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Communities and Human Settlements

Accountability Alchemy

Darshana Patel's picture
A self-help group member shows us her paralegal identification (Medak District, Andhra Pradesh).

Alchemy is well known as the science of turning invaluable substances into gold. But it symbolizes transformation of the most radical kind. (From the Arabic word al-kimia, alchemy literally means "the art of transformation.")

So what does accountability have to do with radical transformation? According to the Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP) , a government agency in Andhra Pradesh, India; accountability is key to ensuring transformation of the poor.

SERP is implementing the Andhra Pradesh Rural Poverty Reduction Project, locally known as Indira Kranthi Patham (IKP) in all the 22 rural districts of Andhra Pradesh. IKP is the longest running livelihoods program financed by the World Bank in South Asia but what makes the project unique is not large-scale spending. It is the slow, intentional process of building institutions of and by the poor that no amount of money alone has been able to accomplish. The idea behind this project is that accountability and sound governance practices must be embedded in the norms and culture of institutions rather than treated as after-thoughts.

Renewable biogas provides clean, affordable energy for rural households in Nepal

Environmental Specialist Javaid Afzal demonstrates supervision practices of Bank staff as he inspects the internal workings of a biogas plant currently under construction.

Trecking through the remote and rugged mountainous areas of Nepal, it was evident to me that the abundance of natural beauty starkly contrasted with the scarcity of access to affordable and environmentally sustainable energy sources.

In Nepal, Most households still rely on traditional energy sources for cooking and heating, such as firewood or agriculture residue with few having access to electricity.

The high demand for firewood has created a number of environmental problems such as deforestation, soil degradation, and flooding. Firewood also requires considerable time for families to collect and its use results in indoor air pollution which particularly impacts women and children.

A solution has been the introduction of biogas as a way to bring cleaner, safer, and more affordable energy to rural households. It is created when animal and human waste are converted into clean sources of cooking fuel, replacing the need for wood, dried dung, and fossil fuel based sources of energy. Its byproduct can also be used as a natural fertilizer to increase agricultural yield.

Have Innovation and Entrepreneurship Found Solutions for Affordable Housing?

Joe Qian's picture

The recently elected government has recently announced an ambitious goal of eliminating slums in India in its most recent five year plan. Will this be a possibility? If you ask the construction companies, the answer is yes. A number of entrepreneurs and enterprises have embarked on new initiatives to provide affordable housing called such as Tata and its construction of Shubh Griha north of Mumbai.

With the increased rate of economic growth over the last few years, housing developers have tended to focus on the higher end luxury developments causing property prices to soar; I was astounded that luxury apartment homes in Mumbai cost the same as they do in New York and London. As demand for these properties have fallen due to the global financial crisis and increased interest rates, the focus on lower cost housing has increased due to a larger market coupled with acute shortages of housing in urban India.

World Bank Awards $840,000 for Grassroot Organizations to Fight Undernutrition

Joe Qian's picture

The Nutrition Development Marketplace was held in Dhaka on Wednesday August 5th. Twenty-one civil society organizations from across South Asia won grants from an $840,000 award pool funded by the South Asia Region Development Marketplace (DM). The winners received up to $40,000 each to implement innovative ideas on how to improve nutrition in their respective countries.

Titled “Family and Community Approaches to Improve Infant and Young Child Nutrition,” the competition was designed to identify some of the most innovative ideas to improve nutrition, focusing especially on children under two years of age and pregnant women.

South Asia has experienced high economic growth during the last decade. The region, however, still has both the highest rates and the largest numbers of undernourished children in the world. While poverty is often the underlying cause of child undernutrition, the high economic growth experienced by South Asian countries has not made an impact on the nutritional status of South Asian children.

Why South Asia has the largest numbers of undernourished and micronourished children in the world?

South Asia’s undernourishment problem has many numbers of factors, including the following: Low birth weight, infant and young child feeding practices, poor household hygiene, and status of women in society.

This video, A Call for Action, highlights some of the challenges and opportunities of undernutrition in the South Asia region with a focus on India.

Development Marketplace: My Tryst With Nutrition

Sundararajan Gopalan's picture

For more information on the Nutrition Development Marketplace, please see the accompanying Feature Story and Press Release

The year was 1975. I was a final year medical student in Pondicherry, South India. I was going for my practical test on Preventive and Social Medicine (PSM). PSM was (and probably still is) one of the least favorite subjects in the medical curriculum for most students. “Why should we prevent diseases? If we prevent all diseases what will we all do with our medical degrees? Isn’t that professional suicide?” asked one of my class-mates! But I digress. Coming back to the test, I was unusually nervous because I had not studied everything well. For some reason, one chapter that I did study the night before was nutrition. I had also volunteered for two months in a Nutrition Rehabilitation Center (NRC) which meant that it was one chapter that I was more confident about. As my luck would have it, every single question that the examiner asked me that day was on nutrition! I blasted my way through the test, and thanked my stars for that exceptional bit of good fortune. From that day, nutrition has always been close to my heart.

