What happens when you help a farmer succeed?
You create opportunities, not just for the farmer, but also for his family, often improving their financial standing, health and educational prospects.
But the impact goes much further than that. When you give a farmer tools to succeed, you can help grow prosperity in his community, and build a food system that can feed everyone, every day, everywhere—nutritiously and sustainably.
This is the story in West Africa, where the World Bank-funded West Africa Agriculture Productivity Program (WAAPP) has helped 13 countries generate, improve and disseminate agriculture technology to pave the way for a food-secure future for Africa. Already, WAAPP has developed 116 technologies that have been adopted by and directly benefited up to 2.5 million people across West Africa—or 17 million people in total, if you count both direct and indirect beneficiaries. WAAPP has also improved productivity on up to 2.74 million hectares of farmland and is estimated to have increased food production in West Africa by more than 3 million tons.
Agriculture and Rural Development
Turkey has radically transformed its land title registration system, and decreased the turnaround time for recording property transactions to just two hours.
I remember my first visit to the agency in 2007. The agency is heavily staffed (15,000), has more than 100 branches and its main headquarters had once almost fallen apart. In my first visit, the head of the agency gave me a nice surprise: he showed me a land book that dated back to the 18th century, and included a record of my great-great-grandfather’s land title in Palestine.
The head of the agency had great plans to transform the agency by improving land records, introducing computerization and integrating the system into the overall e-government program, and setting a time limit of one day to register land transactions. Based on that an ambitious reform agenda, we worked together over a few months’ ‘time to prepare the cadastre modernization project. The Bank partly financed this reform through a $100 million loan, while the Turkish government funded the rest of the program. The project started in 2007, and I moved on to other positions later that year.
This time I had a second surprise. The institution is completely transformed. The main office has been completely and beautifully renovated. It now resembles any other government office in the US or Europe. The agency presented its achievements. It was amazing to see what had been accomplished in 8 years. The government is about to complete the renovation of the cadastre and the computerization of all land records, including historical records from Ottoman times. Service delivery has improved dramatically, with property transactions now being registered within 2 hours. They also integrated cadastre registration into the overall e-government program, which allows any Turkish citizen to access the record of their land/property online. Above all, customer satisfaction has reached 97% — something unheard of for land agencies, often known to be among the most corrupt agencies in many countries.
Successful slogans can make a world of difference. In Vietnam, a catchphrase for a climate-smart way to produce rice has shown small farmers how they can boost rice profitability, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The World Bank discovered this through an Agriculture Competitiveness Project in Vietnam, which championed an alternate wetting and drying rice production technique that uses less water, reduction in application of fertilizers and management of crop residues to reduce the level of methane and nitrous oxide emissions from the rice fields. Adopting this climate-smart practice required the systematic engagement of the entire community committed to draining the rice fields multiple times over a matter of weeks, something traditionally rarely done. Adopting this alternate wetting and drying technique not only helps strengthen plant roots but also reduces flooding periods which translates into reduced methane production.
Khẩu hiệu đúng có thể làm thay đổi nhiều thứ. Ở Việt Nam, câu khẩu hiệu về phương thức canh tác lúa gạo ứng phó thông minh với biến đổi khí hậu đã giúp nông dân nâng cao lợi nhuận từ sản xuất lúa gạo và giảm phát thải khí nhà kính.
Ngân hàng Thế giới đã phát hiện ra việc này thông qua dự án Cạnh tranh nông nghiệp (ACP) ở Việt Nam, ở đó dự án đã ứng dụng thành công kỹ thuật trồng lúa với các giai đoạn ngập- khô xen kẽ. Kỹ thuật canh tác này dự trên nguyên tắc sử dụng ít nước tưới, giảm lượng phân bón, và quản lý tốt hơn các phế phẩm từ sản xuất lúa để làm giảm mức phát thải khí mê-tan và ô-xit ni-tơ từ các cánh đồng lúa. Để áp dụng được công nghệ này cần phải huy động được sự tham gia của toàn bộ cộng đồng một cách có hệ thống qua đó có thể rút được nước từ ruộng và để khô nhiều lần trong một vài tuần. Đây là điều mà ít được làm trước đây trong cách canh tác lúa truyền thống. Việc áp dụng kỹ thuật canh tác lúa ngập- khô xen kẽ không chỉ giúp rễ cây lúa phát triển tốt hơn mà còn giúp làm giảm thời gian ngập nước trong ruộng qua đó giảm được lượng phát thải khí mê-tan.
Every year, we lose 24 billion tons of fertile soil to erosion and 12 million hectares of land to desertification and drought. This threatens the lives and livelihoods of 1.5 billion people now.
In the future,. Land degradation could also reduce global food production by up to 12% and push world food prices up by 30%. In Egypt, Ghana, Central African Republic, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Paraguay, land degradation could cause an annual GDP loss of up to 7%.
Pressure on land resources is expected to increase as populations grow, socio-economic development happens and the climate changes. A growing population will demand more food, which means that unsuitable or especially biodiverse land will be claimed for farming and be more vulnerable to degradation. Increased fertilizer and pesticide use related to agriculture will increase nutrient loading in soils, causing eutrophication and declines in fertility over time.—especially in drylands, which occupy 40% of global land area, and are inhabited by some 2 billion people. Urban areas, which are located in the world’s highly fertile areas, could grow to account for more than 5% of global land by mid-century.
Unless we manage our land better, every person will rely on just .11 hectares of land for their food; down from .45 hectares in 1960.
But let me make something clear on behalf of the World Bank: The focus on fisheries is a focus on creating pathways out of poverty that will keep people out of poverty and enable dignified lives. About 1 billion people in developing countries rely on seafood as a primary source of animal protein, and millions of jobs are linked to fisheries. Along the value chain, many of the jobs are held by women. The ocean is also a major sink for greenhouse gases and the fate of growing coastal populations is tied to the state of natural coastline defenses against extreme weather events. The emerging concept of blue economy and blue growth rests at the heart of our main development challenges: feeding, providing jobs to and generally improving the lives of a growing population in a changing climate.
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%.
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?