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Agriculture and Rural Development

Ever on the brink of disaster

Fred Owegi's picture

Farmers guide their livestock in the arid region of Mandera, Kenya

Earlier this month, I participated in a four-day mission to Mandera, a county in northeastern Kenya, some 640 km from Nairobi on the Somali border. The European Commission’s Humanitarian Agency (ECHO) arranged the mission to assess progress of various community-managed drought risk reduction initiatives.

We visited several projects being implemented across Mandera’s central, northern and eastern districts, an area which is home to more than a million people, according to the last census in 2009. The area is classified as arid and receives on average 250 mm of rainfall in a good year. But for the last several months, not a single drop of rain has fallen and all water reserves have been depleted. Famine could be imminent in Mandera and its neighboring counties if policies are not put in place to prevent it.

Being my first visit to Mandera the mission was eye-opening but also disquieting, coming as it did in the midst of what is now accepted as “the most severe drought in the Horn of Africa in the last 60 years”.

How Many More Bangladeshis are Now Breaking out of Poverty?

Naomi Ahmad's picture

Bangladesh reduced poverty from 40 percent to 31.5 percent between 2005 and 2010, according the new Household Income & Expenditure Survey (HIES) 2010. Progress can also be seen in other dimensions of development.

The HIES is a major source of socio-economic information at the household level in Bangladesh. It provides data on household expenditure, income, consumption, savings, housing conditions, education, employment, health, sanitation, water supply, electricity usage, etc.

Fleeing Famine—The View from Inside a Refugee Camp

Johannes Zutt's picture

Newly arrived Somali refugees at a Dadaab reception center

I recently visited Dadaab, Kenya’s third-largest and fastest-growing city, having grown from 250,000 residents a few years ago to more than 400,000 today.

Dadaab is not an ordinary Kenyan city. Most of its residents are not Kenyans, but Somalis, living in a collection of refugee camps crowding the small Kenyan town that existed 20 years ago.

The camps’ earliest residents sought refuge from the fighting that has made Somalia a failed state. The 1,000+ refugees that are now arriving every day are seeking refuge from climate change, the region’s worst drought in 60 years, and the famine that it brings.

I met a group of refugees at a reception center at Dagahaley camp. They had left everything in Somalia and walked hundreds of kilometers across a dry and unforgiving landscape in a desperate gamble to find food, water and refuge in Kenya. The very young and the very old were in terrible condition. Some had already been in Dadaab for a week, living off the kindness of others, too tired to sort out their status. Now they waited patiently to be registered and to receive their initial food ration.

Looking around the camp, I could see their likely future. Refugees who had arrived earlier were cooking, sitting, or talking around water points, or in the low white UNHCR tents that were now “home”. Still earlier arrivals, also squatting outside the formal camps, were building makeshift shelters, digging pit latrines, collecting firewood, or planting dry branches to fence their meager possessions. The earliest arrivals were the most settled—living in tin-roofed houses and fenced compounds that were formally allotted, not far from the main street of kiosks, shops, and community and administration buildings that gave each camp the look of a small town.

Open Data Is Not Enough

Raka Banerjee's picture

Since its inception, the World Bank’s Open Data initiative has generated considerable excitement and discussion on the possibilities that it holds for democratizing development economics as well as for democratizing the way that development itself is conducted around the world.  Robert Zoellick, in a speech given last year at Georgetown University, expounded on the many benefits resulting directly from open data.  Offering the example of a health care worker in a village, he spoke of her newfound ability to “see which schools have feeding programs . . . access 20 years of data on infant mortality for her country . . . and mobilize the community to demand better or more targeted health programs.”  Beyond this, Zoellick argued that open data means open research, resulting in “more hands and minds to confront theory with evidence on major policy issues.”

The New York Times featured the Bank’s Open Data initiative in an article published earlier this month, in which it referred to the released data as “highly valuable”, saying that “whatever its accuracy or biases, this data essentially defines the economic reality of billions of people and is used in making policies and decisions that have an enormous impact on their lives.”  The far-reaching policymaking consequences of the data are undeniable, but the New York Times touches upon a crucial question that has been overshadowed by the current push for transparency: what about quality? 

