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One of the Eldis RSS newsfeeds on major development issues

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Climbing the inclusion ladder: artisanal gold mining in Tanzania

22 Jun 2017 10:21:12 GMT

Tanzania faces significant development challenges. While gross domestic product growth remains relatively impressive, many sectors are growing off a small base. Both the longevity of the acceleration and the quality of the growth are in question. Tanzania’s educational outcomes remain poor, and young people are less likely to find good quality employment. A fast-growing population requires an expansion of employment opportunities, and it is not clear that these are being created. A handful of companies provide the majority of tax revenue, rendering the government reliant on foreign aid in addition to taxation. President John Magufuli’s government therefore needs to broaden the tax base and diversify the economy without undermining current foreign exchange and tax earnings. Tanzania is endowed with extensive mineral resources (and recently discovered natural gas), which could mobilise resources for development, provided the sector is well governed.

This paper examines the artisanal gold mining sector as an important employer and potential revenue generator. It also explores the negative social and environmental externalities associated with the sector. The barriers to entry for artisanal miners to formalise should be lowered, although this will not guarantee development. Most importantly, the government – in partnership with development organisations and the private sector – should roll out and ensure the uptake of inexpensive technologies (such as retorts) that will reduce negative externalities and increase potential positive economic spillover effects.

Young people’s gender role attitudes over the transition to adulthood in Egypt

20 Jun 2017 12:53:59 GMT

Change in gender role attitudes is a neglected dimension of research on the transition to adulthood in the Middle East and North Africa that has broad implications for young people’s outcomes, as well as attitudinal change in the region over time. Using a life course framework, the authors examine the reciprocal relationship between attitudes formation and two key transitions in young people’s lives: the transition to marriage and parenthood, and young women’s transition to labour force participation. In order to address the simultaneity of attitudes formation and transitions, the research exploits the panel dimension of the Survey of Young People in Egypt 2009 and 2014, estimating the impact of attitudes in 2009 on the likelihood of making transitions between 2009 and 2014, then the impact of those transitions on attitudes in 2014.
The authors find that young women with more egalitarian attitudes are more likely to enter the labour market but, contrary to most international literature, entering the labour market does not have a corresponding liberalising effect on women’s attitudes. Rather, entering the labour force leads to more conservative attitudes regarding the gender dynamics of household decision-making. This may reflect the challenges women face in balancing work and family, and suggests that women may compensate for working outside the home – which may be perceived as having a negative effect on their families – by developing more conservative attitudes regarding household dynamics. As in other contexts, the transition to marriage and parenthood is associated with increasing conservatism in young people’s attitudes.

The effect of mothers’ employment on youth gender role attitudes: evidence from Egypt

20 Jun 2017 01:09:44 GMT

Cross-nationally, having a working mother during childhood is associated with more egalitarian attitudes among both adult men and women. However, no previous studies have explored this relationship in the Middle East and North Africa, where women’s employment rates have remained persistently low. In this paper, the authors examine the impact of having a working mother during childhood on Egyptian young people’s attitudes towards women’s roles in the public sphere, gender roles in the household, and ideals around number of children and women’s age at marriage that are related to gender roles. In order to address the potential endogeneity of mother’s work and attitudes formation, the authors use an instrumental variable approach with panel data from the Survey of Young People in Egypt 2009 and 2014 waves.

Mothers' employment is instrumented using the governorate-level female labour force participation rate and percentage of women working in the public sector in 2009. The paper finds that having a working mother during childhood led to significantly more egalitarian attitudes towards women’s roles in the public sphere among both young men and women. However, there was no effect on young people’s attitudes towards gender roles in the household. Having a working mother led to lower ideal number of children among sons, but did not have any effect on views of the ideal age of marriage for women among children of either gender.

In the Egyptian context, having a working mother during childhood thus appears to led to more egalitarian attitudes around women’s roles outside the household but not necessarily their roles inside the household. This suggests that attitudes around gender roles in the household may be more strongly socially conditioned and thus less affected by individual experience, and is also consistent with the finding from labour market research that women continue to bear the brunt of housework and childcare in Egypt even when they are employed. Thus, while having an employed mother does have some liberalizing effect on individual attitudes, broader change in attitudes around gender roles both inside and outside the home may be needed in order to foster increased female labour force participation.

IBCIM economic corridor: facilitating sub-regional development

19 Jun 2017 12:42:24 GMT

The Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Forum for Regional Cooperation’s (BCIM) Economic Corridor (EC) initiative, a complex entanglement between security, economic and national interest, exemplifies Foreign Secretary Jaishankar's statement.

This paper attempts to analyse the economic aspect of this cooperation, focusing on the reasons for stalling of the BCIM EC’s progress, and explores measures to take the initiative forward. Despite all four countries having agreed to implement the EC in principle, admittedly, there has been a lull in its progress. The EC’s route has been put in place and is almost completely motorable. However, an analysis of the trade intensities and patterns among the four countries demonstrates that potential trade volumes are inadequat e to justify its implementation. Nonetheless, the EC continues to emphasise cooperation on the “Zone 3” pillars of Trade, Transport and Energy, which avoid addressing the existing realities of the BCIM countries’ underdevelopment.

Fighting BEPS in Africa: a review of Country-By-Country Reporting

19 Jun 2017 12:24:47 GMT

Following the Panama Papers leak and numerous press reports of aggressive tax planning by Multinational enterprises (MNEs) around the world, there has been a concerted effort, notably in developed countries, to combat MNE tax avoidance and increase international cooperation in tax matters. As MNEs operate across borders they can use multi-jurisdictional tax planning, in combination with transfer pricing, to limit their tax obligations. Unfortunately, some MNEs aggressively plan an operation around these tax structures to avoid paying their fair share of tax. This is mostly legal, as MNEs generally do not breach any single tax jurisdiction’s laws. However, such practices have a negative impact on the countries in which they are operating, regardless of whether they are legal or not.

A key responsive measure to address aggressive MNE tax planning has been the OECD/G20 Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Package. Its aim is to close loopholes between various national tax authorities that allow MNEs to unjustifiably shift profits across borders. Within this, a key component, and part of the minimum BEPS action requirements, is Action 13: Transfer Pricing Documentation and Country by Country Reporting (CbCR).

Policy recommendations made by this brief:

  • by the time of the 2020 review MNEs will be more aware of this process, and it is possible that the idea of lowering the EUR 750 million revenue threshold will find a more receptive audience
  • given the trust barriers to lowering exchange of information requirements it is not clear that this issue can be resolved in favour of those African states currently not able to comply. Consequently, African countries need to upgrade their institutional capacities and legal frameworks. Official development assistance could be targeted at this area
  • as Action 13 reports are submitted over the next two years a much more informed assessment of the strengths and limitations of CbCR should emerge. This should enable the refinement, and possibly the extension, of the system
  • the application of CbCR to include other taxes paid by MNEs, beyond corporate income tax, could also be considered
  • the transparency of CbC reports will, no doubt, feature in the 2020 review and African revenue authorities will need to engage with the issue, as it could bridge a lot of their constraints


Trade in high technology products trends and policy imperatives for BRICS

19 Jun 2017 11:59:32 GMT

The rise and relevance of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) cannot be overstated. BRICS constitutes  the  most  prominent  emerging economies with substantial influence on world affairs – both political and economic. While China has demonstrated its capacity to be the world leader in production and trade, India and Brazil have been steady on rapid income growth and technological development backed by mature institutions and policy environment that tend to be oriented towards long-term economic development. BRICS  has  become  the fastest and largest emerging market economy.

