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    By Steven Jonckheere, Knowledge Management Officer for IFAD in West and Central Africa.

    IFAD works in some of the most remote and environmentally fragile locations, and often with particularly marginalized and disenfranchised populations. The Fund is committed to reaching rural young people, who will migrate in search of opportunity unless we make agriculture an attractive and profitable enterprise. IFAD also is targeting women – who make up almost 50 per cent of the agricultural labour force in sub- Saharan Africa - and other vulnerable groups.

    In West and Central Africa high fertility and declining mortality rates are resulting in an increasingly young population with a current median age of less than 18 years. The region is also experiencing the highest rates of urbanization in sub- Saharan Africa, with over half of the population expected to be in cities by 2020 as compared to 2030 for SSA as a whole.  While the attention of policy makers has increasingly focused on the status of youth given concerns regarding employment generation, women remain central actors in both economic activities, particularly in agriculture, as well as managing household welfare.  Although women are expected to expand their role in the labour force in West and Central Africa, there remain significant differences in boys’ and girls’ school enrolment rates, particularly at the secondary and tertiary levels, and the legal rights of women to property remain tenuous in many countries which follow customary rights. Moreover, the prevalence of violent civil conflicts discriminates against women and youth and weakens their ability to be fully engaged in productive activities.

    Significant progress has been made over the last years IFAD-supported projects in the region in implementing their targeting approaches and promoting gender equality and the inclusion of young people. However, these advances in gender equality are still fragile in some countries, as overall economic and social progress is hindered by political and social instability. In a context with social and economic inequalities, women and young people continue to be more vulnerable and have less opportunities to participate in and benefit from economic activities. In addition, at project level more attention needs to go to monitoring and documenting the results of these efforts, especially to see what is happening at household level. Having a good targeting strategy from the onset of a project is key for success.

    The West and Central Africa Division of IFAD therefore sponsored a two-day workshop on the theme “Targeting, gender and youth inclusion” in Kinshasa from 10 to 11 May 2014. The aim this event was to help gender focal points develop a capacity to improve the poverty-reducing performances of their projects by using methodologies and analytical tools that focus on targeting, gender and youth inclusion. More than 70 people participated from 36 projects, mainly gender focal points and monitoring and evaluation officers.

    During the workshop a wide range of experiences were shared by project representatives. The Agricultural Value Chains Support Project in Senegal, the Ruwanmu Small-Scale Irrigation Project in Niger, the Pastoral Water and Resource Management Project in Sahelian Areas in Chad and the Support to Agricultural Development and Marketing Project from Ivory Coast showcased some best practices with regards to implementing targeting strategies. Furthermore, the Agricultural Commodity Chain Support Project in Burkina Faso, the Food Security and Development Support Project in the Maradi Region in Niger, the Rural Finance and Community Improvement Programme in Sierra Leone and the Northern Rural Growth Programme in Ghana talked about how they are addressing gender inequalities and discrimination by focusing on areas which can empower women economically and socially, including access to land, water, education, training, markets and financial services. Finally, to understand how the engagement of the rural youth in IFAD’s operations can be improved, experiences were shared from the National Programme to Support Agricultural Value Chain Actors in Guinea, the Rural Enterprises Programme in Ghana, the Agricultural Value Chains Support Project in Senegal, the Livestock and Horticulture Development Project in Gambia and the Community-Based Natural Resource Management Programme - Niger Delta in Nigeria.

    While the first part of the workshop focused on the sharing of good practices, during the second one emphasis was put on the operational side. First, discussions were held on how projects are being assessed with regards to their performance on targeting and women empowerment. Secondly, methodologies and analytical tools that focus on targeting, gender and youth inclusion were presented for different types of projects (value chain, rural finance, enterprise development and natural resource management). Finally, an interactive discussion highlighted the importance of using monitoring and evaluation systems to track a project's performance related to targeting, gender and youth inclusion in monitoring and evaluation systems. Consistent collection and analysis of gender and age disaggregated data and information is important to systematically identify and address gender issues and disparities. Routinely data collection and analysis allow project managers to make adjustments to improve projects based on feedback about the results being achieved.

    The participants worked out an action plan at project, national and regional level. The three main axes are:

    • capacity development; 
    • improvement of project implementation modalities to better take into account issues of targeting, gender and youth inclusion; and
    • setting up mechanisms for sharing experiences amongst projects. 
    IFAD sees tremendous untapped potential in smallholder agriculture in West and Central Africa, and especially among some of its target groups, such as women and youth. They have the capacity to lift themselves and others out of hunger and poverty, if given the chance. It has therefore committed itself to work closely with the various projects and to provide any support required to turn the action plan into reality.

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    by Marian Amaka Odenigbo

    PASIDP project beneficiaries happily display one of the newly introduced vegetables
    During the week of 21-31 May 2014,   I took part in an implementation support mission in Ethiopia, visiting the IFAD-funded Participatory Small-Scale Irrigation Development Project (PASIDP). This project focuses on improving nutritional status of poor rural families and aims to make the rural households more food secure.

