The hidden costs behind the World Bank’s financial support to combat drought in Mauritania ~ Chofor Che


On the 2 of August 2012, the World Bank’s Board of Directors approved a US$10 million funding to the Government of Mauritania. This funding is aimed at providing agricultural supplies and emergency food to rural communities, as the country faces serious drought.

According to the World Bank, the funding is supposed to provide veterinary products and livestock vaccines to herders; fertilizers to rice farmers; cereal grains to communities; as well as assist the country combat the current food and animal feed crisis.

‘Mauritania is a typical country of the Sahel zone, where livestock contributes up to 44 percent to agricultural Gross Domestic Product and remains the main source of livelihood and a buffer against
economic shocks for an important part of the population,’ explained Vera Songwe, the World Bank Country Director for Mauritania. The World Bank executive added that the emergency grant is supposed to assist the people of Mauritania by increasing food supplies as well as manage the current drought situation.

‘The funds will support part of the Government's programs to avert deteriorating economic and social services in the face of drought emergency,’ also added Anna Bjerde, the World Bank’s Acting Director for Sustainable Development for the Africa Region. According to this World Bank executive, ‘The project activities will improve food security and foster economic recovery and drought resilience.’

This short-term funding is composed of a US$5 million financial support from the International Development Association, (IDA), which is the Bank’s fund for the world’s poorest countries. It also includes a US$5 million financial assistance from the Food Price Crisis Response Grant program (FPCR). The World Bank adds that the funds will furnish initial cereal stocks or help to replace depleted stocks for over 600 villages over a period of 4 months. Additionally, the funds are supposed to be utilised to provide vaccines for livestock in the country.

The World Bank adds that the funds will support a new Emergency and Food Price Response Component under Mauritania’s Integrated Development Program for Irrigated Agriculture Project (PDIAIM). The PDIAIM is one of the Government’s principal instruments needed to foster this response with crop diversification in the Senegal River valley, where much of the country’s significant irrigation potential remains undeveloped, according to the World Bank.

‘The project will supply cereal stocks to rural communities suffering from acute food shortages and will protect millions of livestock from diseases’ corroborates, Christian Berger, Task Team Leader of the project. ‘These funds will allow the Government to respond quickly to life-threatening conditions in the driest regions in Mauritania’ adds the Team Leader of the project.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF)'s and World Bank's structural adjustment policies (SAPs) make sure that debts are repaid requiring countries to cut spending on health and education; eliminate transport and basic food subsidies; devalue national currencies to make exports
cheaper; and freeze wages, among other ills. Such measures instead increase poverty, and diminish a country's ability to develop strong domestic economies and also allows multinational corporations to exploit workers and deplete the environment. The IMF and the World Bank has made elites from the Global South, especially Africans to be more accountable to First World elites than their own people, thus undermining the democratic process they are supposed to respect.

Mauritania needs a long-term response to the present drought and food crisis especially to its food production and agriculture. Such a grant from the World Bank is not definitely one of such sustainable responses. With the culture of corruption plaguing most central governments on the continent, sooner or later a huge chunk of this money will find its way to foreign bank accounts, leaving the people of Mauritania hopeless.

What Mauritania should be considering as a sustainable plan of action, is to invest in more long term irrigation schemes for the country and curb on utilising environmental unfriendly energy sources, which contribute in destroying the ozone layer in this part of the continent. The country has to also invest in research and development in partnership with the private sector, as well as other countries, on how to produce drought resistant crops and animal species. Countries in the Middle East, like Israel  are advanced in such research and are involved in agricultural research and technology, which help fight against drought situations. Additionally, the country needs to create more jobs for the youth and commercialise the agricultural sector which has still not benefited from serious entrepreneurial boosting because of government interference. Only such measures and not funds from international financial institutions like the World Bank can help Mauritania as well as other similar situated countries, from the drought and food crisis.

Chofor Che is an Associate of and a Doctoral Law Candidate at the Community Law Centre, University of the Western Cape, South Africa. He blogs at

Chofor offers a better option to Mauritania beyond aid reliance

The country would be better served if the much needed solutions are holistically thought out.