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In Africa’s drylands, opportunities to cut vulnerability to drought and famine are within reach

Michael Morris's picture
Soil fertility managment and adding trees to farms can boost agricultural productivity and increase the drought tolerance of crops. Photo: Andrea Borgarello

As the global development community marks World Day to Combat Desertification on June 17, large areas of Sub-Saharan Africa will be gripped by extreme drought, leaving millions of people in need of emergency assistance. This is lamentable, because interventions are available that could significantly increase long term resilience to drought. A recent report that we wrote estimates that a set of 5-6 interventions could help reduce the impact of drought by about half in Africa’s drylands, keeping on average 5 million people per year out of danger in some of Africa’s poorest zones.

The report Confronting Drought in Africa’s Drylands: Opportunities for Enhancing Resilience aims to advance measures to reduce the vulnerability and enhance the resilience of populations living in dryland areas of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Including women in infrastructure: from Washington to Senegal

Julia Prescot's picture


Photo by Adam Gregor/ Shutterstock.com

The theme of this year’s Global Infrastructure Forum was delivering sustainable and inclusive infrastructure. As a woman who works in the world of infrastructure, I was invited to join a panel at the forum made up solely of women to address gender inclusivity and was asked to provide a specific example of a project beneficial to women. The first thing that came to mind was our solar project in Senegal, which has not only opened up the country to solar for the first time, but has also empowered local women through training in business skills through an organization called Empow’Her that was linked to the project.

A new approach is transforming science and math learning in The Gambia

Ryoko Tomita's picture
An innovative approach tested in Gambia may provide some answers to the future of science and math education in schools across Sub-Saharan Africa.
An innovative approach tested in Gambia may provide some answers to the future of science and math education in schools across Sub-Saharan Africa. (Photo: NJCTL)

Poor math and science scores in Sub-Saharan African schools – particularly in school-leaving exams – has long plagued educationists and policy makers. As my colleague, Waly Wane, pointed out in a recent post, failures to improve learning outcomes in these subjects raise doubts as to whether African education policies can ever deliver the scientists and engineers the continent needs to do better socio-economically.

Taking lessons from rural India to Azerbaijan

Ahmed Ailyev's picture

I have always believed that communities are like musical instruments. You need to tune them properly to hear their divine music. I actually heard this music from rural communities in India. And their song, which still resonates within me, is something I will now take back to my own country.
 
In May 2017, my colleagues and I from the World Bank’s Azerbaijan Rural Investment Project were on an exposure visit to India to see firsthand how self help groups and cooperatives were impacting the lives of rural people.
 

Kerala: AzRIP and Bank team at the Trade Fair of all SHG livelihood groups across Kerala organized by Kudumbashree at Kollam.

In my years of work in rural development, I have found that the unique feature we as human beings have is the ability to share  skills, values and experiences. As we travelled across six states, this proved to be true in all the people we met, be it in large commercial companies or in remote rural  communities.
 
The people told us that transparency and honesty were an essential factor in their success. I also found that the spirit of cooperation was clearly present. Cooperatives belong to all members, they said, and the managers were there to serve the members. The leaders of self help groups, producer organizations, cooperatives, and micro enterprise groups also told us that they must be party to the risk taken by the group, and should lead by example in order to motivate others.

Forgotten No More: Aid to Fragile States Is a Duty Not an Option

Kristalina Georgieva's picture
© Dasan Bobo / World Bank


In Ethiopia, where poverty was reduced by half in the past 20 years—economists often speak of the Ethiopian miracle— I met women farmers who had managed to turn a dry hill into productive land. I talked to a group of landless youth who had used climate-smart agriculture to restore degraded fields and received land tenure in exchange. I met some women entrepreneurs who received microloans and embarked on a journey from nothing to business ownership. I visited Wukro, a small town in Northern Ethiopia, where labor-intensive cobblestone paving projects had generated jobs for thousands while beautifying the city and lowering the crime rate.

Ethiopia has a long way to go on its road to prosperity—a state of emergency remains in effect due to social unrest in some part of the country, and the threat of food insecurity still looms—but in once-inhospitable places, greenery and opportunities now bloom. Ethiopia is a country that has shown incredible resilience in the face of harsh climate shocks. It is heartening to see that climate smart investments are paying off.

Motorization and its discontents

Roger Gorham's picture
Photo: Sarah Farat/World Bank
They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  While visiting the World Bank library the other day, I was struck by how many development publications featured pictures of motor vehicles on their covers, even though most of them covered topics that had little to do with transport.  The setting and tone of the pictures varied – sometimes they showed a lone car on a rural highway, sometimes congested vehicles in urban traffic, and sometimes a car displayed proudly as a status symbol – but the prevalence of motorized vehicles as a visual metaphor for development was unmistakable to me: in the public imagination, consciously or otherwise, many people associate development with more use of motorized vehicles.