    I was delighted to visit Homicho Sogido, one of the PASIDP ongoing small-scale irrigation scheme in Oromia region whichregion, which incidentally is one of the most food insecure communities.

    The livelihoods of smallholder farmers in this community predominantly depends on chat cultivation – which is a major cash crop. Chat, also known as khat, miraa, or gat is an amphetamine-like stimulant plant.

    The main staple crops in this community are exclusively sorghum and maize, thus the monotonous dietary pattern. Regular diet in this community, before PASIDP was the traditional injera accompanied by wat.

    For those who may not know what injera is – it’s a sponge bread made of maize, sorghum and teff flour. And wat is a hot spicy stew made of hot pepper and spices.

    Nutrition awareness
    The communities benefitting from the Homicho Sogido small-scale irrigation scheme now have a better understanding of nutritional value of vegetables.

    Before the project, farmers were not familiar with vegetables like cabbage, onions, tomatoes, carrots, beetroot, swischard. The farmers told us that they did not even know how to cut onions.

    It was heartwarming to see an increase in consumption in of vegetables, which has improved the health conditions of the households.

    “Thanks to the training on high nutritious value vegetables provided by PASIDP, “I am now better equipped to debunk the myth that family planning is the cause of anemia”, said Burtukan, who is an extension worker. “Over time I was able to raise awareness about the micronutrient potentials of vegetables, thus improving the nutrition and health conditions of the rural households”.

    The introduction of crops diversification was a welcome development to their monocropping practices. Farmers acknowledged that cultivation of chat, which is their traditional main cash crop, while a “viable” source of income, however, regretfully has led to poor diet and resulted in malnourished and sick children.

    Extension agents offered the women in the community training on how to crop, irrigate, harvest, process and cook vegetables. Thanks to these trainings, the communities’ traditional dish (injera and wat) now includes vegetables; onions, cabbage, tomatoes and potato which has resulted in diversified, healthier and more nutritious diet.

    I was impressed when the fathers said that, they too, are making sure that their children eat meals with vegetables.

    In my line of work, when I see integration of activities that facilitate nutritious food intake at household level, I can see a clear and an effective pathway to accelerate nutrition in an agricultural and rural development investment. And this is what I saw at the IFAD-funded Participatory Small-Scale Irrigation Development Project (PASIDP)!

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    Last month, the city of Perugia in Italy hosted the International Journalism Festival. This journalism festival is considered to be one of the most important "media events" on the European scene.  The five day event  (from April 29 to May 4) held annually in Perugia, saw a record 60,000 people attending more than 300 events. Over 540 speakers and more than 2000 accredited journalists from all over the world came together to share their ideas, stories and experiences.

    For the first time, IFAD not only participated in the event, but we also organized a panel discussion entitled -'The Untold Story of Food Politics".

    You might ask yourself why would IFAD hold a panel discussion at an International Journalism Festival and what is the 'added value'? 

    I hope by the time you’ve finished reading this blogpost, you’ll  agree it was important to participate.
    Considering that food is closely related to issues such as hunger, poverty, health, environmental degradation and can be the cause of instability, now more than ever, the policies that affect food systems are of paramount importance.

    Ever asked yourself how the world can ensure it has enough food for a growing global population?  Well, our panel moderated by Francesco Piccinini, editor of, discussed precisely this important topic which drew a huge crowd resulting in a packed room and a stimulating discussion between panelists and audience who were mostly journalists.

    I was happy to note that out of the over 80 panel discussions, the organizers show-cased the IFAD panel in a press release.

    Our IFAD colleagues, Antonella Cordone, Coordinator for Indigenous and Tribal Issues, and Iain MacGillivray, Special Advisor to the President, were among the expert panelists, highlighting IFAD's perspective and elaborating on our specialized work. Antonella talked about the importance of biodiversity to ensure a food secure world, the role of  indigenous peoples as environmental stewards and importance of tapping into knowledge and learning about their century-old practices.  Iain talked about how investing in  agriculture is key to reducing poverty.

    Antonella and Iain shared the panel with Sipho S. Moyo, Africa director of ONE, Frederick Kaufman, journalist and author of Bet the Farm: How Food Stopped Being, and Massimo Alberizzi, editor in chief of  African-Express and foreign desk contributor for Corriere della Sera.

    Sipho Moyo highlighted the importance of smallholder farmers and how the ONE campaign is urging African leaders and government to fulfill the Maputo commitment of dedicating 10% of their budget to agriculture.

    Fred Kaufman talked about the challenges the world is faced with a growing population and diminishing resources and how this is impacting the food system, triggering  unexpected interest among hedge funds, big multinationals and financial brokers. 

