Editor’s note: Kalyan Panja was the grand prize winner of our first Spring Meetings blogging contest. His winning post covered two events related to food and agriculture. His prize was the opportunity to interview Ethel Sennhauser, the World Bank’s director of agriculture.
What is the most striking crisis in the agricultural sector that needs to be addressed urgently?
The world needs to feed 9 billion people by 2050 — but climate change, declining soil health, and overstretched resources could drive down agricultural productivity in the long run. Droughts and extreme weather events are already having a negative impact on farming and productivity. In the future, yields could drop by more than 25%.
What a remarkable and busy six weeks!
There has been a tremendous re-energizing globally to explore and identify ways to finance the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The international recognition that the SDGs need to go even further than the previous Millennium Development Goals has prompted discussion of how to get from billions to trillions of dollars to achieve sustainable and inclusive development.
Awareness is certainly progressing. From the streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil - a country that hosts nothing less than the mighty Amazon River, to the farmlands of California, people are coming to the realization that resources such as water are not limitless. More and more businesses are looking at the security of their supply chains and the footprint of their operations with zeal fueled by self-interest. And countries seem poised to adopt Sustainable Development Goals that signal an understanding that economic, social and environmental issues are inherently interdependent.
Climate change, water shortages and other environmental crises are bringing home the message loud and clear: we need to connect the dots between human actions across the landscape and seascape, or the earth will cease to care for us. It will cease to grow food, to store water, to host fish and pollinators, to provide energy, medicine and timber. Changing temperatures will stress systems already overwhelmed by unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, while a growing middle class will further strain planetary boundaries.
How can we help economies develop better, for lasting poverty reduction and prosperity, within the limits of natural resources? How can we make more rational use of natural and financial resources to maximize social and economic benefits and reduce carbon emissions while increasing our resilience to climate extremes?
Yet, 121 million children today remain out of school. These young people are the hardest to reach—due to poverty, gender barriers, remoteness, and disability. We must make a new concerted push to bring all children into the classroom.
In addition to this challenge of improving attendance and access, we face an even tougher problem ahead: ensuring that children are learning while they’re in school. The sad truth is that most education systems are not serving the poorest children well. This is a tragic failure of our educational aspirations for the world’s youth.
To end poverty, we must address all forms of discrimination, including bias based on sexual orientation and gender identity. On the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, I want to emphasize how crucial it is to fight prejudice and knock down barriers to education, jobs, social protection and good health faced by many people in the LGBTI community. When many among us cannot live up to our full potential, we all lose. Watch my video blog to learn more:
We had great difficulty finding any married female business owners—and learned that under national laws, a married woman couldn’t register a company, open a bank account, operate a business, or own property without the prior written consent of her husband.
Most of these new jobs will come from the private sector, so private entrepreneurship solves part of the problem. But unleashing the untapped productivity of female entrepreneurs will be essential.