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Agriculture and Rural Development

African Successes

Shanta Devarajan's picture

In recent years, a broad swath of African countries has begun to show a remarkable dynamism.  From Mozambique’s impressive growth rate (averaging 8% p.a. for more than a decade) to Kenya’s emergence as a major global supplier of cut flowers, from M-pesa’s mobile phone-based cash transfers to KickStart’s low-cost irrigation technology for small-holder farmers, and from Rwanda’s gorilla tourism to Lagos City’s Bus Rapid Transit system, Africa is seeing a dramatic transformation.  This favorable trend is spurred by, among other things, stronger leadership, better governance, an improving business climate, innovation, market-based solutions, a more involved citizenry, and an increasing reliance on home-grown solutions.  More and more, Africans are driving African development. 

The global economic crisis of 2008-09 threatens to undermine the optimism that Africa can harness this dynamism for long-lasting development.  In light of this, it might be useful to re-visit recent achievements.  The African Successes study aims to do just that.

The study will identify a wide range of development successes (see list), from which around 20 cases will be selected for in-depth study.  The analysis of each successful experience will evaluate the following: (1) the drivers of success—what has worked and why; (2) the sustainability of the successful outcome(s); and (3) the potential for scaling up successful experiences.  African success stories offer valuable insights and practical lessons to other countries in the region. 

I welcome your comments and suggestions for success stories. Click here to see the list of what we have come up with so far.

Mismanagement of natural resources gives us no margin of error to handle an increasingly unpredictable climate

Johannes Zutt's picture
 Tree planting: Professor Wangari Maathai with Johannes Zutt
   Photo © World Bank/
   Tree planting: Professor Wangari
   Maathai with Johannes Zutt

I spent yesterday in rural Kenya with the World Development Report (WDR) team and the inspirational activist Professor Wangari Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Professor Maathai graphically showed us the problems across multiple areas of the economy when the climate does not behave as predicted. The visit powerfully demonstrated how much worse the effects are when the changing climate combines with a poorly managed environment. Only 1.7 percent of Kenya's territory has forest cover, compared to about 10 percent a century ago. And the forests are increasingly fragmented. Yet these fragments protect water towers that are the source of the country’s rivers. The diverse natural forests regulate rainfall, provide homes for Kenya's stunningly diverse flora and fauna, and of course they also help our planet to store carbon. But human activity in and around the forests continues to threaten their survival. Over recent decades, plantation forests have replaced much of the natural forests that once covered Kenya, but they are much less effective at regulating rain, preventing soil erosion and protecting diversity. As I said on our visit to the Aberdare Forest yesterday, in many places I did not see forests; what I saw instead were tree farms.

'Facebook for farmers' brings microloans to people in rural China

James I Davison's picture

The founders of a microfinance website I came across a few months ago are giving an interesting, benevolent twist to social networking. At least, that’s one way of looking at Wokai.org, a non-profit organization benefiting entrepreneurs in rural China.

Wokai has been dubbed by some as a “Facebook for farmers,” yet it may be more comparable to well-known microfinance sites like Kiva, which allow people with an Internet connection to give loans directly to entrepreneurs in developing countries. Wokai, however, focuses solely on impoverished people living in rural China.

Update from Nairobi: No doubt here that it’s real

Julia Bucknall's picture

No one in Nairobi—where we just released pre-press version of the World Development Report—needs to be reminded about the effects of climate change. Four consecutive rains have failed, and on 80 percent of the country’s land area, water resources are at a tenth of their normal levels.

 Parched earth in Kenya
    Photo © Ann Phillips

Everyone is feeling it.

Farmers see dying crops. The harvest is 28 percent of normal amounts. The Minister of Environment reported at the WDR launch yesterday that ten million Kenyans were going hungry because of the drought. Herders see their cattle dying or have to sell them for low prices. Some are shipping their cattle to areas that still have grass only to see them die of cold at the higher altitudes.

A climate for change in Africa

Calestous Juma's picture

Sub-Saharan African countries are bracing for dramatic impacts of climate change. As Andrew Simms of the UK-based New Economics Foundation has aptly put it, they are “caught between the devil of drought and the deep blue sea of floods.”

Africa’s greenhouse gas emissions have been minimal because of its low levels of industrial output. Yet African countries are likely to suffer disproportionately from global warming. They are therefore right to demand that international climate negotiations be based on principles of historical justice.

But behind this seemingly dismal outlook lies a unique opportunity for Africa to lead the way in adopting low-carbon growth strategies. The region is not too heavily committed to the same damaging industries that its industrial counterparts are having difficulties abandoning. African countries therefore need to complete their demand for historical justice with the design of climate-smart policies.

More than a dam: In Laos, history still makes itself present after 41 years

Victoria Minoian's picture

At Ban Thalang, a resettled village in the Nakai area of Laos, a standing memory of a not-so-forgotten past is now being happily used as a green onion harvesting pot.

Deforestation: Disastrous consequences for the climate and for food security

Shiva Makki's picture

I grew up in a small village in South-Western India, which is known for evergreen forests, wildlife, and spectacular landscapes.  That was in the 1970s and 1980s.  My interests in forests began then, as I spent many hours wandering off into the woods on my way back from school.  When I was six years old, my father bought five acres of pristine forest land and converted them into a coffee plantation.  He wasn’t the only one.  In just three decades, much of the forest around where I grew up has been either converted to crop lands or cleared for logging.

This loss grieves me.  Although I have worked on a broad range of issues as a professional economist, my concerns for forests and the environment remain high.  In a recent note, I’ve tried to show the complex links between deforestation, climate change, and food security with a simple diagram.  The note can be easily downloaded and is meant for students.

National Solidarity Program (NSP), a community-led reconstruction and rural infrastructure initiative.

Karina Manasseh's picture

The National Solidarity Program (NSP) is a community-led reconstruction and rural infrastructure initiative. The program has made significant achievements in empowering communities, improving community relations, and increasing public faith in the system of government.

Watch Your Wallets, Protectionism is Back!

Zahid Hussain's picture

Protectionism is BackProtectionism is on the rise all over the world, thanks or should we say “no thanks” to the global economic crisis.  Last November, G-20 leaders pledged to fight protectionism. Yet, according to the World Trade Organization (WTO), 18 out of these 20 economies have since taken measures to restrict trade. With the global economy struggling to recover, political pressures demanding protection from import competition to sustain domestic employment are intensifying. It is likely to prove right the old adage that the only thing we learn from history is that we never learn from history.  One lesson from the experience of the 1930s that is currently most relevant is that raising trade barriers deepens and prolongs recession.


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