    For Massimo Alberizzi, the first emergency to be dealt with is the  access to food in conflict areas and also the how food is politicized in some countries.
    While the media is familiar with food security issues and challenges, however, often times, the depth and breadth of the work of organizations such as IFAD are not fully known or understood.
    Platforms such as the Perugia International Journalism Festival help open a wider door to a broader audience and to raise awareness about the development issues which are of interest to a wider audience and constitute the core of our IFAD’s mandate and work. They offer an opportunity for participants to share experiences and insights, and more importantly learn from each other and forge partnerships.

    For the technophiles, the Festival also had a strong online component. The website had 140,000 unique visits in 5 days , 20,000 people watched the videos. And Twitter played a key role with more than 50,000 tweets in five days, 10,000 more than the last year. As for Facebook there were 414,000 views during the week of the event, including 6,000 "likes", comments and shares. Incredibly, all this hub of information was offered completely free to the public.

    Among the many informative panels, here are just a few interesting highlights from the festival. And make sure you take a minute to watch our panel on The Untold Story of Food  on YouTube (IFAD's  is # 65)! I hope we’ll make it to Perugia for the 2015 edition, as I believe the IJF is an excellent platform to raise awareness about development issues.

    Why not try something new? Mathew Ingram on the rise of new media
    What women want when working in journalism
    - In conversation with Om Malik: running the newsbeat treadmill
    - Margaret Sullivan: “My authority is the power of the pen”

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  • 06/03/14--01:01: Healing degraded land
  • By Debra Khumalo

    Much of Swaziland’s countryside is being destroyed by land degradation largely as a result of soil erosion. Beautiful landscapes are now scarred with deep lesions mostly as a result of poor land use resulting in top soil loss.  With the help of the Lower Usuthu Sustainable Land Management Project (LUSLM), funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Chiefdom of Luhlanyeni in the Lubombo region has taken the initiative to rehabilitate 16 hectares (on this site, 204 hectares altogether) of heavily degraded land and return that property to productive use.

    The gulley’s in the Lubombo region, East Swaziland are huge, wide and deep. During the past three years they became a serious concern as they now threaten approximately 153 homesteads. 

    As the gulley lies in the upper areas of Lubovane Dam, it’s also poses a significant threat on the lifespan of the dam.  In no time at all, this very expensive dam will be ruined by siltation, as top soil flows into rivers of mud and fills the dam. The fertility of agricultural land in the areas as well as the quality of grazing land has diminished to almost desert conditions. 


    The community faced two options -flee, or face the problem. They chose to face the challenge and began efforts to rehabilitate the land. Initial attempts to rehabilitate the land were unsuccessful due to lack of appropriate materials and skills, among other reasons.

    In 2010 Conserve Swaziland, a local NGO, assisted the community to apply for funding from the National Environment Fund, under the custodianship of Swaziland Environmental Authority (SEA). The funds enabled the community to plant fruit trees and fence off the degraded area, avoiding further degradation.

    Further assistance was solicited from the Ministry of Agriculture’s Land Development Section, which was tasked with providing gabion cages to be erected on the degraded land. Gabion cages are a cage, box or cylinder filled with rocks, concrete or sometimes soils and have varying applications in civil engineering and erosion control.

    In the Luhlanyeni Chiefdom, one of the stakeholders’ representatives, Msutfu Fakudze of Conserve Swaziland praises the communities initiative, saying, “The community started the project without any assistance. Our organization became involved at the invitation of the Ministry of Agriculture, which asked for our technical expertise.”

    Plants with good rooting systems are especially useful in rebuilding the land. Drought tolerant crops and edible plants, especially leguminous crops such as sweet potatoes, potatoes and cassava that are drought tolerant are key to improving soil cover and assisting in soil improvement.

    Besides the technical know-how, the stakeholders have also trained the community in social cohesion, group dynamics, conflict management, sustainable management of shared natural resources and  conservation agriculture. They have also taught the community ways of protecting top soil, such as; planting useful fruit trees and placing gabion cages. They have also showed them how to use mulch, compost and crop rotation to improve soil health, increase crop yields and resistance to pests and diseases.

    Sihlangwini Community

    Since the project started, the Sihlangwini community, which is within the Luhlanyeni Chiefdom, has increased its production from its once degraded land. Crops include a variety of legumes, sweet potatoes and fruit trees. They have also started hay bailing initiatives to harvest the now abundant grass to feed livestock during winter. 

    Most of the crops produce from the area are now sold in the local communities and markets. This year, the community has been able to produce about 50 Kg of sweet potatoes and another 50 Kg of both ground nuts and peanuts per week.

    “We are now food secure,” says Nomsa Tfwala, a member of the Sihlangwini community. “Our community now grows enough crops, fruits and vegetables for our needs. What is excess we sell. We started by rehabilitating  about 16 ha of heavily degraded land which has been returned to agriculture to produce  crops for both commercial and subsistence purposes , and have now covered about 200 ha. 

