A matching grant enabled the Brazilian cooperative Coopervoltapinho to build a rice silo. All photos by Romeu Scirea.
Imagine driving along a rural road and seeing many small farms, all growing flourishing crops. Would you know how the farmers obtained the funds to plant these crops, enhance their productivity, and deliver them to market?
Last year, we showcased how Vietnamese farmers in the Mekong Delta are adapting to climate change. You met two shrimp farmers: Nguyen Van Khuyen, who lost his shrimp production due to an exceptionally dry season that made his pond too salty for raising shrimp, and To Hoai Thuong, who managed to maintain normal production levels by diluting his shrimp pond with fresh water. Now, let’s suppose Nguyen diluted his shrimp pond this year, another year with an extremely dry season. That would be a good start, but there would be other issues to contend with related to practical application. For example, when should he release fresh water and how much? How often should he check the water salinity? And what if he’s out of town?
Nguyen’s story illustrates some of the problems global agriculture faces, and how they unfold for farmers on the ground. Rapid population growth, dietary shifts, resource constraints, and climate change are confronting farmers who need to produce more with less. Indeed, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that global food production will need to rise by 70% to meet the projected demand by 2050. Efficient management and optimized use of farm inputs such as seeds and fertilizer will be essential. However, managing these inputs efficiently is difficult without consistent and precise monitoring. For smallholder farmers, who account for 4/5 of global agricultural production from developing regions, getting the right information would help increase production gains. Unfortunately, many of them still rely on guess work, rather than data, for their farming decisions.
This is where agriculture can get a little help from the Internet of Things (IoT)—or internet-enabled communications between everyday objects. Through the IoT, sensors can be deployed wherever you want–on the ground, in water, or in vehicles–to collect data on target inputs such as soil moisture and crop health. The collected data are stored on a server or cloud system wirelessly, and can be easily accessed by farmers via the Internet with tablets and mobile phones. Depending on the context, farmers can choose to manually control connected devices or fully automate processes for any required actions. For example, to water crops, a farmer can deploy soil moisture sensors to automatically kickstart irrigation when the water-stress level reaches a given threshold.
Many of the world’s populations are vulnerable to climate shocks – to drought, flooding, irregular rainfall and natural disasters. For these countries, cities and communities, index-based insurance is a critical risk-management tool which allows victims of such shocks to continue to have access to finance and to build resilience against future risks.
Index, or parametric, insurance pays out benefits based on a pre-determined index for the loss of assets and investments as a result of weather or other catastrophic events. In contrast, traditional insurance relies on assessments of the actual damage.
The pace of economic development throughout developing East Asia has been unprecedented. Despite the effect of the 1997-98 financial crisis, poverty rates in the region have been consistently declining.
Agriculture played a key role by driving growth in the early stages of industrialization. It also contributed to reducing rural poverty by including smallholders into modern food markets and creating jobs in agriculture. Nonetheless, poverty in developing East Asia is still overwhelmingly rural, reflecting a mismatch between agriculture’s shares of GDP and employment.
As incomes rise and countries urbanize, the composition of domestic food expenditure is shifting from staples to meat, horticulture and processed foods. Thus, while today’s East Asian developing economies transform, the nature of their agricultural sectors is also changing.
For most of us, watching the weather forecast on TV is an ordinary, risk-free and occasionally entertaining activity. The weatherman even makes jokes! But when your income depends on the rain or the temperature, the weather forecast is more than just an informative or entertaining diversion. Information can make or break a farmer’s prospects. Farmers get a sense of the risks they face down the road and plan their planting, harvest, use of inputs like fertilizers and pesticides, crop and livestock activities and market sales around weather reports and other information—on prices, local pests and diseases, changes in credit terms and availability, and changes in regulations, among other things.
The availability and quality of such agriculture risk information is hugely important for farmers, and the potential impact of bad information can be quite costly, leading the farmer to make wrong decisions and eventually lose revenue. Information systems that have unreliable sources and/or poor data processing protocols, produce unreliable results, no matter how complex the data processing model is. In other words, one can have “garbage in – garbage out.” Information is integral to agriculture risk management, not only in the short term to hedge against large adverse events, but also in the medium and long term to adapt to climate change and adopt climate smart agriculture practices. Climate-smart agriculture programs and agriculture risk management policies are toothless unless farmers have reliable information to implement changes on the ground.
Investing in agriculture risk information systems is a cost-effective way of making sure that farmers--and other actors along the food supply chain-- make the right decisions. But agriculture risk information systems in most countries suffer from lack of capacity and funding. Mexico, a country with an important agriculture sector, does not have information on market prices of agriculture products like maize, which is why a new Bank project aims to strengthen their capacity in this area. Mexico is not alone. Argentina solved this same problem recently with World Bank support, creating a market price information system for basic grains.
Inorganic fertilizer use by smallholder farmers is one way to boost soil fertility and associated crop-yields and farm incomes. Yet fertilizer use remains the lowest where yield increase is needed the most. Per the World Development Indicator database , inorganic fertilizer use averages 154 kgs/hectare in middle-income countries, while in low-income countries it is less than one-tenth this level at 13 kgs/hectare. What is driving this situation? And are at times fiscally expensive programs, such as government subsidies, commonly used in low income countries, the right solution?
It has been a busy few months for the LSMS team! Together with several Italian and African institutions, we recently launched the Partnership for Capacity Development in Household Surveys for Welfare Analysis. The initiative cements a long-term collaboration to train trainers from regional training institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa to harmonize survey data and promote the adoption of best practices in household surveys across the region (see below for more details). In addition, we have contributed to several international conferences and meetings, such as the Annual Bank Conference on Africa (featured below), where we witnessed the creative use of the data we helped collect and disseminate. Finally, LSMS was part of a documentary on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) called The Crowd & The Cloud. The fourth episode featured our very own Talip Kilic and the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, working hand in hand to produce household and farm-level panel data, which have been game changers in informing government policymaking and investment decisions, as well as in advancing the methodological frontier. We look forward to many more exciting quarters as we continue to work with our partners to improve the household survey landscape!
Energy commodity prices increased 3 percent in July, led by a 3 percent gain in oil and 8 percent surge in coal, the World Bank’s Pink Sheet noted.
Agriculture prices rose 1 percent, led by 2 percent gains in oils & meals and beverages. Most other groups registered small increases, including raw materials (up nearly 1 percent). Fertilizer prices declined 1 percent.
Metals and mineral prices increased 5 percent, led by an 18 percent jump in iron ore prices. All base metal price recorded strong increases. Precious metals prices fell 2 percent led by a 5 percent decline in silver.
The pink sheet is a monthly report that monitors commodity price movements.
Over the years, Bangladesh has taken major strides to reduce the vulnerability of its people to disasters and climate change. And today, the country is at the forefront in managing disaster risks and building coastal resilience.
Let’s compare the impact of the Bhola Cyclone of 1970 to the far stronger Cyclone Sidr in 2007. The 1970 cyclone was then the deadliest in Bangladesh’s history, and one of the 10 deadliest natural disasters on record. Official documents indicate that over 300,000 lives were lost, and many believe the actual numbers could be far higher.
By contrast, Sidr was the strongest cyclone to ever make landfall in Bangladesh. This time, fewer than 3,500 people lost their lives. While tragic, this represents about 1% of the lives lost in 1970 or 3% of the nearly 140,000 lost lives in the 1991 cyclone.
The cyclones of 1970 and 1991 were unprecedented in scale. Yet, they steered the country into action.