With Alessandro Olper*
Mass media plays a crucial role in distribution of information and in shaping public policy. Theory shows that information provided by mass media reflects its incentives to provide news to different groups in a society and in turn shape these groups’ influence on policy making.
Agriculture and Rural Development
With Alessandro Olper*
The potentially deleterious effects of gender disparities on growth and poverty reduction have been receiving progressively more policy attention (reflected, for instance, in the inclusion of the promotion of gender parity amongst the Millennium Development Goals and the 2012 World Development Report). Inequities in labor market opportunities are of particular concern since labor earnings are the most important source of income for the poor in the vast majority of developing countries.
Although the vast majority of the poor live in rural areas and rural non-farm enterprises account for about 35-50% of rural income and roughly a third of rural employment in developing countries, relatively little is known about gender inequities in rural non-agricultural labor market outcomes due to data-limitations. This is unfortunate given the proliferation and diversification of rural non-farm activities and their potential to alleviate poverty, especially in countries where the importance of agriculture as an employer is likely to diminish.
Policies that aim to improve the position of women relative to men are desirable not only on equity but also on efficiency grounds. While developing countries continue to improve economic opportunities for women, inheritance laws remain strongly biased against women in many societies. When the distribution of inherited wealth is highly unequal, the effect of this disparity on economic inequality is of considerable interest. Parental bequests of material wealth and human capital investments represent central forms of intergenerational transfers that affect long-term development in far reaching ways.
Three years from the deadline for reaching the Millennium Development Goals, two-thirds of countries will not reach MDGs 4 and 5 (child and maternal mortality, respectively). And now the second food price rise in three years is a wake-up call for the development community.
In this context, the Global Monitoring Report 2012: Food Prices, Nutrition, and the Millennium Development Goals examines some of the possible consequences of food price increases, such as a rise in poverty and undernourishment1. Households cope through a variety of mechanisms, including: eating less nutritious diets and then less food; making more household members work (women and children); and not seeking health care when ill. The most vulnerable (the poor, children, and pregnant women) bear the brunt of these adverse impacts. Moreover, as countries seek to maintain food prices, some increase food price subsidies and cut into other services.
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?
Food price spikes happen when stocks are low and when unpredictable events occur. That was the main message of Professor Brian Wright at his Development Economics Lecture at the World Bank on March 11.
Wright, who is Professor & Chair Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, has long followed the markets for storable commodities. He is also an expert in invention incentives, intellectual property rights, the economics of agricultural research and development, and the economics of conservation and innovation of genetic resources.
Today’s food and fuel concerns do not constitute the ‘perfect storm’, Wright said. However, he warned that if several important crop-producing countries have a bad season in the coming year, and if the demand for biofuels rises faster than the rate of production of major grains, we could be in real trouble.
What’s the best fix for this situation? Wright argues it’s keeping food supplies cheap and investing in the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), since it will be super-seeds, drought resilient crops, and innovations to boost yields that will turn things around. He also emphasized that, during a crisis, it’s essential to put minimum food needs above animal feed and fuel uses.
Watch the video interview with Wright below.
The current food crisis—increasing poverty linked to price volatility and high food prices—have put agricultural growth and food production issues back on the development agenda. Is productivity growth the only way to address the short-run challenge (the food crisis) and longer-term needs (meeting increased demand for food)?
Even though today agriculture is the main source of livelihood for 2.5 billion people, including 1.3 billion smallholders and landless workers, public investment in agriculture in developing countries, as well as the share of agricultural expenditure in total government spending, have been gradually declining since the 1980s. Bilateral and multilateral assistance to agriculture, after an increase in the 1970s, also fell starting in the mid-1980s. It is only in recent years that the World Bank and other aid agencies have increased their lending and boosted their investments. But will these investments be effective? This depends on whether they will have a sizeable impact on agricultural productivity.
(Also available in Spanish)
Many observers predict that this week’s G-20 Summit in Seoul will be remembered mainly as a dance of high diplomacy aimed at persuading members to refrain from competitive devaluation of currencies and to reign in excessive current account imbalances.
If most headlines from Seoul are about spats over currencies and whose deficit or surplus is most harmful, then leaders will have missed the Seoul of the Matter.
Indeed, such an outcome would be a setback for developing countries and could potentially erode the legitimacy of the G-20 as an inclusive broker of financial and economic cooperation in the global economy.
Children haveing a meal at school. Ghana. Photo: © Arne Hoel/The World Bank
“Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”
This profoundly important—and seemingly-simple—definition of food security from the World Food Summit of 1996 actually has four elements:
1. Enough food must be available to meet people’s needs.
2. People must have access to the food that is available under normal circumstances.
3. Volatility in production or prices must not threaten this availability, and
4. The quality of food that people consume must be adequate for their needs.
We learned that the idea to start a rose farm first came to Ryaz’s (Owner of the farm) father, an Indian- origin head of a successful Ugandan conglomerate, after a visit to Ethiopia, where he scoped out potential business opportunities. Although he considered banking and bottled water, highly favorable soil and climatic conditions (warm days and cold nights), competitive fuel and electricity costs and, above all, competitive air freight costs - which account for more than fifty percent of the export-related production costs - made rose farming an easy choice, despite Ethiopia not having any flower industry to speak of at the time.