Rising obesity rates are in the headlines – with increasing recognition of the major role that agriculture and food systems play in the epidemic. As agriculture economists interested in human nutrition, we wanted to take a look at what it all means, to look at how agriculture and food systems are part of the problem and how they are part of the solution. While conducting research for a recent report, a few things stood out to us.
Agriculture and Rural Development
Two years ago, 23-year-old Pedro Flores became a technician specializing in renewable energy—all thanks to a degree from a technical institute in Maule, located in one of Chile’s poorest regions. After completing his degree in just two years, Flores became the only person in his family to obtain an advanced degree. Today, he lives in Santiago and works for a private solar energy multinational corporation, where he earns a competitive salary that is only slightly below the average for entry-level professionals in his field, most of whom spent over five years in university.
It had rained a couple of days ago. Our footsteps almost float on soil that feels soft, almost spongy. We see footprints of wolves that roam the lands at night. The sun is low in the sky, and a slight breeze wafts all around us. There is serenity in the air, as if history itself is imprinted in the consciousness of this land. This is Uruk, some 300 kilometers south of Baghdad, and some 7,000 years from the start of civilization.
Last year in May, I authored a blog about the Iraq Social Fund for Development (SFD) project. I wrote about Iraq’s glorious history, its abundant natural resources, its profound cultural heritage, and its vast human capital. I wrote about the cradle of civilization and the great rivers, embodied by the city of Uruk, one of the earliest urban centers in civilization, which many believe lent its name to modern day “Iraq”. I also wrote of the deep challenges that are facing the people of Iraq. Successive years of conflict, violence and displacement have significantly eroded or destroyed much of what the people of this land have built. Today, I write about the promise of history, the optimism of the present, and the potential for a more promising future.
Imagine you live in a city that floods, sometime for weeks, after extreme rainfalls.
Imagine you live in that flooded city, where you and thousands of your neighbors must find a place to stay till the water has receded, and you finally can get back home, with the fear of finding it devastated.
The city of Trinidad is a place like this, located in Bolivia’s Amazonian low-lands, and with heavy prolonged precipitation, rivers, lagoons and lakes rise, affecting thousands of families.
Overall in Bolivia, 43% of the population lives in areas of high flood risk. Trinidad and other cities in the low-lands experience inundations, while in La Paz, Bolivia’s political center, frequent landslides lead to fatalities and damage to housing and infrastructure.
Sri Lanka and Maldives share much more than the tag of tourism hot spots, beautiful beaches, and similar cultural traits. Both island nations have a range of unique environments that are rich in biodiversity and serve a myriad of ecosystems functions.
Both countries are home to rich wetlands with a variety of fauna and flora that benefit the ecosystem, including flood protection, water purification, and natural air conditioning and provide food and support to local communities.
Sri Lanka has actively been working to ensure these essential ecosystems are protected. The Maldives has too commenced such great work. This work has produced a wealth of knowledge and innovations on how to manage and conserve wetlands.
Managing wetlands in Sri Lanka and Maldives
The wetland management and land use planning effort undertaken in Colombo under the World Bank-financed Metro Colombo Urban Development (MCUDP) project showcases resilience in urban land use planning and highlights how a city can become more livable by intermingling green spaces to its urban fabric. All this, while protecting wetlands and reaping the benefits of their natural ecosystem functions.
The MCUDP used robust strategies and sustainable economic models, such as wetland parks, to help save urban wetlands from threats such as encroachment and clearing. Through the Climate Change Adaptation Project (CCAP), funded by the European Union and the Government of Australia, Maldives has also taken steps to manage threats to its largest wetlands.
While the approaches to wetland management in both countries have been different there are many key lessons that can be shared.
Remote Rural Communities Development Project (RRCDP), he and his family have benefitted from the construction of a new farm road and protection from landslides through RRCDP support – a project that promotes the increasing of agricultural productivity and development of communities’ access to markets, irrigation, agricultural technologies, and community infrastructure in 26 Gewogs (village groups) under six Dzongkhags (districts) in Bhutan: Chhukha, Dagana, Haa, Samtse, Trongsa, and Wanduephodrang.
