The World Bank is not a monolithic structure and many staff members are increasingly aware about the impacts that large-scale tree monocultures have on people and the environment. However, there are signs that within the Bank's higher hierarchies there is a will to promote such plantations, either as carbon sinks or as providers of raw material for the paper, timber and palm oil industries.
The regional consultations which the Bank is organizing within the FPIRS process constitute a good opportunity to bring up this issue and to provide the Bank with further information and analysis, which could result in strengthening the positions of those staff members critical about plantations. The country studies carried out by the Bank's own Operations Evaluation Department (OED) contain useful information on the impacts of plantations, but it needs to be stressed that such information -strangely enough- was not included in the OED's main report.
The regional consultations can also provide an opportunity to highlight that the promotion of large-scale tree monocultures is contradictory with at least two issues which the Bank is mandated to address: poverty alleviation and biodiversity conservation. The substitution of forests with plantations -a widespread practice in the tropics- results in the further impoverishment of forest and forest dependent peoples, and therefore Bank's support for such projects would mean a clear breach of its mandate. On the other hand, there is ample evidence that large-scale tree plantations generate very few, badly paid, seasonal jobs, thus not constituting a solution to alleviate poverty.
The Bank is one of the implementing agencies of the Global Environment Fund, one of whose thematic areas is biodiversity conservation. The substitution of diverse forest and grassland ecosystems by monoculture tree plantations results in huge impacts on local flora and fauna and is therefore contradictory with the conservation of biological diversity which the Bank is mandated to protect.
It is important to highlight that there are many different types of tree plantations, many of which can be very beneficial to people and the environment. The regional consultations can also be a starting point to provide Bank people with information on those types of plantations and which should be the conditions to be met for plantations to be considered beneficial.
In sum, the FPIRS process constitutes an excellent opportunity to bring up the plantations issue and to try to make Bank staff aware of the impacts of the prevailing forestry model and of the number of struggles that it will be responsible for unleashing if it chooses to support the further spread of large-scale tree monocultures.