JOHANNESBURG - The Bank also said that increased aid and technology transfer
was essential to meeting the Millennium Development Goals of halving global poverty
The goals have been incorporated into the commitment that over 160 governments are expected to sign after the United Nations World Summit, on Sep 4.
Europe and the United States are lobbying to keep agricultural subsidies off the meeting's agenda. But the report says that, ”Higher agricultural productivity is crucial to raising incomes in developing countries.”
Regions like Africa depend on agriculture for about a quarter of total output and are essential to achieving the 3.5 percent annual growth needed to allow them to meet the development goals of halving poverty, extending education, combat HIV/AIDS and extend potable water supplies.
World Bank research on agricultural trade liberalization suggests that unrestricted
access by developing countries to developed country's clothing and textile markets
would yield 9 billion U.S. dollars a year, while access to agricultural markets
would also yield 9 billion a year.
Income growth alone was, however, not enough to ensure sustainable development was achieved. The bank's report says one of the reasons the Rio Earth Summit of 1992 has not yielded results is because institutional structures
to deal with social and environmental problems are not strong enough. These institutions include public and private institutions, in both the developed North and the developing South.
”The institutions to manage and protect environmental and social assets are not emerging rapidly enough to address the consequences of the growing scale and interconnectedness of human activity,” says the report.
This was the key problem behind the Bank's somewhat bleak assessment of Rio. Its report card reads as follows: ”Air: polluted; fresh water: increasingly scarce; soil: being degraded; forests: being destroyed;
biodiversity: disappearing; fisheries: declining.”
Because of low levels of industrialization, Africa was the lowest contributor
to greenhouse gas emissions, but it felt the impact of climate change severely,
said a World Bank lead economist Linda Likar.
This was evident by the growing regularity of droughts, the cause of the deep food shortages afflicting southern Africa.
One of the reasons is that 40 percent of farmland in sub-Saharan is classified as ”fragile land” - arid zones; slopes; poor soil or in forest ecosystems. ”The inhabitants of these fragile lands account for a large share of people in extreme poverty,” said Likar.
While urbanization was increasing, effective sustainable development still
requires rapid rural reform. Besides reducing agricultural subsidies, another
means for policy-makers to lift agricultural output while protecting the environment
was to tap into indigenous knowledge systems much more aggressively.
A method of reclaiming degraded land in Burkina Faso and Niger was being extended
to Ghana, said the report. The ”zai” or ”tassa” method involves digging holes
up to 30 centimeters thick and filling them with compost, crop residue and manure.
These zais attract termites, which in turn increase water infiltration.
”This technique has tripled yields and greatly reduced yield loss in dry years,” said Liker. Using such traditional knowledge was essential to combating poverty.
The World Development Report is the bank's key research contribution to the
World Summit. It found that 10 years was too short a timeframe to place on the
next global assessment of the planet's well being.”The emphasis of this report
is not on identifying a specific set of policies or outcomes considered advantageous
but on the processes by which such policies and outcomes are selected,” says the
While lobbying against the World Bank has seen a change in its policy prescriptions
since the mid-Nineties, elements of the report's recommendations are like red
flags to activists. It is, for example, still laced with pay for use principles
to guide water and energy policies.
Copyright 2002 IPS