The NRC is a somewhat outdated concept nowadays. The idea was to have a malnourished child and mother live for a month in the NRC and learn good household behaviors that could result in better nutritional outcomes.

Thirsting for Social Change: Women, Agriculture, and a Stream of Opportunity

Brittney Davidson's picture

The cows were judging me. The unforgiving Indian summer sun was beating down on the crop field where I stood, and though I desperately wanted to listen the soft-spoken villager who was explaining the trials and accomplishments of his agriculturally centered village, my attention was pulled to the cattle several meters away. Perhaps I was dehydrated, perhaps a little woozy, but I am not proud to say that I could have sworn those grazing beasts were eyeing me, watching me wither under the intense gaze of the mid-afternoon sun. “Weakling,” They seemed to say.

And perhaps I was.

From my brief time spent in this rural, South Indian village, I had seen people deal with far more than the uncomfortable heat. These villagers like many throughout the rural areas of South Asia, worked long and tedious hours in their fields. Heat was not simply a discomfort, but could mean less water, less grass to feed the cattle, fewer crops, and, as a result, the inability to sustain spending on education, healthcare, and sanitation.

White on White

Céline Ferré's picture

I love travelling to Afghanistan: friends and colleagues stare at me with puzzled, frightened looks. For Afghanistan is invariably associated with the Taliban, poppy fields, Sharia and women covered in blue chadri (burqa). The azure blue chadri has been displayed as the epitome of women's subordination to men and their lack of rights. In Andrei Konchalovsky's film, the First Teacher (1965), the schoolmaster strips off a black niqab from a young Kirghiz girl, his gesture liberates women from backward traditions and brings them a promising future. Twentieth century Kirghiz girls, twenty-first century Afghan women... same struggle?

The first time I set a foot in Afghanistan, women were not compelled to wear the fully covering chadri. But I saw no bare-headed woman. Wandering around Shahr-e Nau park, striding along the winding streets of Shor Bazaar, feeding doves at the crack of dawn in Mazar-e Sharif, picnicking on Friday afternoon in Babur gardens, I saw Afghan women in all shapes and shades of head covers.

Will the Nano Fulfill the Promise of Mobility in Developing Countries?

Joe Qian's picture

Much in the same way the Ford Model T revolutionized transportation in the United States and the Volkswagen Beetle did in Germany, the Tata Nano (small in Gujarati) seeks to do the same for India and the rest of the developing world, with millions still seeking to realize dreams of four wheel mobility. Will the Nano become a resounding success and revolutionize the concept and accessibility of the car, or will it cause increased problems and growing pains in its mission to provide transportation to the broader public?

With a price starting at $2,200 dollars including taxes and fees, the Nano significantly undercuts the current cheapest car in India by almost half and may open the door to aspiring drivers around the world as the most affordable automobile in history (when accounting for inflation). The market potential is seemingly unlimited as only 0.7% of Indians owned automobiles in 2007.

However, economic development has already caused an explosion in the number of motor vehicles perpetuating increased fatalities due to accidents, standstill traffic, and smog filled cityscapes.

Its founder, Ratan Tata says that his inspiration is derived from poignantly watching the way entire families are transported on motorcycles complete with a rider, passenger, along with two children hanging onto the back. He noted the terrible toll in road deaths involving two-wheelers and called for a safer four-wheeled vehicle that will transport families in a dignified manner.

Remittances in Bangladesh: Determinants and 2010 Outlook

Zahid Hussain's picture

Co-authored with FARRIA NAEEM

Remittances have emerged as a key driver of economic growth and poverty reduction in Bangladesh, increasing at an average annual rate of 19 percent in the last 30 years (1979-2008).

Revenues from remittances now exceed various types of foreign exchange inflows, particularly official development assistance and net earnings from exports. The bulk of the remittances are sent by Bangladeshi migrant workers rather than members of the Bangladeshi Diaspora. Currently, 64 percent of annual remittance inflows originate from Middle Eastern nations.

Robust remittance inflows in recent years (annual average growth of 27 percent in FY06-FY08) have been instrumental in maintaining the current account surplus despite widening a trade deficit. This in turn has enabled Bangladesh to maintain a growing level of foreign exchange reserves.

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