PANNA: Indonesian Farmers call for World Bank Reform
Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)
May 17, 1999
World Bank-funded agricultural projects in Indonesia must be more closely monitored to ensure adherence to basic principles of environmentally sound and socially just development, according to Yayasan Duta Awam Foundation (YDA), an Indonesian non-governmental organization. YDA reached this conclusion after completing 15 months of grassroots investigation of the Bank-financed "Integrated Swamps Development Project."
Between July 1997 and September 1998, YDA trained and assisted local farmers in conducting participatory monitoring of the Bank project's impacts on their health, agricultural systems and community well-being. The study was conducted by 37 farmer monitors, who interviewed 342 farmers from 15 villages in West Kalimantan and Riau provinces. Farmers presented their findings and recommendations to government and World Bank officials at two provincial seminars and one national seminar.
According to YDA, the survey uncovered extensive problems in implementation of the Swamps Development Project, some in direct violation of the Bank's own policies. Problems cited include farmers' increased use of and dependence on toxic chemical pesticides, lack of transparency especially regarding terms and conditions of grants and loans given to farmers, minimal consultation with the community during project design and implementation, marginalization of women from project activities and widespread corruption.
The Bank's operational policy on pest management clearly states that projects must help reduce reliance on chemical pesticides. However, YDA's study indicates that farmers' use of and dependence on chemical pesticides has increased significantly over the course of the project. Furthermore, the Bank's policy stipulates that it will not finance pesticide formulations classified by the World Health Organization as Class Ia (extremely hazardous), Ib (highly hazardous) or II (moderately hazardous). Yet 85% of the pesticides given to farmers in one province participating in the Swamp Development Project contained active ingredients belonging to these three classes.
Farmers involved in the survey disclosed that corrupt practices by some officials involved the unexplained disappearance of both project money and goods. Farmers documented incidences in which they were required to sign blank forms or receipts for goods or money that they subsequently never received.
YDA also pointed out that the Indonesian government does not devote adequate resources for monitoring the implementation of projects financed by international financial institutions or donor countries. Government officials often do not have enough time for direct project involvement, and many of those working full-time on such projects are foreign consultants who generally have little understanding of local conditions.
Local farmers and YDA are calling on the Indonesian government and World Bank to remove hazardous pesticides from the Swamp Development project's loan packages of agricultural inputs, provide training in ecologically-based IPM and health effects of pesticides, return monies improperly collected from farmers, provide goods and monies originally promised with full and transparent documentation of loan terms and conditions, and develop future project activities in consultation with farmers. YDA and partner NGOs such as Pesticide Action Network North America are calling on the Bank to release all financial and technical audits of the Swamps Development project. These NGOs are also urging the Bank to establish an independent body to whom Indonesian farmers can report complaints, irregularities, extortion, etc. without fear of reprisal.
In a letter to The Jakarta Post, the Indonesian Country Director of the World Bank agreed with the views of YDA on "the importance of improved monitoring and participation to ensure the best use of development assistance." He continued, "Reducing corruption is a huge task that will need the best efforts of all stakeholders and this means government, media, NGOs, community groups, and project beneficiaries." As a first step, the Bank is undertaking a fact-finding survey to investigate farmers' allegations and ensure successful resolution of the project's problems.
Sources: The Jakarta Post, April 8 and April 20, 1999. Report by YDA and farmers of affected communities, "Recommendations to improve implementation of World Bank Project Loan 3755 IND, Integrated Swamps Development Project (ISDP)." April 1999.