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Agriculture and Rural Development

Commodity prices come tumbling down

John Baffes's picture
Most commodity prices fell in the third quarter of 2015 as a result of abundant supplies and weak demand, leading to a further downward revision in price forecasts for 2015 and 2016.

Our quarterly Commodities Markets Outlook report analyzes markets for major commodities groups and forecasts prices for 46 commodities from bananas to zinc. The price declines are part of a five-year-long commodities slump.

Introducing our new Sustainable Communities blog series

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Making sure that villages, cities, but also countries and societies at large can grow in a sustainable way will be key to achieving the World Bank’s twin goals of eliminating poverty and boosting shared prosperity. This new blog series on “Sustainable Communities” will provide a platform for our experts to explore the multiple aspects of sustainability – environmental, social, economic, and discuss what concrete solutions can be implemented to pave the way for a brighter, more sustainable future.

Look around Nepal. What do you see?

Trishna Thapa's picture

Amidst all the hardships of daily life, what are the things that inspire you, give you hope and make you believe in a better tomorrow?

That is the question we asked when we invited people to share with us photographs of people, places and actions which inspired them and gave them hope for a better future for Nepal.

The results were incredible. We received over 200 photographs from across Nepal. Photographs which were not only beautiful but which also carried strong messages of the importance of education, agriculture, heritage conservation, empowerment of women and many more.

Look Around You. What do you see?
Look Around You. What do you see?

Look Around You. What do you see? That is the question we asked when we invited people to share with us photographs of people, places and actions which inspired them and gave them hope for a better future for Nepal. Here are some of the ones that touched our hearts. Learn more:

Posted by World Bank Nepal on Wednesday, October 28, 2015
A selection of our favorite photographs.

These photographs showcase the beauty of Nepal and the resilience of the Nepali people; they show that despite the toughest of challenges, there is always hope, and always time for a smile.

The winning photograph was by 28-year-old software developer Rasik Maharjan whose beautiful photograph depicted a spontaneous moment between a brother and sister. Describing the photograph he said –

“While visiting Pokhara, I saw a little girl in a purple dress on the edge of Phewa Lake, She seemed to be fascinated by the wild water flowers. A boy, her brother, merely 7 years old, jumped into the lake. The little girl was pointing at the wild flower and without hesitation the boy picked it up and began swimming towards his sister. He gave the flower to his sister, while she gave him an innocent smile… The love between a sister and a brother... No love can compare.”

To see more photos and their captions, please visit us on Facebook at

Will the Sun God answer poor farmers' prayers or make things worse?

Amit Jain's picture
A paddy farmer with his umbrella on a rainy day in West Bengal, India. Photo by Amit Jain / World Bank
Farmer in West Bengal, India. Photo by Amit Jain / World Bank)

If God appeared in the dream of a paddy farmer in India’s West Bengal and said, “You have made me happy with your hard work, make any three wishes and they will be granted,” the farmer will say “I want rain, rain, rain.”

That thought kept playing over and over in my mind, after interacting with farmers in the paddy fields of the Siliguri and Jalpaiguri districts of West Bengal. Located in India’s northeast, the area is famous for its scenic beauty, tea plantations and paddy fields. While the region’s fertile soil makes it ideal for a variety of crops, it is almost entirely dependent on rainfall for irrigation, like anywhere else in the world.

To reduce their dependence on the monsoons, India’s farmers have taken 12 million electricity connections and 9 million diesel pump sets with which they pump up groundwater for irrigation.

Although agriculture’s share of India’s economy is declining—it contributes to less than 15% of India’s GDP—it still employs 50% of the country’s workforce. Not surprisingly, perhaps, up to 20% of all the electricity used in India is for agriculture, mostly for irrigation. In some states, this can account for as much as 30-50% of all the electricity used in the state.

There are many states where power for agricultural purposes is highly subsidized, and this, combined with an unreliable supply of electricity, often causes farmers to leave their pumps on all the time. This wastes both electricity and water, with too much energy being used and too much groundwater being extracted, often way more water than needed. 

Since more than half of India’s cultivated land is yet to be irrigated, a business-as-usual scenario will lead to a huge rise in India’s energy needs for agriculture alone.

But there is an alternative—solar energy.

With decreasing solar modules prices (70% in the last 4 years), solar pumps are fast becoming a viable financial solution for irrigation.

However, there are several questions about the use of solar pumps that need to be answered:

Won’t solar pumps only make farmers more lax about using energy resources and wasting groundwater?

Knowing your steak’s origin and impact on the environment? It’s possible

Katie Kennedy Freeman's picture
Cattle tagged through Uruguay’s national system for livestock information.
Cattle tagged through Uruguay’s national system for livestock information. Photo: Holger A. Kray/World Bank

Imagine if you could know where your steak was born, and all of the details about its life until it reached your plate.  Since 2011, this has been possible with Uruguay’s national system for livestock information or Sistema Nacional de Información Ganadera (SNIG).  

Why 100% traceability of cattle matters

The World Bank aided the development of SNIG, which became fully operational in 2004, as part of its support for Uruguay’s recovery from the Foot and Mouth Disease epidemic. The SNIG, which is a livestock registration system with more than 75,000 participants in the agricultural and industrial sectors, paved the way for Uruguay’s mandatory individual cattle traceability program. All animals born in September 2006 or later are required to be tagged with one visual ear tag and one radio frequency identification tag, both for traceability purposes. The novel system allowed Uruguay to become the only country in the Americas (and one of only a few in the world) with 100% traceability of cattle and allowed consumers, mainly in China, Europe and NAFTA areas to know the origin of the beef for health (fewer diseases with full tractability), social (ability to know that the cows were grass-fed) and environmental (sustainability of natural resources) reasons. ​

Why climate change is an existential threat to the Bangladesh Delta

Lia Sieghart's picture

Bangladesh Delta Series: 3

In the second in this series of blogs, we highlighted the need to introduce adaptive delta management to the Bangladesh delta. The reason—to manage the long-term risks facing the Delta by investing in adaptive and flexible, short-term activities. The most striking need for this approach is climate change, which unchecked will undermine Bangladesh’s many development gains.

