World Bank gave Zimbabwe a loan of US$7.3m to plant trees that no one wanted


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The World Bank, one of the Bretton Woods institutions that is supposed to promote development especially in developing countries, gave Zimbabwe a loan of $7.3 million in 1983 to plant trees that it later discovered no one really wanted.

It is not clear where things went wrong because during discussions with the government, Zimbabwe had clearly indicated that rural people did not need fuelwood but poles.

But somehow, the bank lent the money and even expected a 14 percent return on the investment because it compared the price of fuelwood to coal.

Zimbabweans in rural areas do not use coal at all.

The loan is one of those being questioned in a study by the Jubilee Debt Campaign because it did not benefit the country or Zimbabweans except saddle the country with a huge debt burden.

Zimbabwe borrowed $7.7 billion and has already repaid US$11.4 million but still owes more than US$7 billion.

The project was first mooted during the Ian Smith era.

Though launched in 1983, it is not clear why it was allowed to continue when a baseline survey carried out as part of the project revealed that 70 percent of the households said there was enough fuelwood to meet their demands.

The people even refused to clear their indigenous trees to plant eucalyptus trees that they were being told to plant.

The World Bank in its completion report eight years later said the investment in woodlots for the production of fuelwood could not be justified because the majority of the farmers were secure in fuelwood.

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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