A new study from Oxfam questions why, after years of World Bank and IMF-designed agricultural sector reforms, Malawi, Zambia, and Mozambique face chronic food insecurity. It finds that “the simple answer is that the international financial institutions designed agricultural reforms for these countries without first carrying out a serious assessment of their likely impact on poverty and food security. Far from improving food security, World Bank and IMF inspired policies have left poor farmers more vulnerable than ever”. It argues that reforms were imposed too rigidly and too quickly, often leaving poor farmers without support from or access to either state or market institutions.
The study recommends that “donors, particularly the World Bank and the IMF, should end all conditions that promote further liberalisation of agriculture in Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia, pending thorough Poverty and Social Impact Assessments of agricultural policy reform”. Policy options should include maintaining food reserves that are not commercially run and enabling governments to support targeted input and credit supply, the development of marketing infrastructure, price stabilisation, and institutions that provide effective information and extension services.