This  paper  examines  the  emerging  strength  of  BRICS  in  high-technology trade. We reviewed trends in high-technology trade primarily in BICS (excluding Russia). Given that China and India are leading exporters of High-tech products (HTPs) among BICS, changing patterns of intra-industry trade  have  been  analysed  at  the  disaggregated  level  for  these  countries. Trade denomination of Information Technology Products has been analysed as  a  special  case  to  understand  roles  played  by  global  trade  agreements  in influencing production and trade of high-technology goods. BRICS has also made significant progress in technology intensive trade in agriculture which is rarely captured in the analyses based on HTPs. The paper concludes with reflection on BRICS cooperation in global technology and trade governance for long term capacity building, industrial development and competitiveness.

The interface between access and benefit-sharing and biotrade in Namibia: exploring potential areas of synergy

19 Jun 2017 11:38:04 GMT

Legal uncertainty and administrative and regularity burdens are serious impediments to sustainable and responsible biodiversity-based economic activities. With the entry into force of the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilisation (Nagoya Protocol) an opportunity has arisen for countries to design an access and benefit-sharing (ABS) framework. This can promote the commercialisation of biological resources (biotrade) and provide legal certainty and transparency for the transfer of genetic resources. Although most biotrade businesses follow the core principles of sustainable biodiversity, there is lack of clarity about the application of ABS policy frameworks on biotrade businesses. The Nagoya Protocol aims to clarify key concepts, define the scope of ABS, and stipulate the responsibilities of user and provider countries of genetic resources. As a party to the protocol, Namibia has started developing comprehensive ABS legislation by leveraging its existing administrative and regulatory frameworks.
The challenge for Namibia is to find a mutually supportive interrelation between ABS and biotrade, where the implementation of ABS and the promotion of biotrade can go hand in hand. Experiences in other African countries illustrate that the implementation of ABS frameworks is not without its challenges. In South Africa, broader economic losses and further marginalisation of women and poor communities occurred when ABS regulations were applied to existing biotrade businesses. In order to avoid these kinds of unanticipated consequences, Namibia’s efforts to develop ABS legislation and set up institutional arrangements to support the implementation of the Nagoya Protocol require careful policy consideration. A significant step in the right direction is to understand the interface between biotrade and ABS, especially the positive interaction that should exist between the two, and to have an informed strategy that addresses this complex relationship.
It is the objective of this exploratory study to offer an outline of the national policy context, the ABS development process and salient issues and the connections between biotrade and ABS in the era of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Nagoya Protocol.

Value chain analysis in India to identify nutrition-sensitive interventions for improved maternal diets in India

19 Jun 2017 03:37:09 GMT

Micronutrient insufficiencies are a serious public health problem among women of reproductive age in Low and Middle Income Countries including India, adversely affecting maternal health and economic productivity, and child growth and educational outcomes. Fruit and vegetables are important sources of micronutrients and consumption of these foods is lower than recommendations. Value chain analysis involves understanding how actors (farmers/ producers, wholesalers and vendors) make decisions about what produce they grow and sell. It can be employed to improve nutrition by identifying constraints to the supply and demand of healthful foods and developing interventions to address these constraints.

The University of Southampton undertook a study titled Identifying nutrition-sensitive interventions to improve maternal diet quality in rural Indian settings using value chain analysis supported by the Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in South Asia (LANSA) consortium awarded from the Call for Proposals under LANSA’s first Responsive Window opportunity. The study aims to develop an interdisciplinary framework linking value chain activities to nutrition in rural Maharashtra.

Recommendations for future action:

The findings of this research are qualitative and hypothesis generating. In order to prioritise interventions, quantitative survey data would be useful. Recommendations for future research and interventions is to reduce supply and demand constraints. Some
suggestions for future interventions are:

  • changing perceptions of indigenous vegetables
  • more equitable division of food and workload within the household
  • increased awareness of the importance of including fruits and vegetables in daily diet through information, education and communication material shared in schools, Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), Self-Help Groups and community-based organisations
  • support for vendors to sell locally
  • re-distribution of risk within the value chain
  • initiatives to increase awareness and effective implementation of insurance for farmers against crop failures at block and panchayat levels
  • improved storage infrastructure to improve shelf-life



Securing Nairobi's poor neighbourhoods policy considerations for enhancing community participation

19 Jun 2017 02:28:30 GMT

Kenya has grappled with extensive crime and insecurity, ranging from armed robberies, carjacking and street crime, to politically-motivated, ethnically-organised violence, resource conflicts and terror attacks that affect both rural and urban areas. Poor urban neighbourhoods have in particular continued to face serious challenges of crime and insecurity.
As is the case in a number of countries in Africa, public policing in Kenya has not succeeded in complete assertion of state monopoly on violence. Poor infrastructure, inadequate financial resources and deficiency in security personnel numbers are among the key factors that limit state capacity to police the entire terrain of the country.
This policy brief suggests a policy trajectory that draws lessons from the assessment of  community-led security mechanisms in Mlango Kubwa in Mathare sub-county and Kawangware, in Dagoretti North sub-county of Nairobi. In an age when policing and security provision has seen the emergence of a range of hybrid measures and joint ventures between the state security agencies and civilians, a fresh policy look at security governance from the lessons at the community level is important.

Mitigating electoral conflict in Kenya’s 2017 General Election

19 Jun 2017 01:52:59 GMT

On 8 August 2017 Kenya is expected to conduct a general election in which new representatives at the county and national levels will be elected. This election is likely to be one of the most competitive at the local level yet.
This policy brief analyses the challenge of ensuring peaceful 2017 general election in Kenya and makes recommendations to mitigate the risks posed by the polls. It does this through an examination of the 2017 electoral landscape through the lenses of political and socio economic context. Further, it examines the institutions that will handle 2017 elections and the extent to which they are suited to delivering a peaceful and credible election.

In addition, it assesses the degree to which previous efforts to address the challenge of electoral violence in Kenya, especially those employed in 2013, have contributed to mitigating and resolving violent conflicts. Finally, the brief offers policy recommendations for the various stakeholders towards a credible and peaceful election in 2017.

Africa’s youth employment challenge: new perspectives | IDS Bulletin Vol 48, No 3

16 Jun 2017 12:12:13 GMT

Youth and employment concepts are not new to development discourse in sub-Saharan Africa but over the last decade interest has increased dramatically, becoming a much more important focus for policy, intervention and research throughout the continent (and globally).

This IDS Bulletin reflects challenges in Africa and demonstrates how political context shapes youth-related policy.The articles in the Bulletin consider the evidence on youth employment policy and interventions, the politics of youth policy, the changing nature of young people’s work, and the promotion of entrepreneurship. They are authored by the ten members of the first cohort of the Matasa Fellows Network (a joint initiative by the MasterCard Foundation and IDS), which has a particular focus on the youth employment challenge in Africa.


  • Introduction: New Perspectives on Africa’s Youth Employment Challenge: Seife Ayele, Samir Khan and James Sumberg
  • Youth Employment in Developing Economies: Evidence on Policies and Interventions: Nicholas Kilimani
  • The Politics of Youth Employment and Policy Processes in Ethiopia: Eyob Balcha Gebremariam
  • The Side-Hustle: Diversified Livelihoods of Kenyan Educated Young Farmers: Grace Muthoni Mwaura
  • Gambling, Dancing, Sex Work: Notions of Youth Employment in Uganda: Victoria Flavia Namuggala
  • Navigating Precarious Employment: Social Networks Among Migrant Youth in Ghana: Thomas Yeboah
  • Youth Participation in Smallholder Livestock Production and Marketing: Edna Mutua, Salome Bukachi, Bernard Bett, Benson Estambale and Isaac Nyamongo
  • Non-Farm Enterprises and the Rural Youth Employment Challenge in Ghana: Monica Lambon-Quayefio
  • Does Kenya’s Youth Enterprise Development Fund Serve Young People?: Maurice Sikenyi
  • Promoting Youth Entrepreneurship: The Role of Mentoring: Ayodele Ibrahim Shittu
  • Programme-Induced Entrepreneurship and Young People’s Aspirations: Jacqueline Halima Mgumia



Linked Open Data: The Essentials. The climate knowledge brokering edition

16 Jun 2017 03:55:20 GMT

This  new edition of REEEP’s highly successful manual Linked Open Data: The Essentials offers a solid introduction to Linked Open Data (LOD) principles, with new case studies and updated information on how to make the most of the possibilities LOD has to offer. The manual is particularly targeted at knowledge brokers working in the climte change sector, with most of the examples and case studies focused on this area, but the general principles are broadly applicable to other disciplines and sectors.

