In the following report, we outline the history of the World Bank’s approach and the crises that led up to the Agriculture for Development report. We review and discuss the Action Plan, and then offer three case studies and numerous examples of the challenges peasants face in the wake of World Bank Group projects.
We question whether the Bank’s strategy will actually improve rural livelihoods, reduce rural poverty, end rural hunger and build climate resiliency, and find that the World Bank continues to operate from long-held, faulty assumptions regarding both agriculture and development. The Action Plan prioritizes public-private partnerships; increased access to conventional agricultural inputs and ‘improved seed varieties’; demographic shifts away from agriculture; and the opening of domestic markets to global agribusiness. Moreover, the Bank is increasingly shifting funding into its private arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and supporting the financialization of agriculture through projects like corporate-backed index-based climate insurance. Through a combination of its own policies and a failure to enforce safeguards, the World Bank Group and the corrupt businesses and governments that it frequently backs are supporting dislocation, lost land (land grabs) and the erosion of traditional, diversified farming practices and social support networks. We argue that these are not aberrations but the tragic result of a development agenda that supports the interests of private companies at the expense of small-scale farmers and those who depend upon them for food security. We call on the Bank to scale back the activities of the IFC, scale up the enforcement of safeguards and truly support small-scale agroecological production.