    The visible improvement of the Sihlangwini area has inspired neighboring communities like Sithobelweni to follow suit..

    LUSIP-GEF National Project Manager, Lynn Kota estimates that between 15 to 20 percent of arable land in Swaziland is no longer useful, and the incidence of farming land being abandoned is increasing.

    “This is an initiative that is already being replicated in other communities. A similar initiative has been started at Gucuka.  Here the land is beginning to heal and 300 fruit trees have been planted.”

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    By Tiffany Minjauw

    This year, World Environment Day (WED) , celebrated on the 5th of June, will highlight the issue of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the context of climate change. Alongside building momentum towards the Third International Conference on SIDS in September, WED will promote a greater understanding of the importance of SIDS and the urgency of helping to protect them against the growing risks and vulnerabilities brought on by climate change.

    WED is a UN initiative which aims to foster worldwide awareness and action for the environment. Over the years WED has expanded, becoming a universal platform in more than 100 countries. In doing so, individuals across the globe are encouraged to do something positive for the environment with the hope of generating a collective positive impact on the planet.

    IFAD is enhancing its approach to rural development in the context of increasing environmental threats, including climate change. IFAD is committed to scaling up successful ‘multiple-benefit’ approaches to sustainable agricultural intensification by smallholder farmers such as building climate resilience through managing competing land-use systems, alongside reducing poverty, enhancing biodiversity, increasing yields and lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

    Similarly, new efforts have been directed to enable smallholder farmers to benefit from climate finance so as to reward multiple-benefit activities and help counterbalance the transition costs of changing agricultural practices. In this framework, IFAD’s Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP) is a new multi-year and multi-donor financing window to channel climate and environmental finance to smallholder farmers through IFAD-supported programmes.

    With the intention of living up to last year's success in raising awareness on WED IFAD is running an interactive exhibition in the foyer at IFAD HQ on the work that IFAD is doing on the environment; fighting rural poverty in an environmentally sustainable way.

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    By Ides de Willebois, Director & Steven Jonckheere, Knowledge Management Officer for IFAD in West and Central Africa.

    Developing an agricultural sector that is inclusive of small farmers

    The demand for food and agricultural products is changing in unprecedented ways. Increases in per capita incomes, higher urbanization and the growing numbers of women in the workforce engender greater demand for high-value commodities, processed products and ready-prepared foods. A clear trend exists towards diets that include more animal products such as fish, meat and dairy products, which in turn increases the demand for feed grains. There is also a growing use of agricultural products, particularly grains and oil crops, as bioenergy production feedstock. International trade and communications are accelerating changes in demand, leading to convergence of dietary patterns as well as growing interest in ethnic foods from specific geographical locations. The nature and extent of the changing structure of agri-food demand offer unprecedented opportunities for diversification and value addition in agriculture, particularly in developing countries.

    Restructured or modern markets and value chains offer a new environment for smallholders, with potentially profitable opportunities set against higher entry costs and risks of marginalization. There are about half a billion smallholder farms worldwide. In many developing countries, the overwhelming majority of farms are small and family-run, and they produce most of the food consumed locally. Smallholders are also by far the main investors in agriculture in most of the developing world. However, there is scope for large scale farmers as commercial enterprises, often in interaction with smaller scale farmers using institutional frameworks that encourage vertical integration and scale economies in processing and marketing.

    There is a sound business case for securing and enhancing small-scale producers’ inclusion in agro-food value chains, which can bring both economic and wider development gains. This requires that appropriate business models are applied and, where applicable, that this is done in partnership with producers, the public sector, intermediaries and development agencies.

    Forum for West and Central Africa

    The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo organised a forum for West and Central Africa from 13 to 16 May 2014 in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, to review lessons learned from IFAD-funded projects in the region. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development organized and set the agenda for this forum, showing how Africa's governments are taking the lead in efforts to accelerate rural development and expand food production throughout the region.

    The workshop attracted more than 200 participants, including government officials, representatives of other United Nations agencies and bilateral development institutions, as well as members of the private sector and civil society groups and partners from IFAD-funded projects in the region. In keeping with the United Nations’ designation of 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming, and the African Union declaring 2014 as the Year of Agriculture and Food Security, the forum addressed a fundamental aspect of the transformation of rural societies which is the integration of family farming and agricultural sector in order to boost agricultural productivity, increase the incomes of farmers, women as well as men, create jobs for rural young people, assure regular supplies of food to urban centres and ultimately stimulate local economies.


    There was a general consensus that family farming is the cornerstone of national food security. Participants agreed that there is still a tremendous untapped potential in smallholder agriculture, and especially among some of its target groups, such as women and youth. Agribusinesses (small, medium and large companies involved in the provision of agricultural input, processing, packaging and food distribution) are an essential segment of agricultural value chains as they link family farmers to urban consumers and allow for a development that is dynamic, sustainable and which created jobs and wealth. Building on their respective comparative advantages, the links between family farming and agribusinesses need to be strengthened through win-win partnerships. Agricultural policies and development actors have a role to play in facilitating the development of value chains that contribute to national food security and the inclusive growth of rural economies. 