Explaining South African xenophobia

16 Jun 2017 03:14:35 GMT

After widespread violence in 2008 and 2015, South Africa is now clearly one of most hostile destinations in the world for African migrants. Existing research on the determinants of South African xenophobia has focused on developing and advancing theories, with little attention paid to testing which theories, if any, actually account for mass xenophobia.
By combining individual-level Afrobarometer survey items with municipal-level census indicators, this paper produces a rich, quantitative data set of numerous factors that have been proposed as determinants of South African xenophobia. The results of multilevel regression analyses show support for the explanations of poverty, relative deprivation, frustration with government, and social mobilization, with mixed evidence for resource competition. Taken together, the results point toward a mechanism of scapegoating, where frustrations and hopelessness produce aggression that is targeted at African immigrants

Making governance work for water-energy-food nexus approaches

15 Jun 2017 11:25:52 GMT

This new working paper by Andrew Scott of ODI explores the effectiveness of governing for the “water-energy-food nexus” of issues. The author looks at approaches that understand the links between sectors, recognise these in decision-making and promote integrated policy-making.

The concept of the water–energy–food (WEF) nexus has become widely used to help understand interdependencies among the three systems, and how they can be managed sustainably to meet growing demand. The water–energy–food nexus has especially been advocated to address conflicts among the sectors. However, governance in the water–energy–food nexus has not received much attention in the literature, particularly the institutions and politics governing the water–energy–food sectors.

This paper synthesises findings from CDKN-supported action research in this area. The paper draws from findings in Indonesia, Kenya and the Amazon Basin to show that the effectiveness of the horizontal (cross-sectoral) and vertical (between levels of government) coordination that is essential for a nexus approach is determined by institutional relationships, which can be influenced by political economy factors. The capacity of governing organisations to understand nexus links and to collaborate with each other is also critical.

The paper suggests that aiming for the ideal of comprehensiveness and integration in a nexus approach may be costly and impractical. Nevertheless, horizontal and vertical coordination are essential. Local-level decision-making will determine how trade-offs and synergies in the water–energy–food nexus are implemented. The capacities of local government organisations and decision-makers need to be strengthened to enhance their capacity to adopt nexus approaches and coordinate vertically.

Village savings and loans associations: an approach adapted to the poorest households?

13 Jun 2017 10:39:32 GMT

To improve preparedness and prevention of drought risks in the agricultural and pastoral communities around Lake Fitri in Chad, Solidarités International implemented a project between 2013 and 2016 that endeavoured to strengthen their capacities for resilience. One of the activities more specifically concerned women and addressed their need to access credit in order for them to launch merchant activities: Solidarités International supported the creation of 15 Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLA), based on the existing tontine model and inspired by VSL Associates’ methodology. The associations are made up of between 15 and 30 members, are presided over by internal regulations drawn up by its members and run for a cycle of 9 to 12 months. Members buy shares  on a weekly basis and are able to take out a loan with interest for up to three times their individual total savings.

This case study presents the VSLA methodology in more details, and attempts to shed light on the socio-economic profile of the members (does the activity incorporate the poorest households?), on how the latter use the loans granted, on whether participation in a VSLA can improve the resilience of member households, and on the determinants of success.

Reducing conflicts around water points

13 Jun 2017 02:56:46 GMT


SOLIDARITES INTERNATIONAL works in the region of Kidal, in northern Mali, since 2015 to improve agro-pastoral activities through the implementation of WaSH activities. Underlying the rehabilitation of water points is the aim to reduce conflicts between different types of users: breeders and their herds and local populations for domestic uses.

The team worked to identify the good practices that had been implemented in the first phase of this project funded by OFDA, between June 2015 and September 2016. This case study provides insight on these good practices, the lessons learned as well as recommendations for future projects.

Afghanistan’s cross-border trade with Pakistan and Iran and the responsibility for conflict-sensitive employment

09 Jun 2017 12:58:03 GMT

Border areas are sites of intensive interaction between states and inter-regional business. Political tensions and armed conflicts have a particularlystrong impact on trade flows. In fragile and conflict-affected settings (FCAS), where states have limited power and where the enforcement of laws, rules and
regulations is weak, irregular economies tend to thrive along borders, where state officials often deal with border formalities in arbitrary ways.
This Working Paper focuses on transporters, i. e. hauliers, as important actors in the border areas between Afghanistan and its neighbours Pakistan and Iran. The transport sector is sensitive to market fluctuations and a volatile business environment, reacting strongly with increasing or declining employment. This study addresses the question of how haulage companies and workers operate in an insecure environment as found in the border areas of FCAS and identifies strategies for conflict-sensitive employment. Based on the analysis of academic studies, bilateral treaties and their implementation, media reports and interviews with owners and managers of haulage companies and small hauliers, drivers and labourers, this Working Paper presents the particularities of formal and informal trade in the border areas of Afghanistan.
A major finding is that states, large companies, small transporters and workers greatly differ in their perceptions of violent conflict, which range from views of alarming insecurity to regarding it as negligible. Moreover, businessmen tend to perceive corrupt practices by state officials and the police as a source of
more uncertainty than acts by non-state armed groups. A third insight is that Pakistan and Iran consider cross-border trade with Afghanistan a minor issue
as both states are pursuing particular interests in the larger region. Pakistan’s tense relationship with India and Iran’s struggle with Western sanctions
inform the trade strategies of these countries, while Afghanistan is a marginal player in these power struggles. Some conflict-sensitive employment strategies, such as employing drivers and assistants according to cultural criteria to facilitate safe passage through areas under the control of various power holders and affected by violent conflict are adopted by cross-border haulage companies out of self-interest. The paper presents additional strategies that major companies can use.

Integrated marine and coastal management in the western Indian Ocean: towards a sustainable oceans economy

09 Jun 2017 03:06:34 GMT

The Western Indian Ocean (WIO) region has valuable and diverse coastal and marine resources, but much of its natural capital is either threatened or declining. The WIO encompasses rich diverse tropical and subtropical areas along the coastlines of Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa. This region also comprises vast oceanic areas and the island states of Madagascar, Seychelles, Comoros, Mauritius and Réunion. This paper focuses on the marine and coastal governance of mainland states in the region. As countries in the WIO region gear for a sustainable oceans economy, there is an urgent need for effective tools to ensure the resilience of coastal and marine biodiversity, to regulate sustainable resource use and to protect the livelihoods of millions of people. To achieve this, anticipatory approaches such as ecosystem-based, integrated resource management and coastal and marine spatial planning need to be used to promote sustainable Blue Economy pathways in the WIO, and facilitate the management of ecosystems and biodiversity in regional spatial planning. This essentially consists of designating and expanding effective marine protected areas (MPAs) and other priority areas for conservation, as well as including community-based models for sustainable management.

