The Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) last week released a new study titled “Growth and Productivity in Agriculture and Agribusiness: Evaluative Lessons from World Bank Group Experience.”
The study is expected to help Africa and countries like Botswana raise productivity in the sector and promote its growth.
Drawing on the World Bank Group’s (WBG) experience in supporting agricultural growth in the past decade, the report points to areas where increased funding can translate into higher impact.
Agricultural growth remains central to poverty reduction, as one billion people worldwide continue living in extreme poverty, many in rural areas.
In addition, the challenges posed by the global food crisis are likely to grow due to the expected doubling of worldwide food demand by 2050.
In the 1990s waning donor and government interest led to a decline in agriculture support by the WBG. This was reversed in the mid-2000s with the food crisis and the increasing recognition of the importance of agricultural productivity to growth and poverty reduction.
From fiscal years (FY) 1998 to 2008, the WBG provided $23.7 billion in financing for agriculture and agribusiness activities in 108 countries, 28 of which were in Sub-Saharan Africa.
An additional $5.4 billion was committed by the WBG in 2009, as support to the sector was scaled up. World Bank and IFC also provided non-lending services to their clients, and the Bank supported several global and regional programs in the sector.
“The World Bank Group and partners have a unique opportunity to match the increases in the financing for agriculture with a sharper focus on improving agricultural growth and productivity,” said Vinod Thomas, Director-General, Evaluation, and WBG. “The study highlights the complementary roles of the World Bank and IFC, reflecting the importance of both the public and private sectors for agriculture.”
The evaluation shows that agricultural projects have performed above the WBG average in Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe and Central Asia, and East Asia. Productivity growth has been particularly strong over a sustained period in China and India. Results in Sub-Saharan Africa, however, have been weak.
Lessons of experience from Bank Group’s work in important areas ÔÇô such as water use and irrigation, rural infrastructure, know-how on supply-value chains, and gender mainstreaming are vital to agricultural growth.
Some of the country cases indicate how the expansion of rural infrastructure in China, India, and Mali yielded better outcomes in agriculture. However, in most cases sustainability of these programs beyond the life of the project remains an issue because of insufficient government funding and limited cost-recovery.
Monitoring and evaluation also remains weak, and inadequate reporting on outcomes and results constrains assessment of project effectiveness and inhibits institutional learning.
According to Nalini Kumar and Miguel Rebolledo Dellepiane, the co-authors of the report, “A key challenge for the WBG going forward is to increase the effectiveness of its support in agriculture-based economies, notably in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the needs are greatest. The report recognises that many of the issues that were identified as impediments to agricultural growth in the region are fundamental components of WBG’s current Agriculture Action Plan FY2010-2012.”
Evaluative lessons suggest that success in Sub-Saharan Africa will require enhanced staff skills and stronger coordination, both across sectors ÔÇô including agriculture, financial sector, infrastructure, economic policy and governance ÔÇô and between the World Bank and IFC.
In one example of collaboration across WBG, support is being provided to develop Liberia’s tree crop industry by which IFC’s advisory services and investments add to the Bank’s support to the government’s policy capacity.
IEG report indicates that more attention will need to be paid to rain-fed agriculture and to the financial sustainability of projects. Continued analytic work and policy dialogue are important to help build client capacity and understanding, and efforts are needed to ensure that WBG support at the global and regional levels are integrated with support at the country level.