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February 19, 2012

World Bank-funded Africa agricultural projects among those criticized on sustainability grounds

The Bretton Woods Project describes itself as ‘Critical voices on the World Bank and IMF.’

In an early February article, it highlights some of the evaluations of World Bank and IMF-funded agricultural projects in various parts of the world.

A think tank based at Tufts University in the US is quoted as concluding, "On the positive side, the Bank reasserts the importance of agriculture for development" and "also recognizes the prevalence of market failures in the sector." However, overall, the report argues that the Bank's initiatives "are too heavily focused on improving access to liberalized markets and promote the expansion of high-input agriculture rather than
a transition to more sustainable methods."

The Compliance Advisor/Ombudsman (CAO) is the World bank’s internal projects evaluation body. It criticized lack of attention to issues like community water rights, gender issues; as well as environmental and social sustainability in a number of projects it funded across the world.

In Uganda, two NGOs submitted complaints to the CAO that a World Bank-funded forestry investment through a private equity fund had "forced evictions and displacement" and raised "broader concerns about the due diligence surrounding the project."

Media reports in January said the controversial Ugandan timber investment by London-based New Forests Company had been suspended as the company’s financiers pulled out over the negative publicity surrounding the project. Among the sources of funds that was said to have dried up was a facility from the International Finance Corporation, the World Bank’s private sector investment arm.

The Oakland Institute (OI) has been shrilly vocal in criticizing ‘land grabs.’ One of its reports, on the World Banks role in large scale agribusiness land deals by foreign investors, is quoted from by the Bretton Woods Project.

Says the December 2011 OI report, "By promoting investor access to land, [the Bank] actually tends to threaten rather than improve food security and local livelihoods in developing countries." The briefing also details how the Bank has become an increasingly active proponent of investment by private equity funds in this area.

The Bretton Woods Project then summarizes the criticism by a gender rights organization of what it felt was the World Bank’s failure to integrate gender in the conception and implementation of projects in Ethiopia, Haiti and Kenya, thereby serving to “perpetuate women's marginalization in an industry [agriculture] for which they provide the majority of labor."

African Agriculture

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