Syndicate content

Agriculture and Rural Development

Sweetening Kenya’s future – The challenges of the sugar industry

Wolfgang Fengler's picture

Do you ever wonder, looking at the food in your plate, where it has come from and who produced it?

Surely you have thought about what explains its price on the shelf! Kenyans love sugar, which they use liberally in their tea: on average each Kenyan consumes 400 grams of sugar per week, much more than their Tanzanian neighbors who consume approximately 230 grams. In Africa, only the residents of Swaziland and South Africa have a sweeter tooth.

Globally, 70 percent of the sugar that is produced is consumed in the same country and only 30 percent is exported. In principle this is good for customers in sugar-producing countries, as long as the supply is sufficient to keep prices low. In Kenya, this is not the case: there are occasional sugar shortages and, when they can be anticipated, prices rise to extraordinary levels. 

Do small countries do it better?

Apurva Sanghi's picture

In development circles, people talk about “countries that are too big to fail and too small to succeed”.  The jury may be out on the former but a new book by Shahid Yusuf and Kaoru Nabeshima, “Some Small Countries Do It Better” dispels the notion that countries can be too small to succeed.

Three small countries studied in the book - SIFIRE (SIngapore, FInland, IREland) – not only grew at high rates but were able to sustain them.

The book – which concludes with a section on implications for African countries – contends that growth recipes for SIFIRE were not tightly bound to the East Asian model of extremely high rates of savings and investment (although arguably, Singapore was in many ways the epitome of that model, thanks to its mandatory savings scheme which led to gross national savings in the neighborhood of 50 percent for decades).

The larger point is that these three countries augmented physical investment with healthy doses human capital and knowledge; by “opening their windows and letting it [knowledge in various forms, for example, that embodied in FDI] stream in”. And even though the book does not explicitly discuss it, they did so without massive infusions of foreign aid. Or perhaps it was the lack of aid that forced them to be nimble, agile, and forward-looking?

What precisely did SIFIRE get right? 

Cassava as an income-earning crop for small farmers

 

Sub-Saharan Africa produces more than 50 percent of the world’s cassava (aka manioc, Tapioca, and Yucca), but mainly as a subsistence crop.  Consumed by about 500 million Africans every day, it is the second most important source of carbohydrate in Sub-Saharan Africa, after maize. The leaves can also be consumed as a green vegetable, which provides protein and vitamins A and B. As an economy advances, cassava is also used for animal feed and industrial applications.

 

Described as the “Rambo of food crops” cassava would become even more productive in hotter temperatures and could be the best bet for African farmers threatened by climate change.

 

Cassava is drought resistant, can be grown on marginal land where other cereals do not do well, and requires little inputs. For these reasons it is grown widely by African small and poor farmers as a subsistence crop. However, cassava’s potential as an income-earning crop has not been widely tapped.

 

Cassava presents enormous opportunities for trade between areas with food surplus and food deficit. Currently, a large shortfall of the regional food supply is filled by cereals bought in the international market. For cassava to become an income-earning crop at intra-regional market for small farmers in Africa, two main obstacles remain: post-harvest processing and regional trade barriers.

Droughts and Famines in East Africa: From man-made problems to man-made solutions

Wolfgang Fengler's picture

How can droughts and famines be avoided? This is the big question many conferences and summits have grappled with in recent weeks. Unfortunately, it will be very difficult to avoid droughts in future because climate change will put more pressure on scarce land and extreme climate events, both rains and floods, will likely occur much more frequently — and even more unpredictably.

The first famine I remember was brought on by the horrible drought in Ethiopia in 1984. At that time, I was a boy in high school and one of Germany’s most famous actors, Karlheinz Boehm, visited our school to mobilize funds to help the suffering Ethiopians. He had previously established the charity, People for People. One of the silver linings of today’s suffering is the outpouring of financial support by ordinary Kenyans who have been moved by the intense suffering of their fellow citizens.

So how can we avoid this same crisis two years down the road? Or as my Kenyan friends say: How do we keep from begging again for money?

Irrigation and climate change

Shanta Devarajan's picture

While attention has, appropriately, been focused on getting food and medicines to the victims of the famine in the Horn of Africa, many observers are asking about longer-term solutions, especially if droughts such as the current one become more frequent with climate change. One possibility is to expand irrigation. 

Currently, only about 4 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa’s arable land is irrigated; the rest is rain-fed, meaning it is susceptible to droughts and floods.  Yet, irrigated land can have yields that are up to five times those of rain-fed areas.  It must be the case that the costs of irrigation—capital, recurrent, administrative, political—are sufficiently high to outweigh these benefits.  But if you take into account the possibility of more frequent floods and droughts, which would make irrigated land relatively more attractive, does the benefit-cost calculation change?

Evaluating Millennium Villages Revisited

Shanta Devarajan's picture

Although the members of the Millennium Village Project were unavailable (but have offered to hold a follow-up seminar in January), we held a seminar on the Clemens-Demombynes  paper to discuss different approaches to evaluating rural development programs.

Benin under water

Daniel Sellen's picture

I've written before about floods in Niger and Abidjan, but these experiences left me poorly prepared for what I saw in Benin a few days ago.

Half the country is under water, and it's still raining.

We recently received a request from the President of Benin to assist with recent flooding. I was asked to go take a look, get a feel for the scale of the problem, find out what Government and donors were doing about it, and make some recommendations for Bank action.

 After booking my flight, I did a Google search which revealed no details, even from OCHA, the UN's humanitarian branch. So I was sceptical about finding the type of damage I had seen elsewhere in the region over the past two months. If there was a big problem, the international press didn't seem to know about it. If they did, perhaps they were too tired of Haiti, Pakistan, or spoiling the euphoria following the rescued miners.

Evaluating the Millennium Villages

Gabriel Demombynes's picture

Here’s the quick summary of a new working paper I have co-authored with Michael Clemens of the Center for Global Development:

When is the rigorous impact evaluation of development projects a luxury, and when a necessity? We study one high-profile case where it is a necessity: the Millennium Villages Project (MVP), an experimental intervention in rural Africa. We compare development trends inside versus outside the villages in three countries, and show that estimates of the project’s effects depend heavily on the evaluation method.

The impact evaluation currently planned by the MVP is unlikely to yield adequate estimates of its effects on Africans in general, for five reasons we explain. But it is not too late to carefully measure the project’s effects, by making small and inexpensive changes to the next wave of the project.

Michael’s own blog post gives more details about the paper. The paper uses publicly-available data from the MVP mid-term evaluation report and Demographic and Health Surveys  (DHS). Field visits played no role in the study.

But after the study I found myself wanting to learn more about a couple of the places behind the statistics. So after we completed the analysis, during September 26-28, I took a trip with several World Bank colleagues to the western edge of Kenya. We visited two village clusters in Nyanza Province: first the MVP site in Bar-Sauri, and then the town of Uranga, 50 km to the west, which is not an MVP site.

Here’s a picture of me pressing the flesh with the kids at Nyamninia Primary School in Bar-Sauri:

Pages