WASHINGTON — Global development group Oxfam on Wednesday called on the World Bank (WB) to suspend financing for large-scale land acquisitions to ensure that its practices do not encourage foreign land grabs in developing countries.
Report by Reuters
Oxfam urged Jim Yong Kim, the lender’s new president, to announce a six-month moratorium on land investments by the bank at meetings of the International Monetary Fund and WB in Tokyo next week.
But senior bank officials said it would be a mistake to suspend the WB’s involvement at a time when global food prices are rising and there is growing interest by foreign investors in buying farmland in Asia, Latin America and Africa.
The 2008-2009 global food price crisis prompted a scramble for land in parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America, and widespread fears of land grabbing. Madagascar’s President was toppled in 2009 after he negotiated a deal with South Korea’s Daewoo Logistics to lease half the island’s arable land to grow food and ship it to Asia.
The WB has long argued that Africa needs more investments in agriculture that would not only help modernise farming practices, but also create jobs and new markets for local farmers. The lender has boosted its investment in agriculture to $9,5 billion a year from $2,5 billion annually in 2008.
Oxfam said the WB was in a unique position as both a financier, through its private-sector lending arm the International Finance Corp, and adviser to developing countries to ensure land deals are transparent and not forcing local communities off land they have farmed for generations.
According to Oxfam more than 60% of investments in agricultural land by foreign investors between 2000 and 2010 were in developing countries with serious hunger problems.