In recent years, we’ve seen sweeping change across the world’s economies; formal systems have broken down and become informal. My home region of South Asia is no exception: more than 90 percent of the workforce is made up of informal workers—street vendors, home-based workers, construction workers and smallholder farmers, many of whom aren’t certain of their incomes from week to week.
Deep inside the ICRISAT campus just outside Hyderabad, there are two sub-zero rooms that house the seeds of 120,000 plants from over 100 countries and 120,000 chances to change poor farmers' lives. The rows of plastic containers and freeze-dried metallic packages resemble a huge and very cold medicine cabinet.
These seed banks, or genebanks, hold the keys to growing more productive, hardier, healthier food crops that could help feed the 9 billion people who will be living on Earth by 2050. Scientists use the collection to map characteristics that enable individual plants to withstand water shortages, pests, and disease, or increase yields and nutrient levels. Over 800 improved crop varieties have been developed from this seed bank and now grow in 79 countries.
ICRISAT is the international crop research institute for the semi-arid tropics and one of 15 CGIAR research centers. Scientist here work on sorghum, millet, chickpeas, pigeon peas, and ground nuts - the food crops that smallholder farmers from the driest parts of the world depend on for their survival.
A walk through the campus reveals the power and potential of international research.
Sometimes, international convention meetings can be heart-breakingly slow-moving. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) – one of the three conventions born after Rio in 1992 to drive sustainable development – which has been meeting in Hyderabad in India this week, is no exception. I’ve seen tough negotiators from all corners of the Earth emerge from conference rooms wearing pained expressions.
It’s outside the negotiating rooms – where the major topic of the moment is how to mobilize the financial resources needed to meet the CBD’s ambitious Aichi Targets – where things are a lot brighter.
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The success of the Amazon Region Protected Areas Program (ARPA) drew a crowd here in Hyderabad at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity meeting. This effort by the government of Brazil – supported by the World Bank, the Global Environment Facility, WWF, and the German Development Bank (KfW) – is protecting almost 60 million hectares of rainforest, an area roughly the size of France and Belgium combined.
Speakers from the governments of Brazil and Germany, as well as from the GEF and foundations, all agreed that ARPA’s results are impressive: Between 2004 and 2006, ARPA accounted for 37 percent of Brazil’s substantial decrease in deforestation, and the program’s first 13 new protected areas will save more than 430 million tons of CO2 emissions through 2050.
Our World Bank community has been out in the field with video cameras asking families, farmers, workers and parents from all corners of the globe: What will it take… to improve your life?.. to get a better job? … to end poverty?
As part of our global conversation on social media and multimedia, we have received video from countries like Brazil, Ecuador, Tanzania, Laos and India. People are sharing their ideas, their hopes and their solutions for creating a better life for all.
Here are three views on #whatwillittake:
In Brazil, Maria José dos Santos tells us that providing more schools and childcare would allow mothers to get fulltime jobs. “It would be great if everybody had more access to child care and all day schools. That would enable mothers to work in peace.”
Find a good longread on development? Tweet it to @worldbank with the hashtag #longreads.
Drought, food prices, and global warming remain hot topics as crops in the United States wilt under the hot sun, raising fears of another food price crisis. The Guardian chronicles the corn belt’s adverse conditions – and the implications for the rest of the world in “America’s Corn Farmers High and Dry as Hope Withers With Their Harvest.” (For a view from South Africa on the drought’s ripple effect, see Independent Online’s “US drought puts pressure on SA food prices”.) On another food supply issue, Co.exist highlights a new study on the costs and benefits of rebuilding global fisheries in “More Fish Means More Money.” The bottom line: rebuilding fisheries would begin to pay off in 12 years, the study says. The New York Times blog India Ink relates an effort to address another huge challenge—access to sanitation—in “Mapping Toilets in a Mumbai Slum Yields Unexpected Results.” Bloomberg looks at the coming demographic dividend in Southeast Asia, where young workers are expected to gain jobs as workforces age in Japan, Korea and China.
Part of a series on social inclusion
China is talking of a harmonious society, Brazil of social integration, India of social inclusion, and so on. The United Nations just released its first World Happiness Report, and more and more countries are asking their people how they feel! The social aspects of growth are causing more anxiety in the last few years than arguably ever before, as the Economist said, reporting on a 2010 Asian Development Bank meeting in Tashkent.
Social inclusion is a pillar of the Bank’s social development strategy, and we have just embarked on a new policy research program through an upcoming flagship report. In the process, we hope to position social inclusion as a central feature of the World Bank’s work on equity and poverty.
On the eve of the 2009 World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings, Bank President Robert Zoellick called on world leaders to reshape the multilateral system and forge a “responsible globalization”—one that would encourage balanced global growth and financial stability, embrace global efforts to counter climate change, and advance opportunity for the poorest.
“Coming out of this crisis, we have an opportunity to reshape our policies, architecture, and institutions,” Zoellick said, speaking at the DC-based Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of the Johns Hopkins University.
“As agreed in Pittsburgh last week, the G-20 should become the premier forum for international economic cooperation among the advanced industrialized countries and rising powers. But it cannot be a stand-alone committee,” the Bank’s president noted.
In a speech laden with historical references, he spoke of the legacy of institutions established to deal with the global economy some 60 years ago and how the economic crisis is contributing to a changing multilateral global architecture.
"Bretton Woods is being overhauled before our eyes," Zoellick said.
The crisis has underscored the growing importance of the large emerging economies. “The current assumption is that the post-crisis political economy will reflect the rising influence of China, probably of India, and of other large emerging economies,” Zoellick said. “[T]he Greenback’s fortunes will depend heavily on U.S. choices.”