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Social Development

Reclaiming India's wastelands to fight climate change

Abel Lufafa's picture
 Abel Lufafa
Indian farmers showing off former wasteland that now produces crops. India's agriculture is highly vulnerable to climate threats. Reclaiming and bringing into production some of India’s wastelands could partially offset some of the projected crop production declines expected because of climate change. Credit: Abel Lufafa

About 15 minutes after we turn off the highway at Fatehpur, a roadside trading center located 120 km from Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, a mild haze blankets the sky.

As we drive deeper into the increasingly bare and desolate landscape, the wind blows stronger, and the haze thickens into dust plumes.

I lower the car window and find the source of the dust:  patches of abandoned land, coated with very fine powder in various shades of white and grey.

We are in a village with salt-affected soils, part of the millions of hectares of India’s wastelands.

Characterized by dense, impermeable surface crusts and accumulation of certain elements at levels that are toxic to plants, these sodic wastelands no longer support crop growth – they have been abandoned by farmers.

Our journey continues for another 30 minutes, the wind still blows strong, but dust plumes have given way to clearer skies.

We have reached Mainpuri, where, with World Bank support, sodic wastelands have been reclaimed and brought back to life, rolling back the unsavory spectacle of ecological destruction that once was the hallmark of the village.

Now in its third phase, the Uttar Pradesh Sodic Lands Reclamation Project (UPSLRP) has supported the reclamation of over 400,000 ha of such sodic wastelands and 25,000 ha of ravinous wasteland.

Join us on the geospatial way to a better world

Wael Zakout's picture
Kris Krüg Flickr CC

Disruptive technology, supported by location-based – or “geospatial” – databases, is on track to change our lives, transform economies, and shake up big and small businesses. In fact, this is already happening in cities and communities around the world, thanks to fast-developing mobile technology and the growing speed of mobile communications.

For example, a Cairo-based startup called “Swvl” is disrupting commuting in the In the Middle East and North Africa region by mapping out commuters’ travel directions and enabling app-based, affordable bus rides that can compete with on-demand ride-hailing.

Against All Odds: 16 Inspiring Heroes from Nepal

Renu Chhetri's picture
As the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is marked worldwide, we present to you stories of 16 inspiring heroes from Nepal. They are crusaders and pioneers, leaders and visionaries who share one common trait – a remarkable journey in their path towards equality and empowerment. They belong to diverse backgrounds, cultures, castes and groups. Yet all of them have stood against odds and managed to make a difference in many lives.

Each of the personalities is carefully chosen as a representative character with experiences that motivate and resonate with us. These Nepali heroes deserve to be read about, known and lauded for their efforts.
 



16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is an international campaign to challenge violence against women and girls.

The campaign runs every year from 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day.

The World Bank Group believes that no country, community, or economy can achieve its potential or meet the challenges of the 21st century without equal participation of women and men, girls and boys.

So
here we bring to you stories of 16 heroes that have contributed more than their share in empowering themselves, their communities and nation.

Accessibility and Inclusion: Two Key Factors for Disabled Individuals

Sofía Guerrero Gámez's picture
 dos aspectos clave para las personas con discapacidad

Globally, over one billion people – 15% of the population – live with some form of disability,  according to the World Health Organization’s World Report on Disabilities. Beyond their physical, mental or sensory impairments, people with disabilities face barriers for inclusion in different aspects of life. They tend to have fewer socioeconomic opportunities, more limited access to education and higher poverty rates. Stigma and discrimination are sometimes the main barrier to their full, equal participation. How can this situation be addressed?

Changing the lives of Egyptian people left behind for a long time: Taha’s Story

Amal Faltas's picture

"It was the first time we talked while the officials listened. Not as in the past, when they used to talk and we just listened."

With this simple statement, Taha Al-Leithi, a young Egyptian man from the village of Rawafei al-Qusayr in Sohag in Upper Egypt, described the fundamental change introduced by the local development forums to citizens’ participation in the development process in Sohag, and the relationship between government officials and citizens. 

Al-Leithi and his peers have never participated in any development decision concerning their village or its markaz (center). They had never been invited to develop or even discuss the annual investment plan for the markaz or governorate. Taha says he, like other young people in the village, had believed that planning and selecting projects were tasks done in closed rooms, and that the central government in Cairo alone decided the needs of villages and towns in Sohag governorate, 500 kilometers south of the capital. 

I believe Belarus will benefit greatly from the Human Capital Index – Here’s why

Alex Kremer's picture


On 11 October 2018, the World Bank launched its Human Capital Index, which quantifies the contribution of health and education to the productivity of the next generation of workers. The Index is part of the Human Capital Project, a global effort to accelerate more and better investments in people. Belarus didn’t participate in the Index this year.

Back in 1440, King Henry VI of England founded a college for poor scholars, providing a free education for boys whose families couldn’t afford to pay. At that time, the young students learned to read and write so that they could later work as administrators in the royal court.

A few centuries later, in 1977, I became one of “King Henry’s scholars”. I’m not working for a king, of course, but I recognize how lucky I am to have benefited from Henry’s medieval investment in human capital. One could perhaps call him a “very early adopter”.

