The World Bank recently posted its draft Rural Development Strategy (RDS) on its website and is accepting public comments until 8 July. The RDS will go to the World Bank Board for final approval on 9 July. The previous Board date of 16 May allowed only three weeks for public comment, drawing intense criticism from civil society about the lack of opportunity for public scrutiny of a document likely to affect the lives of millions of rural poor. While the new date allows time for groups to send comments, Pesticide Action Network (PAN) says that it does not include time for the World Bank to actually consider and address those comments in a meaningful way before the Board meets to approve the strategy. World Bank staff have stated that they do not expect to revise the strategy again, despite the provision of a public comment period.
Several points are highlighted by NGOs as areas for particular concern:
- PAN‘s concerns include the draft strategy’s promotion of genetic engineering in agriculture, which they say poses social, environmental, health and economic risks for farmers in borrower countries;
- Ignoring its current and binding policy on ecologically-based integrated pest managment (IPM) methods, the draft strategy backs away from the Bank’s prior committment to reducing reliance on pesticides;
- Bank support for the pricing of water and the “putting in place of private water user associations”. Globalization Challenge Initiative points to “documented problems both with private sector water delivery schemes and with access by the poor to water under these schemes.”
- Finally, the Bank’s conclusion that experiments with market-assisted land reform “show much promise” is contested by numerous farmers’ organizations such as members of La Via Campesina, FIAN and the Landless Peasant’s Movement (MST) in Brazil (see ‘World Bank market-led land reform: Land for whoever can buy it‘).
Despite conceding that “the poor are more affected by market failures”, the draft strategy’s focus is to use market mechanisms to move “subsistence-oriented” and “small market-oriented” farmers into the commercial farm sector. Fears that this shift to an industrialized, intensive strategy without due consideration of local power relations will leave the poorest out in the cold, are being expressed by opponents of the World Bank-backed Vision 20/20 plan for the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh (see box).
To send comments on the World Bank’s draft Rural Strategy:
1. Write to the World Bank RDS team
2. Send a copy of your comments to the Executive Director (ED) for your country who sits on the World Bank Board. This is crucial to ensure that decision-makers at the Bank are aware of civil society concerns. (A list of EDs and their contact info is at the Bank Information Center )
UK-backed plan would “throw 20 million off land” in India
The ‘Vision 20/20’ plan, drawn up by US management consultants and funded by both the Bank and a promised £65 million from the UK government, has set as its objective the reduction of the agricultural population of Andhra Pradesh from 70 to 40 per cent by turning small farms into agri-businesses. A memorandum of understanding has been signed with Monsanto to provide genetically modified seed. A citizens’ jury, composed of small farmers, traders, food processors and consumers, unanimously rejected the plan during its deliberations in late June last year. According to their estimates, the plan would displace some 20 million people. A delegation of Indian women farmers which presented the findings of the citizens’ jury to the House of Commons, has called on the UK government not to sign the next aid cheque to Andhra Pradesh.
For more information on the Vision 20/20 plan, contact: Michel Pimbert