    Three thematic areas were chosen for deeper discussion on good practices: i) value chain development; ii) technologies and innovations; and, iii) financial services. Strong links to markets for poor rural producers are essential to increasing agricultural production, generating economic growth in rural areas and reducing hunger and poverty. Improving these links creates a virtuous circle by boosting productivity, increasing incomes and strengthening food security. The participants identified the following elements as being key to making value chains work for poor rural people:

    -      A good understanding of the market and an analysis of the entire chain;

    -      Strong producer institutions;

    -      Trust between the different value chain actors;

    -      Different business models need to be discussed and a one-size-fits-all should be avoided;

    -      Access to finance and inputs is usually a stumbling block which needs to be addressed;

    -      Hard (infrastructure) and software (capacity building) should go hand in hand; and,

    -      Quality standards and control procedures need to be discussed and accepted by all actors.

    A lack of access to appropriate technology is often a primary cause of poor and vulnerable rural livelihoods. Participants agreed that attention should be given to the following issues:

    -      Build on traditional knowledge;

    -      Facilitate dialogue between producers, users and researchers;

    -      Research and extension should respond to the needs of the producers and the market

    -      Strengthen the inclusion of post-harvest technologies in value chain projects; and,

    -      Certified seed systems should respond to the local context, but also to the needs of the market.

    IFAD recognizes vast potential to improve the livelihoods of rural people by developing by increasing their access to a wide range of financial services and sound institutions. The main points made during the discussions at the forum were:

    -      Products need to be developed that meet the demands of people involved with family farming, with a specific attention to youth and women;

    -      Matching grants should be transitory and complementary with market based credit and saving services;

    -      Support the expansion of rural financial services, especially the physical access and proximity;

    -      Support the dialogue between public and private sector and between Producers Unions and apex rural finance institutions;

    -      Microfinance units should be established at the central bank;

    -      National rural finance strategies should be developed;

    -      Facilitate linkages with other sources of refinancing that will continue after the project ends; and,

    -      Strengthen business approach and market orientation.

    Finally, the participants made some general recommendations:

    -      Engage in policy dialogue on land governance, in order to protect the land rights of smallholder farmers, especially those of women and youth;

    -      Set up inclusive national and regional platforms where different stakeholders can discuss issues related to agricultural policies

    -      Mobilise more public and private funds for the development of smallholder agriculture; and,

    -      Put in place mechanisms to capture and share innovations and good practices.

    We would like to thank the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo for organising the event and everybody who contributed to making the eight Regional Forum a real success.

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    By Stephen Twomlow

    In Ethiopia, overgrazing and the resulting land degradation has been one of the major challenges  to rural development of the last 50 years. Livestock numbers are ever-increasing meaning an escalation of grazing,  leaving the land prey to spiraling erosion, a diverse range of local species are lost, and ecosystems jeopardised and vital water streams dry up.

    Figure 1 -  ©IFAD/Stephen Twomlow & Will Critchley
    Despite these detrimental consequences, herders are unwilling to sell their ‘bank accounts’ of scrawny beasts. Thus the perennial question: is it really possible to persuade livestock owners in Africa to reduce stock numbers and introduce – or reintroduce – pasture management on valued communal lands?

    Cynics believe the contrary, and predict widespread desertification as the inevitable and final consequence of overgrazing. A second opinion holds that establishing large private ranches, practising holistic range management– limiting herding to a few efficient emerging cattle farmers and encouraging the rest of the community to move onto and adapt new urban livelihoods – is a possible way forward.

    Figure 2 -  ©IFAD/Stephen Twomlow & Will Critchley
    But there may be a third way. At least in the areas where rainfall is adequate to support rapid re-vegetation when land is rested.

    The IFAD-GEF-AECID funded  ‘Community-based Integrated Natural Resources Management Project’ (CBINReMP) has been supporting government policy in the Lake Tana basin of Ethiopia to provide communities land-use rights through a registration and certification processes, to demarcate land holdings and define the use of parcels of land on the proviso that the groups of livestock herders are required to improve their common land.

    Often, the communities choose to close-off the area from grazing until it recovers adequately to allow a ‘cut and carry’ system of livestock feeding. Each family agrees to harvest only sufficient fodder for their animals - now kept close to their homesteads. Admittedly the initial transition period is tough – and fodder is scarce for one or two seasons. But experience shows that once the land recovers, animal nutrition improves and there are visible benefits to the environment. Indigenous, stoloniferous grasses recolonize bare patches of land, local legumes re-emerge and thrive, and streams are observed to flow for longer each year. Natural regeneration of multipurpose trees takes place, and unwanted species are weeded out. A virtuous cycle is established.

