On 12 June 2008 the World Bank approved the Rural Enterprise Support Project, Phase II for Uzbekistan. The project’s stated objective is “to increase the productivity and financial and environmental sustainability of agriculture and the profitability of agribusiness in the project area.” This was to be carried out through “the provision of financial, infrastructure and capacity building support to newly independent farmers.” As of September 2012, the project made loans of “US$ 25.7 million to 317 agribusinesses to finance agricultural machinery, processing equipment, packaging equipment and materials, investments in tree-crops, poultry, fishery and livestock production.”
The project was designed, in part, to diversify agricultural production, reducing the reliance on cotton as a cash crop and increasing the cultivation of fruits and vegetables as well as the raising of livestock. Other goals of the project include improving irrigation and drainage systems and providing training and advisory services to farmers to strengthen farm management capacity. A second round of funding for the project was approved in September of 2012.
Civil society groups claim that this project is contributing to the perpetuation of forced labor (both children and adults) in cotton farms. Amidst these concerns, a number of leading Uzbek human rights organizations filed a formal complaint with the World Bank Inspection panel a year after this second round of funding, in September of 2013. BIC served as a liaison between these complainants and the Panel.