This paper addresses some key governance challenges in the WIO region related to the inclusive management needed to ensure that resource management approaches, specifically in and around MPAs, produce outcomes for nature and for people. Key to their success is the ability to demonstrate and enhance socio-economic development benefits and to communicate these benefits through thorough economic valuations. Attention must focus not only on expanding protected areas’ coverage but also on enhancing the capacity of management agencies and communities to govern conservation spaces effectively and attract sustainable, long-term financing. Collaborative partnerships around the conservation and sustainable management of in-shore marine resources
can significantly contribute to meeting the region’s national development targets, the AU’s Agenda 2063, the commitments set out in the 2030 global development agenda and the Aichi targets of the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity.

Pension funds in Chile: bringing the state back in

06 Jun 2017 01:50:55 GMT

The Chilean reform pioneered a shift in old-age security systems away from public pension schemes on the pay-as-you-go (PAYG) basis towards individual pension schemes on capital basis and found followers in the 1990s, mostly among other Latin American countries and in Central and Eastern Europe. However, nowhere was the change so embracing as in Chile. The early 21st century saw retreat from the pension funds created on mandatory basis. Also in Chile the 2008 crisis echoed with reforms of 2008 and 2015 under the socialist president, Michelle Bachelet, which extend the social safety net as well as re-introduce publicly-administered programmes. The change seems to be internationally meaningful, also for Poland being one of the follower-countries.
This article reviews the performance of the system up to the most recent reform and presents results of pension engineering in a systematic way in attempt to estimate the scope of change.

Bringing the state back into Chile 's pension system can be viewed as a plan to subsidise total retirement benefits in order to improve the distressing rates of replacement and, in such indirect way, to support the longevity of privately-managed pension funds.

Innovation in India's Informal Economy

02 Jun 2017 04:55:38 GMT

This paper examines the ubiquitous formal-informal duality of Indian economy through a case study of Arni, a Moffusil town of Northern Tamil Nadu. Arni is populated by about one lakh people; the majority of them are low castes. Informal sector dominates the economy of the town, but formal-informal linkages are strong and visible everywhere. The socio-economic life of the town is inextricably interwoven with the formal-informal duality which apparently lies at ease, unnoticed by the inhabitants and actors of the formal and the informal economy. Against the conventional wisdom, the informal economy of Arni is a crucible of innovations which are of various types. They are adoptive and adaptive, incremental and ruptural, for profit making and other uses, problem solving and solution oriented, filling the gap, and so on. Sometimes, they are meant for the promotion of collective interests and sometimes only for an individual like running the business of the family.

These innovations are, however, not confined only to the domain of the informal economy, but are also part of the formal economy. In such an economy, the formal-informal duality is transposed to the level of institutions that results in 'hybridity" of institutions. The 'hybridity of institutions' is although functional, yet not without contradictions. Finally, the study emphasizes that the informal economy of India is not stagnant or resistant to changes. It is driving India's high growth rate. Innovations of the informal economy are an important driver of this high growth rate.

MGNREGA in Tamil Nadu: A Story of Success and Transformation?

02 Jun 2017 04:36:10 GMT

Social protection has emerged as a key driver of development policy at the beginning of the twenty-first century. It is widely considered a ‘good thing’ that has the potential not only to alleviate poverty and vulnerability, but also to generate more transformative outcomes in terms of empowerment and social justice.

Based on an ethnographic study of the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), India's flagship social protection policy, this paper takes a critical look at what this policy's ‘success’ consists of. The study was carried out in Tamil Nadu, a state widely presented as a ‘success’ in terms of MGNREGA's implementation, and describes who participates in the scheme and how success is understood and expressed at different social and bureaucratic levels.

In terms of MGNREGA's outcomes, it concludes that the scheme is benefitting the poorest households – and Dalits and women in particular – especially in terms of providing a safety net and as a tool for poverty alleviation. But the scheme does more than that. It has also produced significant transformative outcomes for rural labourers, such as pushing up rural wage levels, enhancing low-caste workers' bargaining power in the labour market and reducing their dependency on high-caste employers. These benefits are not only substantial but also transformative in that they affect rural relations of production and contribute to the empowerment of the rural labouring poor. However, in terms of creating durable assets and promoting grassroots democracy, the scheme's outcomes are much less encouraging.

The impact of a global value chain in South India on the rural areas in its vicinity

02 Jun 2017 04:26:45 GMT

The expansion of garment manufacturing in Tiruppur has transformed the surrounding countryside as well as the town, both as garment manufacturing has spread into the countryside and through the knock-on effects of having a dynamic and relatively labour intensive industrial sector nearby. It has provided a valuable alternative to agriculture as agriculture has been running into problems. Many of the people previously employed in agriculture have moved into garment manufacturing and associated activities as the garment sector has expanded. There have been new opportunities for entrepreneurs as well as for labour, not only directly in garment and other manufacturing but in trade and services, transport, construction, et al. as well. The paper uses data collected in 2008/9, and in 1981/2 and 1996, in villages 20-30 km north west of Tiruppur to show how the expansion of the garment sector has changed the local rural economy, and how access to the new opportunities in the garment sector has been structured by gender, caste, and age.

What emerges from these data is that ‘Tiruppur’ has provided direct employment to large numbers from less well-placed households, many of whom now commute to work in Tiruppur and elsewhere. It has also pushed wages up in agriculture and other occupations, including those that are not directly related to the expansion of the garment sector. Considerably more than half of the working population is still engaged in agriculture however. Roughly half of the remainder work in the garment sector, and half in non-agricultural occupations other than garments. The paper shows that more women are now ‘housewives’ staying at home as their husbands are earning more. Labour is strongly supported by welfare measures introduced by the state – programmes such as the PDS (public distribution system) which supplies subsidised food and essential commodities, mid-day meals in school, and now also the NREGS (national rural employment guarantee scheme).

All of these state interventions have had a significant effect on the local economy. Educational provision has expanded very considerably too and is now beginning to produce returns for members of the lowest social strata as well as for those that are better off. One of the worrying factors is that women still receive very substantially lower wages than men however. Caste is still also a major source of differentiation. This is all still very much a ‘low road’ path of development which may have been appropriate in a period in which soaking up surplus labour was a priority. It is no longer appropriate in the Tiruppur region now. The tightening of the labour market might be expected to lead to some upgrading of skills and productivity. It is difficult to see the shift to higher productivity happening without substantial state support of a kind that does not seem to be on the cards. Tamil Nadu is a state that is championing a private sector-led development path – as elsewhere in India, if not more so – right now.

Labouring for global markets: CSR lessons from a South Indian textile export cluster, Global Insights Briefing, School of Global Studies, University of Sussex.

02 Jun 2017 04:18:55 GMT

This briefing explores the ways in which Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policies affect labour regimes and the lives of workers at manufacturing sites in the Global South. It describes workers’ reactions to these policies, and the choices they make when faced with different regimes of work. The briefing calls for a recognition by labour standard interventions of the variety of employment regimes and the diversity of the workforce, and it addresses some possible ways to improve the particular conditions of women workers and migrant workers employed in large export industries in the Global South. In particular, it points to the importance of addressing workers’ needs and vulnerabilities outside the factories and in the urban neighbourhoods where they reside.

Social protection and wellbeing: Food security in Adivasi communities, Chhattisgarh, India

02 Jun 2017 04:07:21 GMT

Despite economic growth, persistent levels of absolute poverty remain across the world. Social protection is an important response to this, guaranteeing a basic level of income support. The state of Chhattisgarh, India, provides an interesting model, as government commitment and people’s action combine to buttress food security in communities with historically high levels of disadvantage. New research on wellbeing and poverty in Chhattisgarh provides an innovative perspective on these issues. Qualitative and quantitative evidence show more secure livelihoods have a broader effect on people’s confidence and experience of quaIity in life. Strong traditions of collective identity and community mobilisation constitute important resources for the achievement of rights in practice. Persistent gender inequalities remain, however, in both objective achievements and people’s subjective assessments of what they can do or be.

