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Are Super Farms the Solution to the World’s Food Insecurity Challenge? Ten Questions You Need to Ask Yourself

José Cuesta's picture

Join me in a Twitter Chat on why global food prices remain high on Dec. 4 at 10 a.m. ET/15:00 GMT. I'll be tweeting from @worldbanklive with hashtag #foodpriceschat. Ask questions beforehand with hashtag #foodpriceschat. Looking forward to seeing you on Twitter.


Agriculture workers on a strawberry farm in Argentina. © Nahuel Berger/World Bank

Today there are 842 million who are hungry. As the global population approaches 9 billion by 2050, demand for food will keep increasing, requiring sustained improvement in agricultural productivity. Where will these productivity increases come from? For decades, small-scale family farming was widely thought to be more productive and more efficient in reducing poverty than large-scale farming. But now advocates of large-scale agriculture point to its advantages in leveraging huge investments and innovative technologies as well as its enormous export potential. Critics, however, highlight serious environmental, animal welfare, social and economic concerns, especially in the context of fragile institutions. The often outrageous conditions and devastating social impacts that “land grabs” bring about are well known, particularly in severely food-insecure countries.

So, is large-scale farming—particularly the popularly known “super farms”—the solution to food demand challenges? Or is it an obstacle? Here are the 10 key questions you need to ask yourself to better understand this issue. I have tried to address them in the latest issue of Food Price Watch.

There is no such thing as a free… condom: social marketing to prevent HIV/AIDS in Vietnam

Nguyen Thi Mai's picture
Vietnam: Fighting HIV/AIDS Starts with Better Access to Prevention


In the early 1990s, selling condoms was highly controversial in Vietnam. For so long, condoms had been distributed to each household throughout the country for free for family planning use only. Condoms were not used for promoting safe sex. It was extremely difficult to convince the media to advertise condoms, very hard to convince the government that it was possible to generate revenue from selling condoms. People found it embarrassing to buy condoms in shops or drugs stores.
 

Why is ethnic minority poverty persistent in Vietnam?

Gabriel Demombynes's picture
What will it take to end poverty in Vietnam?



A few months ago, I journeyed to Lao Cai, a predominantly ethnic minority area in Vietnam’s Northern Mountains, to supervise a pilot survey. One older man I encountered—typical of many we saw—was a subsistence farmer with minimal education who spoke only his native language and had barely ventured beyond his village.

Members of ethnic minority groups make up 15 percent of the country’s population but account for 70 percent of the extreme poor (measured using a national extreme poverty line). During Vietnam’s two decades of rapid growth, members of ethnic minority groups in the country have experienced overall improvements in their standards of living, but their gains have lagged behind those of the Kinh majority.

Why is ethnic minority poverty persistent? This has been the subject of numerous studies, including a 2009 study on ethnicity and development in Vietnam as well as a chapter in our more recent Vietnam Poverty Assessment. This is also one piece of the research my team is currently pursuing.

Beggar Thy Neighbor’s Beggars? Using Trade Policy to Moderate Food-Price Spikes May Hurt the World’s Poor

Will Martin's picture

Wheat. Source - World Bank. www.flickr.com/photos/worldbank/3633424588/sizes/m/in/photostream/Many countries use trade policy to protect their own consumers from spikes in international food prices. It turns out that this well-intentioned practice can actually do more harm than good. During food price spikes -- such as those in mid-2008, early 2011 and mid-2012 – governments restricted the export of food staples or lowered barriers to importing them. They hoped to keep their domestic prices of rice, wheat, maize, and oilseed low, reasoning that this would help their poor and stop people from falling into poverty. But there is new evidence that, while the practice kept each country’s domestic prices down relative to the world prices at the time, it contributed to the higher international prices that were the source of concern. In a World Bank Policy Research Working Paper, “Food Price Spikes, Price Insulation, and Poverty,” we explore this phenomenon and find that it did not reduce global poverty in 2008. On the contrary, we estimate it may have increased poverty slightly (by 8 million people).

Vietnam: Who are the corruption game changers?

Huong Thi Lan Tran's picture
Two members of the Black and White club join an arm-wrestling competition with the slogan 'Arm-wrestling to blow away corruption' at a youth event in Hanoi in November 2012 to promote fair education environment.

I often hear that corruption is everywhere and nothing can be done about it. I used to believe it. I still hear people saying the work on anticorruption is a waste of time. I disregard these cynical statements now.  Who made me change my attitude? The youth.