Farmers and food companies can build resilient supply chains

Marc Sadler's picture
People working on a strawberry farm in Argentina.

So the global challenge is clear: We need to sustainably feed 9 billion people in 2050, while building the resilience of farmers and food companies AND concurrently making agriculture part of the climate solution, not an increasingly large part of the problem.

Daunting? Well, yes of course, but that is why it is a “global challenge” and not just something that incremental change will solve.

There is nothing new in this story and many of the things we need to do are known, but just not done at scale. What is new is the fact that the interests, aspirations and objectives of a wide group of stakeholders are coming together. We have long searched for truly sustainable farming – one that will sustain farmers and enable them to prosper, while ensuring that the landscapes in which we live and work are not the subject of short term gain resulting in long term degradation.

Staying the Course in Mongolia: 14 years institutionalizing community participation

Helene Carlsson Rex's picture
In development we want things to go accordingly to plan.  We look for tools, guidelines and best practices in our quest for results and impact. But we also know that development is not an exact science and things do not always go according to plan.  Changes in government or an economic downturn can quickly make a project design irrelevant.

But in some cases, it does go (more or less) accordingly to plan despite bumps in the road along the way.  One such example is the Sustainable Livelihoods Program series in Mongolia, which on September 17, 2015 launched its third and final phase.

Back in 2002, after a series of particularly harsh winters that killed one-third of the livestock in Mongolia and added even more strain to an already impoverished rural population, the World Bank decided to support a new approach to sustainable livelihoods. At that time, the country had little history of community participation in local development planning, and few rural finance options.  

The vision was to place investment funds at the local level and to give the communities a strong voice in the allocation of these funds. Because of the risks associated with the severe winters in Mongolia, pastoral risk management and winter preparedness were to be strengthened. And with a history of inefficient central planning, supporting a policy shift towards greater fiscal decentralization was very important.

This vision and core principles were translated into the design of the three-part Sustainable Livelihoods Series, which included piloting, scaling-up and institutionalization phases.

How we made #OpenIndia

Ankur Nagar's picture

open india

It has been a season ripe with new ideas and shifts in the open data conversation. At the Cartagena Data Festival in April, the call for a country-led data revolution was loud and clear. Later in June at the 3rd International Open Data Conference in Ottawa there was an emphasis on the use of open data-beyond mere publishing.

Mulling on these takeaways, a logical question to ask may be: what would a country-focused data project that aims to put data to use look like?

Have you tried Open India?

A few months earlier, inspired by the “Digital India” vision, a small but agile team led by the India Team at the World Bank was working on Open India.  It’s a live, open platform for engaging with and tracking the why, what, and how of the World Bank Group’s work in India, within the context of the development challenges that India faces. At the heart of this process was data from this vast country and equally important “design thinking” to solve a clear problem.

Here is a glimpse at the journey of this in-house startup. We hope it will add to the evolving data conversation, and help make the case for design to be a part of it.  These are our lessons-learned from our journey as World Bank intrapreneurs.

Open India: Take on India’s Development Challenges
Open India: Take on India’s Development Challenges with the Wo... - The Open India app connects the dots between every public and private sector activity of the World Bank Group in India, against the context of the vast development challenges that the country faces. Use this app to track the World Bank Group’s work in your state and the development issues of your interest, and provide your ideas and feedback.

Posted by World Bank India on Friday, October 16, 2015

Pitch like a startup

India has become one of the fastest growing economies in the last decade, but remains home to a third of the world's poor. Its development challenges are massive: there is a huge infrastructure gap, it is urbanizing at an astonishing pace, and the population is set to cross 1.5 billion. The World Bank Group's Country Partnership Strategy offers an analysis and a plan to tackle these challenges. It covers a portfolio of over $25 billion, and provides a clear results chain to track the strategy’s progress.

How much does the gender gap really cost?

Rachel Coleman's picture

A new report entitled, “The Cost of the Gender Gap in Agricultural Productivity in Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda” launched last week at a side-event of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) 42nd session calling for policymakers to prioritize closing the gender gap in agricultural productivity in Africa.  This report was jointly produced by the World Bank Africa Gender Innovation Lab, UN women and UNDP-UNEP Poverty-Environment Initiative to quantify the cost and specify the gain in closing the gender gap in agriculture.

This launch was positioned on the UN’s International Day of Rural Women – a day dedicated to recognizing that empowering rural women is key to achieving sustainable development. In Sub-Saharan Africa the reality is women form a large proportion of the agricultural labor force, yet gender-based inequalities in access to and control of productive and financial resources inhibit them from achieving the same level of agricultural productivity as men.  

The Africa Gender Innovation Lab (GIL) has been working to generate evidence on how to close the gender gap in agricultural productivity through conducting rigorous impact evaluations. A 2014 GIL report entitled Levelling the Field identified areas to focus our attention in working to close the gap and offered promising policy solutions and emerging new ideas to test.   

The new report expands on  Levelling the Field, to illustrate why this gap matters, showing that closing the gap could result in gross gains to GDP of $100 million in Malawi, $105 million in Tanzania and $67 million in Uganda—along with other positive development outcomes such as reduced poverty, and greater food security.