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We Harvest--You Profit: African Land Ltd's Land Deal in Sierra Leone

From rising food prices to growing demand for biofuel, the current obsession for agricultural land borders on speculative mania as private companies, hedge funds, private equity funds, and sovereign wealth funds join the land rush looking for lucrative deals in the developing world. An estimated 500 million acres, an area about ten times the size of Britain, has been bought or leased in the developing world in the last decade. The social,...

World Bank's Bad Business in Mali

In 2013, Mali was classified among the African countries that made the most effort to improve their business climate since 2005 by the World Bank. Undeterred by the 2012-2013 political crisis, the country retained its top ranking out of the eight West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) nations in the Doing Business 2013 report. In 2014, Mali lost this leadership, coming at the 155th place, just behind Burkina Faso. The country,...

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Willful Blindness: How the World Bank's Doing Business Rankings Impoverish Smallholder Farmers

Established in 1944 with the objective of reducing poverty, the World Bank, headquartered in Washington, DC, is an international financial institution that provides financial and technical assistance as well as advisory services to enhance development in poor and transitioning countries. Despite its praiseworthy goals, the World Bank’s activities and undue influence over policy making in developing countries have come under heavy criticism...

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World Bank's Bad Business in Guatemala

According to the World Bank, Guatemala is one of the countries most open to foreign direct investment (FDI). It is among the top ten global reformers, and the only country in Latin America to appear on the Doing Business 2014’s top reformers list. In the past four years, the government has made significant reforms to attract FDI. In the agricultural sector, increased FDI—due in part to the adoption of the Central American Free Trade Agreement...

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World Bank's Bad Business in Honduras

In recent years, corporate investments in the agricultural sector and skewed land deals have been a source of intense conflicts with farmers, and have resulted in displacement, widespread human rights abuses, and murders. Yet, turning a blind eye to human rights and land rights violations, the World Bank continues to support agribusiness in the country through the provision of substantial loans.

Additional Languages: Leer en español

World Bank's Bad Business in Liberia

Since the first World Bank Doing Business survey in 2008, Liberia has implemented a series of reforms to improve the “ease of doing business in the country,” leading to its classification among the “top ten global reformers” of the 2010 Doing Business ranking. The subsequent worldwide advertisement of the country’s success attracted foreign direct investments (FDIs). In the agricultural sector, this resulted in giant palm oil and rubber...

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World Bank's Bad Business in Nicaragua

Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere. Foreign direct investment in the country has more than doubled in past years, and the World Bank has been actively promoting foreign investment in the agricultural sector despite the numerous health, social, and environmental problems associated with industrial plantations in Nicaragua. One of the most damaging activities is the production of sugarcane for ethanol. The crop...

Additional Languages: Los Malos Negocios del Banco Mundial en Nicaragua
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World Bank's Bad Business in the Philippines

The Philippines is now hailed as a top ten reformer as a direct result of making economic, regulatory, and administrative policy changes following the advice and direction of the World Bank. As a result of these changes, in 2013 the Philippines became the third most popular destination for foreign investment in land in the world, with 5.2 million hectares acquired since 2006.

World Bank's Bad Business in Senegal

Senegal has made numerous reforms in an effort to garner a higher ranking in the Doing Business evaluation. The latest round of reforms, likely to be praised by the World Bank, favor land grabbing in Senegal, a country where large-scale land deals have become increasingly frequent in the recent years. Since the late 1980s, the World Bank has influenced the Senegalese public policy at the expense of households’ livelihoods, and in recent years...

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World Bank's Bad Business in Sierra Leone

Since 2004, the World Bank has provided continuous “investment climate advisory services” to Sierra Leone. Business reforms and Bank-piloted programs such as Sierra Leone Business Forum and the Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency led to the World Bank classifying Sierra Leone among “the top 15 economies that improved their business regulatory environment the most” since 2005 and rank the country third in the regional “...

World Bank's Bad Business in Sri Lanka

Despite unreconciled tensions following the three-decade-long civil war, militarization of the state, human rights violations, and more than 200,000 civilians in displacement camps, the World Bank generously increased Sri Lanka’s ranking in the Doing Business assessment in recent years. During and after the war, the Sri Lankan military seized large tracts of land through forced evictions and by occupying land abandoned by civilians fleeing...

Surrendering Our Future: Senhuile-Senethanol Plantation Destroys Local Communities and Jeopardizes Environment

Senhuile-Senéthanol, an agribusiness company, has been setting up agro-industrial plantations in the Saint-Louis region of northwest Senegal since July 2010. Owned by a complex maze of companies and individuals with ties to numerous countries around the world, including Italy, United States, Brazil, and Panama, the company holds a lease for 20,000 hectares of land. From the very inception of the project, Senhuile-Senéthanol has faced stiff...

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Down on the Farm

Today, enthusiasm for agriculture borders on speculative mania. Driven by everything from rising food prices to growing demand for biofuel, the financial sector is taking an interest in farmland as never before. 

