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Today, the World Bank launched a new report, "Growing Africa: Unlocking the Potential of Agribusiness." The report argues that agriculture and agribusiness should be at the top of the development and business agenda in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Bank is right to emphasize this issue--of the $25 billion of food that African countries import annually, only $1 billion comes from other African countries. The report offers a clear and well-researched exposition of the state and prospects of African agribusiness. It is broad in scope, encompassing agricultural production and upstream input markets as well as supply chains and agro-processing.
US government promotion of the ethanol industry is an important element in the recent spikes in corn (and other food) prices, but rising oil and gasoline prices are also key contributors. This is the punch line of a recent presentation I gave on US biofuel policy, and a point that can be clearly illustrated in just two charts: the first chart provides a crude summary of key elements of US biofuels policy; the second chart shows trends in ethanol production, corn prices, and crude oil prices all starting to move together in the mid-2000s.
“No superpower that claims to possess the moral high ground can afford to relinquish its leadership in addressing global disease, hunger, and ignorance,” said former US senator Richard Lugar. “Our moral identity is an essential source of national power… We diminish ourselves and our national reputation if we turn our backs on the obvious plight of hundreds of millions of people who are living on less than a dollar a day and facing severe risk from hunger and disease.”
Two months ago, Hurricane Sandy swept through Haiti, bringing winds and heavy rain that wiped away buildings, roads, crops, livestock, and fishing boats. By the time the extent of the damage and the humanitarian needs were understood, Americans had their attention fixed almost entirely on New York and New Jersey, not the Caribbean.
There has barely been time to process the Obama Administration’s unfortunate decision to stand by US biofuel policies—bad for the environment and hungry people, here and in developing countries—and now we’re confronted with what to do about ag subsidies that make it hard for developing country farmers to compete.
“Corn ethanol is a done deal…. There’s no stopping it.”
Princeton University scholar, Tim Searchinger, on The Grist blog in 2009
In response to this year’s severe drought and surging corn prices, the governors of North Carolina and Arkansas asked the Environmental Protection Agency to waive the mandate for blending ethanol into gasoline. Governor Perry of Texas filed a similar request during the price spikes of 2008 that the EPA rejected. After that, global debate over the implications of crop-based renewable fuels for food prices and climate change escalated. Some policymakers responded, but only by tinkering around the margins: the US Congress allowed $6 billion in subsidies to expire last year in the face of intense budget pressures, and the European Commission recently proposed halving its mandate for food-based biofuels.
The Food and Agriculture Organization’s flagship hunger report came out Monday, featuring a new and improved methodology for estimating the number of undernourished people in the world, and it has two big, good surprises, though there are still hundreds of millions of consistently underfed people.
Last month Mastercard Worldwide and the World Food Program (WFP) announced a global partnership in “digital food”. The public-private partnership aims to harness Mastercard’s expertise in electronic payments to develop WFP’s electronic voucher programs. Can it work?
Can we assess ag aid quality? The short answer: sort of.
For at least a decade, aid effectiveness has been in the spotlight because of concerns that, in some cases, aid may do more harm than good and, more recently, because of growing budget pressures. In 2005, donor and recipient countries agreed on a set of principles for more effective aid and a process to monitor implementation of those principles with the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness. Based on these principals, and with the objective to provide an independent evaluation of donor performance, Nancy Birdsall, Homi Kharas, and colleagues launched a joint Center for Global Development and Brookings Institution project to assess the Quality of Official Development Assistance, QuODA for short. Now in its second edition, this project motivated CGD colleagues Amanda Glassman and Denizhan Duran to apply the QuODA methodology to health aid and now, we’ve done the same thing for agricultural aid.