    Figure 3 -  ©IFAD/Stephen Twomlow & Will Critchley
    But the most remarkable development in the Lake Tana Basin is that many communities have decided to erect an invisible fence around their common land. This is ‘social fencing’, where members police themselves. They set by-laws and stick to them, with infringements (an unsurprisingly few number) punished by fines. The system is still in its early stages, but there is a sense of pride and optimism – which is reinforced by increased income from milk and meat, and the establishment of bee hives.  It would be rash to say the ‘tragedy of the commons’ has been averted, but the theatre curtain has opened on a new and exciting scenario.

    Figure 4 -  ©IFAD/Stephen Twomlow & Will Critchley

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    Jabu Matsebula

    Figure 1-©IFAD -Lindiwe planting
    in the rows made by the ripper
    FARMERS can increase yields, efficiency and drastically reduce the cost of ploughing, planting and weeding in the 2014 season following the introduction of mechanized Conservation Agriculture (CA). The new innovation that is being rolled out by the Lower Usuthu Sustainable Land Management (LUSLM) project, funded by the International Fund For Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF), uses  tractor drawn Conservation Agriculture implements.

    Using mechanized conservation agriculture, a farmer can complete the process of ploughing, fertilizing and planting all in one operation and in a fraction of the time it takes with conventional ploughing. This method uses the principles of minimum soil tillage, or “Climate Smart” agriculture practices, advocated by Ministry of Agriculture Principal Secretary, Dr Robert Thwala.

    A 4x4 John Deer 5503 supplied by Swazi Trac in Matsapha rigged with a 5-tooth rippertyne was unveiled during the first demonstration. The designated field was just over a hectare, where Lindiwe Magagula (a local farmer) intended to grow legumes.

    When the tractor starts, the ripper opens five trenches that are almost 25-30 centimetres deep and 45 centimetres apart. The ripper leaves rows of grass between the trenches. Norman Mavuso, a sustainable Agriculture Coordinator, showed Lindiwe how to mix the herbicide and using a sprayer on her back, how to spray the grass with a special Springbok herbicide to dry the grass so that it forms a mulch cover between the rows of plants.

    The equipment makes it possible for the tractor to plough, apply fertilizer, seed and cover in one trip. The fertilizer dispenser is able to place fertilizer on one side of the trench and the seed on the other, eliminating the danger of the seed being scorched.

    The tractor is so time efficient that it is possible to plough a maximum of sixteen fields instead of four, assuming that it spends two hours at work.

    “Last year we conducted a rapid perception survey to understand public attitudes towards CA. We found that even though people see and appreciate the benefits that come with the CA practice, they are  discouraged by the heavy manual labor involved. The information was valuable as it convinced us to explore ways of reducing the manual labour through mechanization,” said Mavuso. This  observation was confirmed by Lindiwe, who joked that her children run away when it is  time to engage in hoeing to dig the planting holes.

    CA was introduced in Swaziland as a poverty alleviation initiative after trials in Zimbabwe and Kenya showed minimum tillage greatly improved productivity at much lower costs. Over the years however it  has gained the reputation as a practice for poor people.

    “We have now realized that to succeed in promoting universal CA, we must recognize that farmers are at different levels of development sophistication. Therefore it is important to deploy not one, but a range of tools so that everyone can find a tool that they can use according to their level of development”, explained Mavuso.

    Universal implementation of CA is expected to greatly improve national yields, especially for the priority national staple food – maize, by addressing two destructive practices.
    In some cases, farmers opt to follow the tractor and drop seed as it ploughs. This method is not only inefficient, but the seed is planted too deep into the soil, resulting in limited or no germination or delayed germination.

    A second problem practice is wrong application of fertilizer. Reliance on rain has scared farmers to adopt cautious approaches to limit their losses in the case it does not rain for a long  time. Fertilizer is the most expensive input. As a result, farmers wait until it rains before risking their fertilizer – a very destructive practice. “Farmers now commonly plant seed without fertilizer, and wait for it to grow. They return when the seedling has grown a few centimetres and apply a side dressing with fertilizer. This is a total waste because fertilizer is a combination of three components: Phosphorus, Potassium and Nitrogen. The roots require all three nutrients to develop and feed the plant. Since the roots grow downwards, the fertilizer is wasted because it does not benefit the roots. Some nitrogen is absorbed by the plant, yet potassium and phosphorus could be the most expensive items that are  totally wasted.

     Instead, spreading mulch to provide soil cover is a CA practice that creates compost, thereby  replacing  nutrients plants constantly remove from the soil. It also preserves moisture.
    For now, the project is confined to Siphofaneni and Sithobela rural development areas (RDAs). When demand increases, the project plans to scale-up implementation nationally.

