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The Good News and Bad News on Agriculture and Climate Change

Rachel Kyte's picture
Also available in: العربية | Español | Français
 CGIAR Climate.I have recently returned from the United Nations climate talks that were held in Warsaw, Poland, and I have both good and bad news.
 
The bad news is that delegates opted to delay again discussions of agriculture. This decision, given agriculture’s substantial and well-documented contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, reveals the discomfort negotiators still feel around the science and priorities of what we consider “climate-smart agriculture”.
 
The decision to postpone is short-sighted when we consider the potential agriculture has to become part of the global solution. Agriculture is the only sector that can not only mitigate, but also take carbon out of the atmosphere. It has the potential to substantially sequester global carbon dioxide emissions in the soils of croplands, grazing lands and rangelands.
 
The good news is that there are steps we can take to make agriculture part of the solution. Importantly the discussions with farmers on how to improve incomes and yields, to serve the nutritional content of the food we grow, are our key focus. But we can at the same time improve resilience of food systems and achieve emissions reductions.

Are Super Farms the Solution to the World’s Food Insecurity Challenge? Ten Questions You Need to Ask Yourself

José Cuesta's picture
Also available in: Français | Español | العربية

Join me in a Twitter Chat on why global food prices remain high on Dec. 4 at 10 a.m. ET/15:00 GMT. I'll be tweeting from @worldbanklive with hashtag #foodpriceschat. Ask questions beforehand with hashtag #foodpriceschat. Looking forward to seeing you on Twitter.


Agriculture workers on a strawberry farm in Argentina. © Nahuel Berger/World Bank

Today there are 842 million who are hungry. As the global population approaches 9 billion by 2050, demand for food will keep increasing, requiring sustained improvement in agricultural productivity. Where will these productivity increases come from? For decades, small-scale family farming was widely thought to be more productive and more efficient in reducing poverty than large-scale farming. But now advocates of large-scale agriculture point to its advantages in leveraging huge investments and innovative technologies as well as its enormous export potential. Critics, however, highlight serious environmental, animal welfare, social and economic concerns, especially in the context of fragile institutions. The often outrageous conditions and devastating social impacts that “land grabs” bring about are well known, particularly in severely food-insecure countries.

So, is large-scale farming—particularly the popularly known “super farms”—the solution to food demand challenges? Or is it an obstacle? Here are the 10 key questions you need to ask yourself to better understand this issue. I have tried to address them in the latest issue of Food Price Watch.

What Should Illegal Logging and Illegal Fishing Have in Common?

Julian Lee's picture
Also available in: Español | Français
Fishing off the coast of Namibia. John Hogg/World BankThe value of the fishing and aquaculture industries exceeds US$190 billion annually and an estimated 240 million people depend on marine fisheries for their jobs. There’s no doubt that oceans generate big business. And where there’s profit to be made, there are sure to be people who don’t play by the rules. As a result, an estimated 18 percent of global fishing happens illegally.

Why should this matter to people who care about development? Illegal fishing can undermine the livelihoods of poor people who depend on the ocean to make a living. The evasion of tax and royalty regimes can deprive developing countries up to hundreds of millions of dollars a year in much-needed revenues. In some regions, the rate of illegal fishing is high enough to endanger the sustainable management of a resource already stressed by overfishing.

Women and Trade in Africa: Putting a Face to the Research

Maura K. Leary's picture
Also available in: Français

This past May, I traveled to Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania to produce “Mind the Gap: Gender Equality and Trade in Africa” with a Nairobi-based film crew. As I headed off on my first official trip, I read and re-read the chapters that this film was designed to complement — all part of a fantastic new book, “Women and Trade in Africa: Realizing the Potential.”  I felt very comfortable with the facts and figures — tourism in Kenya accounts for 12.5 percent of GDP; cotton is the third largest export in Uganda; small business owners are a huge part of Tanzania’s export economy, etc. — but did not fully understand the situation we were trying to explore until I met Mary.

Plump Goats and Pawpaws: A Story of Climate-Smart Farming in Kenya

Rachel Kyte's picture
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John Obuom
John Obuom and Poline Achieng’ Omondi are talking about their goats to a group of visitors that includes me. Turns out, cross-breeding local goats with Gala goats increases size, and cross-breeding Red Massai sheep with local sheep increases tolerance to heat and parasites. The result is a dramatically growing family income. Local goats fetch the equivalent of $20 at the markets; the improved goats bring in $80-90. The goats on the Obuom farm are noticeably plump and big for their age.
 
