The South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) agreement has been in effect since 2006—with little success.
This is in sharp contrast to the ASEAN free trade area (AFTA), which started in 1992 with six six countries and later added more members, completing the ASEAN ten by 1999.
Between 1992 and 2017, intraregional imports as a share of global imports in ASEAN increased from 17 to 24 percent, and exports from 21 to 27 percent.
In South Asia, these shares were largely stagnant since SAFTA came into effect, at 3 percent for intraregional imports and 6-7 percent for intraregional exports.
In fact, .
The South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) agreement has been in effect since 2006—with little success.
Statistics show that what is commonly perceived as an energy gap in India is actually an efficiency gap.
But first, the good news. . That same year, power shortages declined dramatically to 0.9 percent from 8.5 percent in 2012.
As for clean power,
On top of that,
The country faces a monumental task to meet this demand while protecting its natural environment and the health of its people.
As I write in my new report, ‘In the Dark’, power distortions cost India much more than previously estimated: $86 billion in 2016—that is 4 percent of the country’s economy.
That’s why .
But whether an individual consumes—or not—nutritious food is contingent upon a myriad of factors, ranging from the availability of certain foods, how convenient they can be turned into meals, or simply, if they meet consumers’ tastes.
But above all, .
In a remote village in Bihar’s Bhojpur district, Sushumlata sits behind a spanking new desk in a newly-refurbished government building.
From the time she came to the village as a new bride, this young woman has chosen to get involved in community affairs by joining the Self Help Group (SHG) movement.
Later, armed with a master’s degree in social work, she joined active politics and, in 2016, was elected the Mukhiya, or head of the Dawan village Gram Panchayat – the local governance institution – under the seat reserved for women.
Sushumlata is the face of the government in this remote corner of Bihar. When we visit her in the newly upgraded Gram Panchayat building – refurbished under the World Bank (IDA) funded Bihar Panchayat Strengthening Project – she tells us how the newly painted and equipped building has made a difference.
A young man is busy on a computer beside her, helping an elderly gentleman apply for a government pension.
If, like me, you’re a firm believer in New Year’s resolutions, early January ushers in the prospect of renewed energy and exciting opportunities. And as tradition has it, it’s also a time to enter the prediction game.
To sum up:
Notably, and despite increasing conflicts and growing fragility, Afghanistan is expected to increase its growth to 2.7 percent rate this year.
In this otherwise positive outlook, Pakistan’s growth is projected to slow to 3.7 percent in fiscal year 2018-19 as the country is tightening its financial conditions to help counter rising inflation and external vulnerabilities.
However, activity is projected to rebound and average 4.6 percent over the medium term.
Considered superior for their health and nutrition benefits, these so-called ‘Superfoods’, often considered “new” by the public are now ever-popularized by celebrity chefs and have become all the rage of foodies from San Francisco to Singapore.
We live in a world of paradox, where old world and almost forgotten food like Quinoa (which dates back as a staple food over three thousand years to Andean civilization but largely disappeared with the arrival of the Spanish) is now back on the menu.
Salmon, a staple part of Nordic diets from paleolithic times and woven into the culture of native populations across northwestern Canada and many other superfoods share comparable stories.
And, there are many other old world foods, indigenously known, disappearing but not fully forgotten, yet to be re-discovered.
For example, .
While economies such as Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan may look strong, just as bellies look full,
And parents, from both rich and poor nations alike, seem to know something is not quite right.
If healthier food choices that are accessible, affordable, and readily available are better known, would parents purchase such food from the market for their families?
With a small grant from the World Bank-administered South Asia Food and Nutrition Initiative (SAFANSI) supported by the EU and the United Kingdom, a partnership with WorldFish was established to test this premise.
A 60 second TV spot, a collaboration between scientists, economists, a private sector digital media company, broadcasters and the Government of Bangladesh, was created and broadcast across the nation on two occasions and watched by over 25 million people.
A parallel radio program was also developed and aired reaching millions more, particularly the rural poor and marginalized communities.
About 15 minutes after we turn off the highway at Fatehpur, a roadside trading center located 120 km from Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, a mild haze blankets the sky.
As we drive deeper into the increasingly bare and desolate landscape, the wind blows stronger, and the haze thickens into dust plumes.
I lower the car window and find the source of the dust: patches of abandoned land, coated with very fine powder in various shades of white and grey.
We are in a village with salt-affected soils, part of the millions of hectares of India’s wastelands.
Characterized by dense, impermeable surface crusts and accumulation of certain elements at levels that are toxic to plants, these sodic wastelands no longer support crop growth – they have been abandoned by farmers.