Dalits and local labour markets in rural India: experiences from the Tiruppur textile region in Tamil Nadu

02 Jun 2017 03:40:51 GMT

This article asks how labour markets are changing in the context of wider transformations in the rural economy. Drawing on evidence from two villages in southern India, which are both close to, and deeply affected by, a major textile industry cluster, the article examines local labour markets, arguing that labour market segmentation is not simply caste-based. While some Dalits from one village have gained access to jobs in export markets, the same group of Dalits from another village have not. Furthermore, different groups of Dalits have had very different experiences of accessing jobs in urban areas, and the article shows that barriers to entry are located more in the rural social economy than in the urban industry. It is argued that villages only a few miles apart have very different local labour markets because they are uniquely and variously embedded in local institutions that interact with economic transformations in contingent ways. The article shows that having an industry on your doorstep means very different things for different people.

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Income-generating activities for young peoplein southern Africa: Exploring AIDS andother constraints

02 Jun 2017 03:34:11 GMT

This paper reports on a study with rural young people (aged 10–24 years) in Malawi and Lesotho, focusing on their opportunities to learn skills and access capital and assets to engage in income-generating activities (IGAs). Participatory group exercises and individual interviews provide many examples of how young people learn skills and start small businesses, as well as an insight into their strategic thinking about engaging in these livelihood options. Various factors, including the effects of AIDS, are shown to affect young people's prospects of succeeding in their ventures. Young people are very keen on starting IGAs, and are supported by adult members of their communities in asking for interventions to help them. We argue that expanded vocational and business training, focusing on locally appropriate types and scale of businesses, coupled with help to raise start-up capital has the potential to improve the chances of young people who are poor and/or AIDS-affected securing sustainable rural livelihoods in their futures. Since AIDS is intertwined with many other issues affecting young people's livelihoods, it is problematic to single out and target only AIDS-affected young people with interventions on skills building and IGAs. Policymakers' attitudes to vocational skills training and support for IGAs in Malawi and Lesotho are also explored, and policy recommendations made to support vulnerable rural young people in their attempts to build sustainable livelihoods.

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A perspective on the development and sustainability of nutrition surveillance in low-income countries

01 Jun 2017 12:10:06 GMT

Many varied activities are encompassed by the term 'nutrition(al) surveillance'. Several national surveillance systems were initiated soon after the World Food Conference in 1974, but few have lasted. Most were complex, expensive, slow to produce findings, and were eventually stopped. This paper discusses why nutrition surveillance in low-income countries is so hard to sustain, and identifies the key factors in systems which have been maintained.
For nutrition surveillance activities to be sustainable, there needs to be: demand for the information; a reasonable cost as well as a cost-efficient process; speedy generation and dissemination of good quality information; secure allocation of resources from the government and/or donor; and a central, organizing institution for strong coordination of data collection, analysis, interpretation and communication. Investment in local individual and institutional capacity plus the retention of experienced staff are important. A periodic evaluation of the process should be an integral part of surveillance activities. For national systems the ideal coordinating institution should sit within a government structure separate from those with direct involvement in health or agriculture, such as a ministry of planning, as those who lead the surveillance must be independent of decision-makers but need to understand and prioritise their needs for information. The findings need to be communicated clearly and the means of presentation adapted to different audiences. To promote participation, the findings should be shared with stakeholders at all levels.
This review of the development of nutrition surveillance in low-income countries over the last 40 years finds that sustainability hinges on cost, capacity development, location of the institutional base, demand for the products, and participation. These considerations are noteworthy given the pivotal role of nutrition surveillance information in national and sub-national policy-making, planning and programming. Information from nutrition surveillance also provides an increasingly important mechanism to hold governments to account and to allow progress towards international targets to be tracked.

The education motive for migrant remittances: theory and evidence from India

30 May 2017 12:50:20 GMT

This paper analyses the impact of anticipated old age support, provided by children to parents, on intra-family transfers and education. The authors highlight an education motive for remittances, according to which migrants have an incentive to invest in their siblings’ education via transfers to parents, in order to better share the burden of old age support.

The authors theory shows that in rich families, selfish parents invest optimally in children education, while in poor families, liquidity constraints are binding and education is fostered by migrant remittances. The authors test these hypotheses on Indian panel data. Identification is based on within variation in household composition.

The research finds that remittances received from migrants significantly increase with the number of school age children in the household. Retrieving the effects of household characteristics shows that more remittances tend to be sent to poorer and older household heads, confirming the old age support hypothesis.

Demographic changes in Latin America: the good, the bad and ...

30 May 2017 12:27:27 GMT

The paper develops a simple, integrated methodology to project public pension cash flows and healthcare spending over the long term. The authors illustrate its features by applying it to the LAC5 (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico), where public spending pressures are expected to increase significantly over 2015-50 due to demographic trends and rising healthcare costs. The paper simulates alternative pension reforms, including the transition from a defined benefit to a defined contribution pension system and the fiscal burden of a minimum guaranteed pension under the latter. We also analyse public healthcare outlays in the LAC5, which is likewise expected to increase significantly over 2015-50 due to ageing and the so-called excess cost growth factor of healthcare services, showing that curbing the evolution of the latter (e.g., through enhanced competition in the healthcare sector) could aid in containing spending pressures. Despite its simplicity, the methodology yields projections that compare well with other approaches. It therefore provides a good benchmark for assessing alternative reform scenarios, particularly in data-constrained countries.

All in all, to tackle the negative impact of societies’ ageing on these economies’ fiscal balance, some reforms appear necessary. Argentina and Brazil might consider an increase in the retirement age and a reduction in the indexation of benefits, which appear to be very effective reforms to address the rising level of pension spending in the authors  estimations, or a shift to a Defined Contribution (DC) system (either total or partial), following other Latin-American examples. More generally, governments will also have to deal with healthcare expenditure pressures associated with ageing and the rapid growth in healthcare costs stemming from technological innovation (as reflected in the so-called excess cost growth factor), requiring careful but expedient evaluation of alternative reform options.

Gender Differences in Adolescent Nutrition: evidence from two Indian districts

30 May 2017 11:45:55 GMT

India is going through a silent crisis as millions of adolescents and adults, both male and female, across the country and over generations face the burden of undernutrition. India’s score in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) computed by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) was 28.5 in 2016. While this has improved from 36 in 2008, it still falls in the “serious” category. India ranked 97th out of 118 countries in 2016.
Using quantitative data from a one-time survey followed by ethnographic research in two sites in India (Koraput district in Odisha and Wardha district in Maharashtra), this paper seeks to examine the conundrum of gender differentials in adolescent nutrition. While large-scale datasets, as from the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), suggest that adolescent boys are slightly more undernourished than girls, micro-studies often contradict this finding. In this paper, the authors explore the possible explanatory factors for this divergence, located in household histories in specific agro-ecological settings.

Analysis reveals that behind every malnourished child, there is (in general) a history of undernourishment, including an impoverished household. The disadvantage is multiplied by the presence of a malnourished mother (sometimes a malnourished father), medical neglect, water scarcity and often a son preference that leads to the birth of several daughters before a son is born.

While acknowledging the importance of child malnutrition as a focus of development policy, the paper concludes with a need to pay attention to adolescents, both boys and girls, in order to ensure well-being in adult life.

