New research published by the UK-based Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) shows how the World Bank is harming farmers in Africa through its agricultural policies, by promoting regulations that support the expansion of commercial markets for hybrid seeds, fertilisers and pesticides. Through seed certification laws and subsidy programmes, the Bank has advocated for national laws that can make it illegal for local communities to propagate, grow, exchange and sell their own seeds, instead encouraging farmers to buy hybrid seeds and fertilisers in the commercial seed market. This means farmers become more dependent on outside interventions and expensive goods (see Observer Spring 2020).
The report shows this approach is ineffective in reducing poverty and increasing food security, particularly for women, as they have less access to finance to buy seeds in commercial markets. This is the result of the Bank’s flawed metrics, which measure the success by greater participation of the private sector (see Observer Spring 2019), instead of measuring poverty reduction. “The World Bank is funded by taxpayer money. Its purpose is to tackle poverty and reduce food insecurity. Yet, it seems the main thing they care about is making it easier for giant corporations to sell expensive seeds and fertilisers”, highlighted Dario Kenner, CAFOD’s lead analyst on sustainable economic development.
In contrast to this industrialised agricultural model, the report encourages the World Bank to support alternative models, based on agroecological principles that involve shifting public finance, scaling up investment in crop diversity, supporting participatory plant breeding, community seed banks and other community level initiatives to protect and build crop diversity.