Agriculture and Rural Development Sector

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Agriculture and Rural Development Sector

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The origins of agricultural and rural development sector work in the Bank began with the establishment of the Agriculture Division (TODAG) in the Technical Operations Department (TOD) in 1953. TODAG was created alongside the Transportation Division (TODTP), Industry Division (TODIN), and Public Utilities Division (TODPU). TOD responsibilities included:

  • investigating and appraising the development efforts of member countries and advising area departments of developmental priorities;

  • appraising proposed projects and advising area department on their organizational, managerial economic, financial and engineering feasibility;

  • assisting in the negotiation of projects;

  • supervising approved projects;

  • assisting borrowers in their procurement efforts;

  • monitoring developments in the various sectors of member countries' economies and preparing studies as required; and

  • selecting consultants for the examination of projects.

In 1965, the TOD was terminated and its divisions were transferred to the newly established Projects Department (PRJ) with division functions unchanged. TODAG became the Projects Department Agriculture Division (PRJAG).

In November 1968, PRJAG was upgraded to the Agriculture Projects Department (AGP). The AGP was created in a 1968 reorganization of all projects staff, which provided for the upgrading of the former projects divisions into projects departments. This was done to recognize their increased responsibilities and workload, and to strengthen the working relationship with the area departments responsible for project operations by according them equal status. AGP reported to the Office of the Director for the Projects Department (DRP). In November 1968, Lionel J. C. Evans assumed the role of AGP Director. The AGP responsibilities included:

  • providing advice on agriculture sector problems to the area departments;

  • preparing pre-investment studies to identify developmental priorities in the agriculture sector of member countries;

  • appraising proposed projects, or assisting in the preparation of projects for countries unable to do so;

  • providing operational support in the negotiation and administration of loans and credits, in procurement matters, in selecting consultants and in writing terms of reference;

  • supervising projects as regards their construction and operation; monitoring developments in the sectors of member countries' economies; and

  • cooperating with other international agencies on programs of common interest.

On the date of its establishment, the AGP consisted of the following divisions: the Irrigation Division I (AGPD1); the Irrigation Division II (AGPD2); the Agricultural Credit Division I (AGPC1); the General Agriculture Division (AGPG1); the Agricultural Industry Division (AGPND); the Livestock Division (AGPLK); the Economics Division (AGPED); and Technical Assistance Division (AGPTA). In late 1970, the AGPED and the AGPTA were merged into the Economics and Pre-Investment Division (AGPEC). In March 1971, the General Agriculture Division I(AGPG1) was split, and half of its staff transferred into the new General Agriculture Division II (AGPG2).

As part of the World Bank reorganization in October 1972, most of the AGP's staff was transferred to regional projects departments in the newly established Regional Vice Presidencies in order to more effectively fuse country knowledge and technical skills. This left AGP with a core staff performing essentially advisory services for the Regions at their request, in addition to ongoing operational policy development and research and quality control with regard to agriculture project and sector work. As a sector department, it was also responsible for the formulation of development policy and defining possible strategies for long-term growth in the agricultural sector. The AGP that emerged from the 1972 reorganization did not have any formal divisional structure, and reported to the Central Projects Vice Presidency (CPS). In 1973, Montague Yudelman replaced Lionel J. C. Evans, and assumed the role of AGPDirector.

On September 1, 1973, a Rural Development Division (AGPRD) was established in the renamed Agriculture and Rural Development Department (AGP). The new division was given the task of formulating and implementing new project concepts aimed at assisting the rural poor in developing countries. This new division was a response to a speech given by Bank President Robert McNamara in Nairobi, Kenya of the same year, which addressed the issues of the rural poor. Related to the new focus on rural poor,the Secretariat of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (AGPCG) was also transferred in November 1973 from the International Relations Department (IRD) to the Agriculture Department, but removed shortly after in 1974 when it was upgraded to an independent department.

In early 1975, a new Economics and Resources Unit (AGPER) was established in the AGP. On November 1, 1975, the AGP absorbed the nutrition functions from the Population and Nutrition Department (PNP), and placed them in a new Nutrition Division (AGPNU). It also established a new Rural Operations Review and Support Unit (AGPOR) to monitor its rural development program and assist the Regions on rural development project missions through the provision of staff, consultants, and briefs.

On July 1, 1977, new acronyms were assigned to the Agriculture and Rural Development Department (AGR), and its subordinate divisions of the Rural Development Division (AGRRD), the Nutrition Division (AGRNU), the Rural Operations Review and Support Division (AGROR), and Economics and Policy Division (AGREP). On April 1, 1979, the support unit for the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) was transferred from the Front Office of the Vice President of Central Projects (CPSIF) to AGR, and retained its name with the new acronym AGRIF.

