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Why we can’t afford to ignore agricultural risk

Stephen P. D’Alessandro's picture
Climate smart farming practices in Senegal.
Climate-smart farming practices in Senegal. Photo: M. Tall/CCAFS

Launching on September 25, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will call for no less than an end to poverty, hunger and malnutrition by 2030. This is welcome news--and for the nearly 800 million people worldwide who will go to bed hungry-- long overdue.

To get there, it’s not just about raising yields. It’s also about managing risks to protect the most vulnerable. Along with gains in productivity, we also need more resilient agricultural systems. Failing this, unmanaged risks will upend the road to 2030. Climate change only ups the ante with promise of increasing weather extremes and new and more virulent pest and disease outbreaks. 

On booms and super-cycles: China and India's central role in global commodity markets

John Baffes's picture
Global commodity prices underwent an exceptionally strong and sustained boom beginning in 2000. Unlike a typical price cycle, this boom has been characterized as a “super cycle”, i.e., a demand-driven surge in commodity prices lasting possibly decades rather than years. Many researchers say this is the fourth “super cycle” of the past 150 years. The price super cycle has been attributed to strong growth in emerging markets.

Feeding West Africa: An Agenda for Regional Trade

Jean-Christophe Maur's picture
At the heart of African economies is agriculture. Staple foods, including livestock and meat, cereals, pulses, roots and tubers represent the main source of calories in Sub-Saharan Africa. In West Africa, home of nearly 300 million people, agriculture employs 60% of the labor force. However, despite great potential, the region is increasingly dependent on food imports to meet its consumption needs; food imports have more than tripled in the past 10 years.

How we can feed the world: Interview with Ethel Sennhauser

Kalyan Panja's picture
A climate-smart farm in Kenya. © V. Atakos/CGIAR

Editor’s note: Kalyan Panja was the grand prize winner of our first Spring Meetings blogging contest. His winning post covered two events related to food and agriculture. His prize was the opportunity to interview Ethel Sennhauser, the World Bank’s director of agriculture. 

What is the most striking crisis in the agricultural sector that needs to be addressed urgently?

The world needs to feed 9 billion people by 2050 — but climate change, declining soil health, and overstretched resources could drive down agricultural productivity in the long run. Droughts and extreme weather events are already having a negative impact on farming and productivity. In the future, yields could drop by more than 25%.

Look who's talking about PPPs

Alison Buckholtz's picture
Long-term infrastructure planning. Service delivery even beyond the “end of the line.” E-government outreach that includes everyone. As these and other benefits of public-private partnerships (PPPs) reach more people, a deeper understanding of PPP strategies is entering the mainstream. 

Examples of this organic knowledge-sharing, born of individuals’ first-hand positive experiences with PPPs, can be found among thought leaders across a range of fields. Editors of Handshake, the World Bank Group’s PPP journal, have interviewed many of these experts about their experience with PPPs and have compiled some of their perspectives here.
Edward Glaeser, urban economist and Professor of Economics, Harvard University (Cities issue, p. 30, “Triumph of the PPP”), on the need for oversight of PPPs: “There is a lot to be gained in the marriage of public and private, but there are also enormous risks. There are cases where either the government has mistreated the private partner, or companies have figured out a way to mistreat the government. PPPs always require firm oversight. They are enormously valuable as a way to solve a financing problem, and the people who are fighting to solve this problem are doing one of the most important jobs in the world.”

Francesco Bandarin, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Culture (Tourism issue, p. 26), on PPPs as a solution for World Heritage Sites: “Over the past 10 years we’ve had an increased level of attention to World Heritage Sites, and there’s been a subsequent expansion in the number of sites as a result. When you have an expansion of your core business the first question you ask yourself is 'How do I keep delivering the same quality of services?' For us, this includes monitoring services, support to member states, tracking and responding to trends, and trying to use tourism as a resources instead of just a force of destruction. We want to deal with tourism in a way that’s constructive. PPPs can help us do that.”

A Food System that can feed everyone, everyday, everywhere

Juergen Voegele's picture

Whether you’re a food producer or consumer, and no matter what part of the world you live in, I’m sure we can agree: The world needs a food system that can feed everyone, everyday, everywhere.

A food system that works for everyone can also create jobs and raise the incomes of smallholder farmers and rural residents who are 78 percent of the world’s poor people. After all, growth originating in agriculture is proven to be 2 to 4 times more effective at reducing poverty than growth originating in other sectors. An effective food system can also provide better nutrition, steward the world’s natural resources, and even be a part of the solution to climate change.

​Why we’re standing for food safety on World Health Day

Amy Evans's picture

This year, World Health Day on April 7th is dedicated to improving food safety from the farm to the plate. This is a timely reminder that food safety is a global public health issue: Foodborne disease causes suffering, death, reduced productivity, loss of wages, decreased trade competitiveness and access to markets and ultimately exacerbate poverty.
Unsafe food containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances is the root cause of more than 200 diseases, ranging from diarrhea to cancers. Foodborne and waterborne diseases kill an estimated 1.5 million people annually, including many children under the age of 5.

World Water Day: We want to hear from you

​Each year on March 22 we mark World Water Day. It is an opportunity to keep the urgent water issues – from lack of sanitation to transboundary water to climate change -- top of my mind for practitioners, decision makers and the global public. In the coming days we will post here updates and stories from the field, as well as links to some of our partners’ content. But, more importantly, this is an opportunity to hear from you, too.

Quote of the Week: Francis Ford Coppola

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“You know, life is romantic.  All these things, the unity of the arts, food, and people coming together, to see a beautiful show or have a good meal, these are the joys that we are blessed with.”
- Francis Ford Coppola, an American film director, producer and screenwriter. He is most famous for his work on the The Godfather trilogy of films.

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Africa in 2030: drones, telemedicine and robots?
The Guardian
In 2000 the CIA’s national intelligence council made a series of pessimistic predictions about Africa. They suggested that sub-saharan Africa would become “less important to the international economy” by 2015; that African democracy had gone “as far as it could go”; and that technological advances would “not have a substantial positive impact on the African economies.”  Clearly, predictions don’t always come true. Between 2000 and 2012, the number of mobile connections in Africa grew by 44%. In 2011, mobile operators and their associated businesses in Africa has a “direct economic impact” of $32bn, and payed $12bn in taxes. It made up 4.4% of sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP, according to a 2012 report.  But the advances in communications are not the only element defining Africa’s future:
Good Governance: Well-Meaning Slogan Or Desirable Development Goal?
Corruption last year cost the world more than one trillion dollars. That is a trillion dollars we can’t use to get better health care, education, food and environment. And corruption is only part of the problem of poor governance – many countries are run ineffectively, lacking accountability, transparency and rule of law.  Running countries better would have obvious benefits. It would not only reduce corruption but governments would provide more services the public wants and at better quality. It is also likely that economic growth would increase. In a recent UN survey of seven million people around the world, an honest and responsive government was fourth in the list of people’s priorities, with only education and healthcare and better jobs being rated higher.  But how should we get better governance?