On Our Land: Modern Land Grabs Reversing Independence in Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea (PNG) is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world, with more than 800 indigenous languages and over 600 islands. Among its many natural treasures, a unique asset is its rainforest, the third largest in the world and home to endangered wildlife, plants, and diverse groups of people. Yet a massive land rush is currently taking place in the country. In recent years, 12 percent of the country, 5.5 million...

Harvard in Iberá: Investigating Harvard University's Timber Plantations in the Iberá Wetlands of Argentina

Harvard University invests large sums of its $32.7 billion endowment in natural resources, including timber plantations, in the developing world. This includes Empresas Verdes Argentinas Sociedad Anonima (EVASA) and Las Misiones, two timber companies that are jointly worth $55.2 million and own 87,884 hectares with pine and eucalyptus plantations in the Iberá Wetlands of northern Argentina.

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Development Aid to Ethiopia: Overlooking Violence, Marginalization, and Political Repression

Ethiopia is a locus of international attention in the Horn of Africa due to both its consistently high rates of economic growth and for its continued problems with widespread hunger and poverty. The nation is also significant for being among the most dependent on foreign aid. Topping the worldwide list of countries receiving aid from the US, UK, and the World Bank, the nation has been receiving $3.5 billion on average from international...

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Ignoring Abuse in Ethiopia: DFID and USAID in the Lower Omo Valley

Southern Ethiopia’s Lower Omo Valley is one of the most culturally and biologically diverse areas in the world, yet the Ethiopian government is transforming more than 375,000 hectares (1450 sq. miles) of the region into industrial-scale plantations for sugar and other monocrops. A vast resettlement scheme for the local ethnic groups is accompanying these plans, as 260,000 local people from 17 ethnic groups who live in the Lower Omo and around...

Herakles Exposed: The Truth behind Herakles Farms False Promises in Cameroon

A new report exposes the significant discrepancies between how Herakles Farms has represented their palm oil plantation project in Cameroon to the public and what it is telling prospective investors and creditors.

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Eco-Skies: The Global Rush for Aviation Biofuel

The aviation industry has high hopes for biofuels. As its profits are increasingly threatened by erratic fossil fuel prices, and as consumers are more and more concerned with the role of aviation in climate change, biofuels are being billed as the path to both profitability and sustainability. Unfortunately, emerging evidence suggests that as airlines rush to procure biofuel, they do so at the expense of people and the environment.

Unheard Voices: The Human Rights Impact of Land Investments on Indigenous Communities in Gambella

Millions of acres of Ethiopia’s most fertile land are being made available to investors, often in long-term leases and at giveaway prices. Although proponents of these investments call them “win-win” deals, the reality proves much different. To make way for agricultural investment, and through its so-called villagization program, the Ethiopian government has forcibly displaced hundreds of thousands of indigenous people from their lands. This...

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Omo: Local Tribes Under Threat

The Lower Omo Valley in Southern Ethiopia is internationally renowned for its unique cultural and ecological landscape. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Lower Omo Valley contains two national parks and is home to approximately 200,000 agro-pastoralists made up of some of Africa’s most unique and traditional ethnic groups, including the Kwegu, Bodi, Suri, Mursi, Nyangatom, Hamer, Karo, and Dassenach, among others.

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Betting on World Agriculture: US Private Equity Managers Eye Agricultural Returns

Following the 2007-2008 financial crisis and the collapse of the housing market, private equity funds have found a new lucrative soft commodity market to invest in – farmland. In a short period of time, obscured from public view, the flow of private capital into farmland and agriculture has grown dramatically worldwide.

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Land Deal Brief: Tanzanian Villagers Pay for Sun Biofuels Investment Disaster

The Tanzanian government has put agriculture at the forefront of its development agenda through its “kilimo kwanza” (agriculture first) initiative, which was established in 2009. For a country like Tanzania, which is gifted with a rich diversity of natural and human resources and has a population that is still largely rural, investment in agriculture can offer considerable development potential.

Land Deal Brief: Massive Deforestation Portrayed as Sustainable Investment: The Deceit of Herakles Farms in Cameroon

From its very name, American-owned SG Sustainable Oils Cameroon, Ltd. (SGSOC) presents a pro-environment, pro-resources image. This is supported by an impressive-sounding partnership with an NGO by the name of All for Africa and as a package typifies the kind of convoluted modern-day foreign investment going on in Africa. It is sadly all too familiar to communities on the ground. They are unimpressed with promises of infrastructure and jobs,...

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Land Deal Brief: Lives on Hold

In June 2011, the Oakland Institute (OI) released details of the largest land deal in Tanzania, which had been hidden away from public scrutiny prior to that and obscured from national debate and discussion. The deal involved Iowa-based Summit Group and the Global Agriculture Fund of the Pharos Financial Group working in partnership with AgriSol Energy LLC and Iowa State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

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