I started being inspired several years ago when a group of young women from the Vietnamese NGO Live and Learn (L&L) developed the idea of ‘a sustainable and transparent society in the hands of youth’. As clear as the idea tells, these young women wanted to engage more with youth, educate them about sustainable and transparent development and how young people can become catalysts for change and for a less corruption-prone country. The idea was among winning initiatives of the Vietnam Innovation Day (VID) 2009 More Transparency and Accountability, Less Corruption, which was co-organized by the World Bank and the Government Inspectorate.[1]

As part of the project idea, L&L would help connect and create a network of student and youth groups (Green Generation network, volunteer clubs, youth organizations, Be Change Agents, etc.) in Hanoi. These groups would be more informed of development issues such as sustainable development, corruption, and their responsibilities, and eventually would act together to build a corruption-free society. The journey was not without difficulties. During the first six months of the project, L&L was not able to get into many universities to talk with students about transparency nor integrity, let alone corruption. Even if universities were open to the idea, not many students showed interest. Some events attracted only 8 young people.

How to provide clean water in rural areas: an example from Vietnam

Hoang Thi Hoa's picture


Two kids wash their hands with clean water. Their home in Thai Binh Province, Vietnam got access to clean water in 2011. Watch video: Providing clean water in rural areas: an example from Vietnam

Despite Vietnam’s significant economic growth in recent years, there continues to be a gap between urban and rural areas when it comes to access to clean water and hygienic sanitation facilities. Many poor households in rural areas still do not have access to clean water or to a toilet. During one of our earlier field visits for the Red River Delta Rural Water Supply and Sanitation (RRDRWASS) project which began almost 10 years ago, I was struck by what a lady from a community told me. She questioned why people in urban areas have access to good water supply and sanitation services while those in rural areas do not. She said that compared to urban residents, perhaps people in rural areas were happy with a lower level of service and that the demand for better services was simply not there.

At first I thought that she might be right but I later came to realise that this is not the case. There is demand for improved services in rural areas, and more importantly, people have a fundamental right to have access to those services.

So what are the reasons for the gap?

3 Innovative Ways to Manage Rural Water Supply

Meleesa Naughton's picture
With 70% of the world's extreme poor living in rural areas, and improved water access still lacking for close to 768 million people around the world, investing in safe and sustainable drinking water for rural populations is important to our goal of eradicating extreme poverty within our generation.

When compared to urban water supply, rural areas present a different set of challenges:

Often, the cost per capita of constructing water systems is higher in rural than in urban areas, due to a smaller population which is scattered over a large area. This, in turn, leads to high operating costs, to be recovered by fewer users.

Most importantly, there may not always be an obvious institution to take the responsibility of managing and operating the system after construction. This institutional vacuum leads to poor collection of water fees, and ultimately to poor operation and maintenance of the rural water systems.

Mining in the Congo Basin: Getting to the Heart of the Challenges

Leo Bottrill's picture

Film is a powerful tool for explaining environmental issues. I first learnt this lesson while trying to enlist local communities in northern Vietnam to help protect a strange blue faced and critically endangered primate called the Tonkin Snub Nosed Monkey. After a morning spent bombarding local leaders with facts and figures, they were polite but unmoved.

Vietnam: Spreading knowledge to prevent HIV/AIDS from spreading

Dung Anh Hoang's picture

Cũng có ở Tiếng Việt

Doing something useful for my country, Vietnam, always makes me happy. And I’ve tried to get this feeling through my work in developing the transport infrastructure network in Vietnam for over 10 years. Vietnam has come a long way, but there are still many related challenges ahead to make such development sustainable.

I still recall a conversation with a Bank’s specialist on HIV/AIDS a few years ago. We were discussing about the people who have recently availed of the Voluntary Counseling and Testing centers in the Mekong Delta region for HIV tests. She pointed out that they were mostly wives of construction workers employed in infrastructure projects. Sometime later I visited the construction sites and talked to the workers and their managers about the subject. I felt so worried, as their understanding on HIV/ AIDS was quite limited and wondered what could be done to protect this group of people from such a deadly disease?

Shaping the Next Generation of Carbon Markets

Rachel Kyte's picture

 Smoke coming out of two smokestacks at a factory in Estonia. - Photo: World Bank/Flickr

Right now, the carbon markets of the future are under construction in all corners of the world.

China is determined to pursue low-carbon development and is embracing the market as the most efficient way to do so. Wang Shu, the deputy director of China's National Development and Reform Commission, told us this week that he sees the "magic of the market" as the most efficient way to drive China's green growth.

Five Chinese cities and two provinces are piloting emissions trading systems with the goal of building a national carbon market. Chile is exploring an emissions trading system and focusing on energy efficiency and renewable energy. Mexico is developing market-based mechanisms in energy efficiency that could cut its emissions by as much as 30 percent by 2020. Costa Rica is aiming for a carbon-neutral economy by 2021.

Each of the countries pioneering market-based mechanisms to reduce their domestic carbon emissions are leaders. Bring them together in one room, and you begin to see progress and the enormous potential for a powerful networking domestic system that could begin to produce a predictable carbon price -- a sina que non for the speed and scale of climate action we need.

That's happening this week at the World Bank.

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