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Sustainable Communities

In Africa’s drylands, opportunities to cut vulnerability to drought and famine are within reach

Michael Morris's picture
Soil fertility managment and adding trees to farms can boost agricultural productivity and increase the drought tolerance of crops. Photo: Andrea Borgarello

As the global development community marks World Day to Combat Desertification on June 17, large areas of Sub-Saharan Africa will be gripped by extreme drought, leaving millions of people in need of emergency assistance. This is lamentable, because interventions are available that could significantly increase long term resilience to drought. A recent report that we wrote estimates that a set of 5-6 interventions could help reduce the impact of drought by about half in Africa’s drylands, keeping on average 5 million people per year out of danger in some of Africa’s poorest zones.

The report Confronting Drought in Africa’s Drylands: Opportunities for Enhancing Resilience aims to advance measures to reduce the vulnerability and enhance the resilience of populations living in dryland areas of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Including women in infrastructure: from Washington to Senegal

Julia Prescot's picture


Photo by Adam Gregor/ Shutterstock.com

The theme of this year’s Global Infrastructure Forum was delivering sustainable and inclusive infrastructure. As a woman who works in the world of infrastructure, I was invited to join a panel at the forum made up solely of women to address gender inclusivity and was asked to provide a specific example of a project beneficial to women. The first thing that came to mind was our solar project in Senegal, which has not only opened up the country to solar for the first time, but has also empowered local women through training in business skills through an organization called Empow’Her that was linked to the project.

Motorization and its discontents

Roger Gorham's picture
Photo: Sarah Farat/World Bank
They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  While visiting the World Bank library the other day, I was struck by how many development publications featured pictures of motor vehicles on their covers, even though most of them covered topics that had little to do with transport.  The setting and tone of the pictures varied – sometimes they showed a lone car on a rural highway, sometimes congested vehicles in urban traffic, and sometimes a car displayed proudly as a status symbol – but the prevalence of motorized vehicles as a visual metaphor for development was unmistakable to me: in the public imagination, consciously or otherwise, many people associate development with more use of motorized vehicles.

Indeed, motorization – the process of adopting and using motor vehicles as a core part of economic and daily life – is closely linked with other dimensions of development such as urbanization and industrialization.

Motorization, however, is a double-edged sword.

For many households, being able to afford their own vehicle is often perceived as the key to accessing more jobs, more services, more opportunities—not to mention a status symbol. Likewise, vehicles can unlock possibilities for firms and individual entrepreneurs such as the young man from Uganda pictured on the right, proudly showing off his brand new boda boda (motorcycle taxi). 

But motorization also comes with a serious downside, in terms of challenges that many governments have difficulty managing.  Motor vehicles can undermine the livability of cities by cluttering up roads and open spaces—the scene of chaos and gridlock in the picture below, from Accra, is a telling example. In addition, vehicles create significant safety hazards for occupants and bystanders alike… in many developing countries, road deaths have effectively reached epidemic proportions. From an environmental standpoint, motorized transport is, of course, a major contributor to urban air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Lastly, motorization contributes to countries' hard currency challenges by exacerbating their long-term demand for petroleum products.

Given these challenges, how are developing countries going to align their motorization trajectories with their development goals?  What should the World Bank advise our clients about how to manage this process?

Media (R)evolutions: What’s the potential of mobile payments?

Darejani Markozashvili's picture
New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's. 

There is a lot of discussion right now about mobile payments and its potential in rural and urban communities. Who uses these services and how will this impact various key markets?

According to the latest Mobile Payments report by the GlobalWebIndex, the next wave of growth in mobile payments will be in rural areas. Defined as the financial transactions performed via mobile devices, mobile payments may offer solutions to traditional methods of delivering financial services. Currently 7 in 10 mobile payment users live in urban environments.
 

Globally, there are about 2 billion adults without access to a basic bank account. Although this is a 20 percent decrease from 2.5 billion adults in 2011, it’s still a high number. Regardless of barriers of opening a bank account (lack of enough money, distance to the nearest financial service provider, lack of proper documentation papers, etc..), one thing is clear: traditional financial services are not meeting the needs of the low income users. Will mobile payments fill this gap?

Gender mainstreaming in resettlement processes: Have we done enough?

Nghi Quy Nguyen's picture
A Thai woman in a consultation meeting in Trung Son
Hydropower Project. Photo: Mai Bo / World Bank

Last August, I visited Quang Ngai, a central coastal province in Vietnam, to collect data for a survey on women’s participation in resettlement activities. I expected our first meeting with the local community to be short and uncontroversial. It wasn’t.

“We, women? Our participation? It doesn’t matter. We all stay at home. We don’t care about you coming here and asking about our participation,” said one female participant. “What we do care is to know the extent to which the recommendations we make today will be addressed. We need a resettlement site with community house, trees and kindergarten as promised during the project preparation.” 

