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Agriculture and Rural Development

Agriculture, forests, climate change: Intersecting ambitions

Inger Andersen's picture

Everything about Cancun’s COP16 is very different from Copenhagen’s COP15. To start with, last year we were in the cavernous Bella Center with throngs of people, while a massive series of snow storms were bearing down on Copenhagen. Well, here we are in Cancun on a seemingly endless hotel strip. A tourism paradise, with silver beaches, turquoise waters, and a gentle breeze welcoming all COP16 delegates and beckoning everyone to leave meetings and laptops behind and run for the waves… photo courtesy: CIFOR

 

But just like COP15 delegates braved the cold and the snow, COP16 delegates are displaying will power and determination and heading for the “Moon Palace”, which is where the negotiations, plenary sessions, and official meetings are taking place.

 

The Bank team has been participating in a number of side events while here in Cancun. Saturday was “Agriculture Day” with nearly 1,000 participants registered. This demonstrated the great interest in charting a path that will ensure that climate change priorities are not treated in absence from agricultural priorities. I was honored to give the keynote speech at the opening of the day’s deliberations and we were pleased to note that our core messages appeared to have significant resonance. 

In search of the triple win for farmers and the rest of us

Andrew Steer's picture

Imagine that you live in a village in Africa, say Niger. Your family has been farming the same plot for generations. It’s never been easy. But recently it seems to have become even more difficult. The weather seems more variable, the rainfall less predictable, yields more uncertain, prices more volatile.

 

Now imagine one, two, three or five decades from now. How goes farming in your village? 

 

It could be much worsemore droughts, worse floods, lower yields, lower incomes. Quite possibly the village hasn’t been able to survive. 

 

Or it could be much better. Stronger soils, better yields, more predictable harvests, more varied and nutritious crops, and cash flows each year to the farmer for sequestering more carbon on his land.

Which of these happens is a choice.

 

It depends on our decisions on two things: whether the world as a whole decides to lower carbon emissions by at least 50% by 2050. And what we all do to support that farmer and the system of farming around the world.

 

As I write this there are 1000 people from 100 countries spending a week in The Hague in the Netherlands discussing this second issue. The Dutch Government and the World Bank have organized a conference─called “Down2Earthjust four weeks prior to Cancun in order to give momentum to a subject that has been often neglected in the climate debate. Farmers are under the greatest threat from climate change, but they could also play a major role in addressing it. Agriculture accounts for nearly 15% of global carbon emissions, with deforestation and forest degradation accounting for as much again. 

A choice between feeding or saving the planet?

Elwyn Grainger-Jones's picture

News from the Sahel region of Africa is not good – failed rains leading to famine. Worst affected is Niger, where half of that nation’s 15 million people now face severe food shortages after several years of drought. Climate change will only increase the frequency of such events.

 

For most people living in this area, agriculture is their main source of income. The International Fund for Agriculture and Development (IFAD) believes that good agricultural and rural development programs can both help to feed a growing population and conserve the planet we live on. For example, last week one of my team met Baraka. Her family farms a small patch of land in the Maradi region of Niger, where we are helping her and the others in the village introduce zero-till agriculture and regenerate degraded ecosystems to increase food production. Farming in a sustainable way also strengthens their capacity to deal with climate change.

 

It was images of villages like this that were in my mind when earlier this month, I was invited to the World Bank in Washington to discuss the links among climate, environment and agriculture. We―bank staff and representatives of the NGO development and research communities―asked ourselves one simple question: Are we linking these issues together or do we still see them in separate boxes?

Do we still need REDD if deforestation is decreasing in the Amazon?

Carlos A. Nobre's picture
Amazon birds -- iStockphoto
Two macaws in the Amazon.
Photo © istockphoto.com

Although the United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen badly failed to achieve legally binding agreements, including on the specific mechanism of REDD (Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), there was nevertheless a general sense that this mechanism is something worth pursuing. Meetings and discussions continued to take place after the conference was over, and a fund of US$ 10 billion is being set up to promote initial steps for tropical developing countries to prepare for REDD.

What lessons can be learned from the Brazilian Amazon, where deforestation rates have been steadily declining for 5 years?

Compared to estimates of land-cover change emissions from elsewhere in the tropics, estimates in the Brazilian Amazon tend to be relatively more certain because they are calculated from annual, satellite-based monitoring of land cover change for over two decades for the Brazilian portion of the Amazon. That is the work of the PRODES Project carried out by the National Institute of Space Research (INPE) of Brazil. 

