Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A New Report on Conditional Cash Transfers in Latin America

For those of you interested in CCT, make sure to check out this report just published by ECLA, the UN's Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, on Conditional Cash Transfers in Latin America

The report sums up the experience with in Latin America and the Caribbean, over more than 15 years. During this period, CCTs have spread through the region’s various countries as a tool of choice for poverty-reduction policy. CCTs entails the transfer of monetary and nonmonetary resources to families with young children, living in poverty or extreme poverty, on condition that they fulfil specific commitments aimed at improving their human capacities. They are consider just one of many non-contributory social protection instruments in the countries’ poverty reduction toolkits, other can be social pensions, emergency jobs, educational scholarships and subsidies for home purchases etc. 

A couple of interesting points about the report:
  • CCT have worked sufficiently well and produced their expected outcomes in large countries with considerable resources at their disposal, such as Brazil and Mexico, but this does not mean that they can be exported to any country and produce the same results
  • Viewing the CCTs in terms of entitlement and rights makes it hard to interpret them as instruments of patronage that can be manipulated by different political actors
  • CCTs can help to create a “virtuous circle” for poor and vulnerable families. Income transfers, when constant over time, provide a basic safety net for the poor, who by having a guaranteed minimum level of subsistence will have greater opportunities to enter the labor market.

ICT in Agriculture Sourcebook and M-PESA

Finals are coming up and this blog is suffering from lack of updates -sorry for that folks. I promise to catch up with my weekly 'Seeds and Leaves' list of resources and links. I will also be writing about the Integrated Rural Development Projects of the 60' and 70's and more recent efforts for integrated interventions such as the Millennium Villages and others. Also, tomorrow I will be attending a presentation on Food Security in Latin America: Trends and Prospects. I'll report on that as well.

In the meantime, I wanted to share with you an excited series of online forums to develop resources for "ICT in Agriculture" that the The World Bank and the e-Agriculture Community have put together.

Look at some of the modules titles:

  • Increasing Crop, Livestock and Fishery Productivity Through ICT"  
  • ICTs As Enablers of Agricultural Innovation Systems
  • Broadening Smallholders' Access to Financial Services Through 
  • Farmer Organizations Work Better with ICT
  • Strengthening Agricultural Marketing with ICT
  • ICT Applications for Smallholder Inclusion in Agribusiness Supply Chains

I seems that every day there are new developments in the area of technology and its potentials to help farmers. I recently read a study conducted by The IRIS Center at the University of Maryland, College Park on the impact of M-PESA's mobile technology in rural transactions. The study, titled Transforming Mobile Money into Food in Kenya, states:
M-PESA (receivers) appears to increase the likelihood of  being able to pay for seeds, casual labor, and other inputs at the time it is  most needed, and allows them to plant more of their fields.  An M-PESA shopkeeper mentioned that many of her customers receive money quickly and plant early and fully.  In the past, they might have missed the best  quality seeds, fertilizers, or might not have had money in time to plant  their fields completely.  In addition, many M-PESA receivers reported a  savings in travel time and transport costs to obtain remittance money  that they now could effectively use on productive agricultural activities.   This has enabled them to plant their fields more fully and hire more labor  when it can be most productive.
Exciting and promising things happening in ICT. As always, comment or email interesting articles in international food security.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Prabhu Pingali Talks About Gates Ag Agenda

Last week I attended a presentation on Feeding the World organized by the Chemistry Heritage Foundation. The keynote addresses was be given by Calestous Juma, Harvard University who just published a book title: The New Harvest: Agricultural Innovation in Africa. You can download a PDF copy HERE.

Other panelist included Andrew C. Revkin, The New York Times, who maintain the awesome NYTimes blog Dot Earth, Nina Fedoroff, Pennsylvania State University and American Association for the Advancement of Science; Antonio Galindez, Dow AgroSciences; Rik L. Miller, DuPont Crop Protection; Prabhu Pingali, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Paul Rea, BASF Corporation; Gary H. Toenniessen, Rockefeller Foundation; and Jay Vroom, CropLife America.

Although Professor's Juma presentation was quite good, I was impressed with the insights of Prabhu Pingali, Deputy Director of the Agriculture Development Division at the Gates Foundation. I tried to record his presentation but the audio didn't come up very good. Instead, I found a much better overview of his strategy to fight global hunger using agriculture as the main weapon. Enjoy

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Renewed Prosperity, Enhanced Security: The Case for Sustained American Leadership in Global Agricultural Development

THE CHALLENGE: Feeding the World
World population reached 7 billion on Monday, October 31. It is expected to exceed 9.5 billion by 2050. Today, while much of our attention is rightly focused on the glaring needs at home, another crisis is quietly brewing: the growing global demand for food and the deep poverty and hunger of 925 million people threaten the basic human condition and America’s national interests.

The solution to this crisis lies in the improvement of the agricultural systems in the developing world and so reducing poverty in the areas where it is deepest and making nations more economically secure – the twin foundations of international peace and prosperity. Growth in the agricultural sector is twice as effective in reducing poverty as growth in other sectors. This solution also creates opportunities for American businesses while strengthening our national security.

The U.S. Congress and Administration have recognized these benefits and since 2009 have demonstrated transformative leadership on global agricultural development. Yet, the current commitment to global agricultural development is fragile. U.S. leadership is critical to sustaining renewed international attention to these issues.

At a time when it would be tempting to ignore the plight of those so distant, we must realize that they are not so far away. With demand for food expected to more than double in the next 40 years, our futures are tied together in a world facing formidable challenges, including scarce natural resources and the effects of extreme and fluctuating weather patterns amidst ever-growing populations.

THE NECESSITY: How Global Agricultural Development is in America’s Interest
Some Americans ask why the government should spend their hard-earned tax dollars on agricultural development abroad at a time of severe economic distress at home. The answer is simple: America’s prosperity and security will be improved by the reduced hunger, higher incomes, more vibrant markets, and stable societies that agricultural development will make possible

  • Increasing opportunities for American business
  • Hedging against failed states, violence, and extremism
  • Strengthening American institutions and advancing scientific frontiers
  • Harnessing the abilities and improving the lives of girls and women
  • Meeting the rising global demand for food
  • Protecting the environment and mitigating the impact of climate change
THE CALL: Sustaining American Leadership in Global Agricultural Development
The U.S. government must sustain American leadership for global agricultural development. This means preserving support for U.S. global agricultural development programs and fulfilling the commitment the United States made at the L’Aquila summit in 2009 to dedicate $3.5 billion to agricultural development over three years. In nearly every international policy arena, including agricultural development, America’s leadership has proven essential to global action. When America’s leadership in global agricultural development faltered at the end of the 1980s, efforts of most others faltered as well. More recently, when America challenged the global community to reinvigorate its commitment to agriculture, members of the G-8 pledged $22 billion. The lesson is that without American leadership little will happen.

The cost to America to sustain its support for development is approximately $1 billion a year – less than 1/10th of 1% of total U.S. spending. Even this small investment, when coupled with political leadership on the international stage, enables the U.S. to leverage the international community’s collective effort and advance U.S. political, economic, and security interests. The Congress and the Administration have already taken the first, critical steps. This leadership must now be sustained: the long-term gains far outweigh the costs.