Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)
PANNA's survey tallied the number of agricultural projects with the potential to increase pesticide use. These included projects financing pesticides, increasing farmers' access to agrochemicals or intensifying agricultural productivity without an ecologically-oriented pest management plan. The survey also tallied the number of projects that mentioned IPM and identified smaller subsets of projects that went on to present credible IPM and/or pesticide reduction plans. PANNA determined that projects in Africa and Asia were most likely to aggravate pesticide problems, whereas projects in Latin America showed the most promise for promoting ecological alternatives such as IPM.
Many WB project descriptions now avoid the word "pesticide," replacing it with general terms such as "agricultural inputs" or "agrochemicals." These ambiguities leave the door wide open for pesticides to be introduced into WB projects during implementation; this is especially true in projects that introduce hybrid seeds or export crops, as these are almost always more susceptible to pests and diseases than traditional local varieties.
In Africa, the World Bank approved 26 agricultural projects between 1997 and 2000. Many of these projects focused on increasing farmers' access to agrochemicals and nearly all sought to intensify productivity without acknowledging the potential for increased pesticide use. Seventy-three percent of projects failed to mention IPM, even when "pesticide-induced health problems" or intensive pesticide use was expected. While a few did mention IPM, the references were too cursory to determine the level of commitment to farmer-led ecological approaches.
In South and East Asia, 38 projects were approved, 63% of which PANNA considered likely to increase pesticide use, based on the criteria described above. Nearly all focused on intensifying production through irrigation, increased use of agricultural inputs or dissemination of "modern agricultural technologies." A disturbing 92% made absolutely no mention of IPM, despite the increased pesticide use and runoff associated with agricultural intensification. Many projects planned to finance pesticides or provide village grants to enable farmers to purchase them without any training in alternatives. Two of the three projects mentioning IPM described it as a tool to mitigate the negative impacts of pesticides brought on by agricultural intensification. By treating IPM as merely an add-on technology in a basically pesticide-dependent system, these projects reflect a poor understanding of IPM principles.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, a promising shift towards incorporating IPM into project design appeared in the 1999 and 2000 project documents. While project documents of 1997 and 1998 contained wording similar to the African projects (e.g. only vaguely stating that agrochemical use would be "controlled"), more recent project documents reflect a new focus on improving sustainable production. Four of five recent projects highlighted IPM as their projects' central approach, with one even suggesting the possible elimination of toxic chemical inputs to achieve project goals. Two of these projects identified overuse of pesticides as a significant problem to tackle. The shift in language is encouraging, although not in itself a guarantee of successful implementation in the field.
Virtually all agricultural lending in Europe and Central Asia focused on increasing agricultural productivity, and project documents frequently acknowledged problems associated with rising pesticide use. Eight-two percent of the 22 projects approved between 1997 and 2000 could exacerbate pesticide problems, but project design slowly improved over time. In 1997, none of the documents for problematic projects mentioned IPM. In 1998 and 1999, half included references to IPM although three-quarters still provided financing for pesticides. By 2000, projects not only acknowledged that agricultural intensification would increase pesticide contamination and water pollution, but also planned to introduce IPM to try to reduce the problem. Unfortunately, project managers still refer to IPM as a mitigation measure, vastly underestimating its capacity to reverse pesticide use trends by transforming entire agricultural systems.
Unfortunately, similar progress towards IPM was not found in the Middle East and North Africa, where eight of ten WB agricultural projects had the potential to increase pesticide use. Only two project descriptions even mentioned IPM or sustainable farming. Most of the projects aimed to expand irrigation but failed to acknowledge pesticide contamination problems or consider ecological alternatives.
Source: "The World Bank and Pesticides: a survey of projects approved between 1997 and 2000." PANNA report, forthcoming.
PANUPS is a weekly email news service providing resource guides and reporting on pesticide issues that don't always get coverage by the mainstream media. It's produced by Pesticide Action Network North America, a non-profit and non-governmental organization working to advance sustainable alternatives to pesticides worldwide.