Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)
World Bank officials gather this week for the World Bank and International Monetary Fund's (IMF) annual meetings in Dubai, where they will review loan and development policies that dramatically affect the wealth and daily life of many nations of the global South. The strong resistance from Third World nations that flared at the World Trade Organization meetings in Cancun just two weeks ago may or may not resurface in Dubai, but as World Bank officials claim their lending practices will improve the lives of the rural poor and protect the environment, evidence from the ground tells a far different story.
Two recent PANNA reports point to the World Bank's failure to implement its mandatory policy on pest management and reduce Third World farmers' dependence on pesticides. In the late 90s, the World Bank designated its pest management policy and several other environmental and social policies as "Safeguard Policies," intended to protect the environment and vulnerable populations from adverse effects of Bank lending -- the "do no harm" principle. Yet as the PANNA reports show, in the five years since the Bank's adoption of Operational Policy 4.09 on Pest Management (OP 4.09), the Bank has made little progress in putting those words into practice.
OP 4.09 requires the Bank to support farmers' shift from pesticides towards ecologically sound alternatives such as integrated pest management (IPM). Field monitoring and project reviews conducted by PANNA and local partners, however, found widespread violations of the Bank's pest management policy and identified a number of projects in which farmers reported pesticide poisonings and deaths in their communities, as well as wildlife loss and contamination of natural resources. As Lu Caizhen, monitor of a World Bank project in China noted, "We say there are two ways to die in China: starve to death or be poisoned to death by pesticides."
In The Struggle to Reduce Reliance on Pesticides: can community-based monitoring improve policy compliance? PANNA documents the experiences of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Indonesia, China and Mexico monitoring World Bank project impacts on their communities and environments, and focusing on pesticide use and pest management practices.
In all three countries, PANNA and our NGO partners found the World Bank projects were out of compliance with OP 4.09. Rather than helping farmers reduce their reliance on pesticides, the projects either supplied "technology packages" that included pesticides or placed no restrictions on the use of World Bank funds to purchase pesticides. NGOs and community groups in the three countries reviewed project documents and conducted participatory exercises and interviews with community members and local officials to evaluate the projects' level of compliance with OP 4.09. Most reviews revealed an urgent need for project corrections, and monitors presented project officials with concrete and realistic recommendations on how to improve project implementation.
Lu Caizhen explained, "One of the important things about this monitoring project was that the World Bank got to hear the voices of the local people. The farmers told the World Bank officials that they don't like using pesticides, and they know that pesticides can impact their health and the environment, but they felt they had no choice. Once the farmers learned what IPM was and that the World Bank policy requires projects to promote it, they were eager to get IPM training."
However, the Bank's slow progress in responding to reports of policy violations led local NGOs to question the Bank's commitment to its own policies. Nila Ardhianie, lead monitor in Indonesia, commented, "Sometimes it seems like World Bank officials live in a different world, a world where they cannot see us and the daily reality that people face. I wonder how they can believe the official reports [they get from Bank project staff] when serious problems in a project are so easily covered up."
A second PANNA report reviewed project documents for more than 100 World Bank projects likely to affect pesticide use, and found that only 9% effectively employed IPM practices and complied with the Banks own pesticide policies. The Persistence of Pesticide Dependence: a review of World Bank projects and their compliance with the World Bank's pest management policy, 1999-2003 found a number of Bank projects that finance pesticide purchases and yet provide farmers with no training on their environmental or health hazards or ecological alternatives. Only 35% of reviewed projects mentioned IPM, but most did not provide a detailed pest management plan as required by policy. Where IPM plans were described, these plans typically lacked sufficient depth or resources to ensure lasting impact or contradicted the project's broader goals of increased input use.
The report blames the World Bank's emphasis on agricultural intensification and export-oriented production instead of small-scale sustainable agriculture using few pesticides, fertilizers or external inputs as the central barrier to adoption of meaningful, ecologically-based IPM in Bank projects. Compounding the problem is Bank staff's weak understanding of IPM and the requirements of OP 4.09. The Bank's own systems of monitoring, supervision and oversight are still ineffective and a recently proposed overhaul of its Safeguard Policies could be a major step back from the Bank's stated commitment to basic social and environmental protections.
A summary of the PANNA report was published in the August 2003 Global Pesticide Campaigner and the full report will be on the PANNA web site in October, 2003. The community monitoring report, The Struggle to Reduce Reliance on Pesticides is now on the PANNA web site.
Sources: The Struggle to Reduce Reliance on Pesticides: can community-based monitoring improve policy compliance, PANNA, June, 2003; The Persistence of Pesticide Dependence: a review of World Bank projects and their compliance with the World Bank's pest management policy, 1999-2003 PANNA, October 2003; Global Pesticide Campaigner, PANNA, August 2003, and April 2001.