World Bank Voices
Syndicate content

Agriculture and Rural Development

On the importance of snow and joint climate action in Central Asia

Kulsum Ahmed's picture
Kyrgyz Republic / World Bank

If you think about it, snow is a pretty amazing thing. It is nature’s way of storing water in the winter, and then using it in the summer when it is needed, namely during the growing season. If it gets too warm, the water does not stay locked up as snow till the summer. Too much warmth also means that more snow and ice may melt than usual, resulting in floods. But at the same time, if the water comes down the mountain too abundantly and too early, there may not be enough water during the growing season, causing drought-like conditions.

Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan are among the Europe and Central Asia Region’s most vulnerable countries to climate change. In these five landlocked Central Asian countries, water resources depend on glaciers and snow pack. In this region, we have already seen average annual temperatures increase since the mid-20th century by 0.5°C in the south to 1.6°C in the north, and impacts are already being observed, from melting glaciers in upland areas (where glaciers have lost one-third of their volume since the 1900s), to droughts and floods in the lowlands (where weather-related disasters are estimated to cause economic losses from 0.4 to 1.3 percent of Gross Domestic Product per year for Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Kyrgyz Republic, for instance).
The future looks even more challenging. According to a World Bank report Turn Down the Heat: Confronting the New Climate Normal,” the region’s glaciers, which account today for 10 percent of the annual stream flow in the Amu Darya and Syr Darya basins, are projected to lose up to 50 percent in volume in a 2°C warmer world, and potentially up to 75 percent in a 4°C warmer world. Melting glaciers and a shift in the timing of rivers’ flow will result in a lot more water in the rivers but this excess availability will not be in sync with growing season’s water needs.  In the second half of the century, there would then be too little water flow in the rivers when the glacier volume is reduced.  The timing of peak flow of key rivers is projected to shift towards spring with a 25 percent reduction in flow during the critical crop growing season. The report also projects increased heat extremes which mean more of a reliance on irrigated agriculture (the report projects a 30 percent increase in irrigation demand) leading to an increase in water demand, exactly when water availability becomes more unpredictable. In this region, water is also connected to energy security, given the reliance on hydropower, creating further challenges.

What El Niño teaches us about climate resilience

Francis Ghesquiere's picture
It was recorded by the Spanish conquistadors, and triggered famines that have been linked to China’s 1901 Boxer Rebellion and even the French revolution.

Named by Peruvian fishermen because of its tendency to appear around Christmastime, El Niño is the planet’s most large-scale and recurring mode of climate variability. Every 2-7 years, a slackening of trade winds that push sun-warmed water across the Pacific contributes to a rise in water temperature across large parts of the ocean. As the heat rises, a global pattern of weather changes ensues, triggering heat waves in many tropical regions and extreme drought or rainfall in others.

The fact that we are undergoing a major El Niño event should cause major concern and requires mobilization now. Already, eight provinces in the Philippines are in a state of emergency due to drought; rice farmers in Vietnam and Thailand have left fields unplanted due to weak rains; and 42,000 people have been displaced by floods in Somalia.

And this is before the event reaches its peak. Meteorologists see a 95% chance of the El Niño lasting into 2016, with its most extreme effects arriving between now and March. Coastal regions of Latin America are braced for major floods; India is dealing with a 14% deficit in the recent monsoon rains; and poor rainfalls could add to insecurity in several of Africa’s fragile states. Indeed, Berkeley Professor Soloman Hsiang has used historical data to demonstrate that the likelihood of new conflict outbreaks in tropical regions doubles from 3% to 6% in an El Niño year.

But despite its thousand-year history, the devastation associated with El Niño is not inevitable. Progress made by many other countries since the last major event, in 1997-98, shows that we can get a grip on its effect – and others caused by climate trends.

Making the risky business of agriculture ‘climate-smart’

Vikas Choudhary's picture

Farmers harvest crops in Madagascar.

Agriculture is an inherently risky business.  From natural disasters and erratic rainfall to pests, few other sectors are as exposed or as vulnerable to shocks.
Climate change is a source of significant risks for agricultural and food systems: Climate projections suggest that average growing conditions will shift and there will be more uncertainty in predicting climate and weather conditions. More concretely, these impacts will translate into an overall warming trend, an increasingly erratic distribution of precipitation, more frequent and more devastating extreme weather events, and spatial shifts in the occurrence of pests and diseases. These impacts can cause production losses which lead to market volatility and in some cases, reactionary shifts in policies and regulations. 

Introducing our new Sustainable Communities blog series

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Making sure that villages, cities, but also countries and societies at large can grow in a sustainable way will be key to achieving the World Bank’s twin goals of eliminating poverty and boosting shared prosperity. This new blog series on “Sustainable Communities” will provide a platform for our experts to explore the multiple aspects of sustainability – environmental, social, economic, and discuss what concrete solutions can be implemented to pave the way for a brighter, more sustainable future.

Knowing your steak’s origin and impact on the environment? It’s possible

Katie Kennedy Freeman's picture
Also available in: Español
Cattle tagged through Uruguay’s national system for livestock information.
Cattle tagged through Uruguay’s national system for livestock information. Photo: Holger A. Kray/World Bank

Imagine if you could know where your steak was born, and all of the details about its life until it reached your plate.  Since 2011, this has been possible with Uruguay’s national system for livestock information or Sistema Nacional de Información Ganadera (SNIG).  

