World Bank’s agriculture initiative criticised

31 January 2017

In mid-January, 157 organisations and individuals sent a letter to World Bank president Jim Yong Kim calling for the termination of the Bank’s Enabling the Business of Agriculture initiative (EBA, see Bulletin May 2014, Observer Autumn 2013). The initiative was launched in 2013 as Benchmarking the Business in Agriculture, inspired by the Bank’s much criticised Doing Business model (see Bulletin Sep 2014, Observer Summer 2014). According to the Bank, EBA “examines and monitors regulations that impact how markets function in the agriculture and agribusiness sectors”, however, the letter argued that “this is a dangerously misguided effort, as national policymaking should prioritise locally adapted solutions based on the experiences and demands of farmers, pastoralists, fisherfolks, and rural communities.” Rather than benefitting farmers, the letter concluded that the reforms promoted by EBA will instead “increase the profits of a handful of private companies.” A letter was also sent to the EBA project donors, including the UK’s Department for International Development. Moreover, US-based think-tank the Oakland Institute launched a report further outlining problems with the EBA. Frederic Mousseau of the Oakland Institute commented: “The EBA has become the latest tool to push pro-corporate agricultural policies, notably in the seed sector where it promotes industrial seeds that benefit a handful of agrochemical companies.”