PCFS hits IMF-World Bank’s double-faced rhetoric on improving rural women’s access to land

The Peoples Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS), an international alliance of farmers, peasant women, pastoralists, fishers and rural peoples, accused the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group of engaging in “double-faced rhetoric” for supposedly advocating women’s access to land on one hand but facilitating landgrabs on the other.

The group issued the statement as the world marked the International Rural Women’s Day last Oct 15 while the IMF-World Bank concluded their annual meetings in Bali, Indonesia.

Around the world, about 75% of the extreme poor are rural peoples, mostly small and landless farmers. Rural women are considered particularly more vulnerable as legal and customary traditions prohibit them from decision-making and ownership.

The World Bank, mainly through the Land Governance Assessment Framework, has land registration projects in 48 countries with over $1 billion in commitments. In most of its reports, the World Bank highlights how these projects have supposedly improved land access to peasant women.

“These market-led land reform programs that the World Bank imposes, while supposedly giving greater emphasis on rural women’s access to land, actually enable large-scale land and resource grabbing. In fact, in many of its flagship case studies, massive land grabbing deals have been reported as a direct consequence of the World Bank’s land reforms,” said Sylvia Mallari, PCFS co-chairperson.

PCFS cited Ethiopia which has been implementing the World Bank’s use-certificate model of land reform since 2003covering 6.3 million land certificates. The World Bank claims that its intervention has given women 50% ownership of land. However, PCFS noted that the same land reform program led to the land grabbing of between 2.5 to 2.71 million hectares of land or up to 58.2% of Ethiopia’s total land area suitable and available for agricultural production.

“One of the biggest landgrabbers in Ethiopia, the Karuturi Global, in fact, received funding from the World Bank for its 110,000-hectare plantation in the country – displacing thousands of pastoralists and peasant women from their lands,” Mallari pointed out.

The Karuturi Global is an Indian company that has been given 100,000 hectares of land lease by the Ethiopian government for corn, rice and palm oil plantations in Gambella, one of the most fertile areas in the country. The project received funding from the ICICI Bank which in turn got a $150-million loan from the International Finance Corp. (IFC), the World Bank’s investment arm.

Continuing Large Landgrabs in the Global South

Land grabbing poses a severe threat to the livelihood of the already impoverished small farmers and rural peoples in the world. While slowing down in land area, deals since 2015 are becoming more gargantuan in scale and violent in displacing farmers and indigenous peoples. Globally, around 50 million hectares in landgrabs since2000 have been concluded in 1,591 deals and around 209 more deals are being negotiated, spanning 19 million hectares more – adding up to almost 70 million hectare.

More than half of these landgrabs consist of productive agricultural lands cultivated by poor and small farmers –more than 12 million farmers denied of land, and another 12 million landless farm workers depending on these lands.

These deals only include those involving foreign companies and do not yet reflect land and resource grabbing perpetrated by local companies, landlords, politicians and even the military.

According to the Coalition, the World Bank through the IFC has been directly funding at least 133 projects that have severely impacted the rural peoples’ right to land and the environment in48 countries.

“How can the World Bank, which clearly have profits and interests at stake in formulating these laws be given power to craft and advise on land rights legislations? We won’t be used further. We, the rural women, want an equal stake in our right to food, land,and food sovereignty and not an equal opportunity to be exploited and oppressed,” Mallari concluded.

The IMF-WB recently concluded its Annual Meetings in Bali last October 10-13. Protest actions and parallel activities by Indonesian and global south movements were held under the Peoples’ Global Conference (PGC) against the IMF-World Bank. The PCFS was among the co-organizers of the PGC that gathered 93 organizations from at least 18countries around the world. ###

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