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Agriculture and Rural Development

Inside ICRISAT's Seed Banks & Test Fields, Research Is Changing Farmers' Lives

Rachel Kyte's picture

Deep inside the ICRISAT campus just outside Hyderabad, there are two sub-zero rooms that house the seeds of 120,000 plants from over 100 countries and 120,000 chances to change poor farmers' lives. The rows of plastic containers and freeze-dried metallic packages resemble a huge and very cold medicine cabinet.

These seed banks, or genebanks, hold the keys to growing more productive, hardier, healthier food crops that could help feed the 9 billion people who will be living on Earth by 2050. Scientists use the collection to map characteristics that enable individual plants to withstand water shortages, pests, and disease, or increase yields and nutrient levels. Over 800 improved crop varieties have been developed from this seed bank and now grow in 79 countries.

ICRISAT is the international crop research institute for the semi-arid tropics and one of 15 CGIAR research centers. Scientist here work on sorghum, millet, chickpeas, pigeon peas, and ground nuts - the food crops that smallholder farmers from the driest parts of the world depend on for their survival.

A walk through the campus reveals the power and potential of international research.

If it’s not social, it’s bad business.

Jill Richmond's picture

Here is another entry in a series of articles we are posting to describe the current outlook for social enterprises working on critical issues in Egypt.

The series is based on interviews with leading figures in the social entrepreneurship sector in Egypt and the MNA region.

For the Arabic translation of this blog, click here.

I spoke with Dr. Laila Iskandar the chairperson of CID Consulting, who was awarded the "Social Entrepreneur of the Year" in 2006 at the World Economic Forum by the Schwab Foundation. She is also member of the foundation’s Global Agenda Council (GAC) on Social Innovation. She has over 20 years of experience in: environmental protection, solid waste management and recycling, education, gender-based empowerment, capacity-building of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), income-generation in the informal sector, and advocating for working children. In this interview, she tells us about her ethos of ‘learning and earning.’

Better Value Chains to Boost Rural Incomes

Grahame Dixie's picture

For developing countries, a major focus is raising rural incomes. One way to do this is by better linking farmers to markets and strengthening value chains. We spoke with Grahame Dixie—Head of the World Bank's Agribusiness Group in Agriculture and Rural Development—about the topic. He stressed the importance of getting people to discover how they can improve the efficiency of the value chain.

New Pledges Expand GAFSP's Food Security Work in World's Poorest Countries

Rachel Kyte's picture

When you want to put money, ideas, innovation, and hard work together to increase food security, there’s nowhere better than the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program – GAFSP.

Don’t just believe me. Listen to the Rwandan farmers whose now-terraced hillsides are getting higher yields, producing better nutrition, and improving their livelihoods.

Similar stories can be told in Tajikistan, Sierra Leone, Bangladesh, and elsewhere.

Japan and the Republic of Korea are among those convinced that GAFSP is a good investment in food security. Inspired by a challenge from the Unites States, Japan and South Korea just pledged an additional $60 million to GAFSP at a meeting in Tokyo held in conjunction with the World Bank and IMF Annual Meetings.

The United States announced that it was prepared to contribute an additional $1 to GAFSP for every $2 contributed by other donors, up to a total of $475 million.

Why is GAFSP so successful?

Let’s Turn the Lights on Across Africa

Makhtar Diop's picture

I’m in Tokyo this week for the World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings and on Friday I will open the Bank’s global conference to look more closely at the serious energy challenge facing Africa.

Consider this stunning fact―only 1 in 3 Africans has access to electricity on the continent.

And that is why too little electricity is one of the biggest challenges I see standing in the way of Africa achieving steadily higher growth rates, better education for its children and teenagers, good quality health services that work, farms and agribusinesses that can grow enough cheap nutritious food for Africans to eat, just to name some of the transformational priorities which can happen when we turn the lights on across Africa.

I confess I am passionate about lighting up homes, schools, businesses, clinics, libraries, and parliaments across the continent. As a child growing up in Senegal, I knew first-hand about power shortages. More power for Africans will allow them to transform their living standards and turn the continent’s growth into tangible benefits for all.