    Figure 2 - ©IFAD

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    The collective efforts of the three UN food and agriculture agencies in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been recognised in the 2014 Award of Excellence by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The award ceremony took place on Friday, 6 June, 2014 in Rome, during an official session of WFP’s Executive Board.

    The three Rome-based agencies, which share the goal of increasing food security, play an important role in the agricultural policy in DRC. They cooperate in political dialogue and sector coordination as well as in strategic planning, formulation and implementation of projects.

    The agencies make regular efforts in pooling their expertise on agriculture, food relief and rural development. Their teams work closely to support DRC in its efforts to ensure food security and agricultural development, mainly in the provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu, Orientale (Tshopo, Ituri, Haut and Bas-Uélé districts), Northern Katanga (Manono, Mitwaba and Pweto), Bandundu, Bas Congo and Kinshasa outskirts.

    The Consortium is also active in the effective coordination of support from various technical and financial partners in developing strategies and programmes for agricultural development, including the National Agriculture Investment Programme (NAIP), one of the key results of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP).

    In this field, the Consortium builds on the experience of the Belgian Cooperation Agency. In November 2013, the Consortium supported a NAIP business meeting for fundraising, after supporting its formulation, finalization and validation process.

    In January 2014, with the technical and financial partners’ support and following the recommendation of the New Partnership for the Development of Africa (NEPAD), the Consortium started working with the Government on a consultation process, which should ultimately lead to the development of a common roadmap on the improvement of governance in the agricultural sector.

    IFAD’s Country Portfolio Manager, Rasha Omar, recognizes that "the honour in obtaining this award is also due to the efforts of all three agencies’ staff across DRC, who give themselves heart and soul to the fight against food insecurity and rural poverty".

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  • 06/17/14--01:38: The Ubiquitous Eucalyptus
  • By Steve Twomlow and Will Critchley

    In many developing countries , including Ethiopia, Eucalyptus spp, was first introduced as a fast growing cash crop, sold to meet growing construction and energy needs.  Eucalyptus’  fast rate of growth, even on degraded land, and its ability to ‘drain’ swampy areas is viewed by many as its greatest asset. However, Eucalyptus has been at the centre of an environmental and sustainability debate for years.

    ©IFAD/Will Critchley & Stephen Twomlow
    Since  Eucalyptus woodlots are  cash crops, they can help to reduce human pressure on natural forests. On the other hand, Eucalyptus woodlots are densely planted (to ensure straight poles for construction) and they have little understory foliage growing beneath the trees.  Eucalyptus is an invasive plant and it’s leaves prevent the survival of other plants, thereby creating a sterile forest floor bereft of biodiversity. This makes the land that Eucalyptus grows on even more vulnerable to erosion, especially as water that drips off leaves increases the natural erosivity of rainfall. Combined with the huge water demands that Eucalyptus trees require, in excess of 4000 litres of water per tree every day to achieve its full growth rate, it’s no wonder that environmental specialists are continuing to question its relevance to sustainable development. 
    ©IFAD/Will Critchley & Stephen Twomlow
    Despite these enigmatic effects, Eucalyptus is still highly valued. In Ethiopia, and other areas of the world, Eucalyptus woodlots increasingly represent a major, or even sole, source of income for households.  The farmers of the Lake Tana Watershed, in the Amhara region of Ethiopia are no exception. They grow Eucalyptus poles that are sold for use in  construction.

    ©IFAD/Will Critchley & Stephen Twomlow
    The IFAD and GEF funded ‘Community-based Integrated Natural Resources Management Project’ (CBINReMP), has been working with smallholders to develop participatory forest management approaches that encourage the regeneration of indigenous forests and the sustainable management of Eucalyptus woodlots. Recently, the project began investigating a spontaneous community innovation; using Eucalyptus trimmings to make charcoal. A typical building pole is 6 m in length - after trimming between 1 and 1.5 m from the raw length.  In the past, these trimmings were a waste product, as Eucalyptus wood is not a desirable  fuel for the domestic cook stove, because its  high gum content makes it burn too fast.  This new method of charcoal production may provide an  alternative fuel source that  reduces the need to burn dry cattle manure or cut down wood from  indigenous forests. Perhaps this new development may inform debates on the growth of Eucalyptus woodlots.  

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    Dr Robson Mutandi opens the workshop
    The IFAD Ethiopia Country Office hosted a knowledge management and learning (KM&L) workshop on 10th -12th June 2014 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It was an opportunity to gather IFAD supported projects in Ethiopia to take stock of ongoing KM&L activities.

    Robson Mutandi, Country director and Regional Representative for Ethiopia, Angola and South Sudan, opened the workshop.  He encouraged the 20 staff of projects gathered at the workshop to use the learning experiences to ‘skyrocket’ people’s lives by successfully investing in agriculture, adopting best practices and lessons learned to empower the rural poor. He urged participants to adopt what they have been learning from exchange visits, and develop a culture of sharing. “We have to come out of the culture of doing things alone, and learn to share. There is nothing that is not shareable,” said Mutandi. 

