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24 Hours in the Life of Some Horizontal Learners

Mark Ellery's picture
In the face of families whose relatives have just died of arsenic poisoning advocating for institutional reform can seem a touch inane.

On the flip side, an urgent response to provide clean water or some relief to those affected is often neither sustainable nor scalable.

During a visit to Chapai Nawabganj we discovered that the Horizontal Learning Program enables rapid response - without undermining a sound policy position.

While visiting Meherpur municipality in Bangladesh last week, we learnt that 15 people had recently died in the nearby Amjhupi Union Parishad (UP) from arsenicosis. In a village meeting with the District Commissioner and UP Chairman we discovered that the citizens were drinking from both wells marked green (safe) as well as red (unsafe) because they were not confident that either of these sources had been correctly marked.

We were overwhelmed with the need for an immediate response but aware that any top-down solution could at best be partial. However, because of the Horizontal Learning Program (initiated by Union Parishads, facilitated by the Government of Bangladesh and supported by development partners) we were aware that local solutions to this problem had been developed by other Union Parishads.

At around 11 pm that night, it was resolved that a three member team from Amjhupi Union Parishad would join us to visit the nearby Ranihati Union Parishad of the neighboring Chapai Nawabganj Upazila (sub-district) to see how they had solved this problem. The solution was surprisingly simple, low cost and comprehensive.

Universalizing Opportunities through Investing in Education in India

Joe Qian's picture

The World Bank released a report this week on the current state of the educational system in India and concluded that while investments and performance have improved at the primary and higher education levels, there remains a rather considerable gap in access, distribution, and achievement at the secondary level.

As India continuously develops and entrenches itself as a major player in the global knowledge economy, the majority of growth have been in the skilled services and manufacturing sectors. This requires that the 12 million young people who join the labor force every year have the necessary skills to access these more lucrative jobs and compete successfully in the global economy, especially as the IT sector has become an essential driver of the economy.

“Evidence from around the world suggests secondary education is critical to breaking the inter-generational transmission of poverty -— it enables youth to break out of the poverty trap.” Lead Education Specialist Sam Carlson said.

However, India's gross enrolment rate (GER) at the secondary level of 52% is lower than the GERs of countries like Sri Lanka (83%) and China (91%). However, I was quite surprised that the rate was also lower than countries with lesser GDP per capita such as Vietnam (72%) and Bangladesh (57%).

An Unconventional Tactic for the Fight Against Poverty

Ben Safran's picture

Earlier this summer, Pakistan defeated Sri Lanka to win the Twenty20 Cricket World Cup. Like any triumph in an international competition, there was a great sense of national pride, this time coming in a country with great need for such a unifying force. But, as Tunku Varadarajan wrote,  the victory was much more than just a boost to national morale:

“As Pakistan fights for its survival against the barbarian Taliban…its people find themselves possessed of a weapon with which to vanquish the forces of darkness. I speak here not of drones or tanks or helicopter gunships, but of the glorious game of cricket.”

This is a powerful concept: that cricket is a key weapon needed to defeat the “darkness” imposed by extremism in Pakistan. But why limit ourselves to discussing the power cricket possess to fight the Taliban? What about the effects all sports have to instill happiness, empowerment, and hope in people? Could using sports for development be an unconventional tactic for the fight against poverty?

Talking with Teeth: Micro-Planning with Community Scorecards

Darshana Patel's picture

Coming together is a process
Keeping together is progress
Working together is success

This message, written on the wall of a public building in Gureghar village in Maharashtra, India, implies the significant changes that have recently taken place. Since 2007, 178 villages including Gureghar have been part of an innovative social accountability process that has redefined relationships between citizens, service providers and local government. Building upon two decades of experience with micro-planning, the innovation in this pilot project is that micro-planning has been combined with a community scorecard process to strengthen accountability.

Partnered with the Yashwantrao Chavan Academy of Development Administration and the World Bank, the project was spearheaded by then CEO of the District, S. Kadu-Patil.

(The primary role of a District CEO is to administer all development project and services, such as health and education services, for the District.) The project team and the CEO invested a lot of effort to build the political will of other decision-makers and service providers. In fact, many of these functionaries were then organized into Task Forces to actually implement the process while a cadre of facilitators underwent intensive 20-day training.

Building Commitment for Nutrition

Ashi Kathuria's picture

Imagine that after an animated discussion on nutrition, a film star commits: 'From now on, in all my movies, I will dedicate 5 minutes to the issue of malnutrition and build awareness about prevention.' or

The mayor pledges: 'I will organize awareness camps on malnutrition in all the wards of my city and will try to involve everybody.' or

A Member of Parliament promises: 'Malnutrition free villages will be created in 21 impoverished hamlets. If more money is required, we will provide it from our funds.' or

An editor undertakes: 'Every week we will provide space for the views of experts on malnutrition.' or

The University Vice Chancellor vows: 'We will start a course on health and nutrition in our university, so that we have enough trained people to deal with this problem in India.' or

An industry representative pledges: 'We will adopt 10 malnourished children every year and see to their health care, education, and other day to day requirements.'

Well, these and many more such commitments were publicly made in 21 high-malnutrition districts of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar – two states in India where the levels of malnutrition are alarming.

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.

World Bank Provides Four Loans Worth Over $4.3 Billion to India

Joe Qian's picture

The World Bank approved four loans worth $4.345 billion dollars yesterday, which is the second largest volume of lending to a single country in a year.

The goal of the four projects is to contribute to improving India's infrastructure and help bolster the country's response to the global economic and financial crisis and lay the foundations for stronger growth in the future.

The financial package consists of:

-Banking Sector Support: $2 billion
-Support for India Infrastructure Finance Company Limited: $1.195 billion
-The Fifth Power Sector Support Project: $1 billion
-The Andhra Pradesh Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project: $150 million

For more information and to watch an interview with India's Country Director Roberto Zagha, please check out the feature story.

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.

Full Speed Ahead: Internet Traffic Growth Unaffected by Financial Crisis

Joe Qian's picture

Reading about the financial crisis and the effects that have rippled around the world, it’s always heartening to find something positive in the midst of piles of red ink and pessimistic expectations.

Although the majority of industries and economies around the world have suffered due to the downturn, Internet traffic growth accelerated at an increasing rate in 2009 compared to 2008 with no discernible slowdown due to the crisis. According to data released by Telegeography, every single region around the globe registered growth in internet traffic, or flow of data. South Asia has registered over a 100% increase, higher than the 79% posted worldwide, although it must be noted that South Asia had a lower baseline capacity.

Doing Business Report 2010: South Asia

Joe Qian's picture

The World Bank released its annual Doing Business report (pdf) last week which tracks regulatory reforms for conducting business and ranks countries based on their ease of doing business.

Countries are evaluated and ranked by indicators such as starting a business, employing workers, getting credit, paying taxes, etc.

In South Asia, seven out of eight (75%) of the countries instituted reforms that were conducive to business, higher than any previous year of the study.

Pakistan was the highest ranked country in the region at number 85 while Afghanistan and Bangladesh were the most dynamic reformers with three reforms each. Afghanistan’s rank in the study also increased the most in the region, climbing eight spots.

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