Calling it in: using phones for repeat surveys

Markus Goldstein's picture

In a working paper on the new LSMS-ISA (integrated surveys for agriculture) website, Brian Dillon describes the experience using phones in a research project he was working on with Diego Shirima, Geofrey Mwemezi and Msafiri Msedi.   (You can also find a published version of this paper

Securing Livelihoods through Riverbed Farming

Shiva P. Aryal's picture

In 2008 Development Marketplace competition, Helvetas was among the 22 winners with its proposal on Riverbed Farming for Landless and Land-Poor. The project has now entered its third season of cultivation.

Cultivation is done on large tracks of dry riverbeds in the Tarai region of Nepal, where land poverty is wide-spread and where at least 20 percent of households do not own land. The Nepalese climate allows riverbed farming for a maximum of seven to eight months a year except during monsoon season.

As a part of the project, local farmers are trained as extension agents. They receive technical assistance from the District Agriculture Development Office (DADO) staff and a Helvetas agriculturalist.

Currently 3,000 households in Kailali and Kanchanpur districts are cultivating watermelon, cucumber, pumpkin and other vegetables on about 400 hectares of riverbed land. Through a lease signed between the landless groups and the land owners, (generally the village development committees or community forestry user groups), landless groups cultivate produce and generate a significant income from their harvest.

What Dream Does Kamlabhai Aspire for from $300?

Kalesh Kumar's picture

We were in Kachnaria village, about 45 kms from the Biora Block headquarters in late May. Kachnaria has a population of 2600 with 290 households identified as extremely poor and supported by the Madhya Pradesh Poverty Initiatives Project, which has created 12 Self Help Groups of women thus far. My good friend Raman Wadhwa from the state project office and other colleagues were with us when we me with the Village Development Council (VDC) members.

Raman and I joined the VDC meeting as guests and the Sakhi (a lady from the village who takes care of bookkeeping for the rest of the group) formally introduced us to the group as observers and instructed us to sign the attendance registration along with other members. The proceedings of a community group that has learned over the last few months to stand on their own feet and lead respectful life has many intricate lessons for federating and finding a common place for everything that is significant in life, including prayer in the beginning in Hindi (“Humko man ki sakthi dena… man vijay kare… “roughly translated as “Oh God, Give strength to our mind, for the mind to be victorious… make ourselves victorious over our mind for us to cheer the victory of others...”) their long log books of money brought in by each Self Help Group (SHG) and their inquisitive interactions ensure that money taken by members as loan was spent for productive purposes.

Les prix alimentaires, ou l’ingestion du coût de la logistique

Jordan Schwartz's picture

Du déjà-vu.

Nous voilà de nouveau en train d'essayer de disséquer les causes profondes de la hausse des prix alimentaires qui ont repris leur progression haletante en direction des niveaux record de 2008. Est-ce là le résultat de la spéculation sur les marchés des produits ? de l'envol de la demande de céréales fourragères dans les pays asiatiques ? de la réaffectation de terres jusque là consacrées à la culture de produits alimentaires à la production de biocombustibles ? Pour nos spécialistes de l'agriculture, de l'énergie et des transports, la réponse est claire : « oui, oui et encore oui ».

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Food Prices: Eating the Cost of Logistics

Jordan Schwartz's picture

Déjà vu.

Once again we find ourselves trying to dissect the root causes of food price increases as they bump and grind their way back toward their 2008 peaks. Is it speculation in commodity markets? Is it the booming demand from Asia for feed grains? Is it land use switching out from food crops to biofuels? The sentiment among our agriculture, energy and transport specialists is that the answer to these questions is: "Yes. All of the above."

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Travelling great distances to improve lives of rural Solomon Islands communities

Alison Ofotalau's picture
Map courtesy of Wikipedia through a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Taking development to the outlying provinces of Solomon Islands is not an easy ride. I found this out when going on a site visit to the Rural Development Program (RDP) at the country’s far western province of Choiseul.

At the Northwest region of Choiseul province where the island faces open waters that span to the Micronesian archipelago of the Pacific lies a village called Polo. The Polo community has a primary school that was established in 1957 when Solomon Islands was still a British Protectorate, prior to independence in 1978. Since its inception, the Polo school never had a permanent classroom building until two years ago when through the RDP participatory process, the community identified the school as their main need.


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