Agriculture and Rural Development
The problem with the World Bank’s 20th anniversary in Kyrgyzstan last November was that everybody else’s party had happened already.
There has been a blur of speeches, gala concerts, jazz bands, canapés, toasts and traditional performances as one embassy after another feted twenty years of partnership with the Kyrgyz Republic. The same guests, speeches, and – truth be told - probably the same canapés.
We had to do something different. So, as we celebrated the last 20 years of our work in Kyrgyzstan (which have been quite good), we toasted the next 20 years as well.
A large increase in crude oil prices stands out among numerous factors to explain most of the jump in food prices over the last decade. Indeed, as we found in a recent World Bank study, oil prices were more important to food prices than several other long-term price drivers, including exchange rates, interest rates and income. This finding has important implications for policy and for governments hoping to mitigate the negative effects of food price swings.
Initially, the post-2004 commodity price increases bore resemblance to the temporary increases of the 1950s (Korean War) and the 1970s (oil crisis). But it is becoming clear that the current situation has a more permanent character. Most commodity prices are now two or three times higher than they were a decade ago. Indeed, nominal prices of energy, fertilizers, and precious metals tripled between the two time periods we compared (1997-2004 and 2005-2007). Metal prices went up by more than 150 percent in that time, and most food prices doubled.
"We have lost everything, without our homes we have nothing and now our houses are gone, broken and destroyed. Apa, what are we going to do? Do we sort out our utensils and belongings or buy food? All we have is our home and now we have nothing. No tin, no home, everything is flooded! “
- A flood-affected female resident of a low-income urban settlement (Rashid, 2000: 244)
The urban poor in low-income settlements in the cities of Bangladesh are one of the most vulnerable populations to disasters and climate risks. Nearly 35 percent of the country’s urban population lives in highly dense and populated informal settlements that lack protective infrastructure, basic services and resources needed to face the challenges in an era of changing climate. With the frequency and intensity of flooding as well as cold and heat waves increasing over the years, these marginalized communities are yet to be taken into mainstream climate adaptation planning and policy.
Imagine that you are in an elevator. It stops to pick up the next passenger going up. It turns out to be H.E. Jayaka Mrisho Kikwete, yes, the President of Tanzania himself, accompanied by a group of high ranking officials. The President turns and asks you what you think is the most important thing that he could do for his country. You have less than three minutes to convince him. What would you tell him?
I know what I would say, loud and clear: “Your Excellency, that would have to be improving the performance of the port of Dar es Salaam.”
No doubt there are plenty of issues that matter for Tanzania’s prosperity: rural development, education, energy, water, food security, roads, you name it. They are all competing for urgent attention and effort; yet it is also true that each of them involves complex solutions that would take time to produce impact on the ground, and it is hard to know where to begin and to focus priority attention.
This is not the case for the Dar es Salaam port, as most experts know what to do.
So why the port of Dar es Salaam?
The port represents a wonderful opportunity for his country. The port handles about 90% of Tanzania’s international trade and is the potential gateway of six landlocked countries. I would tell him that almost all citizen and firms operating in Tanzania are currently affected, directly and indirectly, by the performance of this port.
With spectacular growth of microfinance institutions (MFIs) in Bangladesh, there is a growing concern that borrowers might be borrowing from multiple sources and more than they are able to repay, and hence, they are trapped in poverty and debt. Microfinance programs, operating in Bangladesh for more than two decades, have reached more than 10 million households in 2008, nearly half the rural population, with an annual disbursement close to US$1.8 billion and an outstanding balance of US$1.5 billion. Multiple program membership has increased over the years: it was nonexistent in 1991/92, 11.9 percent in 1998/99 and 36 percent in 2010/11.
However, a recent study shows that increased borrowing, even from multiple sources, has not lowered loan recovery rates.
Also, another recent study observes that microcredit borrowers are not necessarily trapped in poverty and debt. This study analyzes data from a long panel survey over a 20-year period, and finds that although many participants have been with microcredit programs for many years they are not necessarily trapped in debt as the accrued assets due to borrowing outweigh accumulated debt for many borrowers.
Traditionally, both government and the private sector have struggled to reach remote and poverty stricken parts of India, especially eastern states such as Bihar. Even social entrepreneurs and civil society organizations struggle to apply their innovations because of poor reach and lack of absorption,. However, Jeevika, a program jointly supported by Government of Bihar and the World Bank, has built a community-based institutional platform that can reach millions of poor households in Bihar. It is now offering a unique opportunity to social innovators to capitalize on the platform as well as access to financial capital providing enterprises with a chance for a leap.
My work with small-hold cocoa farmers in Nicaragua has taught me that it is not true that organic production is more expensive, complicated to learn and unsustainable.
The Sustainable Agroforestry Cocoa Production Project (COCOA-RAAN) was implemented within the Autonomous Region of the North Atlantic, the largest in Nicaragua, with a budget of just US$ 1.9 million.
A significant share of the population in the Kyrgyz Republic – 37 percent – lived below the poverty line in 2011, according to the latest available data. And despite a relatively modest population of about 5.5 million, poverty rates across oblasts (provinces) span a striking range -- from 18 percent to 50 percent.
Why? Well, that is a surprisingly difficult question to answer.