Indeed, motorization – the process of adopting and using motor vehicles as a core part of economic and daily life – is closely linked with other dimensions of development such as urbanization and industrialization.

Motorization, however, is a double-edged sword.

For many households, being able to afford their own vehicle is often perceived as the key to accessing more jobs, more services, more opportunities—not to mention a status symbol. Likewise, vehicles can unlock possibilities for firms and individual entrepreneurs such as the young man from Uganda pictured on the right, proudly showing off his brand new boda boda (motorcycle taxi). 

But motorization also comes with a serious downside, in terms of challenges that many governments have difficulty managing.  Motor vehicles can undermine the livability of cities by cluttering up roads and open spaces—the scene of chaos and gridlock in the picture below, from Accra, is a telling example. In addition, vehicles create significant safety hazards for occupants and bystanders alike… in many developing countries, road deaths have effectively reached epidemic proportions. From an environmental standpoint, motorized transport is, of course, a major contributor to urban air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Lastly, motorization contributes to countries' hard currency challenges by exacerbating their long-term demand for petroleum products.

Given these challenges, how are developing countries going to align their motorization trajectories with their development goals?  What should the World Bank advise our clients about how to manage this process?

“And here is the proof”… A maiden university debate challenge

Loy Nabeta's picture


As the oldest university in Tanzania, the University of Dar-es-Salaam (UDSM) has an impressive line-up of notable alumni: Just try and google them. As presidents or policy leaders from Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, South Sudan, or, indeed, from Tanzania itself, they have one thing in common—their imprint on public policy within their countries, either as actors or as critics.

Media (R)evolutions: What’s the potential of mobile payments?

Darejani Markozashvili's picture
New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's. 

There is a lot of discussion right now about mobile payments and its potential in rural and urban communities. Who uses these services and how will this impact various key markets?

According to the latest Mobile Payments report by the GlobalWebIndex, the next wave of growth in mobile payments will be in rural areas. Defined as the financial transactions performed via mobile devices, mobile payments may offer solutions to traditional methods of delivering financial services. Currently 7 in 10 mobile payment users live in urban environments.
 

Globally, there are about 2 billion adults without access to a basic bank account. Although this is a 20 percent decrease from 2.5 billion adults in 2011, it’s still a high number. Regardless of barriers of opening a bank account (lack of enough money, distance to the nearest financial service provider, lack of proper documentation papers, etc..), one thing is clear: traditional financial services are not meeting the needs of the low income users. Will mobile payments fill this gap?

The Puzzle with LARCs

Berk Ozler's picture

Suppose that you’re at your doctor’s office, discussing an important health issue that may become a concern in the near future. There are multiple drugs available in the market that you can use to prevent unwanted outcomes. Some of them are so effective that there is practically no chance you will have a negative event if you start taking them. Effectiveness of the other options range from 94% to much lower, with the most commonly used drug failing about 10% of the time for the typical user. Somehow, you go home with the drug that has a one in 10 failure rate: worse, you’re not alone; most people end up in the same boat…

There’s More to Agriculture than Handhoes: Rising Opportunities for Youth Employment and Entrepreneurship in African Agrifood Systems

Julie Howard's picture

This blog summarizes the findings of the Agrifood Youth Employment and Engagement Study (AgYees). The authors, all at Michigan State University, are Andrea Allen, Julie Howard (corresponding author), M. Kondo, Amy Jamison, Thomas Jayne, J. Snyder, David Tschirley, and F. Kwame Yeboah.

Africa’s share of the global population is projected to rise dramatically from 12% in 2015 to 23% by 2050. This huge demographic trend will certainly amplify Africa’s political and economic impact on the rest of the world, and this impact will largely be determined by young Africans between 15-35 years who constitute about 55% of the labor force. At the same time, Africa faces a big employment challenge, about 11 million young Africans are expected to enter into the labor force each year until 2035. Yet formal job creation in Africa’s growing economies has not kept pace -- more than half of Africa’s un- and underemployed are youth. Research by Michigan State University in collaboration with The MasterCard Foundation, the Agrifood Youth Employment and Engagement Study (AgYees) examines the potential for African agrifood systems to provide employment opportunities for Africa’s youth, focusing on Tanzania, Rwanda and Nigeria.

The study found that, throughout the next decade, expanding investments in Sub-Saharan Africa’s agrifood system will be critical to generate greater numbers of higher paying jobs —both on and off the farm — that can reduce poverty among the large rural youth population and accelerate economic transformation.


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