Our journey continues for another 30 minutes, the wind still blows strong, but dust plumes have given way to clearer skies.
We have reached Mainpuri, where, with World Bank support, sodic wastelands have been reclaimed and brought back to life, rolling back the unsavory spectacle of ecological destruction that once was the hallmark of the village.
Now in its third phase, .
This hidden hunger is especially pervasive among children.
These deficiencies have contributed to high levels of stunting, wasting and underweight children.
Micronutrient availability can make or break a balanced diet
But they can become toxic if consumed in large amounts.
But except for mandatory iodine fortification of salt, India lags in adopting food fortification as a scalable public health intervention.
This is a missed opportunity as
In 2016, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India released standards for the fortification of five staple food items: rice, wheat, salt, oil, and milk. Further to that, regulations are now in place to fortify milk variants such as low fat, skimmed, and whole milk with Vitamin A and D.
But despite its significant health benefits, and while established for more than three decades by companies such as Mother Dairy, a subsidiary of the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB), milk fortification is not yet common practice across the Indian milk industry.
To fill that gap, NDDB partnered in 2017 with the South Asia Food and Nutrition Security Initiative (SAFANSI), the World Bank, and The India Nutrition Initiative, Tata Trusts to explore the possibilities of large-scale milk fortification in India.
Over the last twelve months, this collaboration has enabled ten milk federations, dairy producer companies, and milk unions across the country to pilot milk fortification for their consumers. Fifteen others have initiated the process.
It’s a dusty September morning, and Kiran Devi is finishing her chores at lightning speed.
“Wouldn’t it be nice to keep 5,000 women waiting, especially when it’s a celebration,” she says with a touch of gushing pride and makes her way to the annual general meeting of the women-owned Aaranyak Agri producer company.
Located in Purnea district in Bihar—one of India’s poorest states—the company is made up of small local women small farmers and producers and lies in the most fertile corn regions in eastern India.
But until recently, small farmers did not fully reap the benefits of this productive land.
Local traders and intermediaries dominated the unregulated market. Archaic and unfair trading practices like manual weighing, unscientific quality testing, and irregular payments made it difficult for small farmers to get the best value for their produce.
“The trader would come, put some grains under his teeth and pronounce the quality and pricing. For every quintal of maize [corn], 5-10 kilos additional grains were taken, sometimes through faulty scales and sometimes simply by brazenly asking for it,” says Lal Devi, one member of the company. “We had the choice between getting less or getting nothing.”
Such practices stirred local women farmers into action, and they formed the Aaranyak Agri Producer Company Limited (AAPC) to access markets directly and improve their bargaining power.
The company established a farmer-centric model and received funding and technical assistance through JEEViKA (livelihoods in Hindi), a World Bank program that supports the Government of Bihar and has achieved life-changing results for Bihar’s rural communities.
Joining forces helped lower costs and boost production. Together, the groups saved $120 million and leveraged more than $800 million in bank loans.
Further, digital technologies have been introduced as an innovative way to improve the production, marketing, and sale of small-farmers’ produce.
For example, women farmers receive regular periodic updates on their mobile phones to learn best practices to grow corn as well as weather information to inform farming decisions.
During harvest season, farmers receive daily pricing information from major nearby markets to help them stay abreast of the latest variations in prices.
“Once, it was a rodeo day here and my son asked for money to go. But I didn’t have the money and told him to sell our farm’s bananas on the road instead. So, he took 50 bunches of bananas and sold them all in a few hours. Soon I started a banana business. The sales enabled me to expand my business to packed lunches for truckers. Over time, with the help of my family, the road administration, and my own investments, I started receiving invitations to make meals for college students and travelers.”
Angela, small-holder farmer and entrepreneur, São Paolo, Brazil.
Angela told us her story one afternoon as we ate the delicious lunch she had prepared for us at her rather humble roadside eatery in rural São Paulo, Brazil.
Her story was not only touching but also summed up the importance of entrepreneurial foresight and the power that collaboration holds in opening new doors for poor farming communities.
in Brazil - (although these farmers make up a much smaller proportion of Brazil’s overall farming community and have a different landholding structure).
Even though family farmers represent a small slice of Brazil’s cooperatives, the impact of their collectives is considerable.
The productivity of Brazil’s agriculture is evident.
Yet, farmers’ incomes continue to be subdued.
To help farmers earn more from the land and move onto a higher trajectory of growth, India has gradually shifted its policy focus to linking farmers to markets, as well as enabling them to diversify their production and add value to their produce.
So how do Brazil’s farmer collectives work?