‘Pudumai’ -Innovation and institutional churning in India’s informal economy: A report from the field

30 May 2017 06:06:39 GMT

Despite the fact that the informal economy accounts for about two thirds of GDP and 90% of employment in India , the informal economy seems absent from almost all discussions of any kind of low carbon revolution in the country. Does it play such a negligible role in pollution as many have assumed and would it be an obstacle to a low carbon revolution. This paper focuses on the sector’s own capacity to adopt the kind of technological and organisational changes that would be needed in order to innovate and asks whether and how innovation takes place in the informal economy. 

Labouring for global markets: Conceptualising labour agency in global production networks

30 May 2017 05:39:01 GMT

This article starts with the recognition that labour has received less than its fair share of empirical and analytical attention in scholarship on global production networks. Little is known about how jobs for export markets fit into workers’ wider livelihoods strategies, or how workers react to new employment opportunities available to them. Based on evidence from the Tiruppur garment cluster in Tamil Nadu, South India, the article takes labourers, their livelihoods and their social reproduction as its starting point. It reviews relevant labour geography and GPN literature, and suggests that labour agency has been almost solely conceptualised in terms of collective forms of organised worker resistance.

The article then draws on material from South India to examine how people enter garment work as well as the multiple and everyday forms of agency they engage in. We follow a ‘horizontal’ approach that accounts for gender, age, caste and regional connections in the making and constraining of agency. Such an approach reveals how labour agency is not merely fashioned by vertically linked production networks but as much by social relations and livelihood strategies that are themselves embedded in a wider regional economy and cultural environment. The article argues that labour’s multiple and everyday forms of agency not only help to shape local developments of global capitalism but also to produce transformative effects on workers’ livelihoods, social relations and reproductive capacities.

Gender Evidence Synthesis Research Award (ESRA)

30 May 2017 02:03:21 GMT

A gendered understanding of poverty is crucial for exploring its differing impacts and this analysis provides valuable insights in a number of key areas. This evidence is a synthesis from 122 research grants awarded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and UK Department for International Development (DFID) Joint Fund for Poverty Alleviation Research since 2005.

The insights could have particular relevance as governments focus on working towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that include commitments on gender equality across the board. Gender is one of four areas that the ESRC and DFID tasked four groups of researchers to look at, across the diverse projects funded through the Joint Fund. The resulting reports - children and young people; gender; with those on health; and research methods to follow - will be valuable pieces of research and rich sources of information which we all hope will be of interest to a broad range of audiences. They highlight the specific achievements and contributions of Joint Fund research - to knowledge about development issues, to methods and approaches to researching these, and to supporting social and economic impact.

The ESRA also point to spaces where more research would be valuable, issuing challenges both to researchers and funders to consider how they continue to drive, as well as respond to, evolving development agendas and changing global circumstances. A series of summaries to capture these findings and their implications for policymakers as well as for researchers also accompany the main reports, produced by the Impact Initiative.

New knowledge on the gendered nature of poverty and wellbeing

26 May 2017 11:52:49 GMT

A gendered understanding of poverty is crucial for exploring its differing impacts. Women, in particular, may be vulnerable to the effects of poverty and the causes of women’s poverty, and how poverty is experienced, may differ from men. Neither women nor men, however, are a homogenous group and how poverty is experienced depends on other intersecting issues such as age, class, ethnicity, disability etc. Issues which poverty alleviation research also needs to take into account in order to get a more nuanced picture of people’s lived experiences to help shape policy responses that are relevant and appropriate.

Since 2005, the ESRC-DFID Joint Fund for Poverty Alleviation Research has commissioned high quality social science research addressing the international development goal of reducing poverty amongst the poorest in the world. Evidence from this research has improved understandings of the gendered nature of poverty and how differing identities impact people’s lived experiences of poverty. In particular the research has provided valuable insights in a number of key areas:

  • On social norms – the unwritten rules of societies – and how these impede or dictate women’s mobility and employment access. Studies also point, however, to how gender relations are complex and shifting in the face of new crises.
  • Challenging the assumption that gender equitable access to higher education is enough in the process of women’s empowerment.
  • The impacts of disease and ill-health on men and women and what hinders their access to services.
  • Differing experiences of poverty and well-being, in particular introducing the important, but often overlooked, concepts of shame and dignity.

The evidence report provides an assessment of 122 research grants awarded by the ESRC-DFID Joint Fund for Poverty Alleviation Research covering research in Central Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, South Asia, South East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. 

Understanding, enabling and building effective leadership in nutrition

23 May 2017 12:26:02 GMT

Transform Nutrition’s work on leaders in nutrition explores how effective leaders understand the systems which both shape and constrain their action; and are able to translate this understanding into action which spans the boundaries of sectors and disciplinary knowledge.
Researchers within the Transform Nutrition consortium carried out a study of 89 individuals or representatives of organisations who had been identified as national level leaders within the field of nutrition in four countries: India, Bangladesh, Kenya and Ethiopia. Leaders here came from diverse backgrounds but were able to adapt strategically to the political landscape; spanning boundaries between sectors and disciplines and bring others along as their understanding of nutrition’smulti-sectoral nature developed.
As what leaders do is more important that who leaders are, the researchers suggest a number of way in which leadership can be supported and built. A more structured effort is called for to build a cadre of leaders up to the challenge of working effectively to tackle undernutrition as a pressing global issue.

Fiscal challenges of population aging in Brazil

23 May 2017 11:26:55 GMT

In recent decades, population has been aging fast in Brazil while old age pensions and healthrelated spending have increased. As the population ages, the spending trend threaten to reach unsustainable levels absent reforms. Increasing the retirement age is key, but by itself will not provide sufficient savings to close the pension system financing gap, and reforms reducing replacement rates are necessary. In the area of health, there is scope for improving expenditure efficiency by strengthening outpatient care and regional networks, and developing clinical guidelines for cost-effective treatments and drugs. Reforms are urgent, so that they can be gradual.

In search of the solution to farmer–pastoralist conflicts in Tanzania

23 May 2017 10:12:04 GMT

Land-use conflict is not a new phenomenon for pastoralists and farmers in Tanzania with murders, the killing of livestock and the loss of property as a consequence of this conflict featuring in the news for many years now. Various actors, including civil society organisations, have tried to address farmer-pastoralist conflict through mass education programmes, land-use planning, policy reforms and the development of community institutions. However, these efforts have not succeeded in the conflict. Elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa traditional systems are not making much headway either.
This paper finds that resolving the mutual hostility between farmers and pastoralists is problematic because it is linked to historical evictions that happened from the colonial and post-colonial period until the early 1990s. It also points to the limitations of Tanzania’s formal land dispute settlement machinery, which does not provide appropriate forums and mechanisms for resolving farmer-pastoralist conflicts. The paper argues that the existing systems do not favour the interests of either farmers or pastoralists, and calls for specific reforms. Drawing on the experiences of a farmer-pastoralist platform established by the Tanzania Natural Resource Forum, a local non-governmental organisation working on natural resource governance issues, it proposes an alternative mechanism based on the popular participation of the victims in resolving such conflicts.

