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Agriculture and Rural Development

There is no planet B

Paula Caballero's picture
Also available in: Français | Español | العربية
Zanizbar, Tanzania. Photo by Sonu Jani / World Bank

At this week's UN Sustainable Development Summit, the world's oceans will be getting the attention they have long deserved -- but not always received. They are the focus of Sustainable Development Goal 14: "Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development."

The inclusion of oceans for the first time in the international-development agenda illustrates the ambitious and holistic view of challenges and solutions that nations are embracing. With the SDGs, nations are calling for a future in which nature is managed to drive economies, enhance well-being and sustain lives -- whether in Washington or Nairobi, on land or sea.

Fifteen years ago, nations convened at the UN and created an unprecedented set of guideposts, the Millennium Development Goals. In that timespan, the number of people living in extreme poverty was more than halved. But the oceans were not part of those goals. We now have the opportunity to focus minds globally on restoring healthy oceans for resilient economies and thriving communities. 

This attention comes not a moment too soon.

Old fuel for a new future: the potential of wood energy

Paula Caballero's picture
A woman buying a clean cookstove in Tanzania. Klas Sander / World Bank

The use of wood energy – including firewood and charcoal – is largely considered an option of last resort. It evokes time-consuming wood collection, health hazards and small-scale fuel used by poor families in rural areas where there are no other energy alternatives.

And to a certain extent this picture is accurate. A study by the Alliance for Clean Cookstoves found that women in India spend the equivalent of two weeks every year collecting firewood, which they use to cook and heat their homes. Indoor air pollution caused by the smoke from burning firewood is known to lead to severe health problems: the WHO estimates 4.3 million deaths a year worldwide attributed to diseases associated with cooking and heating with solid fuels. Incomplete combustion creates short-lived climate pollutants, which also act as powerful agents of climate change.

But wood is a valuable source of energy for many of the 2.9 billion people worldwide who lack access to clean cooking facilities, including in major cities. It fuels many industries, from brickmaking and metal processing in the Congo Basin to steel and iron production in Brazil.  

In fact, the value of charcoal production in Africa was estimated at more than $8 billion in 2007, creating livelihoods for about seven million women and men, and catering to a rapidly growing urban demand. From this standpoint, wood energy makes up an enterprise of industrial scale. 

So, instead of disregarding wood energy as outdated, we must think of the economic, social and environmental benefits that would derive from modernizing its use. After all, wood energy is still one of the most widespread renewable fuels at our disposal. We already have the technological know-how to enhance the sustainability of wood energy value chains. Across the European Union’s 28 member states, wood and solid biofuels produced through “modern” methods accounted for nearly half of total primary energy from renewables in 2012.

Dispatch from Ghana: Agriculture benefits more than just farmers

Abdoulaye Toure's picture
Julius Dorsese harvests sweet potato at his farm in Ghana.
Julius Dorsese harvests sweet potato in Ghana. Materials and advice from the World Bank-funded West Africa Agriculture Productivity Program (WAAPP) have helped Dorsese grow his farm.

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.

Can land registration institutions be reformed in deeply entrenched bureaucracies?

Wael Zakout's picture
Turkey has radically transformed its land title registration system, and decreased the turnaround time for recording property transactions to just two hours.
Turkey has radically transformed its land title registration system, and decreased the turnaround time for recording property transactions to just two hours.
I just returned from Turkey where I visited the Turkish Tabu Cadastre Agency (Land Registration Agency of Turkey). The agency had changed so much that I did not recognize it.
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.

A slogan for sustainable agriculture: 'Mot Phai, Nam Giam' rice production

Chris Jackson's picture
Also available in: Tiếng Việt
A woman measures greenhouse gas emissions on a rice farm in Vietnam.
A woman measures greenhouse gas emissions on a rice farm in Vietnam.

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.

“Một phải, năm giảm” – khẩu hiệu sản xuất nông nghiệp bền vững

Chris Jackson's picture
Also available in: English
A woman measures greenhouse gas emissions on a rice farm in Vietnam.
Đo mức phát thải khí nhà kính tại Việt Nam.

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.

Leveling the field for women farmers in Uganda

Derick H. Bowen's picture
In Uganda, farming employs a massive 66 percent of the working population and accounts for a quarter of GDP. Population growth is among the highest in the world, with the number of Ugandans likely to at least double by 2050. It would be difficult to overstate  the urgency of creating enough jobs and producing enough food for everyone in this landlocked East African country.

To fight desertification, let's manage our land better

Ademola Braimoh's picture

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, desertification could displace up to 135 million people by 2045. 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. Climate change will also aggravate land degradation—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. 

Burundi reinforces conservation for resilience amid political tensions

Paola Agostini's picture
Photo by IRRI via Creative CommonsFor those keeping abreast of Burundi’s state of affairs, it could be easy to forget that the country is much more inviting than what we have seen lately in the media. Despite the ongoing crisis, Burundians have kept an uphill battle to reinforce the conservation and management of the nation’s forest areas

Keeping fish on the global menu

Paula Caballero's picture
Also available in: العربية | Español
Fish is source of protein for 1 billion people​​I’m pleased to see fish so high on the agenda this week. Whether in Brussels, where European Fisheries Development Advisors Network (EFDAN) held technical meetings, or in Cascais, Portugal, where The Economist hosts its third World Ocean Summit today and tomorrow, the future of marine fisheries and aquatic resources is being discussed at the levels it deserves.
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.