companies but food speculators, too, taking advantage of the general uncertainty and the fear of food shortages to profit from the crisis on commodity futures exchanges.
The current price increases for fertilisers that further exacerbate the food crisis have similar cascading effects – although their impact might possibly be even more devastating.
According to Theodora Pius, a Tanzanian farmer interviewed by INKOTA “farmers in many areas have failed to acquire the required amounts of fertiliser due to availability, regarding supply and cost. In some areas, farmers have been taking steps to learn on organic soil fertilisation and in some areas farmers have been left with no option, as even the existing extension model by the government favours the use of fertilisers.”
To sum up, the report calls for a food system that is ecologically sustainable and resilient.
“We must drastically minimise our structural dependence on fossil energy and especially on synthetic fertilisers in agriculture.”