A mobile app to manage acute malnutrition

23 May 2017 01:00:09 GMT

Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) is responsible for between 1–2 million preventable deaths every year and affects around 17 million children under five. Community based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) is a proven approach to identify and treat SAM cases. However its effectiveness is limited if treatment protocols are not followed and data is unreliable. A mobile health (mHealth) application was developed and piloted in five countries by World Vision, Dimagi, Save the Children and International Medical Corps (IMC) to help health workers follow treatment protocol and generate accurate and timely data to respond to changes in caseloads. Programme staff in Niger, Chad, Mali, Kenya and Afghanistan discuss the challenges they faced adapting the mobile app and rolling it out in some of the most remote, hard to reach health facilities in the world and make valuable recommendations for other mobile health application developments.
  • when introducing a new mobile health app to health workers, particularly in remote locations, significant on-site support is necessary for both health workers and supervisors. This has budget and staff implications to support travel to remote clinics
  • the app should be tested in non-remote health facilities and all major bugs fixed before rolling it out to remote settings. Rapid assessment and mapping of phone networks and electricity should be used to develop contingency plans in the event of failure, and agreed to with MoH partners, as well as mobile network operators
  • the technology partner should provide considerable in-country presence and support, either through country representatives or frequent site visits, to build national capacity, fix bugs and update the app
  • health workers are more likely to use the app if it is aligned with national healthprotocols, health information systems, and health worker training and job targets. It is critical to plan and budget for local and national government engagement and uptake from the start. For scalability, the app should also be linked to a wider continuum of care and other maternal and child health services
  • standard CMAM protocols take time, especially where caseloads are high and staff numbers and capacity is low. Simplifying the treatment protocol and reflecting these simplifications in the app should be considered to prevent health workers taking their own short cuts

Social accountabilty initatives in health and nutrition: lessons from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh

19 May 2017 12:25:15 GMT

South Asia is home to nearly a quarter of the world’s population and is a region of dynamic economic growth, yet it performs relatively poorly on health and nutrition indicators. As a potential route towards addressing this poor performance, a range of  accountability initiatives has been implemented to improve service delivery in the health and nutrition sectors.
The project synthesised in this report started from the overall premise that studies of accountability initiatives should be rooted in an understanding that the state is not distinct from society but is embedded in prevailing power dynamics and social relations. The report sketches some of the accountability issues facing the health and nutrition sectors in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, before homing in on social accountability practice in the three countries.
The authors narrow down to micro-level the political processes at play within community-based interventions and actions. This proves useful in drawing out some of the key considerations for the design and analysis of such programmes, and highlights four factors:
  • the need to understand community heterogeneity (rather than assuming homogeneity, as many interventions do)
  • the role of community collective action and/or its role in coercion or ‘noisy protest’ in effecting change
  • the ways in which cooperation, capacity and commitment affect the community and frontline provider relationship, and the ability and willingness to deliver to meet demands
  • the ways in which clientelism and other such extant local political structures form the backdrop against which accountability actions play out

Innovating in development: Sharing learning, improving impact - workshop report

19 May 2017 05:24:04 GMT

In February 2017, 55 people met in London for two days to share learning across different areas of innovation work, and catalyse a community of practice to accelerate innovating in international development. Participants came from government, public sector, not-for profit, philanthropic and private sector, from international development and humanitarian assistance spheres, with shared passion to make change happen.

Sessions at the event were organised around three themes:

  • Scaling, replication and diffusion: Different routes to scaling, funding scaling, and “Mini but mighty” (when small-scale and grassroots innovation is right)
  • Innovation ecosystems: Ecosystem objectives, what’s needed, and collaboration, trust and relationships
  • Risk: Working proactively and adaptively with risks. “Act fast, measure slowly”. Sharing reputational risks. Ethical risks of innovation, and unintended consequences ideas to impact.

 The event discussions were rich, reflecting diverse perspectives and operational experience from many sectors around three key questions "what do we already know? What's working or not working? What do we need to tackle next?

This report summarises key lessons from the discussions.

Multi-sectoral approaches to nutrition: nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions to accelerate progress

19 May 2017 04:32:03 GMT

The case for investing in nutrition is clear. Poor nutrition during the first 1,000 days - from pregnancy through a child’s second birthday - can cause life-long and irreversible damage, with consequences at the individual, community, and national level.

Nutrition-specific interventions are key to accelerating progress. However, it is also critical that other sectors- like agriculture, education, and social welfare - develop nutrition-sensitive interventions. A truly multi-sectoral approach will achieve optimal nutrition outcomes through greater coverage, while also helping other programmes achieve more powerful results and demonstrate their own potential for impact.

Programmes can become more nutrition-sensitive by:

  • strengthening their nutrition goals, design, and implementation. For example, health programmes can often deliver nutrition services through antenatal care services, routine immunisation, and family planning
  • improving targeting, timing, and duration of exposure to interventions. For example, integrating nutrition into programmes that reach families with pregnant and lactating women and children between 0 and 24 months of age will optimise delivery of key services during the critical window of opportunity
  • using conditions to stimulate demand for programme services, while ensuring good service quality. For example, cash transfer programmes can set conditions on payments that require families to utilise key nutrition services, enforce school enrolment and attendance, or require parent participation in health and life skills education
  • optimising focus on women’s nutrition and empowerment. For example, when programmes are designed from the outset to increase women’s decision-making power, it can increase investments in better nutrition for the whole family


A mobile health application to manage acute malnutrition: lessons from developing and piloting the app in five countries

19 May 2017 04:05:40 GMT

Malnutrition is the world’s most serious health problem and the single biggest contributor to child mortality and the global burden of disease. Community based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) is a proven high-impact and cost-effective approach in the treatment of acute malnutrition in developing countries. It enables community health workers and volunteers to identify and initiate treatment for children with acute malnutrition before they become seriously ill, using ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTF).
However, the success of CMAM is limited if treatment protocols are not followed, record keeping and data management is poor and reliable data is not available in time for decision makers. There is strong evidence that mobile device based (mHealth) applications can improve frontline health workers’ ability to apply CMAM treatment protocols more effectively and to improve the provision of supply chain management.
World Vision, together with implementing partners International Medical Corps and Save the Children and technical partner Dimagi, have developed a CMAM mHealth application (app) that guides health workers through CMAM protocols and provides accurate and timely data for district health managers to respond to changes in caseloads and treatment outcomes, manage supplies, and inform national statistics. The application was piloted in Chad, Kenya, Mali, Niger and Afghanistan.
Key lessons from the pilot project, highlighted in this paper include that early and in-depth buy in from local ministries of health is essential to successful deployment, and plays a key role in scaling up and sustaining an mHealth initiative. Thorough technical landscape analysis, prior to deployment, of electricity provision and network coverage can greatly minimise delays and increase uptake. Finally, in order to continuously motivate and engage health workers to use the app, it is essential to secure regular onsite technical and software support, while also building local capacity for ongoing troubleshooting.

Nutrition surveillance systems: their use and value

19 May 2017 03:25:34 GMT

The detrimental consequences of child undernutrition are well documented. The fact that the effects of undernutrition early in life are largely irreversible means that quick and effective action is crucial. Large-scale surveys that take place every few years are useful for mapping national and global trends, but their infrequency and the time lag before obtaining findings, and their aggregated nature, mean other sources of data are needed for policy and programme decisions which need to be taken quickly. Nutrition surveillance systems that collect regular and representative primary nutritional data can provide such information. Unfortunately, such systematic processes for tracking trends within countries only exist in a few countries. Methods used vary greatly and there is little research into their effectiveness and value.
The aim of this study was to review past and current nutrition surveillance systems that involve anthropometric data collection in low-income countries, in order to examine their role in nutrition surveillance. The findings are based on a review of published and unpublished literature, and interviews with key informants.
The report concludes by looking to the future of surveillance systems:
  • traditional approaches to surveillance may not be optimally effective in urban areas, and so taking the local situation into account when designing surveillance activities is essential, so that policies andprogrammes most relevant to the urban context can be formulated
  • developments in real-time monitoring (RTM) have obvious advantages for timely warning of deteriorating nutritional conditions, while less obvious is the need to adopt common guidance on quality and equity, given the potentially conflicting priorities related to the necessary partnerships between public and private stakeholders
  • capacity-building, improving communication and strengthening existing systems are essential for increasing the utility and cost effectiveness of future nutrition surveillance activities

Why isn’t tech for accountability working in Africa?