In October 1979, the Nutrition Division of the Agriculture Department (AGRNU) was closed and its staff transferred to the newly created Population, Health and Nutrition Department (PHN0001). On July 1, 1980, the Operational Review and Support Unit (AGROR) in the Agriculture Department was replaced by the Monitoring and Evaluation Unit (AGRME).

As part of the reorganization of the Central Projects Staff (CPS) into the Operations Policy Staff (OPS) in February 1982, the AGR regionalized its Rural Development Division (AGRRD), and established a new Agriculture Research Unit (AGRES). In mid-1984, the advisory staff of AGR was structured into three new units: the Finance Agro-Industries and Fisheries Unit (AGRFA); the Production and Technology Unit (AGRPT); and the Water and Resources Unit (AGRWR).

In September 1984, Donald C. Pickering replaced Montague Yudelman as AGR Director. Pickering was soon after replaced by G. Edward Schuh as AGR Director in December 1984.

In spring 1986, the Water and Resources Unit (AGRWR) and the Production and Technology Unit (AGRPT) were merged into the Production, Technology and Resources Division (AGRPR). A unit for the Special Program for African Agricultural Research, or SPAAR, was also established in AGR under the new acronym AGRSP.

As part of the 1987 Bank reorganization, the majority of AGR sector staff were transferred to a restructured Agriculture and Rural Development Department (AGR) in the newly established Policy and Research Vice Presidency (PRE). Other AGR staff were transferred to operational units within the Bank's project-focused Regional Vice Presidencies where they were placed in the Agriculture Division of each Region's Technical Department (formerly Projects Department) or in Agriculture Operations Divisions within the new Country Departments. Staff remaining in AGR were responsible for:

  • formulating policies and strategies for the agricultural sector and developing new initiatives and Bank products;

  • conducting the supporting research, including the improvement of research capabilities in developing countries, and management of external research funded by the Research Support Budget;

  • improving methodology and identifying best practices;

  • performing ex-post evaluation of the Bank's agriculture sector work;

  • providing operational support;

  • liaising with Non-Bank organizations and professionals active in this sector; and

  • assisting in recruitment and training of staff.

The reorganized AGR consisted of two divisions: the Agriculture Development Division (AGRDE) and the Agriculture Production and Services Division (AGRPS). Further, the Special Program for African Agricultural Research (AGRSP) was subordinated to the front office of AGR. In 1988, AGRDE was replaced by the Agricultural Policies Division (AGRAP). In May 1987, Viljay S. Vyas replaced G. Edward Schuh as AGR Director, and served as Acting AGR Director until 1988. Vyas was replaced by Michel J. Petit in 1988.

On January 1, 1990, AGR started reporting to the Vice President of Sector Policy and Research (PRS). This reporting structure was maintained after PRS was renamed Vice President of Sector and Operations Policy (OSP) on December 1, 1991. The Agriculture Production and Services Division (AGRPS) was also replaced in December 1991 by the Agriculture Technology and Natural Resources Division (AGRTN).

As part of the Bank-wide 1993 reorganization, the Agriculture and Rural Development Department was renamed Agriculture Technology and Natural Resources Department (AGR), and transferred to the newly-established Vice Presidency for Environmentally Sustainable Development (ESD). Further, the natural resources function was taken out of the Agriculture Technology and Natural Resources Division (AGRTN), which was renamed Agriculture Technology and Services Division (AGRTN), and established as an independent Natural Resources Division (AGRNR).

In 1994, Alexander F. McCalla assumed the role of AGR Director. In May 1995, AGR was restructured and the divisions were replaced by the Agriculture and Forestry Systems Division (AGRAF), and the Sector Policy and Water Resources Division (AGRPW).

As part of the 1997 World Bank reorganization, the AGR was terminated and its functions transferred to the Rural Development Department (RDV) located in the Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development Network (ESSD). RDV was created alongside the Environment Department (ENV) and Social Development Department (SDV). At its establishment, the RDV consisted of a Global Water Unit, and the Agricultural Research and Extension Group (ESDAR). In May 1999, RDV added the following thematic groups: agricultural production systems intensification; natural resource management; rural institutions and markets; and strategy and policy.

In late 2000, Robert L. Thompson replaced Alexander McCalla as RDV Director. In 2001, the thematic areas were replaced by new groups and themes, including: the Commodities Group (RDVCG); rural portfolio; policy and strategy; science and technology; water resource management; land management; forestry management; and commodities risk management.

In 2002, RDV was renamed the Agriculture and Rural Development Department (ARD). Kevin Cleaver assumed the role of ARD Director the same year. In 2003, ARD added thematic areas in agriculture trade, water for agriculture, and fisheries. Sometime around 2008, ARD thematic areas were restructured to include the following groups: agribusiness; agricultural technology; commodities risk management; fisheries; forestry; land tenure; land use management; livestock; policy and strategy; portfolio management; rural finance; and water and food.


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