Maintaining and restoring ocean ecosystems – or ‘ocean health’ – is synonymous with growing ‘ocean wealth,’ according to a soon-to-be published report by the World Bank and European Union. With rapid population growth, limited land and fewer terrestrial resources to house, feed and provide citizens with their energy needs, coastal nations across South Asia are looking seaward. In doing so, countries are clueing in on the fact that sustainably managing and developing ocean spaces is critical to a nation’s economic advancement.
Thinking Blue - thinking how best to sustainably tap ocean spaces as new sources of sustainable growth and transition to a blue economy - is new, although South Asian nations have used the sea for food and trade for centuries.
Five years ago, the term ‘blue economy’ had nothing to do with oceans; few had an inkling of its emerging importance.
In late 2017, at the Second International Blue Economy Dialogue hosted by the Government of Bangladesh in Dhaka, interest in what the blue economy is and why it matters is at an all-time high and rising. Perhaps this not surprising.
In Bangladesh, chronic and acute malnutrition are higher than the World Health Organization’s (WHO) thresholds for public health emergencies—it is one of 14 countries where eighty percent of the world’s stunted children live.
Food insecurity remains a critical concern, especially in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT).
Located in the southeastern part of Bangladesh, CHT is home to 1.7 million people, of whom, about a third are indigenous communities living in the hills. The economy is heavily dependent on agriculture, but farming is difficult because of the steep and rugged terrain.
With support from the South Asia Food and Nutrition Security Initiative (SAFANSI), the Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF) conducted a food and nutrition analysis which finds that more than 60% of the population in CHT migrates during April – July when food becomes harder to procure.
Based on these findings, MJF helped raise awareness through nutrition educational materials and training. The foundation staff also formed courtyard theatres with local youth to deliver nutrition messages, expanded food banks with nutritious and dry food items, and popularized the concept of a “one dish nutritious meal” through focal persons or “nutrition agents” among these communities.
According to a recent study published in Science Advances, climate change is projected to hit South Asia especially hard.
Impacts will be particularly intense in the food and agriculture sector. A region inhabited by about one-fifth of the world’s people, South Asia and its densely populated agricultural areas face unique and severe natural hazards. Its food system is particularly vulnerable. Climate-smart agriculture (CSA)-- which is an integrated approach to managing landscapes that is focused on increasing agricultural productivity, improving resilience to climate change, and reducing agricultural greenhouse gas emissions—is part of the solution.
The World Bank is working to mainstream climate smart agriculture in South Asia with a series of Climate-Smart Agriculture or “CSA” Country Profiles for Bhutan, Nepal and Pakistan, that were launched recently in collaboration with Governments and relevant stakeholders. The findings in the profiles are specific to national contexts, but there is a common thread. We learned that for South Asia, climate change adaptation and mitigation pose major challenges and opportunities for agriculture sector investment and growth.
The farmers, Government representatives and other stakeholders I met during the CSA Country Profile launches expressed huge interest in learning how they can put CSA into practice. Farmers especially were interested in making CSA part of their daily farming routines. As interest grows, so does momentum to take the CSA agenda forward, from research institutions and high level gatherings into farmer’s fields. As one farmer I met in Pakistan said, “Climate-smart agriculture is Common-sense agriculture.”
Climate change is already impacting Pakistan, which often experiences periods of severe droughts, followed by devastating floods. In the aftermath of the 2010 floods, one fifth of the country’s land area was submerged, damaging the economy, infrastructure and livelihoods, and leaving 90 million people without proper access to food. Moving forward, changes in monsoons and increased temperatures will further challenge the agricultural sector, particularly northern Pakistan where vulnerability to climate change is already high.
At the same time, CSA offers attractive opportunities for strengthening Pakistan’s agricultural sector. Innovative, technological practices like laser land leveling and solar powered irrigation systems and management changes like crop diversification, proper cropping patterns and optimized planting dates could put Pakistan’s food system onto a more climate-smart path. Investments in research to develop high-yielding, heat-resistant, drought-tolerant, and pest-resistant crop varieties as well as livestock breeds could also make a difference.
زه خپله هره کاري ورځ له همکارانو او نورو کاري ملګرو سره د ګډو هڅو په موخه د همغږۍ رامنځته کولو لپاره پیلوم. له هغه ځایه، چې د بڼوالي او مالداري ملي برنامه د یوه غړي په توګه کار کوم، ډیر زیات راضي یم، ځکه د افغانستان د اقتصادي بنسټ د ودې او پیاوړتیا په برخه کې هلې ځلې کوم.