18 May 2017 10:22:28 GMT

Expanding mobile networks and falling costs could transform communication between African citizens and governments. So far, however, attempts to harness new technologies to improve transparency and accountability in Africa and elsewhere have had disappointing results. What is going wrong? Research suggests that an important reason for this failure is a poor understanding of technologies and limited skills in developing and using them.
It seems that civil society organisations (CSOs) and governments often ‘re-invent the flat tyre’: experimenting with new tools without finding out what has been tried (often unsuccessfully) before. They also do not follow best practices in how to source, develop and test technologies to ensure these are ‘fit for purpose’. Decision makers should focus on building an effective innovation ecosystem with better links between technologists and accountability actors in both government and civil society to enable learning from successes – and mistakes.
  • those with responsibilities in creating the innovation ecosystem, including funders, should focus on building a supportive innovation ecosystem
  • funders should shift their focus from supporting short-term pilots to building institutions capable of success over time, and invest in strengthening links between initiatives and disseminating learning resources across the continent
  • those who are leading and managing innovation initiatives – in government and CSOs – should focus on getting better and smarter at managing the innovation cycle
  • research suggests the following ‘rules of thumb’ will lead to better outcomes: acknowledge what you do not know, think twice before building a new tool, get a second opinion, test technologies in the field, plan for failure, budget to iterate, and share what you learn

Community-level perceptions of drivers of change in nutrition: evidence from South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa

16 May 2017 11:37:42 GMT

Changes in the immediate, underlying and basic determinants of nutritional status at the community- and household-level are a logical and empirical prerequisite to reducing high levels of undernutrition in high burden countries.

This paper considers these factors directly from the perspective of community members and frontline workers interviewed in six countries in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. In each country, in-depth interviews were conducted with mothers, other community members and health workers to understand changes in health and nutrition practices, nutrition-specific interventions, underlying drivers and nutrition-sensitive interventions, and life conditions.

Overall, the need for basic improvements in livelihood opportunities and infrastructure are solidly underscored. Nutrition-specific and -sensitive changes represented in most cases by deliberate government or NGO supported community interventions are rolling out at a mixed and uneven pace, but are having some significant impacts where solidly implemented. The synthesis presented here provides an invaluable source of information for understanding how community-level change occurred against a wider backdrop of national level progress.


  • the community is a critical nexus for the interventions and wider socio-economic changes that drive nutritional change

  • there is a paucity of community level studies of such broad drivers of nutritional change
  • this six country community level synthesis supports wider data (this issue) on changes in underlying and basic determinants.

  • the performance of “nutrition-specific” community interventions is mixed and uneven


Accounting for nutritional changes in six success stories: a regression-decomposition approach

16 May 2017 11:16:38 GMT

Over the past two decades, many developing countries have made impressive progress in reducing undernutrition. In this paper, the authors explore potential explanations of this success by applying consistent statistical methods to multiple rounds of Demographic Health Surveys for Bangladesh, Nepal, Ethiopia, Odisha, Senegal, and Zambia.

The research finds that changes in household wealth, mother's education and access to antenatal care are the largest drivers of nutritional improvement, except for Zambia where large increases in bednet usage is the single largest factor. Other factors play a smaller role in explaining nutritional improvements with improvements in sanitation only appearing to be important in South Asia. Overall, the results point to the need for multidimensional nutritional strategies involving a broad range of nutrition-sensitive sectors.


  • asset accumulation and parental education are important predictor of nutritional improvement in most countries

  • improved sanitation is more strongly associated with height-for-age in South Asian countries

  • asset accumulation and parental education are important predictor of nutritional improvement in most countries

Reducing child undernutrition: past drivers and priorities for the post-MDG era

16 May 2017 10:52:48 GMT

Reducing child undernutrition is gaining high priority on the international development agenda in the post-MDG agenda, both as a maker and marker of development. In this paper, the authors use data from 1970 to 2012 for 116 countries, finding that safe water access, sanitation, women’s education, gender equality, and the quantity and quality of food available in countries have been key drivers of past reductions in stunting. Income growth and governance played essential facilitating roles. Complementary to nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive programs and policies, accelerating reductions in undernutrition in the future will require increased investment in these priority areas.

Using mobile phones for nutrition surveillance: a review of evidence

16 May 2017 04:44:59 GMT

Nutrition surveillance - or the systematic and periodic collection of information on nutrition - is vital to the capacity of governments and other agencies to track their progress towards reducing undernutrition, to promoting the accountability of their actions and to improving their ability to respond promptly to rapid changes in nutrition status brought about by food price volatility and other shocks.
However, nutrition surveillance is expensive and logistically laborious and therefore often non-existent in resource-low countries. Surveillance systems are also constrained by time consuming and error prone paper-based data collection followed by manual data entry.
Mobile phone technologies could help to address many of these challenges. The potential benefits of using mobile phones for surveillance are:
  • lower costs of data collection and transfer
  • faster data transmission, analysis and dissemination
  • improved data quality
  • more transparent and inclusive data collection processes with the possibility of immediate feedback to households and communities
This report sets out to critically review the evidence base on the impact of using mobile phone technology for nutrition (and other) surveillance. By doing so, the report can offer a starting point for international donors, local practitioners and others who consider the application of mobile phones to facilitate surveillance. The evidence review also aims to identify gaps in the current knowledge base and to highlight areas where future research and analysis are necessary.

Equate and conflate: political commitment to hunger and undernutrition reduction in five high-burden countries

16 May 2017 04:27:25 GMT

As political commitment is an essential ingredient for elevating food and nutrition security onto policy agendas, commitment metrics have proliferated. Many conflate government commitment to fight hunger with combating undernutrition. Here the authors test the hypothesis that commitment to hunger reduction is empirically different from commitment to reducing undernutrition through expert surveys in five high-burden countries: Bangladesh, Malawi, Nepal, Tanzania, and Zambia.

Findings confirm the hypothesis. The paper concludes that sensitive commitment metrics are needed to guide government and donor policies and programmatic action. Without, historically inadequate prioritisation of non-food aspects of malnutrition may persist to imperil achieving global nutrition targets.


  • nine key components of political commitment are identified

  • political commitment to reducing (a) hunger and (b) undernutrition is measured
  • research uses expert perception surveys in Bangladesh, Malawi, Nepal, Tanzania, and Zambia

  • hunger reduction commitment differs from commitment to address undernutrition
  • commitment metrics must be sensitive to these differences to better guide policy

Measuring the commitment to reduce hunger: a hunger reduction commitment index hunger reduction commitment index

16 May 2017 04:11:15 GMT

Can an index be constructed to assess governments’ commitment to reduce hunger? This paper argues for the need for such an index and outlines one way of constructing it. The authors use secondary data to construct the Hunger Reduction Commitment Index (HRCI) for 21 developing countries.

This paper operationalises commitment around 3 themes: legal frameworks, policies and programmes and government expenditures, to find Malawi, the Gambia, Guatemala, Brazil and Senegal heading the list, with China, Nepal, Lesotho, Zambia and Guinea Bissau coming bottom. Rankings were robust to our choices about weighting and ranking methods.

The paper demonstrates a viable method to measure political commitment and highlights the analytical importance of disentangling hunger commitment from hunger outcomes. Cross-tabulations of HRCI scores with hunger, wealth, administrative capacity and voice and accountability scores can guide action from different stakeholders (governments, civil society, donors). Finally, the authors show how primary data collection might be used to assess areas of strength and weakness in country specific commitments to reduce hunger.


  • the authors develop new methods to assess governments’ political commitment to reduce hunger

  • they construct indices of political commitment for 21 developing countries

  • Malawi tops HRCI country rankings.
  • disentangling hunger commitments from hunger outcomes sharply affects rankings