Agriculture and Rural Development
How much social mobility is there in South Asia? The intuitive answer is: very little. South Asia is home to the biggest number of poor in the world and key development outcomes – from child mortality to malnutrition – suggest that poverty is entrenched. Absence of mobility is arguably what defines the caste system, in which occupations are essentially set for individuals at birth. Not surprisingly, the prospects for people from disadvantaged backgrounds to prosper are believed to be gloomier in this part of the world.
And yet, our analysis in Addressing Inequality in South Asia, reveals that economic and occupational mobility has become substantial in the region in recent decades. In fact, it could even be comparable to that of very dynamic societies such as the United States and Vietnam. The analysis also suggests that cities support greater mobility than rural areas, and that wage employment – both formal and informal – is one of its main drivers.
When splitting the population into three groups—poor, vulnerable, and middle class—upward mobility within the same generation was considerable for both the poor and the vulnerable. In both Bangladesh and India, a considerable fraction of households moved above the poverty line between 2005 and 2010. Meanwhile, a sizable proportion of the poor and the vulnerable moved into the middle class. In India, households from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes – considered together – experienced upward mobility comparable to that of the rest of the population.
It is no exaggeration. Today, around 800 million people go to bed hungry every night. By 2050, we will need to produce at least 50% more food to feed a population on track to reach nine billion.
That’s a daunting challenge for our food systems, our planet, and our generation.
If we keep eating our planet, what will be left for our children and ourselves in the future? In other words, how will we nutritiously feed nine billion by 2050 in the face of environmental threats?
If we are dead serious about this challenge, then we really need to pay greater attention to the role of transportation and logistics, both crucial in increasing food security, so we can feed 9 billion people by 2050, and mitigating impact on climate change. Just consider these facts:
- Up to 50% of harvest is wasted between farm and fork, the moment we actually consume food.
- Transport-related emissions account for about 15% of overall greenhouse gas emissions. And 60% of those emissions are coming from road transport.
- And logistics costs affect small farmers disproportionally (up to 23% of their total costs).
Country Partnership Strategies are a central element of the World Bank Group’s effort to act in a coordinated way to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity. But they can be hard for the average person to navigate—some are three-volume tomes, and others can be dense with technicalities. When we make them inaccessible to the general public, we often forgo a critical opportunity to build broad support for our work.
This year, the Bank Group’s India team decided to take a more innovative approach—one that has the potential to directly engage the public and perhaps even spur others to join us in our cause. In producing the Country Partnership Strategy for India, the team opted not to create a simple PDF for the website. Instead it produced a well-designed book, flush with easy-to-understand graphics and appealing photographs. It also produced a highly interactive web application that visualizes the strategy—and tracks the strategy’s progress towards its goals over time. The tool shows exactly how individual projects along with knowledge and advisory work line up with our twin goals, and what outcomes we expect in each instance.
The world has made impressive progress against hunger in the past few decades – mostly due to the hard work of poor people themselves. They are the most important stakeholders: Who could be more invested in the struggle against hunger than a young woman with a hectare of land to farm and two children to feed?
The State of Food Insecurity in the World (SOFI) 2014 tells us that the hunger target of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)—cutting in half the proportion of undernourished people—is within reach. Even better, the evidence shows that the world is making progress rapidly enough to end hunger by 2030. Setting and achieving a goal to end hunger and malnutrition in the post-MDG, post-2015 era can bring an end to widespread chronic hunger, which affects more than 800 million people today.
Ending hunger is important for the present and the future. It is far better to prevent a crisis than to respond after it has occurred.
Ironically, people living with hunger are, by and large, the very same people the world needs to feed a growing population. Smallholder farmers often face structural barriers to food security—for example, they lack access to basic infrastructure, such as roads to get crops to the market, storage facilities, electricity, and irrigation. They lack access to credit and land. Helping them increase their incomes and build assets, strengthening safety nets, and focusing on health and education outcomes will help build their resilience to shocks that are beyond their control, such as climate change-related weather events.
Since gaining independence in 1971, food security issues in Bangladesh have been amongst the highest priorities on the government’s agenda. This is because Bangladesh faces a number of demographic, social and ecological challenges, which make it particularly vulnerable to food insecurity. These challenges are further exacerbated by climate change, including the consequences of sea level rise. Silent threats such as soil and river salinity and arsenic contamination have direct and indirect effects on agricultural production and households’ access to food.
In order to target the continuing food security threats the Government of Bangladesh has developed a number of high level policy initiatives, including Vision 2021 and the related Perspective Plan. Achieving food security is also a key objective of the country’s poverty reduction strategy and has been recognised to be the highest risk in the Bangladesh Climate Change Action Plan. Strategic objectives include realizing universal food security, which implies that the country needs to be not only self-sufficient in terms of food production but also manage equitable distribution of nutritious food. Ensuring universal food security is particularly challenging given the multidimensional nature of the food security concept which comprises food availability, physical and financial access to food, food utilisation and food stability.
Imagine a world in which we had to eat with long spoons and chopsticks or could not bend our arms to bring food to our mouths... What would we do? How would we eat? The parable of the long spoons teaches us a valuable lesson: focusing solely on ourselves leads to struggle and hardship, but focusing on others gives us the freedom to find new solutions.
The following video from Caritas International's One Human Family, Food For All campaign uses this parable to encourage viewers to consider their own food choices and proactively reduce the hunger of their neighbors. FAO estimates that about 805 million people were/are chronically undernourished in 2012–14, the vast majority of which live in developing countries, where 13.5% of the population is undernourished. However, by working together, investments in agriculture can be made, food wastage can be reduced, and hungry people can be fed.
For nearly three-fifths of the world population, the lack of access to energy is a major challenge to economic development and poverty reduction.
Increasing cross-border trade in electricity can play a major role in helping overcome these challenges. Trade in electricity can help bring down energy prices, mitigate against power shocks, relieve shortages, facilitate decarbonization and provide incentives for market extension and integration.
Yet, countries have been reluctant to trade electricity across borders. Global exports of electricity are currently around 3 percent of total production. This is an anomaly in the energy sector. Think of oil. Roughly 64 percent of all oil produced is traded between countries.
A recent working paper published by the World Bank looks at the institutional arrangements of regional power pools in both developing regions and those in developed countries. In understanding how the regional integration of electricity markets has developed, the paper is able to draw useful lessons for the promotion of future trade arrangements.