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World Bank policies help drive global hunger

The World Bank has issued a global hunger warning after food prices soared by 10% in a single month from June to July. But this is disingenuous to say the least since the agency’s own policies backing corporate greed, are major contributors to hunger.

Maize and soybeans reached all time peaks due to an unprecedented summer of droughts and high temperatures in the United States and Eastern Europe, according to the World Bank’s latest food price watch report.

From June to July, maize and wheat rose by 25% and soybeans by 17%. The lives of millions of people are threatened, particularly in Africa and the Middle East. For example maize prices rose 113% in Mozambique in July and sorghum by 220% in South Sudan.

Drought in the US damaged crops of maize and soybeans, for which it is the world’s largest exporter. The dry summer in the Russian Federation, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan reduced the productivity of wheat.

“We cannot allow these historic price hikes to turn into a lifetime of perils as families take their children out of school and eat less nutritious food to compensate for the high prices,” said World Bank Group president Jim Yong Kim. “Countries must strengthen their targeted programmes to ease the pressure on the most vulnerable population, and implement the right policies.”

But this is hypocritical since the Bank’s own policies, supporting the requirements of the corporations and the rest of the global élite, are major contributors to hunger.

For example, the global land grab is entirely endorsed by the agency’s free market approach. Instead of bringing in rules to end this new brutal colonialism, the Bank and the UN developed a code of practice to facilitate it.

Governments are supported to treat traditional lands as state land with the right to sell it off to the highest bidder. Their own people are driven off to work for low wages from the new masters or to join the populations in the slums and barrios of the cities.

The mono-crops grown for export, using large quantities of water and fertilizer have negative effects on local markets. Water is being pumped to support the new large-scale agri-businesses, leaving family allotments, often planted by women, without adequate supply. And when the land is bled dry – literally – the land grabbers will move on, using investment funds from corporations like Goldman Sachs, to buy cheap somewhere else.

So far over 83 million hectares of land have been part of the global rush for land – 56.2 million hectares in Africa, 5% of the continent’s total agricultural land. Worldwide, 20 million hectares of land are growing crops to feed people who live a thousand miles away or more. And of course these intensive farming methods, clearing scrub land and pumping it full of fertiliser only serve to add to greenhouse gas emissions.

The World Bank’s much-vaunted focus on developing drought-resistant grains is all about profit – these will be grown on grabbed land and then exported to feed the beef that ends up in globo-burgers, or to burn up as bio-diesel.

La Via Campesina, the global movement of peasant farmers, sums it up by saying that the so-called agrarian reform supported by institutions like the World Bank, is all about sustaining capitalism:

Because of the global crises, taking control of the earth’s remaining resources – land, water, forests, biodiversity – has become crucial to the survival of capitalism and the corporations. At the recently concluded Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this resource grab has been institutionalised under the label of ‘green economy’.

Ending hunger means ending capitalism, and returning the land to the people to work in ways that mitigate the impacts of climate change that are now unavoidable. Directed by democratic local, regional and national assemblies, scientists will be employed to find ways to support mitigation and the majority will find ways to sustain themselves by sustaining the eco-systems they are a part of.

Penny Cole
Environment editor
31 August 2012

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