World Bank urged to give up plans of financing Ecuador’s largest factory farm



A coalition of NGOs has sent, today (April 16, 2021), a letter to the board of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank’s commercial lending arm, urging them to vote against a proposed USD 50 million loan for the expansion of Pronaca, Ecuador’s largest industrial livestock producer. Pronaca has a history of being responsible for major social and environmental problems.


An investigation conducted by Mongabay in cooperation with The Guardian newspaper and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism revealed that Pronaca has built more than 30 pork and poultry factory farms that confine millions of animals in the Ecuadorian province of Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas since the 1990s. Residents say waste from the animals eventually ends up in their rivers, tainting it with fecal coliform bacteria, causing skin and gastrointestinal problems and respiratory issues. The documentaries Pig Business, Caso Ecuador and Detrás de la Carne also document similar problems.


“As a public financial institution, the IFC’s investments must be guided by public interest. This is not what is happening, quite the opposite. It is time for this financial institution to stop funding the expansion of factory farms, like it is planning to do with Pronaca in Ecuador”, says Merel van der Mark, head of animal welfare and finance at Sinergia Animal, one of the NGOs heading the conversation attempts with IFC. “We are urging people all over the world to join us to stop this by accessing our website www.sinergiaanimalinternational.org/divestfactoryfarming and sending messages to the IFC today”, she added.


Since 2004, the IFC has provided the Ecuadorian company Pronaca with at least USD 120 million in loans. In 2010, local communities filed an official complaint against Pronaca, for polluting water sources, impacting soil and air quality, and having negative environmental impact on a protected forest. Unfortunately, the complaint was closed without a proper investigation and without reaching an agreement with the impacted communities. And despite the lack of environmental permits, in 2013 the IFC financed Pronaca again. “It is deeply concerning that from its disclosure page about the Pronaca loan, it's clear that the IFC does not require Pronaca to consult with surrounding communities and obtain their support, let alone their consent for this project” adds van der Mark.


Sinergia Animal and partner organizations Feedback, the Global Forest Coalition, and Friends of the Earth have already sent two letters to the IFC, asking the corporation to commit to divest from the industrial livestock sector. They support their ask with evidence that proves the sector fuels the climate crisis, is a major cause of social problems, poor animal welfare, deforestation, environmental degradation, loss of biodiversity, water and air pollution, and an increased risk of antibiotic resistance and new pandemics. According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), industrial livestock is one of the key drivers of the emergence of zoonotic diseases.


Phasing out factory farms can mitigate climate change and create millions of jobs


“It will be impossible to achieve the Paris Climate Agreement Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals without a fundamental shift in our food systems, moving away from industrial livestock systems and towards more sustainable and plant-based systems”, says van der Mark. A number of recent large studies, such as by Chatham House, the IPBES, and the IPCC have highlighted the multiple impacts the current systems cause, and the importance of a shift in the way food is produced.


Such a shift would also have economic benefits. A study by the Inter-American Development Bank and International Labour Organization found that a zero-carbon liquid emissions economy switch—which includes as one of its main pillars a healthier, more sustainable, and more plant-based food system—would create 19 million new jobs in Latin America and the Caribbean.


“The IFC should take the scientific evidence to heart and be true to its commitment to achieve the SDGs and the Paris Climate Agreement goals to mitigate climate change”, states van der Mark. “We expect the IFC’s board not only to vote against further investments in this controversial Pronaca project, but also to halt all finance to the industrial livestock sector. Instead, they should finance and facilitate a transition to sustainable food systems that use agroecological and sustainable farming practices'', she proposes.