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Agriculture and Rural Development
I was with the World Bank delegation at the Habitat III Conference in Quito last week, reflecting on the future of cities and speaking at a panel on food security. While there, I could not help but remember the story of Wara, an indigenous Aymara woman, one of eight children from a poor rural family living in the Bolivian Altiplano. Poverty forced her to migrate to the city when she was young.
Now living in La Paz, Wara has been working as a nanny in households for decades. She has three teenagers. Her oldest son is overweight and has already had several health problems. He occasionally works with his father building houses. The other kids are still in school and Wara hopes that armed with an education, they will be able to find a good job.
According to statistics, Wara is no longer poor. Indeed, Wara and her family are better off when compared to her modest origins. The truth is, however, that she is vulnerable and can easily fall back into poverty and hunger.
As in most Aymara families, Wara’s husband administers the money, including her own earnings, but she is the food-provider for the family. Each Saturday he gives Wara some money to get food for the week. She wakes up early to go to one of the four big markets in La Paz to buy basic staples such as potatoes, fresh vegetables, rice, sugar and oil, among others.
At the market, Wara doesn’t always find everything she needs. When this occurs, perishable food arrives in bad condition or with lesser quality, and many products are just thrown away.
The story of Wara illustrates some of the current and future challenges for the food system.
In 1991, the World Bank Group opened its resident office in Bucharest and this November we will celebrate 25 years of continued presence in Romania. Romania joined the World Bank in 1972, yet it is really 1991 that marks the opening of the institution’s presence in Romania and our new role in a free and democratic nation.
A quarter century is the measure of a generation and it is as an important milestone for an institution, as it is for a human being. Our presence in Romania has matured together with the country’s first generation of people born in a free economy and society. The challenges they faced, where the face of our support for change.
Following a 2009 earthquake in Qingchuan County, Sichuan Province, Alibaba introduced the “Internet + Poverty Reduction” model, with the core concept to boost economic development in the affected areas with a business model that empowers people to move out of poverty using the Internet.
Alibaba announced its rural e-commerce strategy in October 2014, with a plan to invest RMB100 million (about $14.8 million) over the next three to five years in the development of local e-commerce service systems for 1,000 counties with 100,000 villages.
The program provides valuable services in three areas:
- Easy and affordable access to goods and services in poor areas including: delivery of consumer goods to rural areas and farm produce to cities, mobile phone recharge, utility bills payment, booking airline and train tickets, making hotel reservations, as well as microfinance, online medical consultation, and online learning;
- Provision of ecosystem support for sustainable rural development, including raising awareness about the Internet among local officials, building the capacity of local firms to use the Internet for business, Internet skills training for young people and farmers; and
- Infrastructure development for the new economy, including logistics infrastructure, payment systems, financial services, cloud computing and data collection.
Alibaba’s “Internet + Poverty Reduction” features a number of innovations including e-commerce, job creation, access to finance, tourism development, education and healthcare.
A challenging area in agricultural water management is the assessment of policy and investment options in irrigated agriculture for conserving water and adapting to increasing water scarcity, in particular when the linkages to groundwater resources and their management are to be considered and incorporated.
However, this is an increasingly important area of research for a number of reasons. First, and is a major contributing factor to the water scarcity situation in many countries. Second, with almost a quarter of freshwater withdrawals for irrigated agriculture being made up of groundwater supplies—corresponding to 70% of total groundwater withdrawals—, And, third, with groundwater discharge contributing to the base flow of streams and surface water contributing to groundwater recharge, and these interactions are intensified by human action, in particular water withdrawals for irrigated agriculture. Even in cases where irrigated agriculture depends mostly on surface water, groundwater impacts therefore need to be accounted for when assessing water conservation efforts (and vice versa).
Like many African countries, Senegal has a young population in search of decent jobs and salaries. A report covering the last national census of the Senegalese population, published every ten years by l’Agence nationale de la statistique et de la démographie (ANSD) (National Statistics and Demographics Agency), reveals that the average age of the population is approximately 22 years and that one in every two Senegalese is under 18 years of age. Those under 15 years of age represent more than 42% of the population, clearly indicating the predominance of the youth demographic. However, this segment of the population is most affected by under-employment and unemployment with young people representing 60% of job seekers.
We are all aware of the statistics: and they are growing so fast that 66 out of 100 people on earth will be urban dwellers by 2050. This, of course, will have major implications for people and poverty, climate change, and service delivery.
Since the early 2000s, three-quarters of the world’s 750 largest cities have grown faster than their national economies. One of the key reasons for those cities’ success is higher productivity—as a result of their ability to attract skilled workers—as well as a high concentration of productive entrepreneurs and firms.
For decades, national and city leaders have also taken actions to build competitive cities, increasingly facilitating firms and industries to create jobs, raise productivity, and increase incomes over time—especially for the urban poor. They see this as the pathway to eliminate extreme poverty and to promote shared prosperity. This is particularly important in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where most of the world’s extreme poor live.
Earlier this year, I visited a meeting of a Village Savings and Loan Association in Doghabad village and was impressed with the confidence and leadership women showed. Addressing the association, Karimi, who is a member, said: “Do not wait for men to come and decide for you, be the makers of your own community.” She encouraged women to take an active role in the association’s weekly meetings, and come prepared with business proposals and requests for loans. Like Karimi, numerous individuals who have participated in the Afghanistan Enterprise Development Program (AREDP) programs act as inspirational leaders in mobilizing people and gaining trust in the program.
October 17 is the international day to end poverty. There has been much progress toward this important milestone: the World Bank Group’s latest numbers show that since 1990 nearly 1.1 billion people have escaped extreme poverty. Between 2012 and 2013 alone, around 100 million people moved out of extreme poverty. That’s around a quarter of a million people every day. This is cause for optimism.
But extreme poverty and the wrenching circumstances that accompany it persist. Half the world's extreme poor now live in sub-Saharan Africa, and another third live in South Asia. Worldwide nearly 800 million people were still living on less than $1.90 a day in 2013, the latest year for which we have global numbers. Half of these are children. Most have nearly no education. Many of the world's poor are living in fragile and conflict afflicted countries. In a world in which so many have so much, it is unacceptable that so many have so little.