But that’s not the only benefit of the climate-smart techniques that John is describing. Milk production has tripled, leaving enough milk for the family and plenty left over to sell; flood and rainwater ponds reduce erosion and provide year-round water for irrigation; improved maize crops have increased disease-tolerance and productivity; intercropping pawpaw trees and food crops maximizes land use and more than doubles profits.  A small woodlot provides income and fertilizes the soil.
 
The countryside around the Obuom farm, where I was traveling last week, is not rich. The landscape is scarred by deep gullies caused by soil erosion. Half the people live below the poverty line; and malnutrition affects 45 percent of children under the age of five. Climate change and the resultant increasingly unpredictable rainfall will make this land even tougher to farm. Over the next 70 years, climate change could reduce food crop yieldsby as much as 16 percent worldwide and up to 28 percent in Africa. Yet climate-smart approaches are giving farmers better options and helping them increase production, incomes, and resilience, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Jim Kim in Mali: Stability Vital for Prosperity

Jim Yong Kim's picture

TIMBUKTU, Mali - Months after a rebel attack was rebuffed in Mali, the country is striving to stabilize in order to fight poverty and boost shared prosperity. I'm visiting the West African nation with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to underline international commitment to the region.

Gabon and the Republic of the Congo Launch Countdown to Interconnection of Fiber Optic Backbone Networks

Michel Rogy's picture
Also available in: Français

Physical interconnection of the Central African countries’ fiber optic networks is a key objective of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community’s (CEMAC) Regional Economic Program. By facilitating high-speed communications, these regional networks will make a critical contribution to growth, job creation, and improvement of the sub region’s standard of living.

Annual Meetings: World Bank Group Strategy Approved; Gender Equality Agenda

Donna Barne's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde confer. © Simone D. McCourtie/World Bank

The World Bank Group got the go-ahead on a new strategy aimed at repositioning itself to better tackle its two goals: ending extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity. The strategy aims to more efficiently and effectively leverage finances, technology, and talent to provide customized development solutions for client countries. In a communiqué at the close of the Annual Meetings, the Development Committee said it “strongly endorsed” the plan. The committee said the Bank Group has an important role to play “in delivering global development results, supporting countries with their specific development challenges, and helping them eradicate poverty and build resilience to future financial, economic, social, and environmental challenges.”  Read the communiqué and article.

A new paper updated the Development Committee on the gender equality agenda at the World Bank Group. In the past year, all of the Bank’s country assistance strategies were “gender-informed,” and the total share of gender-informed lending rose from 83% to 98% between FY12 and FY13. This translates into a dollar figure of almost $31 billion, notes the paper.

Annual Meetings: Making Earth's Riches Work for Poor and Fragile Countries

Bassam Sebti's picture

At least 80% of countries considered fragile or affected by conflict are home to valuable extractive resources that the global economy hungers for. Earth’s riches like oil, gas, and minerals often fuel conflict, trapping all but the elites in poverty amid vast wealth.
 
A high-level panel of industry experts and representatives from CSOs and resource-rich nations weighed in today on the challenges that define poverty or prosperity in a fragile country.
 
Fragile states endowed with natural resources have the chance to benefit from their transformational impact, said Sri Mulyani Indrawati, managing director and chief operating officer of the World Bank Group. "Success can mean stability and development, and failure can mean aid dependency,” she said. 
 
Indrawati underscored the need to get things right — alluding to the recurrent discussion regarding the “resource curse.” “Our focus is on transparency, governance, and strengthening country capacity,” she said.
 
On transparency, panelist Clare Short, chair of the Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative, an international standard that ensures transparency around countries’ oil, gas and mineral resources, acknowledged that extractive resources “are very difficult to manage.”

Scaling Up Affordable Health Insurance: Same Dish, Many Different Recipes

Jorge Coarasa's picture

             A baby in Ghana rests under a bed net to prevent malaria. (c) Arne Hoel/World Bank

The debate over how to ensure good health services for all while assuring affordability is nothing new.

However, it has recently acquired new impetus under the guise of Universal Health Coverage (UHC).  Discussions around UHC are contentious and as Tim Evans recently pointed out, “a lot of the discussion gets stuck on whether financing of the system will be through government revenue, through taxes, or through contributions to insurance.”

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