UK paying millions in “aid” to agribusiness

The UK government is paying hundreds of millions of pounds of aid money to support the expansion of agribusiness in Africa and not the reduction of poverty across the world. UK NGO War on Want (WoW) has lifted the lid on the way in which aid payments made by development ministry DFID go to projects that involve corporate giants like Unilever, Diageo, SABMiller, Monsanto or Syngenta.

Photo credit: DFiD

Rather than supporting small farmers and rural communities, DFID priorities have been subverted by commercial interests, the NGO warns. “This is an abuse of aid that needs to be confronted, not applauded,” WoW director John Hilary writes in the preface.

WoW researchers discovered a series of “revolving doors” between the corporate world and DFID. These ensure strategically-placed executives sit on committees making decisions that help their business interests.

“Under the previous government, there was some DFID funding for progressive projects,” Hilary told ARC2020 yesterday. “But the Tory government cut a lot of the progressive streams and shed jobs. The result was that they still had budget to spend and fewer projects they were willing to fund. That’s the real change.”

Does this have an impact on the way UK NGOs engage with DFID? The government department is something of a curate’s egg with good parts and bad parts. However, Hilary argues that there are no grounds for applauding Cameron’s PR offensive on global hunger, which was launched before the Olympics and will be wheeled out again in 2013. “There is a need for broader debate,” he told ARC2020. He explained his position in a post on the Progressive Development Forum earlier in the day.

Peter Crosskey
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Peter Crosskey is based in the UK.