Oakland Institute | 26 April 2010
A new report From the Oakland Institute
“Africa needs investment in agriculture—better seeds and inputs, improved extension services, education on conservation techniques, regional integration, and investment to build local capacity. It does not need policies that enable foreign investors to grow and export food for their own people to the detriment of the local population. I’ll be even bolder—such policies will hurt Africa, fueling conflict over land and water…Africa is not a commodity. It must not be labeled “open for business.”
-– Howard G. Buffett, Foreword, (Mis)Investment in Agriculture
Oakland, CA--As a major two-day conference on Land Policy & Administration, hosted by the World Bank, gets under way to supposedly “improve land governance” and “contribute to the well-being of the poorest,” Oakland Institute’s new report, (Mis)Investment in Agriculture: The Role of the International Finance Corporation in the Global Land Grab, exposes the role of the Bank’s private sector branch, International Finance Corporation (IFC), in fueling land grabs, especially in Africa.
“Land grabs – the purchase or lease of vast tracts of land from poor, developing countries by wealthier, food-insecure nations and private investors – has led to the acquisition of nearly 50 million hectares of farmland,” said Shepard Daniel, Oakland Institute’s Fellow and author of the report. “While rising food prices, demand for biofuels, and investors seeking quick returns have been emphasized as the principal drivers of this trend, the role of the World Bank has gone virtually unnoticed. (Mis)advice from IFC’s Technical Assistance and Advisory Services (TAAS) and Foreign Investment Advisory Services (FIAS) to developing country governments to spur foreign direct investment in agriculture has fueled the dangerous trend of vast land deals in some of the world’s most vulnerable countries,” she continued.
“Following the 2008 food and financial crises, World Bank was to play a central role in what was intended to be a massive overhaul in international food policy and a vast improvement to food security in the developing world,” said Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute. “Evidence, however, reveals that World Bank Group policies and efforts are doing just the opposite. IFC has actually increased the ability of foreign investors to acquire land in developing country markets. It is promoting “products” – such as the ‘Access to Land’ and the ‘Land Market for Investment’ whose purpose is to open land access to investors. Further more the creation of “investment promotion agencies” and rewriting of national laws, has provided the institutional back up for such investments. In doing so, it has overlooked the urgent problem of hunger that persists in client countries, and lost sight of its principle mission, which is to alleviate poverty,” she continued.
For instance, in Ethiopia, IFC’s recommended changes to policy and legislature have completely transformed the landscape of Ethiopian investment climate. Accordingly, huge investments in land market have followed. “Ethiopia is one of the hungriest countries in the world with more than 13 million people in need of food aid,” said Daniel, “but paradoxically the government has already offered at least 7.5 million acres of its most fertile land to rich countries and some of the world's most wealthy individuals to export food back to their own countries.”
(Mis)Investment in Agriculture concludes that the promotion of investor access into developing country land markets threatens local food security, displaces local populations, and therefore operates in direct violation of IFC’s Performance Standards as well as several UN Human Rights Conventions. The Report contends that it is crucial that IFC be investigated and held accountable for the land grabs promoted by its technical assistance and advisory services. World Bank’s current practices that promote land grabs must be stopped in order to protect the food security and livelihoods of the world’s most vulnerable populations.
(Mis)Investment in Agriculture: The Role of the International Finance Corporation in the Global Land Grab, is a is a publication of the Oakland Institute (www.oaklandinstitute.org), an independent policy think tank whose mission is to increase public participation and promote fair debate on critical social, economic, and environmental issues.
For more information or to speak to the author(s), please contact Anuradha Mittal (510) 469-5228; [email protected]
Download the publication here