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The Global Food Crisis: Will Investments in Agricultural Technology be enough?

Forhad Shilpi's picture

Contributed by Forhad Shilpi and Uwe Deichmann

Will investments in agricultural technology by themselves be sufficient to ensure long-term productivity growth in the farm sector and, more importantly, for rural poverty reduction?  As rapidly rising food prices threaten food security and the poverty gains made by developing countries, many have blamed declining funding for agricultural technology development for this state of affairs (for example, the New York Times).

This question is highly relevant for South Asia.  Shanta Devarajan has commented on the recent rice export ban by India and its implication for its neighbor, Bangladesh, which has become a net rice importer this year due to floods and cyclone impacts.  But Bangladesh also provides evidence that agricultural technology by itself is unlikely to lead to adequate growth in agricultural output if factors such as physical and economic geography and infrastructure needs are not considered.

In a recent study, we examine these issues for Bangladesh. During the early 1990s, Bangladesh experienced widespread diffusion of green revolution technology in rice, its main crop. As a result, rice production has more than doubled since the early 1970s. The spread of green revolution technology is usually expected to boost wages for farm workers.  But we found regional differences in rural wages that run counter to the traditional argument.

Banking everywhere, and not a single village left out

Ignacio Mas's picture

Only about one-quarter of households living in developing countries have any form of financial savings with formal banking institutions. Even in countries that have experienced substantial development over the last decade or two, this statistic remains stuck stubbornly at a level that would not be acceptable for any other measure of socio-economic development: 10% in Kenya, 20% in Macedonia, 25% in Mexico, 32% in Bangladesh.

 

Evidence-based debate on education in Pakistan

Shanta Devarajan's picture

Pakistan’s education indicators are abysmally low, especially when it comes to learning outcomes.  Almost everyone you speak with has strong views on why the situation is what it is, and what should be done about it.  Some advocate spending more money on public schools; others, improving accountability in the system; others, regulating private schools; and still others allowing private schools to flourish.  Much of this debate occurs without much hard evidence on which proposal might improve education in Pakistan. 

Beggar thine own people?

Shanta Devarajan's picture

First the good news. The Indian government has agreed to sell the originally-agreed 400,000 tons of non-basmati rice to the Government of Bangladesh at a price of $430 per ton. On March 30th, the Government of Bangladesh’s Purchase Committee approved the Indian offer of procuring the 400,000 tons of rice at $430 per ton by ship.

The Silver Lining

Shanta Devarajan's picture
In late February of every year, I get ready to be disappointed by the budget speech of the Indian Finance Minister. The reason is that, despite ample evidence that there are serious problems with the productivity of public spending in health, education and other areas, the budget speech always announces an increase in spending on these sectors, with little attempt—if any—at making that spending more efficient at reaching poor people.

Can social audits be change agents?

Maitreyi Bordia Das's picture
While international development practitioners debate and discuss the best tool for people’s monitoring, the Indian government takes a page out of the book of the Right to Livelihood and Right to Food movements and of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) and institutionalizes social audits by mandating them in the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS). The onus is now on the state to ensure that its own performance is monitored and evaluated by the people.

Water, climate change, and the poor

Four hundred million people--if it were a country, it would be the third largest in the world--rely on the Ganges River and its tributaries for their livelihood.    Six thousand rivers provide a perennial source of irrigation and power to one of the world’s most densely populated and poorest areas.  The Himalayas, “the water tower of the Ganges,” provide 45 percent of the annual flow.  These facts represent the potential payoffs to the populations of Bangladesh, India and Nepal as well as the threat that climate change poses to poor and already &lt

India, service delivery and aid: Devesh Kapur responds

Shanta Devarajan's picture
Dear Shanta: I want to clarify. My point was not that the World Bank stop or reduce lending to India per se. Rather that it focus on those areas where it has comparative advantage (how do we know what areas those are?), conditional on Indian states’ doing more on social sectors but using some output performance indicators rather than inputs.

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