As the recently named Director of the Agriculture and Rural Development Department -- one of DM2008's funders --Juergen Voegele is leading a vigorous effort to re-energize and broaden the World Bank's commitment to agricultural development. During his peripatetic rounds of the competition, Voegele sat down for this mini-interview:
Q. What are your impressions of what you see on the floor of the exhibition?
A. When we came up witht the idea of proposing agriculture as the theme for Development Marketplace this year, we had no idea what to expect. We thought there was a lot of room for innovation, for new ideas, for sharing grassroots experience on a global scale -- but we didn't know what to expect. Having spent two days looking at proposals, it's clearly exceeded our expectations. We have a broad range of scalable, potentially sustainable small-scale ideas, that if we can get them on the right track, can make quite a contribution. So we're excited. It's inspiring for management, it's inspiring for our staff.
Q. How about the people behind the proposals?
A. You see a great deal of diversity and variety. There are people who have worked all their lives at the basic grassroots level, interacting at the household level, small-community level, maybe village level, and their idea is to scale their projects up to other villages. We have others who look this on the regional, national even global scale, so to us that's very, very exciting. For us, it's all connected. You have to think globally, act locally, and you have to learn locally and translate it into global action. This up-and-down interaction is extremely important, and a place like Development Marketplace makes this happen. The people who work at the very narrow focused, very practical, very real level, with households in remote areas, get a feel for how we can take this to a higher level. And the people at a higher level, national level, they get a feel for what this really means on the ground for individuals.
Q. The Bank -- ARD -- does big projects. How do you balance mega-projects with, say, a $200,000 project serving three village in Ethiopia?
A. As an institution we constantly search for good ideas, for innovative ideas, those that can be scaled, that are sustainable, that show real results, and are practical. We do big projects -- that's true. But many of them are based on a demonstration that worked in one village, and we helped the local NGO, we helped a UN agency that did it on a small scale to scale it up.
Q. You're saying there are similarities in approaches -- large and small scale?
A. Absolutely. There's this view that because the Bank does large projects, we do them top down. In practicality, many that we finance -- at, say, the $100 million level -- started small scale. They began as experimental work that got scaled up to the demonstration level, into the regional scale, and then we got approached to do it on a much bigger scale This is what we do. It's a continuum.
Q. Will ARD get involved with the winning projects?
A. We will work with the 20 to 24 winners together over the next couple of years on a very concrete, direct basis. We will accompany them into the field, and put our own human resources on top of the cash injection, because we want to see, on the ground, if this can be scaled We will provide some supervision and monitoring, and we will hopefully learn something ourselves. So this isn't a one-off thing.