کله چې ما په ۲۰۰۹ زیږدیز کال کې د بڼوالي او مالدارۍ له ملي برنامې سره د عامه اړیکو د مسوول په توګه دنده پیل کړه، هغه مهال د شمال په ولایتونو کې د بزګرانو وضعیت دا وه، چې ډیری شمیر بزګران د بڼوالي، مالداري او د اوبو لګولو سیستم په برخو کي د معاصرو کړنلارو او له پرمختللي ټکنالوژۍ څخه د کارونې په اړه اړین معلومات نه درلودل. د کرنیزو تولیداتو او محصولاتو کچه د بزګرانو او بڼوالو له غوښتنې ډیر لږ وو او د محصولاتو کیفیت د هغوی لپاره یوه ستره ستونزه ګڼل کیده. د یوه کس په توګه، چې د کرنې په برخه کې مې زده کړې کړي او د افغانستان په شمال کې ژوند کوم، کله چې تیر وختونه را یادوم، چې بزګران په هیڅ ډول نه هڅول کیدل او نه تشویق کیدل، څو د بڼوالي په معاصرو تخنیکونو سمبال شي. دا په داسې حال کې ده، چې بزګرانو د خپل ژوندون لپاره نه ستړي کیدونکي هڅې کولې، خو عواید یې ډیر لږ وو.
د بزګرانو لپاره د پروژې پلي کولو د پیل پړاو ستونزمن وو، څو هغوی د بڼوالي او مالدارۍ ملي برنامې باندې باور وکړي، خو د وخت په تیریدو سره په تدریجي ډول دا ثابته شوه، چې هغه عصري تګلارې، چې بزګران او بڼوالان له هغه سره اشنا شول، ډیر زیات اقتصادي اغیزمنتیا او مولدیت لري. دا برنامه د بڼوالي او مالداري سنتي طریقو له منځه وړلو او پر ځای یې د معاصرو او ننۍ منل شویو معیارونو پر بنسټ د کړنلارو ځای پر ځای کولو باندې تمرکز کوي. د بیلابیلو میوو د نیالګیو کینولو سره د نویو بڼونو د جوړولو طرحه په داسې ډول پلي شوه، چې د هغه لپاره بازارموندنه ډیره ساده وه او په عین حال کې د هر ولایت له جغرافیايي موقعیت، اوبو او هوا له شرایطو سره ورته والی ولري.
هر روز کاری خود را در ایجاد هماهنگی به منظور تلاش های مشترک با همکاران و سایر شرکای کاری اغاز مینمایم. ازاینکه به صفت یک عضو برنامه ملی باغداری و مالداری ایفای وظیفه مینمایم، بسیار راضی هستم، زیرا ما در راستای رُشد و توانمند سازی بنیاد اقتصادی افغانستان تلاش مینمایم.
زمانیکه من با برنامه ملی باغداری و مالداری به حیث مسؤول ارتباطات عامه در سال ۲۰۰۹ به کار آغاز کردم، درک من از وضعیت دهاقین در ولایت شمال در آنزمان این بود که اکثریت آنان فاقد معلومات کافی در مورد کار شیوه های مدرن و استفاده از تکنالوژی پیشرفته در عرصه های باغداری، مالداری و سیستم های آبیاری بودند. اندازه تولیدات و حاصلات زراعتی کمتر از توقع دهاقین و باغداران بود و کیفیت محصولات یک چالش برای آنان محسوب میشد. به عنوان یک فرد که در بخش زراعت تحصیل نموده ام و در شمال افغانستان زندگی میکنم، زمانی را در گذشته به خاطر می آورم که دهاقین به هیچ وجه ترغیب و تشویق نگردیده ، تا به شیوه های مدرن باغداری روی بیاورند و باوجود آنکه برای امرار معیشت شان تلاش های خستگی ناپذیر مینمودند، اما درآمد شان خیلی ناچیز میبود.
در آغاز مرحله تطبیق پروژه برای دهاقین دشوار بود، تا بالای برنامه ملی باغداری و مالداری اعتماد نمایند، مگر با گذشت زمان به گونه تدریجی به اثبات رسید که شیوه های مُدرن که دهاقین و باغداران با آن آشنا گردیدند، از مؤثریت و مؤلدیت بُلند اقتصادی برخوردار میباشد. محور فعالیت های این برنامه متمرکز به تعدیل و جاگزین ساختن شیوه های عنعنوی باغداری و مالداری به شیوه های مُدرن و مطابق به معیار های پذیرفته شده امروزی میباشد. طرح ایجاد باغ های جدید با غرس نهال های میوه جات متنوع به گونه عملی گردیده است که بازاریابی برای آن سهل بوده و در عین زمان سازگار با شرایط آب و هوا و موقیعت جغرافیایی هر ولایت باشد.
Every working day, I work closely with my colleagues and coordinate with other stakeholders. I am happy with my job as a member of the National Horticulture and Livestock Project (NHLP) because we work to strengthen rural development, the foundation of Afghanistan’s economy.
When I joined NHLP as the information and communication officer in 2009, I realized that farmers in northern Afghanistan were all but unaware of improved practices and technologies in horticulture, livestock, and irrigation systems. Their production and productivity were low, and maintaining consistent product quality was a challenge. As a person who studied agriculture and has lived in northern Afghanistan, I remember that farmers were never convinced by the idea of adopting modern horticultural techniques and, despite their hard work, they earned little.