That comment brought to light an important perspective, highlighting the tension between what we might expect women to want, and their actual needs.

The impacts of development-induced resettlement disproportionately affect women, as they are faced with more difficulties than men to cope with disruption to their families. And this is particularly the case if there is no mechanism to enable meaningful participation and consultation with women throughout the project cycle in general and in the resettlement process in particular.

How small social enterprises tackle drought challenges in East Africa

Caroline Weimann's picture
Photo: Caroline Weimann/Siemens Stiftung

This past February, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta officially declared the drought in his country a national disaster. No rain had fallen for months in East Africa, causing a dire living situation.
 
Tribes migrated to find water and food, and we saw an increase in the amount and severity of conflicts, specifically between herders and owners of large farms.
 
In the cities, the situation is not much better. Nairobi’s main water supply is a dam which is currently only 20% full. The Nairobi Water Company is rationing water, and many people only have running water once a week.

Agriculture is suffering; the price of milk has risen from 40 to 65 Kenyan Shillings (KES) for half a liter in just six months. Maize meal, a staple food, has gone up nearly 40%, with the state recently announcing a subsidy for maize.

Three threats to Afghanistan’s future: Rising poverty, insecurity, sluggish growth

Silvia Redaelli's picture

Last week, a tanker truck, one of many roaming the streets of Kabul, navigated through bumper-to-bumper traffic, going past government buildings and embassies, to Zanbaq Square. When stopped at a checkpoint, more than 1,500 kg of explosives that had been hidden in the tank were detonated. It was 8:22 am and many Afghans were on their way to work and children were going to school. The explosion killed 150 commuters and bystanders, and injured hundreds more. This is just one of many incidents that affects Afghans’ lives and livelihoods.

Conflict has constantly increased over the past years, spreading to most of Afghanistan, with the number of security incidents and civilian casualties breaking records in 2016. According to the Global Peace Index, Afghanistan was the fourth least peaceful country on earth in 2016, after Syria, South Sudan, and Iraq. The intensification and the geographical reach of conflict has increased the number of people internally displaced. According to the latest United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) data, over 670,000 people were internally displaced in 2016 alone.

Against this backdrop, our recent World Bank report, the “Afghanistan Poverty Status Update: Progress at Risk”, shows that not surprisingly violence and insecurity pose increasing risks to the welfare of Afghan households. Approximately 17 percent of households reported exposure to security-related shocks in 2013–14, up from 15 percent in 2011–12 according to data from the Afghanistan Living Conditions Survey (ALCS)[1]. This is largely in line with the actual incidence of conflict incidents as reported by the United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS).

Urban Indigenous Peoples: the new frontier

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Photo by Victoria Ojea / World Bank
Photo: Victoria Ojea / World Bank

Invited to think of Buenos Aires, most would probably think of elegant cafés, beautiful architecture, passionate football fans, and buzzing streets. Invited to think harder, you might also think of its villas (slums), street children, and other less gleeful views. But no matter how hard you try, very few would associate Buenos Aires with Indigenous Peoples. Yet, Buenos Aires has the largest concentration of indigenous populations in Argentina, which is itself rarely associated with Indigenous Peoples, but has the seventh largest indigenous population in Latin America (close to one million). In effect, over 40 indigenous communities are officially registered in urban areas of the Buenos Aires Province, and as much as one quarter of all Indigenous Peoples in Argentina make a living in or around the Capital of Tango, whether in communities or not.

What do they do? What conditions they are living in? What is happening to their unique cultures and languages? Are they losing connection with their ancestral lands? Is the special legislation protecting their collective rights relevant in the cityscape? In sum, how is the city changing them and, inversely, how are they shaping the urban landscape? These and other questions were at the heart of the dialogue I had with graduate students from across the Latin America region in FLACSO – University of Buenos Aires, last week, on the occasion of the presentation of the report Indigenous Latin America in the Twenty-First Century, in Buenos Aires.

Once Southeast Asia’s trading hub, Melaka strengthens urban planning for a sustainable future in Malaysia

Adeline Choy's picture
In the 15th century, few places in Southeast Asia rivalled Melaka as a trading hub – a strategic conduit for the bustling spice trade. As traders from the region settled in the area and contributed to a melting pot of cultures, Melaka transformed into a hub known for its diversity, resilience, and innovation.
 
Christ Church Melaka
Creative Commons Christ Church Melaka by Martin Pilát is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


Melaka retains its reputation for openness, and is extending it beyond cultural heritage into development solutions. The Malaysian state is host to the country’s first solar farm and a large new port, and the Melaka City’s riverfront is being transformed into a picturesque tourist attraction.

The city’s recent launch of the first Sustainable City Development project in Malaysia  enhances this transformation.
 
In addition to being the first of its kind in Malaysia, this is also the first city-led project for the Global Partnership for Sustainable Cities, or GPSC, which strives to integrate sustainability into urban planning.

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