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Food Prices: Eating the Cost of Logistics

Jordan Z. Schwartz's picture

Déjà vu.

Once again we find ourselves trying to dissect the root causes of food price increases as they bump and grind their way back toward their 2008 peaks. Is it speculation in commodity markets? Is it the booming demand from Asia for feed grains? Is it land use switching out from food crops to biofuels? The sentiment among our agriculture, energy and transport specialists is that the answer to these questions is: "Yes. All of the above."

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Latin America, Africa Partner on Managing Commodity Wealth

John Nash's picture

It's only fitting that a country largely built on mineral abundance has been the venue for a critical discussion on how to manage natural resource wealth.

A group of World Bank experts, including myself, met in Johannesburg last week with high-level policy makers, civil society representatives and academics, to exchange experiences and enhance our understanding of the theoretical and practical issues unique to resource-dependent economies. As a long-standing major commodity exporting region, Latin America has many lessons of experience – positive and negative -- to share with other developing regions on management of the wealth from natural resources.

How resilient really were emerging economies to the global crisis?

Tatiana Didier's picture

Pretty much like in any crisis of huge proportions, the real story of what happened during the global financial crisis is beginning to emerge after the dust has finally settled.

For Latin America and the Caribbean, the story is slightly different than what has previously been reported. Yes, the region weathered the recession well compared to other, emerging and developed, economies and resumed growth faster than many. But it didn't emerge from it largely unscathed as was initially suggested.

Training the Burkinabe in Building Timber-Free Housing Alternatives

Karen Vega's picture

The WB team were welcomed to Boromo (a province of Bales located two hours from Ouagadogou) by a team from Association La Voute Nubienne; a French non-governmental organization(NGO) with field offices in Burkina Faso. Their team is composed of 11 Burkinabes and a French team member, who trains masons to construct timber-free houses using the Nubian Vault technique.

A Nubian Vault house is made from locally available materials and is designed to use no wood. Because the ceiling is raised into a vault it keeps the living space significantly cooler than a typical box shaped house with a tin roof. This design originated from upper-Egypt and is a good example of south-south technology transfer.

The project, funded by the Development Marketplace, is a pilot that will test out a strategy to identify local champions and potential clients for the Nubian Vault houses.

Is climate change to blame for high food prices?

John Nash's picture


If you were to throw out the question of what, if any, is the connection between climate change and the current food crisis, I suspect that many people would answer instinctively that global warming is at least partially responsible for the spiraling food prices.  Why? Because –they would argue- it caused the various extreme weather events that disrupted production in major producing regions from Eastern Europe and Central Asia to Australia to Latin America’s  Southern Cone. 

Is the hypothesis of that connection valid?  Well, no and yes.  ‘No’, in the sense that we really can’t attribute specific climatic events to global warming. After all, even without climate change, extreme events happen:  a once-in-a-hundred-year event happens once in a hundred years (duh!).

Does Latin America have the Recipe to End the Food Crisis?

Carlos Molina's picture


In the current food price debate, there's plenty that Latin America can bring to the table.

A newly released World Bank report highlights the region's potential to help solve the food crisis given its huge natural resources -land, water- and agricultural expertise.

On global issues, Latin America is now part of the solution

Sergio Jellinek's picture


When it comes to solving global issues, Latin America is now on the side of those regions that are part of the solution and not of the problem.

This time around the region is not at the center –but rather at the receiving end- of the various crises that have visited us recently, including the global financial crisis, climate change, or the current food and fuel crises.

Solar Home Systems: Lighting up Bangladesh's Countryside

Naomi Ahmad's picture

Lives no longer interrupted by the setting sun…

We were walking towards the small bridge over the canal. The sun had already set and dusk was gradually fading into darkness. The winter air was quiet and still. Approaching the highest point of the bridge, I could sense the excitement in our quickening footsteps - we were almost there.

The project officials had told us that we could see it all, if we stood and looked out from the highest point of the bridge. So we leaned over the railings and waited, straining to see. But there was nothing – just the fuzzy darkness, gradually thickening and settling quietly on the land. I was left wondering whether we were just on a wild goose chase.

Then down below, a faint light suddenly flickered to life. A bulb was turned on in the darkness. Then another glowed – and yet another! In a few minutes, the area lying below us was glimmering with the tiny dots of faint white light bulbs. And from our high vantage point we could clearly see that the sleepy little rural marketplace - Garjon Bunia Bazaar – had woken up; ready for another evening.

How Public Spending Can Help You Grow

Otaviano Canuto's picture

Last week’s State of the Union underscored the debate surrounding public spending as a measure to stimulate economic growth. President Barrack Obama argued that to “win the future” the US needs to make significant public expenditures to update the country’s infrastructure, health, and educational systems. The opposite view is that economic growth can only occur through decreased public spending and private sector growth.

Such varied opinions on public expenditures do not exist in the US alone—the debate is global. From the US to the UK, from Europe to Africa, from Latin America to Southeast Asia, to spend or not to spend is a question faced everywhere.

Beyond the epicenter of the economic crisis—the US and Western Europe—public spending has had an indeterminate effect on


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