Meet Our Partners: The World Bank—Agriculture and Food Global Practice
Felipe Dizon, an Economist at the World Bank, working in the South Asia region for the Agriculture and Food Global Practice (AFGP).
Tell us about AFGP's origin, mission, and work.
The World Bank has two overarching goals which guide our work: ending extreme poverty with the aim of reducing extreme poverty to less than 3 percent by 2030, and boosting shared prosperity with the aim of fostering income growth of the bottom 40 percent in every country. Broadly, the Bank’s work involves financing and supporting the design of a broad range of development projects, fostering and sharing innovative knowledge through advisory services and analytical work, and leveraging a broad multilateral platform to bring together various development partners.
The AFGP is one of 15 Global Practices at the Bank. Enhancing agricultural development and supporting better food systems are considered central to the fight against ending extreme poverty. Some of the themes that the Practice focuses on include agribusiness and value chains, jobs from the food system, climate-smart agriculture, and improving access to safe and nutritious food.
What is the biggest challenge AFGP faces in completing its mission?
Balancing the depth and the breadth of the work that the World Bank does is a challenge and an opportunity. We are continuously discovering necessary synergies across diverse teams in the Bank with varying expertise, such as with the Environment, Water, Disaster Risk, and Agri-Food teams collaborating on climate-smart agriculture, or with the Finance, Competitiveness and Innovations and Agri-Food teams collaborating to strengthen the growth of agribusinesses.
More so, particularly for the nexus of Agri-Food and Health and Nutrition, the landscape is changing. Take Bangladesh, for example, which is undergoing rapid urbanization. While there is still a scarcity of safe and nutritious food in more disconnected rural areas, rapidly rising incomes in densely populated cities are leading to an evolution of food preferences towards more processed and less nutritious foods leading to increased overweight and obesity. This challenges us to reshape how we think about approaching food systems, shifting away from the idea of providing more of one food or less of another food, and moving towards the idea of diets and holistic eating habits.
How does GDD fit into AFGPs work and mission?
To frame our understanding on the role of diets for nutrition in Bangladesh, I am working on a project financed by the South Asia Food and Nutrition Security Initiative (SAFANSI) housed at the World Bank that brings together the various evidence on what we know about access to affordable nutritious diets in rural and urban areas. Under this work, we have recently partnered with GDD and Tufts on a knowledge and data-sharing arrangement. We are using calculations done through the GDD to highlight dietary intake in Bangladesh.
What are you aiming to jointly achieve in partnership with GDD?
Often, the Agri-Food view of linkages with health and nutrition stop with certain indicators such as consumption in grams of fruits and vegetables or an index which captures diet diversity. In the short-term, the goal is to create a narrative in the context of Bangladesh which looks at the full continuum from food in grams, to diverse diets, to nutrient intakes. This will allow for deeper policy dialogue on food and diets and a better understanding of where the linkages between food and nutrition outcomes might break down. Using the Bangladesh collaboration as a prototype, in the long-term I hope that the partnership with GDD expands to allow us to explore different puzzles on food and nutrition in other countries in South Asia and around the world.
What directions or results do you hope to see in the field of global nutrition research in the future?
At least with respect to the nexus of agri-food and nutrition research, I believe we are heading in the right direction. We are pushing the field to better gauge the sufficiency, availability, affordability of safe and nutritious food. To do so, and as GDD is doing, we are more seriously addressing data gaps. This would require even broader collaboration across different organizations, different sectors, and different expertise.