The World Bank has backed the practice of countries selling large tracts of agricultural land to overseas investors, but is urging host countries to demand much more from investors to increase farming productivity and peoples’ livelihoods. Um, yeah, sure. We'll get right onto that.
The Third World's Bank of Doom says rich countries snapping up cheap farmland in poor countries is just dandy. From the ever hilarious Financial Times:
"The World Bank is proposing a seven-principle code of conduct for investors and host countries, including respecting local land rights, ensuring food security, ensuring transparency and good governance, consultations with those involved, responsible agro-investing, social sustainability and environmental sustainability."
Undoubtedly the WB's "code of conduct" was met with a sigh of relief and a giggle from Big Agra whose ravenous predations are legendary. Unfortunately many of the host countries fall well shy of democratic standards and tend to be headed by people less than interested in the vaunted seven principles.
"The bank says that “45m hectares worth of large scale farmland deals were announced” in 2009, compared with annual average expansion of agricultural land of less than 4m hectares before 2008.
Juergen Voegele, director of agriculture at the World Bank, says in the report that “given commodity price volatility, growing human and environmental pressures, and worries about food security”, interest in farmland is rising."
The report also blames Western (US & Britain) biofuel targets for driving the accelerated pace of landgrabs in the Third World.
"The report attributes this land grab to recent food price volatility and the increased demand for land that has resulted from biofuel targets in the US and EU. Specifically, it notes that "biofuel mandates may have large indirect effects on land use change, particularly converting pasture and forest land."
With Wall Street already gaming global grain production, even to the point of driving food prices out of reach of the public in producing nations, the World Bank's support for the spread of industrial agriculture through the Third World doesn't bode well for the small farmers eeking out a living in the weak, poor target countries.
The WB report can be found here: