I started my internship at the World Bank in May and it has been so far, an incredible experience to learn from peers and to understand the complexities of the development work that the Bank does.
I’m a member of the topic team of Seeds at the Global Indicators Group of the Bank’s Development Economics unit, which is responsible for the elaboration of the Enabling the Business of Agriculture (EBA) report.
The EBA issued its first report in 2015, and since then, yearly reports have been produced. Each report reflects a full year of work that includes data collection, validation, and stakeholder’s meetings. The coming year is the first time since the beginning that an EBA report will not be produced. Timing for being at the Bank at this moment is precious. The rationale of the EBA and its more widely known Ease of Doing Business Report, also part of the Global Indicators Group, is to measure regulatory framework of countries and encourage a healthy “race” to improve themselves and measure themselves against their regional peers, and/or similar economies. Nonetheless, this year, the EBA unit is pausing, in order to stop and reflect on the impacts of this encouraged “competition” among countries and assess who is following the good practices highlighted by the Bank. The current efforts are focused on refining the methodology and increasing the potential to improve agricultural practices, as well as seeds quality and security in the countries that are measured by this report, 162 in 2016.
For me it has been a real learning experience, and humbling to be having essential discussions on how the competition of EBA can lead to good, but also poor policy practices. From my experience, I have been on both sides, at the government trying to address the good practices encouraged by international organizations such as the Bank, and trying to get everything done right so we can get a better score; but also, as part of international organizations trying to engage the country counterparts to assume a self-critical role to evaluate what has been done so far and what can be improved. It is never an easy or painless job.
The hard-to-achieve balance between having real policy addressed to improve regulatory framework, while also considering the specific context and limitations of each country, must be considered in marginal steps to enable the business of agriculture. The very end of our work here at the EBA, will not be only reflected by a reform or a published law, but will, and it is what we hope, increase the chances of millions of women having a better access to training for water irrigation systems, which will impact positively livelihoods of communities, many in conflict affected countries. We think about this every day, and we are aware of how, through the EBA report, we are shaping countries’ regulations and reforms. Therefore, the EBA has decided to pause and rethink.
We are addressing the concerns and questions raised by country counterparts and by academia regarding the role of the informal agriculture sector and the informal markets for seeds that are hard to measure.
The focus on the law and regulatory framework of the EBA is its biggest strength, but it is also a limitation itself when dealing, for example, with the particularities of developing countries and traditional agricultural practices. I am humbled to have a peer to peer relationship in the team to be able to ask questions, and also suggest, ways to improve the understanding of this hard to grasp reality of small-sized farmers. My experience working in many developing countries, in particular in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and in South Asian countries has brought some real life understanding of the day to day difficulties that farmers have to access formal markets for seeds, or the gender gaps in rural settings. My preparation so far as Rotary Peace Fellow, and in the Master of International Development Policy Program (MIDP) has helped to position me at the Bank with a useful and different lens to approach the work we are doing here. In this sense, I’m bringing my Peace and Conflict Management knowledge, and the Conflict Sensitivity analysis tools that I have learned and mastered during my first year at the Duke-UNC Rotary Peace Center. I can say that I feel confident that I’m bringing to the Bank, and in particular to my area, a multi-dimensional understanding of the problem, which I hope will bring more comprehensive and fine-tuned regulatory understanding of when and how are countries comparable, and where are the limitations of such comparison.
Although the EBA does not itself produce policy recommendations, the countries that are measured year after year (now every two years), will be introducing reforms and policies to better address how they are doing in comparative perspective. With the acknowledgements of the limitations, and the context and characteristics of the agricultural sector of each country, I think that policies will be better introduced by the countries, and will be addressing the contextualized problem, instead of trying to apply a regulation that is working well in one country but that can have disastrous results for another one.
I look forward to my last weeks at the Bank where I’ll continue to keep working to leave a positive mark on the team. My work here as Rotary Peace Fellow has been a constant reminder to the EBA team the relevance and impact on people’s livelihoods of what we are doing, that is what is behind a country’s scoring number, or behind the measurement of the frontier distance of good practice. We are trying to reduce poverty, and in many cases, contribute to peacebuilding through enabling the business of agriculture.