World Bank: Call to End Support to Agro-industrial Parks in the DRC

June 5, 2019
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Mr. David Malpass
President, World Bank
1818 H Street NW Washington, DC, 20433

Via email:

CC: Hafez Ghanem, Vice President for Africa
Jean Christophe Carret, Country Director DRC
Juergen Voegele, Senior Director, Food and Agriculture Global Practice
Ahmadou Moustapha Ndiaye, Senior Advisor, Governance Global Practice

June 5, 2019

RE: CALL TO END SUPPORT TO AGRO-INDUSTRIAL PARKS IN THE DRC

Dear Mr. Malpass,

We are writing to call on you to end the promotion of agro-industrial parks in DRC by the World Bank. The parks, based on an ill-conceived model, will have devastating consequences on local communities and fail to deliver development outcomes.

The Bank is a key driver and financier of DRC’s plan to establish 22 agro-industrial parks on over 1.5 million hectares through the US$ 110 million Western Growth Pole Development Project. In charge of site selection as well as feasibility and technical studies for the parks, the Bank is explicitly encouraging DRC to prioritize industrial plantations over family farmers, even though it contradicts the country’s own agricultural policy, which aims to support farmers.

The Oakland Institute’s recent report The Bukanga Lonzo Debacle details the devastating consequences of the agro-industrial park pilot project. This Public Private Partnership between the South African company Africom and the Congolese government received significant technical and financial support from both the World Bank and the African Development Bank. The report exposes the utter failure of the park and documents how nine villages were misled into signing away their ancestral lands.

Numerous testimonies collected from the villagers report forced displacement as well as many incidents of police violence against the locals, allegedly ending in one death. A leaked audit of the project performed by Ernest & Young reveals a damning picture of its design and management and raises suspicions of embezzlement and corruption. Facilities and services, such as schools, clinics, water, and electricity, promised by Africom never materialized, and the uncontrolled use of harmful chemicals led to pollution of surrounding rivers used by the locals for drinking and bathing.

Despite the failure of the Bukanga Lonzo agro-industrial pilot project, the government plans to proceed with 21 more parks in the country. This plan, supported and encouraged by the Bank, is against the expressed wishes of farmers and their organizations, who have called for the end of agro-industrial parks and similar projects. The scandal of Bukanga Lonzo has now been widely exposed by Congolese and international media outlets. NGOs and religious organizations have joined farmer groups to reject the agro-industrial park model. In May 2019, 19 Congolese civil society organizations, including farmer organizations, religious, as well as human rights and environmental groups have released a joint declaration calling on the World Bank to immediately end its promotion of agro-industrial parks and to instead support family farmers in DRC.

Much can be done to support farmers produce and get adequate income for their crops. Mislabeled as ‘subsistence farmers,’ most DRC peasants are entrepreneurs who do generate income from the sale of their crops. However, they need support to access basic services, inputs, and credit, as well as improved ways to store, transport and sell their products. Instead of dispossessing them of their land and establishing industrial production that leaves them behind, there are other avenues for private investment to meet these needs. Institutional mechanisms, public policies, and investments should all focus on providing such sustained support to the agricultural sector.

Joining Congolese organizations, we therefore call on the World Bank to immediately end its support of agro-industrial parks and to instead support family farmers. This is the only way to tackle hunger and poverty in a sustainable and effective way, in DRC as well as in the rest of Africa.

We appreciate your attention to this matter and await your response.

Sincerely,

Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director, The Oakland Institute
Henk Hobbelink, Coordinator, Grain
Olivier Hauglustaine, General Secretary, SOS Faim
Hannah Mowat, Campaign Coordinator, Fern
Fr. Aniedi Okure, OP, Executive Director, Africa Faith & Justice Network
Véronique Wemaere, Director, Solsoc
François Cornet, Director, Caritas International
Vincent Henin, Louvain-Coopération
Pierre Collière, Eclosio
Julie Berthelier, ULB Coopération