Why 100% traceability of cattle matters

The World Bank aided the development of SNIG, which became fully operational in 2004, as part of its support for Uruguay’s recovery from the Foot and Mouth Disease epidemic. The SNIG, which is a livestock registration system with more than 75,000 participants in the agricultural and industrial sectors, paved the way for Uruguay’s mandatory individual cattle traceability program. All animals born in September 2006 or later are required to be tagged with one visual ear tag and one radio frequency identification tag, both for traceability purposes. The novel system allowed Uruguay to become the only country in the Americas (and one of only a few in the world) with 100% traceability of cattle and allowed consumers, mainly in China, Europe and NAFTA areas to know the origin of the beef for health (fewer diseases with full tractability), social (ability to know that the cows were grass-fed) and environmental (sustainability of natural resources) reasons. ​

Farmers and food companies can build resilient supply chains

Marc Sadler's picture
People working on a strawberry farm in Argentina.

So the global challenge is clear: We need to sustainably feed 9 billion people in 2050, while building the resilience of farmers and food companies AND concurrently making agriculture part of the climate solution, not an increasingly large part of the problem.

Daunting? Well, yes of course, but that is why it is a “global challenge” and not just something that incremental change will solve.

There is nothing new in this story and many of the things we need to do are known, but just not done at scale. What is new is the fact that the interests, aspirations and objectives of a wide group of stakeholders are coming together. We have long searched for truly sustainable farming – one that will sustain farmers and enable them to prosper, while ensuring that the landscapes in which we live and work are not the subject of short term gain resulting in long term degradation.

Global dialogue bolsters World Bank engagement with Indigenous Peoples

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Also available in: Español
Supporting Indigenous Peoples’ sustainable development is critical to meeting the World Bank’s twin goals of ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity in the countries in which they live. The recent International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples and International Day for the Eradication of Poverty both helped draw attention to the 350 million Indigenous Peoples in the world who:
  • Are culturally distinct societies and communities – the land on which they live and the natural resources on which they depend are inextricably linked to their identities, cultures, and economies;
  • Are among the most disadvantaged populations in the world, representing roughly 4.5 percent of the global population but more than 10 percent of the poor; and 
  • Even within their own traditional territories – which hold 80 percent of the planet’s biodiversity – they legally own less than 11 percent of the land.
The World Bank is working actively and globally with Indigenous Peoples on a number of issues directly affecting them, and seeks to position marginalized groups such as the Indigenous Peoples at the center of the development agenda.

It should be recognized, however, that improving the conditions for Indigenous Peoples is not an easy task. Indigenous Peoples are often found in remote and isolated regions with poor access to social services and economic infrastructure. They also often suffer from multiple dimensions of exclusion. Furthermore, standard development projects have shown limitations in areas with Indigenous Peoples, particularly if they are not designed and implemented with the active participation of the indigenous communities.

Is climate-smart gender-smart?

Sanna Liisa Taivalmaa's picture
Also available in: العربية
Women farmers in Rwanda.
Women create terraces on a farm in Rwanda. Photo: A'Melody Lee / World Bank

Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) can help make the food system more sustainable in a changing climate. But does it come at a cost to women, in terms of a heavier workload?

Climate-smart agriculture’s three pillars: improved agricultural productivity, increased adaptation to climate change and reduction of greenhouse gases are goals well worthy of targeting. On the one hand, CSA practices such as water harvesting or planting trees that provide more accessible fuel, fodder and food can save women’s time. On the other hand, some practices such as increased weeding or mulch spreading can require women to spend more time in the field.

Taking a bite out of Haiti’s rabies problem

Caroline Plante's picture
Officials vaccinate a dog against rabies in Haiti.
Photo: Dr. Michel Chancy, State Secretary for Animal Production in Haiti

Rabies is a serious public health problem in Haiti. Although human rabies in the Americas has declined by more than 95% since 1980, Bolivia, Guatemala, Brazil, the Dominican Republic and Haiti continue to experience cases. The problem is most acute in Haiti, which accounts for 70% of all deaths caused by rabies in the region.
This is the main reason behind the Haitian Government's campaign to vaccinate over 500,000 dogs and reduce the incidence of rabies on the island. Dr. Michel Chancy, State Secretary for Animal Production in Haiti, has repeatedly said that dogs are responsible for more than 99% of all cases of human rabies on the island. Not to mention the fact that human deaths from dog-transmitted rabies are known to be underreported, and estimated to be up to 200 per year. 

Why we can’t afford to ignore agricultural risk

Stephen P. D’Alessandro's picture
Climate smart farming practices in Senegal.
Climate-smart farming practices in Senegal. Photo: M. Tall/CCAFS

Launching on September 25, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will call for no less than an end to poverty, hunger and malnutrition by 2030. This is welcome news--and for the nearly 800 million people worldwide who will go to bed hungry-- long overdue.

To get there, it’s not just about raising yields. It’s also about managing risks to protect the most vulnerable. Along with gains in productivity, we also need more resilient agricultural systems. Failing this, unmanaged risks will upend the road to 2030. Climate change only ups the ante with promise of increasing weather extremes and new and more virulent pest and disease outbreaks.