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Agriculture and Rural Development

Will cheap oil lead to cheap food?

Juergen Voegele's picture
Also available in: 中文

The halving of world oil prices over the last six months raises questions about the implications for food prices and the welfare of poor people.
 
Do lower oil prices mean lower food prices? To a certain extent. But for low-energy cropping systems common in most developing countries, and in areas where food is not transported far, the impact will be dampened. For large oil exporters, however, food prices may increase. In general, lower oil prices should lower the cost of moving food from producers to consumers and reduce on-farm fuel and fertilizer costs. But a countervailing factor is that cheap oil may also induce people to drive more, and as fuel ethanol mandates link biofuel use to overall fuel use, ethanol use and the volume of maize used to produce it would also go up. In countries where oil is a large share of exports, real exchange rates may depreciate, which will disproportionately increase the price of traded goods like grains relative to other prices.
 
Is the downturn in agriculture commodity prices necessarily bad for farmers who produce food? A major downturn in commodity prices would not be great for farm incomes, and high crop yields would be needed to help dampen the effect on farm profits.  Lower fertilizer and transport costs may help mitigate any negative impacts.
 
How long will oil prices remain low? While there is no certainty in forecasts, current estimates suggest fuel prices will remain low for 2015, increasingly slightly in 2016. There are three main drivers of the oil price decline which are structural: Significant increases in US shale oil production, receding concerns of oil supply disruptions in the Middle East, and a change in OPEC policy to maintain rather than cut production.

#BestOf2014: Six Popular Environmental Stories You Shouldn’t Miss

Andy Shuai Liu's picture
As we get ready to kick off the new year, let’s recount the voices and stories about how we can enhance the way we interact with our planet. From Ethiopia to Indonesia, we’ve seen our efforts improve lives and help incomes grow as countries and communities strive for greener landscapes, healthier oceans and cleaner air.
 
Take a look back at some of the most popular stories you may have missed in 2014:
 
1. Raising More Fish to Meet Rising DemandPhoto by Nathan Jones via Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

Aquaculture is on the rise to help feed a growing population. New #Fish2030 report: http://t.co/0fbH4fLDJO http://t.co/Lm5eHsGZaR

— World Bank (@WorldBank) February 6, 2014

Thoughts on Resilience: Action versus Definition

Marc Sadler's picture
Photo by F. Fiondella (IRI/CCAFS) via Flickr CCA new word has entered the running for buzzword of the moment: “Resilience” seems to appear on every other page and is lauded at events as the focus for all. Indeed, academics, institutions and organizations seem to be racing to define the term, which will most likely end in confusion and competing definitions.

However, the reality of the concept is extremely straightforward. Resilience equals the ability of people, communities, governments and systems to withstand the impacts of negative events and to continue to grow despite them. Or maybe that is simply the definition I use.

Whatever the definition, what we can agree on is the need for action. It has always been challenging to convince people to invest in things that are preventative—quite simply, demonstrating impact requires proving a negative most of the time. However, with the apparent increase in frequency and severity of negative events, political and commercial willingness to take prevention, avoidance and risk management seriously is increasing.

Trade in Fishing Services—Good or Bad? Separating Myth from Fact

Tim Bostock's picture
Small-scale fishers in West Africa. Courtesy MRAG, Ltd.A colleague recently quizzed me on the extent to which our latest report—Trade in Fishing Services: Emerging Perspectives on Foreign Access Agreements—specifically addresses the World Bank’s goals of reducing poverty and sharing prosperity in developing countries. My brief answer was “comprehensively!”. Helping the poor and protecting the environment may not be the first things that pop into your mind when you think about foreign fishing access arrangements. However, when considered as international trade in fishing services, these arrangements do have the potential to deliver real benefits to the poorest people in developing countries. How? Well, let’s immediately dive deeper into the report…
 
Foreign access rarely receives good press. Although over half of the world’s exclusive economic zones are subject to some form of foreign fishing arrangement, there is a perception that industrialized nations are "giving with one hand while taking away with the other." Criticism abounds regarding the role that foreign fleets play in overexploiting coastal state fish stocks, in engaging in illegal and unreported activity, in contributing to conflicts with small-scale fisheries and in generally undermining domestic fishing interests in vulnerable developing economies.