At the beginning of the project, it was hard for the farmers to trust NHLP, the new techniques that were introduced were proven to be more efficient and economically viable. The project is transforming the traditional system of horticulture and livestock to a more productive and modern one. The new orchards are designed and laid out well, and planted with fruit saplings that are marketable and adapted to the weather and geography of the province.
Persistent myths, which can misguide policy, are barriers to improving water security for the people of Pakistan. Here are five:
First, this problem of water security is often presented as one of water scarcity. But Pakistan is a water-rich country – only 35 countries have more renewable water. It is true that measured for each person, Pakistan is approaching a widely recognized scarcity level of 1000 cubic meters each year. But there are 32 countries that have less water for each person and most of these countries are much wealthier and use less water for each person. Pakistan needs to shift its focus from scarcity to managing water demand and producing more from each drop of water. It needs to make water allocation more efficient and fair, and offer incentives that reflect how scarce water is to encourage wise use.
Van Gogh’s famous painting of Potato Eaters depicts a family of poor peasants seated around a dinner table eating their staple fare. The artist confessed that this work is deeply reflective of the hard work that Dutch peasants have to do to earn a bare meal. Van Gogh frequently painted the harvest and often compared the season to his own art, and how he would someday reap all that he had put into it.
Since those difficult times in the late 1800s, the tiny country of the Netherlands (pop: 17 mill; about the size of Haryana state in India) has come a long way. Matching sheer ingenuity with technological prowess, the Netherlands today is one of the world’s most agriculturally productive countries, feeding people across the globe from its meager land area. Indeed, this small nation is now the world’s second-largest exporter of agri-food products including vegetables, fruits, potatoes, meat, milk and eggs; some 6% of world trade in fruits and 16% in vegetables comes from the Netherlands.
But how exactly did they do this? In October 2017, we went to find out. Our team - of World Bank and Indian government officials working on agribusiness, rural transformation and watershed development projects – sought to learn from Dutch experience and identify opportunities for future collaboration. We met farmer cooperatives, private companies, growers’ associations, academia, social enterprises, and government agencies, and gained fascinating insights.
Primarily, we found that a convenient location, a conducive climate, investments in high-quality infrastructure, high-caliber human capital, an enabling business environment and professionally-run private companies have provided the Netherlands with that unmistakable competitive edge:
Maximizing agricultural output with minimum land and labor
Located conveniently as a gateway to Europe, the Netherlands acts as a transit hub for agricultural produce, importing Euro 4.6 billion worth of produce from 107 countries, adding value to these products through collection, re(packaging) and processing, and exporting almost double that value - Euro 7.9 billion - to more than 150 nations. In 2014, Dutch growers had a turn-over of euro 2.9 billion in fruit and vegetables, produced with a minimum of land and labor - only 55,000 hectares and just 40,000 people - indicating a heavy reliance on automation.
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Swachh Bharat Mission in 2014, it marked the beginning of the world’s largest ever sanitation drive. Now, a 2017 survey by the Quality Council of India finds that access to toilets by rural households has increased to 62.45 per cent, and that 91 per cent of those who have a toilet, use it. Given India’s size and diversity, it is no surprise that implementation varies widely across states. Even so, the fact that almost every Indian now has sanitation on the mind is a victory by itself.
Achieving a task of this magnitude will not be easy. Bangladesh took 15 years to become open defecation free (ODF), while Thailand took 40 years to do so. Meeting sanitation targets is not a one-off event. Changing centuries-old habits of open defecation is a complex and long-term undertaking.
Afghanistan is struggling with unemployment and poor economic performance because of drastic reductions in foreign aid and continued social instability. While efforts have been made to improve the private sector, including several sectors like mining and manufacturing, the gains have been modest as Afghanistan remains beset by conflict and instability.
Yet investments in agriculture, particularly horticulture, have produced tangible returns as unique weather conditions are favorable to growing produce that are in-demand in local and regional markets.
An example can be found in Mullah Durani, a farmer from Mohammad Ali Kas village in Qarghaee district in eastern Laghman Province, who converted his field to growing grapes for fruit consumption in 2015 that is paying off in creating jobs and boosting income. “My land has generated eight times higher returns, while I can use the local workforce on my own farm instead of sending them to cities to work for others,” says Mullah Durani. “I have also been able to create seasonal jobs for a number of villagers during harvesting.”
The key to his success, he says, was choosing the right variety of grapes instead of grains. “My recently established vineyard produces grapes at a time when there are almost no domestic fruits in the market and in return, I get higher market prices,” he points out. “This year I sold about $4,000 worth of grapes from 2,000 square meters of land.”
By converting his field to growing grapes, Mullah Durani received investment support and technical assistance from the Afghanistan Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock under its National Horticulture and Livestock Project (NHLP). The project is funded by the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF) and helps farmers in selected districts adopt better production practices.