President Barack Obama launched the "New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition" in 2012 when the United States held the presidency of the G8 (the Group of Eight, a forum of eight of the world's major economies).
By encouraging partnerships between governments and corporations to invest in Africa, the G8 said it hoped to "lift 50 million people out of poverty in sub-Saharan Africa by 2022."
But instead of becoming a mechanism for improving farm production and reducing hunger in Africa, the New Alliance is causing many hardships for African farmers, including land grabs by companies that is forcing tens of thousands, and potentially hundreds of thousands, of African farmers off land their communities have worked for generations.
"It is unacceptably cynical of the G8 to pretend to be tackling hunger and land grabbing in Africa while backing a scheme that will ruin the lives of hundreds of thousands of small farmers," Kirtana Chandrasekaran, food sovereignty program coordinator at Friends of the Earth, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
How a Plan to Get Companies to Invest in Africa Turned Bad
So far six African nations have signed on to the alliance – Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mozambique and Tanzania – as have about 70 global and local companies.
The New Alliance policies were developed by the African governments in consultation with the private sector investors. For the most part, Africa's small farmers and their advocacy groups were ignored.
It's not hard to figure out why the New Alliance has benefited the national governments and those investing in Africa at the expense of small farmers and local interests.
Those interests have protested in vain.
A coalition of African farmers' groups posted an online petition in May calling the G8 plan for investing in Africa "a new wave of colonialism."
"Private ownership of knowledge and material resources means the flow of royalties out of Africa into the hands of multinational corporations," the petition said.
Their concern is well-founded. Numerous multinational grain, seed and fertilizer companies have joined the alliance, encouraged by new rules that require African farmers to buy their seeds – including genetically modified seeds – rather than the cheaper local varieties they've used for years.
Other big public companies that decided to invest in Africa under the New Alliance initiative include: