Globally, 80 to 227 million hectares of rural, often agrarian land, typically in poorer countries hungry for foreign investment, have been taken over by private and corporate interests in recent years.
Programmes and policies pushed by the WB, the organisation suggests, have been both directly and indirectly responsible for this trend, with examples reportedly coming from more than 60 countries.
In addition, such figures are on the rise, driven by increased human demand for vegetable oils and the evolving global market for biofuels.
According to activists and farmers, part of the blame also needs to be placed on the Bank’s own technical assistance, past and present.
“Decades of World Bank policies have created the basis for what is happening today,” says Giulia Franchi, activist of the Italian Campaign for the WB reform.
Campaigners expressed particular frustration with the Bank’s Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment that Respects Rights, Livelihoods and Resources (RAI), which came into existence in January 2010. In their opinion, RAI is only an attempt to support transnational corporations to acquire land worldwide, since the expropriation of people’s lands can never be considered responsible.
On the other hand, WB explained that RAI aims at trying to “better spread the benefits and balance opportunities with risks in major investment programs”.
Kirtana Chandrasekaran from FOE thinks that such an approach is wrongheaded from the start, claiming that “the transfer of large tracts of land to investors is still going to deprive smallholder farmers and local communities from crucial, life-sustaining resources for generations to come”.