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Agriculture and Rural Development

Mismanagement of natural resources gives us no margin of error to handle an increasingly unpredictable climate

Johannes Zutt's picture
 Tree planting: Professor Wangari Maathai with Johannes Zutt
   Photo © World Bank/
   Tree planting: Professor Wangari
   Maathai with Johannes Zutt

I spent yesterday in rural Kenya with the World Development Report (WDR) team and the inspirational activist Professor Wangari Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Professor Maathai graphically showed us the problems across multiple areas of the economy when the climate does not behave as predicted. The visit powerfully demonstrated how much worse the effects are when the changing climate combines with a poorly managed environment. Only 1.7 percent of Kenya's territory has forest cover, compared to about 10 percent a century ago. And the forests are increasingly fragmented. Yet these fragments protect water towers that are the source of the country’s rivers. The diverse natural forests regulate rainfall, provide homes for Kenya's stunningly diverse flora and fauna, and of course they also help our planet to store carbon. But human activity in and around the forests continues to threaten their survival. Over recent decades, plantation forests have replaced much of the natural forests that once covered Kenya, but they are much less effective at regulating rain, preventing soil erosion and protecting diversity. As I said on our visit to the Aberdare Forest yesterday, in many places I did not see forests; what I saw instead were tree farms.

Update from Nairobi: No doubt here that it’s real

Julia Bucknall's picture

No one in Nairobi—where we just released pre-press version of the World Development Report—needs to be reminded about the effects of climate change. Four consecutive rains have failed, and on 80 percent of the country’s land area, water resources are at a tenth of their normal levels.

 Parched earth in Kenya
    Photo © Ann Phillips

Everyone is feeling it.

Farmers see dying crops. The harvest is 28 percent of normal amounts. The Minister of Environment reported at the WDR launch yesterday that ten million Kenyans were going hungry because of the drought. Herders see their cattle dying or have to sell them for low prices. Some are shipping their cattle to areas that still have grass only to see them die of cold at the higher altitudes.

A climate for change in Africa

Calestous Juma's picture

Sub-Saharan African countries are bracing for dramatic impacts of climate change. As Andrew Simms of the UK-based New Economics Foundation has aptly put it, they are “caught between the devil of drought and the deep blue sea of floods.”

Africa’s greenhouse gas emissions have been minimal because of its low levels of industrial output. Yet African countries are likely to suffer disproportionately from global warming. They are therefore right to demand that international climate negotiations be based on principles of historical justice.

But behind this seemingly dismal outlook lies a unique opportunity for Africa to lead the way in adopting low-carbon growth strategies. The region is not too heavily committed to the same damaging industries that its industrial counterparts are having difficulties abandoning. African countries therefore need to complete their demand for historical justice with the design of climate-smart policies.

Deforestation: Disastrous consequences for the climate and for food security

Shiva Makki's picture

I grew up in a small village in South-Western India, which is known for evergreen forests, wildlife, and spectacular landscapes.  That was in the 1970s and 1980s.  My interests in forests began then, as I spent many hours wandering off into the woods on my way back from school.  When I was six years old, my father bought five acres of pristine forest land and converted them into a coffee plantation.  He wasn’t the only one.  In just three decades, much of the forest around where I grew up has been either converted to crop lands or cleared for logging.

This loss grieves me.  Although I have worked on a broad range of issues as a professional economist, my concerns for forests and the environment remain high.  In a recent note, I’ve tried to show the complex links between deforestation, climate change, and food security with a simple diagram.  The note can be easily downloaded and is meant for students.

Every silver lining has a cloud: the impacts of climate change in Europe and Central Asia

Rachel Ilana Block's picture
 Photo © Rachel Block/World Bank

Reading the newspapers last January when Russia suspended the supply of gas to the rest of Europe—with Eastern European countries hardest hit—I could not help but think that the region might be better off with fewer sub-zero days during winter.

On a trip to the Balkans last year, I partook of the colorful summer bounty of peppers and tomatoes enjoyed throughout southern Russia and Southeastern Europe. 

"Dear Diary: August 27th, 2008. Sarajevo.  Best tomato of my life. If this reckless bus driver careens off the mountainside, at least I’ll die satisfied."

What a contrast from the pickles and cabbage my great-great-grandparents subsisted on in Poland and Lithuania! Though I was raised “properly”—with a taste for pickled cauliflower and herring—I could see why the northern reaches of the region might appreciate a longer growing season and more sunny, tomato-ripening days.

Studying (and contributing to) projections of global food supply in the changing climate over the next century, I see precipitous drops in yields projected in already-poor swaths of Africa, and in densely populated and cultivated regions in South and East Asia.  But many have concluded that, globally, there will be enough food to go around—thanks to the expanding role of Europe and Central Asia as the breadbasket of the world—and assuming free and fair international trade in food.
 
A recent report by the World Bank, “Adapting to Climate Change in Europe and Central Asia,” argues that these outcomes can by no means be taken for granted.

Agricultural trade, global warming, and development: Part 1 Can global warming thaw the Doha negotiations?

John Nash's picture

As we approach a critical phase in the negotiations regarding climate change, and continue to grope for a way forward in the Doha Round negotiations, it seems to me to be worth emphasizing the multi-faceted linkages between a liberalized trade regime and climate change. Some of these linkages have received fairly extensive attention.  For example, it is widely recognized that trade barriers to movement of low-carbon technology need to be kept low, and this is being addressed (although some might think inadequately) under the rubric “trade in environmental services” in the Doha Round negotiations. But other connections have received, IMHO, a level of attention that grossly undervalues their potential to contribute to objectives on either the trade side or the climate change side, or both. This is especially true in the realm of agriculture.

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