Deforestation in the Amazon changes a lot from year to year. The proximate causes are not totally known. They have to do with economic drivers such as prices of commodities (beef, soy, etc.), the opening of roads, but they are also influenced by the effectiveness of law enforcement to curb illegal deforestation.

The latter may have played a key role in reducing deforestation in the last 5 years. During that period, annual deforestation rates in the Brazilian Amazon plummeted from over 27 thousand km2 (August 2003-July 2004) to around 7 thousand km2 (August 2008-July 2009), an amazing 74% reduction over 5 years!

Innovation in water, part 2: desalination

Julia Bucknall's picture

People skeptical of hearing water experts talking about water crises put their faith in the human capacity to innovate.  They point to the rapid decline in costs of taking the salt out of sea water as evidence that – when we really have to – we will innovate and make sure we can meet our water needs. 

Necessity is the mother of invention.  Israel, one of the driest countries in the world, has invested heavily in non-conventional sources of water.  Desalination currently provides around 40 percent  of Israel’s municipal water supply and the plan is for this source to provide 70 percent by 2015. In March, a team from the the World Bank's WDR2010 and Middle East North Africa units visited the largest operational reverse osmosis desalination plant in the world, in Hadera. 

Twenty minutes ago this water was sea water! from World Bank on Vimeo.

Desalination does indeed have potential to meet the municipal water needs of many people in the world – but only those who live near the sea.  

Uri Shamir, Professor Emeritus at Technion on 'Desalination' from World Bank on Vimeo.

Costs have come down to about $0.55 per cubic metre, about half what it was a decade ago.  How have engineers managed this?  Economies of scale are important.  They have also been able to save on costs by designing an efficient system within the plant and by clever energy saving technology. Will the costs come down much further?  About 10% say the Israeli experts.  Not more.

Israel’s very careful management of every drop of water has led to an interesting problem. 

Why we need a price on carbon: the movie

Rosina Bierbaum's picture

The perceived communications fiasco of the last few months about what is known and not known about the science of climate change led one of my students, Andy Lubershane, to try a different approach—animation.  His effort is meant to communicate in a clear, humorous, memorable way the reasons why we need to put a price on greenhouse gas emissions. 

Andy is one of 160 Master’s students using the World Development Report 2010 as a textbook on Environmental Assessment at the University of Michigan. 

 

 

Innovation in water, part 1: drip irrigation

Julia Bucknall's picture

 


Today is World Water Day, a good time to ponder the impacts of global climate change on water availability and quality. Julia Bucknall was part of a team of experts from the WDR2010 and the World Bank's Middle East and North Africa region visiting Israel last week to learn about innovation in water. The blog below is the first in three installments.

Can high-tech agriculture help developing countries get more from their water? 

Israel invented drip irrigation, a technology that has spread rapidly since its introduction in the 1960s and which is widely touted as a key way for countries to close their water gap and be more adapted to climate change.  It certainly does reduce evaporative losses, is often associated with a switch to high-value crops, and reduces fertilizer use when liquid fertilizer is added to the mix and delivered precisely to the root of the plant (a process that delights in the name “fertigation”).  We often see important productivity gains. 

Yet it’s not as simple as that. 

The World Bank and climate change: Six years down the road

Kseniya Lvovsky's picture

My foray into climate change in the World Bank Group started with the drought-affected regions in Andhra Pradesh, India in 2003. The WB had just started thinking about adaptation to climate change and was trying to begin a dialogue with developing countries dealing with overwhelming challenges of poverty. With my colleagues in India, we began looking at drought-proofing in Andhra Pradesh without labeling this a `climate change’ study. In many ways, this was probably the first attempt to integrate adaptation into a Bank rural poverty reduction project. Two years later, the study was well received and became the pilot for drought-adaptation, to be linked to India’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Program.

This experience served as a laboratory for us to learn lessons that have helped mould Bank’s engagement with climate change. It went on to shape the key features of the Strategic Framework on Development and Climate Change (SFDCC) that was approved a year ago. Connecting with client countries and listening to their concerns became the cornerstone for the SFDCC. The Framework was formulated through an extensive global consultation with both World Bank Group staff and external stakeholders. It was the process itself that helped build ownership for climate change work inside the Bank Group and among client countries.

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