Creating and Sustaining an Essential Partnership for Food Safety

Juergen Voegele's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français | Español | 中文
Photo by John Hogg / World BankThis week, the Global Food Safety Partnership will hold its third annual meeting in Cape Town, just ahead of the holiday season when food safety issues are not on everyone’s minds. They should be. Unsafe food exacts a heavy toll on people and whole economies, and is cited as a leading cause of more than 200 illnesses. However, safe food does not need to be a luxury—which is something that motivates and animates our work at the World Bank Group. Food availability alone does not guarantee food safety. Increasingly, we are learning how food safety affects people, and disproportionately impacts the lives and livelihoods of poor people.This growing awareness about food safety is partly because of the food scares that have shaken many countries in recent years. Food safety incidents occur anywhere in the world—both in industrialized and developing countries alike and in countries large and small...

Invest in Soil; Sustain Life.

Ademola Braimoh's picture
Three women plant seeds on a farm in Chimaltenango, Guatemala. Photo by Maria Fleischmann / World BankHealthy soil is fundamental: To food security, ecosystems and life. Soils help feed a global population that has increased to 7.3 billion people. Healthy soils provide a variety of vital ecosystem services such as nutrient cycling, water regulation, flood protection, and habitats for biodiversity. Soil is also a huge component of the global carbon cycle. It holds more carbon than vegetation and accounts for 80% of the world’s terrestrial carbon stock.

But the quest for greater yields and profits has compromised soil health, mining soils for nutrients, over-using fertilizers, and creating over 4 billion hectares of man-made deserts.

Why We’re Making a Stand for Resilient Landscapes in Lima

Magda Lovei's picture
Photo by Andrea Borgarello / TerrAfrica, World Bank)​World leaders and land actors are in Lima this week to help advance climate action. Climate resilience—including the resilience of African landscapes—will be at center of the agenda as they define the role of sustainable, resilient landscapes for a new development agenda.
 
Why should the world—and Africa in particular—care about resilience?
 
The importance of resilience as an imperative for development is nowhere as obvious as in Africa. Fragile natural resources—at the core of livelihoods and economic opportunities—are under increasing pressure from unsustainable use, population pressure, and the impacts of climate change.
 
Sustainable development will only be possible in Africa if natural resources are valued and protected. It will only be possible if their resilience to shocks such as climate change is improved. ​Resilient landscapes—where natural resources and biodiversity thrive in interconnected ecosystems that can adapt to change and protect people from losses—are important to the work of ending poverty and boosting prosperity.


 

Empowering new generations to act

Paula Caballero's picture
Also available in: العربية | Español | Français | 中文
Photo by CIAT via CIFOR FlickrWhen I look at the rate of resource depletion, at soil erosion and declining fish stocks, at climate change’s impacts on nearly every ecosystem, I see a physical world that is slowly but inexorably degrading. I call it the "receding reality"—the new normal—slow onset phenomena that lull us into passivity and acceptance of a less rich and diverse world.

In my lifetime, I have seen waters that were teeming with multi-colored fish, turn dead like an empty aquarium. I have seen the streets of Bogota, my home town, lose thousands of trees in a matter of years.

It’s tempting to feel demoralized. But as the world’s protected area specialists, conservationists and decision makers gather in Sydney, Australia, this week for the World Parks Congress, there is also much to hope for.

 

​A Better Way To Healthy Oceans?

Valerie Hickey's picture

Last night, and every night, 840 million people go to bed hungry. It’s our job at the World Bank to get that number to zero. That can’t happen without healthy oceans.  Period.

Oceans directly support the livelihoods of more than 300 million people, are at the center of the war against climate change and provide food security for hundreds of millions.  To feed a world with a growing population, we need more seafood and we need to make sure it’s available not just today, but every day. Additionally, as the world gets smaller, oceans provide the transport links that connect us and carry our goods. Simply put, oceans are our past, present and a capstone of our future.

Strong blue economies need healthy oceans. Today’s sick oceans need investment to become healthy once more. We need to foster an investment model – not an aid model – that is ready for the brave new world of development finance. This is what we are now focusing on: How to build an investment model that can deliver results at speed and scale to build strong economies, good governance and healthy, well-fed communities. So where will this investment come from?

To Feed The Future, We're Putting All Hands on Deck

Juergen Voegele's picture
Also available in: Español | Français | 中文 | العربية

As we mark World Food Day, here’s a sobering thought: Too many people are hungry.

One in nine people suffer from chronic hunger, more than 1 billion people are undernourished, and 3.1 million children die every year due to hunger and malnutrition.  This is a huge drain on development--when people are hungry and malnourished, they are less able to improve their livelihoods; adequately care for their families; live full and healthy lives and lift themselves out of poverty.

The problem is set to intensify in the future, as the population grows, climate change affects how we produce our food and the natural resources that help feed the world are stretched even further.  We aren’t feeding the world as well as we should be in 2014. How can we do better in the future, when the world will need to feed and nourish 9 billion people in 2050?

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