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Blogger’s Swan Song

Shanta Devarajan's picture

This will be my last post on Africa Can.  Having recently started a new adventure as Chief Economist of the World Bank’s Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, I will be blogging on that region’s issues in the MENA blog as well as starting a more general blog (tentatively titled “Economics to end poverty”) with some of my fellow bloggers.  It has been a privilege to moderate Africa Can, and I want to thank our readers for the stimulating, lively and frank discussions, as well as for having made this the most popular blog at the Bank.

Can Tanzania achieve its Green Revolution?

Jacques Morisset's picture

Let's think together: Every Sunday the World Bank in Tanzania in collaboration with The Citizen wants to stimulate your thinking by sharing data from recent official surveys in Tanzania and ask you a few questions.

Agriculture is the mainstay of Tanzania’s rural economy and the livelihood of most of the country’s poor. As a result, rural incomes and poverty reduction are closely linked to agricultural productivity. Yet, according to FAO, yields for important staple crops in Tanzania remain very low:
- With a maize yield of 1.3 metric tons per hectare (mt/ha) in 2011, Tanzania ranks behind Kenya and Ghana (1.6 mt/ha); and way behind Vietnam (4.3 mt/ha) or China (5.7 mt/ha).
- A similar pattern holds for rice (paddy), with Tanzania’s yield of 2.0 mt/ha in 2011 being comparable to only about half of Kenya’s (4.0 mt/ha), and less than one third of China’s (6.7 mt/ha) in that year.
- It is noteworthy too that there has been no general upward trend in yields over the past two decades, though there is considerable annual variation due to rainfall patterns.

Please use -but don't abuse- Tanzania’s forests

Waly Wane's picture

Let's think together: Every Sunday the World Bank in Tanzania in collaboration with The Citizen wants to stimulate your thinking by sharing data from recent official surveys in Tanzania and ask you a few questions.

Globally, forests are disappearing at an increasing rate. Since 1990 alone, half of the world’s rainforests have vanished. Tanzania also has been severely affected by deforestation as illustrated by the following statistics:

- Forest area as a share of total land area declined from 50 per cent to 43 per cent to 37 per cent from 1938, to 1987 and 2010 respectively.

Tanzania: Water is life, but access remains a problem

Jacques Morisset's picture

Let's think together: Every week the World Bank team in Tanzania wants to stimulate your thinking by sharing data from recent official surveys in Tanzania and ask you a couple of questions. This post is also published in the Tanzanian newspaper The Citizen every Sunday.

There is no doubt about the importance of water to human existence. People need clean water to survive and stay healthy. Lack of clean water contributes to the high mortality rates in children around the world. Water is also critical to a country’s development as it is needed not only for agricultural productivity but also for industrial production. Yet access to water remains a major challenge in many countries. Tanzania has been blessed, both on the surface and below ground, with three times more renewable water resources than Kenya and 37 per cent more than Uganda.

Despite the vast amounts of fresh water available, many Tanzanians are still faced with water shortages due to insufficient capacity to access and store  it both in rural and urban areas. Few households have access to clean drinking water from a piped source. Only a small fraction of rural households can access water to irrigate their farms. The following statistics illustrate the magnitude of the problem:

Why Kenya needs a world-class port in Mombasa

Wolfgang Fengler's picture

Suppose all of Kenya’s borders suddenly close. Goods and people can no longer enter or exit the country through the port of Mombasa, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport or roadways. Quickly the lack of fuel brings economic activity—and daily life— to a stand-still. Tea and flowers rot in warehouses, and hotels shut their doors for lack of visitors.

Now imagine a situation where Kenya is trading with the whole world, producing world class products and enriching its citizens: consumers can enjoy cheaper products, and exporters exploit expanded opportunities. Given the choice, which scenario would you pick? 

A more open Kenya is indeed possible. According to the “Growth Commission”, there have been some 15 economies over the last 50 years which managed to grow at the rate of 7 percent a year for more than 15 years. In doing so they were able to move vast numbers of their citizens out of poverty. These countries have a few things in common, including that they embraced the world economy through trade. Openness to trade encouraged international firms to invest. Over time, local firms caught up and eventually became world leaders, such as Samsung.

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?

Unlocking the Kinshasa-Brazzaville Bottleneck

Gözde Isik's picture

Kinshasa-Brazzaville is predicted to become Africa’s largest, and the world’s 11th largest, city by 2025.

With an international border running right through it, it is the obvious focal point for cross-border exchanges between the two Congos. But despite this, formal trade and passenger traffic between the two cities is pitifully small.

MVP evaluation session at Oxford

Gabriel Demombynes's picture

I am at Oxford for the annual conference of the Center for Study of African Economies, which runs through Tuesday.

Here's the program with links to many of the conference papers.

Plenary sessions, including my presentation on the Millennium Village Project evaluation, will be broadcast live on the web, and the recording will later be posted on the CSAE website.

I'll present a short version of the paper, which was co-authored with Michael Clemens of the Center for Global Development. This will be followed by a presentation from John McArthur, CEO of the Millenium Promise organization. Our session will be the last of the conference, on Tuesday 6-7 p.m. UK time (2-4 pm East Coast U.S. time.) 

For background, here are the first, second, third, and fourth earlier posts on the paper and check out our podcast, the MVP response, and commentary from Julian Jamison, Chris Blattman, Eric Green, and Bill Easterly and Laura Freschi.

Here's also video of an extended talk on the MV paper which Michael and I gave in DC in December:

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