Multilateral Banks: fueling the export of agrofuels and conflicts over land use in Brazil

Multilateral Banks: fueling the export of agrofuels and conflicts over land use in Brazil

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By Lucía Ortíz

Family farming, the basis of food security in the region [8] and the availability of water resources and better land for food production are already threatened by the expansion of large-scale monocultures for export. The promotion of agrofuels as a poverty alleviation and development strategy, a rural model fed by international financial institutions, must be unmasked.

The analysis of the recent portfolio of multilateral banks in the area of ​​biofuels says little about the dimension of their role as promoters of the expansion of the new green revolution that is rapidly transforming the territories of tropical countries into large-scale monocultures. scale for the export of agroenergy. However, the information on the intention of the investments, announced in 2007 by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) of 3,000 million dollars, the direction of the cooperation funds and the political speeches of the representatives of these institutions can give a perspective of the guidelines of its performance in the sector.

The IDB has only three specific projects in the biofuel industry in Brazil that would add loans for a value of 570 million dollars: the restructuring of the debit of the Moema factory, in Sao Paulo, with a view to increasing its production and export capacity of sugar and alcohol, plus two greenfields in Minas Gerais and Mato Grosso do Sul, which means new areas, and not necessarily areas of “green” or organic production, as the word suggests. However, the institution announced five more loans in 2007, projects with total costs of approximately 2 billion dollars, investments to contribute to the Brazilian objective of tripling ethanol production by 2020 [1].

According to Roberto Vellutini, Director of Infrastructure and Environment at the IDB, "not all projects that make sense will be financed by multilateral banks [2]." In his remarks at a meeting with NGOs in Washington in September 2007, it appeared that poverty alleviation and rural development, decentralized and diversified, did not make sense for the Bank's mission, and that the objective was to increase capacity. export of agricultural goods.

When analyzing the regional portfolio of the Institution, we see these projects are preceded by donations through technical cooperation projects offered by the bank to analyze regulatory and market conditions for the development of pilot projects, with a specific focus on the regions of the Caribbean and Central America [3], which are already part of the Brazilian ethanol reprocessing route for export to the United States aimed at transferring technology for ethanol production, the IDB is developing a series of studies known as blueprints [4], which constitute diagnoses for the development of agrofuels in countries such as Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and the Dominican Republic.

The special fund SECCI (for its acronym in English for the Initiative on Sustainable Energy and Climate Change) of the IDB, which initially had 20 million dollars to invest in cooperation in the areas of renewable energy, energy efficiency, adaptation to climate change and development of coal markets, is being used for the priority execution of the so-called blueprints for agrofuels, as a focus for the expansion of ethane production in the aforementioned countries for export purposes.

Likewise, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) of the World Bank declared that, despite the critical stance of the institution on first-generation biofuels, there are investments that amount to 200 million dollars in the area of ​​ethanol and sugar cane. , as the only source considered viable for the institution for the production of agrofuels, with three projects in Brazil, all located in the State of Sao Paulo. Despite receiving between 15 and 20 proposals for financing in this area annually, the IFC chose to invest "only in solid and consolidated companies, large groups with the capacity to increase exports of alcohol and sugar and with low financial risks." [5]

With which it can be concluded without great surprises that the main multilateral banks for "development" in the region are committed to guaranteeing as a priority the diversification and future supply of the growing demand for biofuels, especially from the United States, in the moments of greatest demand for oil, with the justification of wanting to expand agribusiness to alleviate poverty for the countries of Latin America. Although they claim to be committed to the environmental criteria for "production efficiency" such as those debated in the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels [6], they do not show concern about conflicts over land use or about the unfeasibility of agriculture. family, processes that have already been verified in the expansion areas in Brazil, as reflected in the statements [7]:

I want to know who can help me. I belong to the fifth generation of a family that plants white corn for human consumption, and that is what I know how to do. But I am being surrounded by sugarcane, my neighbors are leaving and I don't see a way to stay (testimony of a small farmer from Itapeva, SP, at the Popular Conferences on Agroenergy, Curitiba, PR- (11/01/2007)

We feel oppressed. We have a different vision, we have a deep feeling for the land, some lease the land for sugarcane, but others can't stand it and end up giving up. I am being surrounded by sugarcane plantations (Interview with P, small rural producer - Uberaba / MG 11/26/2006)

For some time if you walk through the region from 100 to 200 kilometers you will not see plots with crops of beans, corn or cassava. What will end up happening is a degradation of the land and later the industries will take everything, the land can thus be acquired for the agrarian reform. That place near here was already cane land in the past. It was with a lot of work that we got that piece back into production.

Something that worries me is the arrival of these factories. People who work soy and do not work livestock are losing their jobs. There are days when I have signed more than 30 terminations of contracts for the lease of land (Interview with the representative of the Rural Workers Union - Dorados / MS 12/01/2006

Here is all a string. The milk that I collect here goes to the cooperative in the community, thus generating employment there. From there it goes to the city and this also creates other jobs. Not to mention that some have a tractor to plow the land, and this also generates employment. If we rent the land for sugarcane, it means that we stop producing: and the milk and the rest of the chain would end, because the factories do not generate that type of employment (Interview with P. small rural producer - Uberaba / MG, 26 / 11/2006).

I am running out of a way to survive in the countryside and in the end we have to move to the city. There in Palestina (rural area of ​​Uberaba) they already have 4 or 5 families who left for the city after the landowners began to rent for sugarcane (Interview with a representative of the Rural Workers Union, Uberaba / MG, / 2006).

Given that family farming, the basis of food security in the region [8] and the availability of water resources and better land for food production are already threatened by the expansion of large-scale monocultures for export, it should unmask the promotion of agrofuels in these same models as a strategy for poverty alleviation and development, a rural model fed by international financial institutions.

* Lucia Ortíz

Sources: Friends of the Earth, Brazil


[1] See
[2] Notes from the NGO meeting Núcleo Amigos da Terra / Brasil, Bank Information Center and Friends of the Earth United States with IDB executives, September 19, 2007, in Washington, DC.
[3] See projects El Salvador ES-T1057 e TC0002071, Mexico ME-T1007, and Brazil BR-T1040 e BR-M1028 (source: IDB portfolio research of Rede Brasil)
[4] See IDB report “A blueprint for greenenergy in the Americas: Central America and Caribbean”
[5] Notes from the meeting of the Núcleo Amigos da Terra Brasil, Bank Information Center and Friends of the Earth United States NGOs with executives from the IFC agribusiness area, September 18, 2007, Washington, DC.
[6] Initiative led by Switzerland that brings together governments, companies and NGOs in the debate on sustainability criteria for the international production and trade of agrofuels.
[7] Source: Declarations of the I Popular Conference on Agroenergy and Assis, W.F.T; Zucarelli, MC and Ortiz, LS (coord.) Decontaminating Doubts: Territorial impacts of the expansion of agrofuels in Brazil and perspectives for sustainable production, Belo Horizonte, 2007, available at /brasil.pdf [8] According to INCRA, more than 60% of the food that reaches the Brazilian tables is produced by family farming, which means 4.1 million families, responsible for 77% of the occupations in the countryside.

Video: Prediction of Land UseLand Cover Change using QGIS and ArcGIS 2010-2020-2030 (May 2022).