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Agriculture and Rural Development

Spotting fires from space helps India’s foresters

E. Vikram's picture
 Vikas Gusain (April 2017)
Almost all fires in India are set by people intentionally or unintentionally. Ground fire in Chir Pine forests in Gumkhal, Pauri Garwal District, Uttarakhand, India. Credit: Vikas Gusain (April 2017)

The three-day international workshop on forest fires organized by the World Bank and the Forest Ministry of India is a watershed event in the management of forest fires in the country (1-3rd November 2017). On the first day, discussions were held on the latest technology being used to alert foresters to fires.

Almost all fires in India are set by people intentionally or unintentionally. For instance, forest-dependent communities in central India burn the forest floor to encourage the growth of tender tendu leaves, and to collect mahua flowers which standout easily on the charred forest floor.

In the northeast and some parts of central India, forests are rotationally burnt to ashes to enrich the soil for agriculture. After a few seasons of cropping, the depleted area is left to nature and the trees grow back once again. In the western Himalayas, pine needles are cleared every year to encourage the growth of grass for cattle-fodder. When pine needles full of resin pile up year after year, it takes just one spark from a careless smoker to burn down an entire forest of enormous value.

In remote areas, forest fires may not be detected for hours or even days, leading to an irreversible loss of forest wealth. Like any other hazard, the earlier one gets to know about the outbreak, the better it is for both the authorities and the people. Since traditional ways of gathering information from people perched on watch towers are not very effective, satellite sensors that can detect heat and smoke from space have now come to the rescue of foresters across the country.   

Today, the Forest Survey of India, in partnership with the National Remote Sensing Centre, uses these satellite detections to alert foresters across the country about the exact location of forest fires. All steps in the detection and dissemination process have been fully automated – including the processing of satellite data, filtering out fires that burn outside forests, composing personalized SMSs to relevant people, as well as sending them across. This system has helped fire alerts to reach people within 45 minutes to 1 hour of detection, enabling foresters to reach the spot quickly and contain the damage.

Where commodity prices are going, explained in nine charts

John Baffes's picture
The most recent World Bank Commodity Markets Outlook forecasts commodities prices to level off next year after big gains for industrial commodities—energy and metals—in 2017. Commodity prices appear to be stabilizing after a boom that peaked in 2011, albeit at a higher average level than pre-boom.
 
Chart 1

Energy and fertilizer prices rose in October, raw materials and precious metals fell – Pink Sheet

John Baffes's picture
Energy commodity prices increased more than 3 percent in October, a fourth consecutive monthly gain, led by a strengthening in oil, according to the World Bank’s Pink Sheet.

Agriculture prices edged lower in the month, as raw materials declined, notably natural rubber, which tumbled 12 percent. Food and beverage prices changed little. Fertilizer prices climbed over 5 percent, helped by a 12 percent jump in urea.

How hard are they working?

Markus Goldstein's picture
I was at a conference a couple of years ago and a senior colleague, one who I deeply respect, summarized the conversation as: “our labor data are crap.”   I think he meant that we have a general problem when looking at labor productivity (for agriculture in this case) both in terms of the heroic recall of days and tasks we are asking survey respondents for, but also we aren’t doing a good job of measuring effort. 

Why sustainable mobility matters

Hartwig Schafer's picture
Photo: Mariana Gil/WRI
In the 1960s, the vision of future mobility was people with jet packs and flying cars – we believed these innovations wouldn’t be far off after the moon landing in 1969. Obviously, the reality in 2017 is somewhat different.

Today, we have congestion in cities, rural areas cut off from the rest of the world, and too many people without access to safe, efficient, and green transport. This stifles markets and hinders people from the jobs that will help them escape poverty. Without access to sustainable mobility, it will be much harder—if not impossible— to end poverty and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

And perhaps the most tragic reality is this: that approximately 1.3 million people die each year in traffic-related incidents. Young people, those between the ages of 15-29, are the most affected by road crashes. This heartbreaking and preventable loss of life should be a clear signal that road safety matters.

At the same time, how we change transport is vitally important and will impact generations to come.

Tackling India’s hidden hunger

Edward W. Bresnyan's picture
India’s National Dairy Development Board (NDDB)
With India’s rapidly growing dairy industry, large-scale milk fortification of Vitamins A and D is a robust vehicle for increasing micronutrients intake across the population. Credit: India’s National Dairy Development Board (NDDB)  
Micronutrient deficiencies, especially Vitamin A and D, are prevalent in India. 
 
Yet, these deficiencies -- often referred to as ‘hidden hunger’ -- go largely unnoticed and affect large populations.
 