Driving Prosperity through Access to Rural Roads
Coming to completion in May 2018, RRCDP has improved road access to markets to at least 11 project Chiwogs (hamlets) in Samtse and Trongsa Dzongkhags – building 22.9 kilometers of farm roads and benefitting about 299 households. With the construction of new farm roads, the most commonly marketed agricultural and livestock products amongst farmers in project areas have been cardamom, vegetables, butter, cheese, and citrus, and to a lesser extent, rice, potatoes, and eggs. Additionally, beneficiaries have also reported a significant reduction in the time of travel between their households and markets – up to 8 hours in some cases! The majority of the Bhutanese population live in remote rural areas – hours, sometimes days of walking from the nearest road. They walk their children through dense forests and rivers to reach schools and health clinics; they carry their agricultural and livestock products to nearby markets on their backs – an average load of 30kg. A horse carrying a 50kg load costs approximately Nu.5 per kilogram.
Now, with road accessibility, farmers use pick-up trucks at the cost of Nu.2 per kilogram. After a RRCDP farm road construction in Samtse, for example, four households bought pick-up trucks and ten individuals bought motorcycles – mainly benefitting the transport of cardamom. Better road accessibility through RRCDP have also fostered the construction of concrete flush toilets outside households and the construction of new concrete-built homes, as well as the expansion of irrigation schemes. Finally, road accessibility has also impacted social dynamics in rural areas benefitted by the project. 
The project has also supported beneficiaries in 88 Chiwogs with access to community and marketing infrastructure, such as power tiller tracks, power tiller machinery, and food bridges – with a total of 3,597 households benefitted. In Norgaygang Gewog, for example, with support from the project, the construction of 4 kilometers of power tiller track in 2016, has brought multiple benefits to the community, such as easier access to schools and healthcare in case of emergency.
We’re pleased to announce support for 12 projects which seek to improve the way development data are produced, managed, and used. They bring together diverse teams of collaborators from around the world, and are focused on solving challenges in low and lower middle-income countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia, Latin America, and South Asia.
Following the success of the first round of funding in 2016, in August 2017 we announced a $2.5M fund to support Collaborative Data Innovations for Sustainable Development. The World Bank’s Development Data group, together with the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, called for ideas to improve the production, management, and use of data in the two thematic areas of “Leave No One Behind” and the environment. To ensure funding went to projects that solved real people’s problems, and built solutions that were context-specific and relevant to its audience, applicants were required to include the user, in most cases a government or public entity, in the project team. We were also looking for projects that have the potential to generate learning and knowledge that can be shared, adapted, and reused in other settings.
From predicting the movements of internally displaced populations in Somalia to speeding up post-disaster damage assessments in Nepal; and from detecting the armyworm invasive species in Malawi to supporting older people in Kenya and India to map and advocate for the better availability of public services; the 12 selected projects summarized below show how new partnerships, new methods, and new data sources can be integrated to really “put data to work” for development.
This initiative is supported by the World Bank’s Trust Fund for Statistical Capacity Building (TFSCB) with financing from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), the Government of Korea and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Ireland.
2018 Innovation Fund Recipients
- Sustainable Communities
- 2018 Innovation Fund Recipients
- Development Data Innovation Projects
- Social Development
- Agriculture and Rural Development
- Climate Change
- The World Region
- South Asia
- Latin America & Caribbean
- East Asia and Pacific
- Sierra Leone
- Wallis and Futuna Islands
- New Caledonia
- Burkina Faso
In recent past, there have been many innovations in areas of technology, extension, ICT, education, and incubation leading to new generation of enterprises and enterprise clusters resulting in the creation of good quality and new jobs in agriculture and food systems. A key challenge in the future is how we create more and better jobs in the agriculture and food system value chain. One of the major requirements for creating more jobs is a radical change in the way youth are taught agriculture and entrepreneurship. The skills required for a modern agriculture and food system are of a higher order and need to be upgraded significantly.
As part of the 2017 Global Learning Forum more than 250 staff in the Agriculture Global Practice from around the world are learning how Agriculture and Food Systems are going to look like in future. The group participants visited the Urban Food Hubs Program being managed by the University of the District of Columbia (UDC). The Urban Food Hubs focus on four components: food production, food preparation, food distribution, and waste and water recovery.
When we visited the rural commune of Molota about 115 km (70 miles) north-east of the Guinean capital of Conakry, the commune council members explained to us that they were happily surprised to see about 1,600,000 Guinean Francs had been contributed by their population in less than a week after conducting a participatory budgeting exercise. It was a small ($160) but clearly positive and tangible change given the fact that, the previous year, there had been “zero” Guinean Francs collected as local revenue in their budget.