Energy security is a key priority for my work as World Bank Vice President for Africa, and my team is moving ahead relentlessly to put power infrastructure in place to plug regional communities into cross-border power pools, more irrigated land to grow food and create jobs, galvanize more trade and commerce within the region, and to unlock all the other development potential that electrical power makes possible.

The Reality About the Land Grab Issue and the World Bank Group

Rachel Kyte's picture

Read this post in Español, Français, عربي

Today in Tokyo, on the side of our annual meetings where food security is a major issue being discussed, I had a few minutes to join Oxfam's session about land in developing countries.

I made the point that one of the best ways to help manage pressure on land is through the Bank Group's staying engaged in agriculture, working to build good practices and capacity in countries to manage investments better. As a result, we are saying no to Oxfam's call for a freeze on our work.

In fact we have ramped up our investments in agriculture in recent years, helping smallholders increase productivity, reduce waste, and get clear land tenure, and we want to do more.  It was reassuring to hear from Oxfam directly that the Bank is not the primary target of their efforts. That's good because the vast majority of our agricultural investments help poor farmers grow food and involve no land purchase.

2.3 Million Lives Lost: We Need a Culture of Resilience

Rachel Kyte's picture

Read this post in Español, Français, عربي

By 2050, the urban population exposed tos torms and earthquakes alone could more than double to 1.5 billion.

Looking at communities across our planet, there is a brutal lack of resilience in our modern lives. Cities have expanded without careful planning into flood- and storm-prone areas, destroying natural storm barriers and often leaving the poor to find shelter in the most vulnerable spots. Droughts, made more frequent by climate change, have taken a toll on crops, creating food shortages.

In the past 30 years, disasters have killed over 2.3 million people, about the population of Houston or all of Namibia.

How do we manage the environment without compromising efforts to reduce poverty?

Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough's picture

I always say, environmental management is woven into something bigger, much bigger than simply saying “Let’s do some good, let’s not pollute.” For me, it’s a question of how we encourage the development boom underway in Africa today, while still keeping our eyes focused on environmental management.

Photo credit: Jonathan Ernst/World BankIn the World Bank’s Africa Region, we are working on the belief that we can find a way to support sustainable development that combines the least amount of environmental damage with the best desirable outcome possible.  Put simply, we can “green” growth and make it more inclusive. 

The way to do this is to weave environment into all development programs. We believe that development is key to reducing poverty and improving livelihoods in Africa.

For example, let’s say that you are planning to build a really big road going through a national park. This is an opportunity for all stakeholders, government officials, community members, donors, NGOs, and others to gather and ask themselves not just how this road will improve economic growth, but what is the future of this national park? Will this road provide poachers with new access to pristine woodlands and endangered wildlife?

In a new report, "Enhancing Competitiveness and Resilience in Africa", we lay out a new approach to environmental management that makes it the core of everything we do. This means that when we think about a project or program in any sector, we also think about how it will impact the environment.

In the Philippines: Does Oxfam’s Livelihoods Work Go Beyond Traditional Income Generation?

Duncan Green's picture

Last week I visited Oxfam’s Philippines programme. Such trips follow a pretty standard format - our national staff and relevant partners with the moringa farmers whisk me through a series of site visits and conversations with farmers, civil society organizations, local government officials and anyone else who’ll talk to you. For a few days, I’m engrossed, wrestling on multiple levels, first to understand the intricacies of the projects, and then to try and get at the meta-questions: what are the strengths and weaknesses in our work? What could we be doing better? Is there a clear power analysis and theory of change? Discussions continue in vehicles to and from the visits, over dinner and (sometimes) in the bar, as everyone grapples with the incredibly difficult business of ‘doing development’. It’s intense and definitely the best bit of the job.

I went to Mindanao, one of the poorest and most conflict-ridden islands in the Philippines archipelago, and home to 23m of its 94m population. The focus was our livelihoods work (I hate the term, but can’t think of anything better to describe the complex ways poor people find to put food on the family table). Such work forms the backbone of many of Oxfam’s programmes. In Mindanao, we’re working with women farmers to introduce new crops or upgrade existing ones:


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