Night blindness, a condition afflicting millions of pregnant women and children, stems from low intake of foods rich in essential nutrients like Vitamin A.
 
Budget constraints limit access to nutrient-rich foods for many families, who are unaware or unable to afford a nutritious diet.
 
National programs help supplement diets with Iron and Vitamin, but their scope is too narrow to adequately address these deficiencies.
 
 India’s National Dairy Development Board (NDDB)  
Food fortification is a relatively simple, powerful and cost-effective approach to curb micronutrient deficiencies. It is in general socially accepted and requires minimal change in existing food habits. Credit: Credit: India’s National Dairy Development Board (NDDB)


Fortified Milk Helps Increase Vitamins Intake
 
When fortified with vitamin A and D, milk, which remains a staple for many Indians, can help alleviate dietary deficiencies when supplementation is not available.

Food fortification is a relatively simple, powerful and cost-effective approach to curb micronutrient deficiencies. It is in general socially accepted and requires minimal change in existing food habits.

The process is inexpensive and costs about 2 paisa per liter or about one-tenth of a cent.  And because it only adds a fraction of daily recommended nutrients, the process is considered safe.

For these reasons, food fortification has been successfully scaled up in some emerging economies.

However, except for salt fortification with iodine, India has not yet achieved large-scale food fortification. 

With India’s rapidly growing dairy industry, large-scale milk fortification of Vitamins A and D is a robust vehicle for increasing micronutrients intake across the population.

The Dirty Truth – Measuring Soil Health

Vini Vaid's picture
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The importance of soil health in agrarian societies is indisputable – soil health has a direct relationship with agricultural productivity and sustainability. Yet, its highly complex nature renders it much more challenging to measure than other agricultural inputs, such as fertilizers or pesticides. Household surveys, particularly those in low-income contexts where agriculture is the primary means of livelihood, have generally relied on subjective assessments of soil health – and for good reason. Subjective assessment is relatively inexpensive, and alternative methodological options have historically been prohibitively expensive. Recent advances in rapid low-cost technologies, namely spectral soil analysis, however, have increased the feasibility of integrating objective plot-level soil health measurement in household surveys.

This new Guidebook provides practical guidance for survey practitioners aiming to implement objective soil health measurement via spectral analysis in household and farm surveys, particularly in low-income smallholder farmer contexts. Two methodological experiments, in Ethiopia and Uganda, provide the foundation for this Guidebook. In each study, plot-level soil samples were collected following best-practice protocols and analyzed using wet chemistry and spectral analysis methods at ICRAF’s Soil-Plant Diagnostics Laboratory, in addition to a subjective module of soil health questions asked of the plot manager. The Guidebook offers (i) a comparison of subjective farmer assessments of soil health with laboratory testing, and (ii) step-by-step guidance on how to implement spectral soil analysis in a household- or farm-level survey, from questionnaire design to soil sample collection, labeling, and processing.

The Guidebook is the result of collaboration between the World Bank's Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS) team, the World Agroforestry Centre, the Central Statistical Agency of Ethiopia, and the Uganda Bureau of Statistics.

For practical advice on household survey design, visit the LSMS Guidebooks page: http://go.worldbank.org/0ZOAP159L0

More Jobs. It is possible!

Edgar Buberwa's picture



Developing countries like Tanzania are experiencing an unforeseen youth bulge—a high proportion of young people aged 15 to 24. Sadly, this growth is not matched by an equivalent rise in economic opportunities for the youth. Thus, most youth are either unemployed or engaged in activities with low productivity. There are solutions to this problem.

Look no further than Uber, Airbnb...

Michael Paul Mollel's picture


Meet Ibrahim, 27, a 2015 Agronomy graduate from Tanzania’s Sokoine University of Agriculture, one of the leading agricultural colleges in Sub-Saharan Africa. You would expect him to be dressed in blue overalls, working on one of the largest plantations near Arusha, in Basutu or Ngarenairobi, where they grow barley and wheat.
 
However, Ibrahim sits in a comfy chair at his office in Morogoro, supervising three ICT graduates employed by his company. Indeed, it is becoming normal to major in chemistry at university only to practice “algebra”—as they say—in real life.

Let’s harness the data revolution to promote agriculture and create jobs

Aidan Constantine Nzumi's picture



Agriculture is the backbone of many African economies, employing the most citizens in most countries, citizens who produce food for consumption and raw materials for industries. With the current data revolution, and the explosion of new data sources available in Tanzania, we can push for the integrated use of mechanization, fertilizers, and digital technologies to get more efficiency and productivity in our agriculture.


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