These days, investing in people makes more economic sense than ever. Human capital – the knowledge, skills, and health that people accumulate throughout their lives – accounts for up to 68% of a country’s overall wealth, on average. In the case of Belarus, where I now live, the share of human capital in the country’s total wealth is somewhat lower, at 49.2%.

What cities can learn from New York City on disability inclusion

Charlotte McClain-Nhlapo's picture
Image: World Bank

How do we build inclusive cities for all?

This is a question that cities around the world are trying to answer, as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development advances disability-inclusive development – and makes a strong case for more sector-specific programming that is inclusive of persons with disabilities and leaves no one behind.

New York City is leading by example to ensure that the voices of persons with disabilities are represented.

Act now for a brighter future for the Afghan people

Hartwig Schafer's picture
Today, over 8.5 million students attend school–over 40% of them girls
Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy/ World Bank

In 2001, only one million Afghan children attended school–none of them girls. Today, over 8.5 million students attend school–over 40% of them girls.

Amina, a 9th grade student, is one of over 3 million girls that now attend school through the contributions of the Afghan people and support from the international community.

"I have seen many improvements at my school. We are learning more now through better teaching methods and materials,” she said. Amina is one of the millions of Afghans whose lives have improved and has great hopes for the future.

As the first country that I visited after becoming the World Bank’s Vice President for the South Asia Region in July 2018, Afghanistan impressed me with its resilient people and achievements in spite of challenges, notably in education, health, and infrastructure.

The country has immense potential. Located in the center of a fast-growing region blessed with a young population and abundant natural resources, Afghanistan can achieve rapid growth and huge improvements in living standards through sound planning and tight implementation.

Impact sourcing and young social entrepreneurs: Two approaches to tackle youth unemployment

Jose Manuel Romero's picture
The Ferizaj Four at UPSHIFT, a workshop that enables youth to build and lead solutions to a social challenge in their community. Photo: UNICEF/Njomza Kadriu

Social enterprises have plenty of potential to make concrete impacts on youth employment outcomes. For those not familiar with this model, social enterprises are businesses that conduct commercial, profit-generating activities but focus more on social outcomes than profits. This innovative approach in development has caught the attention of many in the youth employment space, especially over the last five years, partly because it relies less on public sector and donor funding -unlike many conventional programs. 
 
Among Solutions for Youth Employment (S4YE)’s Impact Portfolio  community of innovative youth employment projects, there are two projects that take the social enterprise model to practice: Digital Divide Data (DDD) and UNICEF’s UPSHIFT program. Each project represents a different way of applying the concept of social enterprise: Digital Divide Data itself is a youth employment project that operates as a social enterprise, while UPSHIFT works on creating young social entrepreneurs.

Game-changing technology empowers India’s women farmers

Paramveer Singh's picture
 World Bank
Since it started a decade ago, JEEVIKA, a World Bank program that supports Bihar’s rural communities, has mobilized more than nine million women into self-help and producers groups. Joining forces has helped lower costs and boost agricultural production. Credit: World Bank

It’s a dusty September morning, and Kiran Devi is finishing her chores at lightning speed.

 “Wouldn’t it be nice to keep 5,000 women waiting, especially when it’s a celebration,” she says with a touch of gushing pride and makes her way to the annual general meeting of the women-owned Aaranyak Agri producer company.

Located in Purnea district in Bihar—one of India’s poorest states—the company is made up of small local women small farmers and producers and lies in the most fertile corn regions in eastern India.

But until recently, small farmers did not fully reap the benefits of this productive land.

Local traders and intermediaries dominated the unregulated market. Archaic and unfair trading practices like manual weighing, unscientific quality testing, and irregular payments made it difficult for small farmers to get the best value for their produce.

 “The trader would come, put some grains under his teeth and pronounce the quality and pricing. For every quintal of maize [corn], 5-10 kilos additional grains were taken, sometimes through faulty scales and sometimes simply by brazenly asking for it,” says Lal Devi, one member of the company. “We had the choice between getting less or getting nothing.”
 

Kanchan Rani Devi bringing her corn to Sameli
Kanchan Rani Devi bringing her corn to Sameli. Credit: World Bank

Such practices stirred local women farmers into action, and they formed the Aaranyak Agri Producer Company Limited (AAPC) to access markets directly and improve their bargaining power.  

The company established a farmer-centric model and received funding and technical assistance through JEEViKA (livelihoods in Hindi), a World Bank program that supports the Government of Bihar and has achieved life-changing results for Bihar’s rural communities.

Since it started a decade ago, JEEVIKA has mobilized more than nine million women into self-help and producers groups. Joining forces helped lower costs and boost production. Together, the groups saved $120 million and leveraged more than $800 million in bank loans.

Further, digital technologies have been introduced as an innovative way to improve the production, marketing, and sale of small-farmers’ produce.

For example, women farmers receive regular periodic updates on their mobile phones to learn best practices to grow corn as well as weather information to inform farming decisions.

During harvest season, farmers receive daily pricing information from major nearby markets to help them stay abreast of the latest variations in prices.


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