The Worldwatch Institute will be publishing it's flagship project, State of the World 2011: Nourishing the Planet next year. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded the two year research project which hopes to access the state of agricultural innovations —from cropping methods to irrigation technology to agricultural policy—with an emphasis on sustainability, diversity, and ecosystem health, as well as productivity. The project aims to both inform global efforts to eradicate hunger and raise the profile of these efforts.
Malnutrition and famine plague many parts of the world. Africa has been in the media spotlight for years due to it's continuing problems with hunger. Disease, civil wars, corruption, and poverty have decimated several African nations. However, we never hear about the success stories across Africa. In 2007, the National Bureau of Economic Research launched the African Successes Project. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded the $4 -million dollar project with the goal of identifying success stories in Africa. Economist David Weil is leading the project and is examining the impacts of a large scale anti-malaria campaign in Zambia which became a model in sub-Saharan Africa. The initiative, which involved mass distribution of insecticide-treated mosquito nets, preventative treatment for pregnant women, indoor residual spraying, rapid diagnostic testing, and artemisinin-based combination therapy, contributed to decreasing the death rate from malaria in Zambia by 60 percent since 2003.
Weil's second project under African Successes looks at the impact of an enormously popular cellphone-based money transfer system in Kenya, called M-Pesa ("M" stands for mobile and "Pesa" means money in Swahili). Launched in 2007 by Kenya's major cell phone company, M-Pesa allows individuals to deposit, send, and withdraw funds using mobile phones. Here's how it works: A young man working in Nairobi wants to send 1,000 shillings to his mother in their far-away village. Prior to M-Pesa, he would take a 15-hour bus ride to give his mom the money in person. Now, he can pay 1,000 shillings at an M-Pesa outlet, where the clerk will send him a text message informing him that the money has been deposited in his account. The young man can then text his mother, telling her that the money is available, so she can visit her local M-Pesa outlet and receive the cash. There are approximately 18,000 M-Pesa outlets in Kenya — compared to only 1,000 bank branches. Fast, cheap, and safe, M-Pesa has already revolutionized the country's financial system. Can this system be implemented elsewhere? Light it up!