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True Cost Agriculture Report Targets World Bank Loan Programs

Daniel Imhoff
Daniel Imhoff is a researcher, author, and independent publisher focused on farming, conservation, public policy, and design. He is the president and co-founder of Watershed Media, a non-profit publishing house based in California.

FOUNDATION EARTH web presen3Washington DC, September 15, 2015 — A report released by Watershed Media and Foundation Earth urges World Bank leaders to revamp policies that oversee more than $10 billion in agriculture loans and grants each year. At the root of their analysis is the need for new financial frameworks that address “externalities”—earth and health damaging impacts of economic activities that currently don’t show up on profit and loss sheets or loan applications.

“In the face of a rapidly overheating climate, collapsing fisheries, degraded soil, depleted water resources, vanishing species, and other challenges directly related to agriculture, we can no longer afford to pursue a flawed accounting system,” write Dan Imhoff (Watershed Media) and Randy Hayes (Foundation Earth), authors of the report.

They recommend a new True Cost Accounting approach designed to fund Biosphere Smart Agriculture projects that produce the healthiest food with the least environmental impacts for the long-term security of target communities.

Among the key goals of the World Bank’s growing agriculture program are raising income levels and alleviating poverty among the world’s poorest populations while also addressing climate change. Agriculture contributes 25 to 30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. It’s also one of the economic sectors most directly affected by rising temperatures, searing droughts and violent flooding.

According to the new report, the World Bank should focus its essential financial assets toward growing a global agroecology movement in order to fight poverty and turn back the earth warming impacts of food production. This means shifting away from the large-scale industrial mindset that has dominated the Bank’s development philosophies for decades and investing in a new generation of smaller scale, ecologically sustainable, information intensive farming systems.

As part of this research, the Switzerland based Millennium Institute was commissioned to study potential outcome scenarios for a current World Bank loan. Using their T-21 modeling program, they analyzed the on-the-ground outcomes of an $86 million loan to Senegal, primarily for bringing new irrigation systems to two regions of the West African nation. Millennium’s study determined that, while new irrigation projects will help raise a number of Senegalese out of poverty, the loan would dramatically improve livelihoods if directed toward a community-based agroecology initiative.

At the April 2015 annual meetings in Washignton DC, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim declared that the World Bank needs to become part of the solution of rethinking food in developing countries.

“We hope that this report will be essential reading for that rethinking process,” says Foundation Earth President Randy Hayes.

Download the full report here.

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