Dirty hands – the World Bank’s role in land-grabbing
Released on the eve of the World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty in Washington DC, (which is taking place from 23-26 April), two new films reveal widespread violations of people’s rights and environmental destruction from land grabbing in Africa.
The films, released by La Via Campesina and Friends of the Earth International, are first-hand accounts of how privatization of land, and corporate-friendly policies promoted by the World Bank lead to violent displacements and hunger and facilitate the global takeover of community land by private interests.
In Mali, Libyan multinational corporation MALIBYA has been awarded 100,000 hectares of prime agricultural land to grow export crops and livestock. The $25 billion project includes building one of the largest irrigation canals in Africa, allowing Mali’s precious water supply to be used by MALIBYA. The project is intended to develop agricultural industry through foreign direct investment – a strategy aggressively promoted by the World Bank. In reality, it has already violently displaced hundreds of families and demolished entire villages. Farmers are deprived of their livelihood and the capacity of the local people to feed themselves is hampered.
In Uganda, the World Bank has provided millions in funding and technical support to a large-scale expansion of palm oil at the expense of local food crops and forest. Communities are losing access to land for farming, firewood, forest products and water supplies. Despite promises of employment, local people have lost their means of livelihood and are now struggling to make ends meet. Nearly 10,000 hectares are already planted in islands off Lake Victoria, with 30,000 more planned.
The World Bank conference brings together investors, governments, International Financial Institutions and civil society to discuss land governance. Yet previous policies of the World Bank, such as turning communal land rights into private land titles, encouraging private finance to invest in land and providing technical and policy support for foreign land investments, has set the stage for a global land grab on a massive scale. Voluntary ‘Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment’ (RAI), being promoted by the World Bank currently are toothless and unlikely to halt land grabbing.