    The Knowledge Management System

    During the workshop, the participants identified challenges and opportunities to improve sharing, learning, and exchange for improved project implementation.  The workshop, supported by IFADAfrica, was held as part of the grant’s in-country support towards facilitating knowledge management and learning integration in projects.  Participants, majority of whom had never participated in KM&L workshops, were introduced to the “wheel of knowledge” an integrated framework, which was used to identify opportunities to use knowledge management tools in specific areas - information management, internal and external communication, learning oriented monitoring evaluation and to encourage innovations and experimentation - for improved project implementation.

    Miriam Cherogony, the IFADAfrica Knowledge Management Coordinator shared valuable experiences from the East and Southern Africa region to inspire future action on KM&L action plans developed by project teams during the workshop. Importantly, she challenged projects to take initiative and adopt new implementation approaches having participated in learning exchanges nationwide and in the region.

    Robert Ouma from the PICO East Africa team facilitates the workshop
    Participants were keen to discuss how they were going to strengthen monitoring and evaluation activities and find innovative ways to capture qualitative impacts of their projects. They further shared on the tools to improve KM&L including tips on photo captioning, designing key messages for communication, writing case studies and future stories, and documenting best practices and lessons learned amongst many other tools.

    As participants made their personal commitment to undertake a future knowledge management activity, they all left the workshop ready to implement activities with a new awareness of ideas, plans and multi-media tools. Participants commented that they enjoyed the method of facilitation and found the training materials useful. With a clear understanding of what knowledge management and learning is about, IFAD projects looked forward to changing implementation approaches for better results.   

    Miriam Cherogony awards Habte Mebre with a certificate of participation at the workshop

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    Kanayo F. Nwanze (@knwanze) open letter to African Union heads of state

    Judging from the daily outpouring of commentary, opinions and reports, you would think that there were two African continents. One of them is the new land of opportunity, with seven of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies, offering limitless possibilities to investors. There is, however, this other image: a starving and hopeless continent, hungry and poor, corrupt and prey to foreign exploiters.

    As Africans, we are tired of caricatures. But we are also tired of waiting. Waiting to be led toward the one Africa we all want: the Africa that can and should be. We know the real Africa, filled with possibilities, dignity and opportunities, able to face its challenges and solve them from within. Never has the time been more right for us to finally realize our full potential. It is within our grasp.

    As a scientist, I am always interested in facts. Africa is a land rich in resources, which has enjoyed some of the highest economic growth rates on the planet. It is home to 200 million people between the ages of 15 and 24. And it has seen foreign direct investment triple over the past decade.

    As the head of an institution whose business is investing in rural people, I know that you also need vision and imagination. At the International Fund for Agricultural Development we have banked on the poorest, most marginalized people in the world, and over and over again these investments have paid off. For people, for communities, for societies. And more than half of the people we invest in are Africans.

    More than 10 years have passed since the Maputo Declaration, in which you, as African leaders, committed to allocating at least 10 per cent of national budgets to agriculture and rural development – key sectors in the drive to cut poverty, build inclusive growth and strengthen food security and nutrition.

    Today, just seven countries have fulfilled the Maputo commitment consistently, while some others have made steps in the right direction. Ten years is a long time to wait. In less time I have seen projects turn desert into farmland.

    In just a few days in Malabo at the 23rd African Union Summit, I will join those of you, African leaders, who will gather to discuss this year’s focus of agriculture and food security. This is my call: Don’t just promise development, deliver it, make it happen now. Make real, concrete progress toward investment that reaches all Africans. Investments that prioritize rural people.
    Our biggest resource is our people. To squander this is worse than wasteful. If we don’t act now, by 2030 Africa will account for 80 per cent of the world’s poor. Is this the legacy that we want to leave for future generations?

    The AU declared 2014 as the year of Agriculture and Food Security. And this is the year we look beyond the deadline of the Millennium Development Goals to a post-2015 world with new goals and targets to reach. I hope that this means that we will be dedicating ourselves fully to making agriculture a priority. GDP growth due to agriculture has been estimated to be five times more effective in reducing poverty than growth in any other sector, and in sub-Saharan Africa, up to 11 times. Ironically, it is countries that lack lucrative extractive industries and that have had to invest in agriculture who have found out what is now an open secret: agriculture not only improves food security but creates wealth. Small family farmers in some parts of our continent contribute as much as 80 per cent of food production. Investing in poor rural people is both good economics and good ethics.

    A full 60 per cent of our people depend wholly or partly on agriculture for their livelihoods, and the vast majority of them live below the poverty line. It’s not pity and handouts that they need. It’s access to markets and finance, land tenure security, knowledge and technology, and policies that favour small farms and make it easier for them to do business. A thriving small farm sector helps rural areas retain the young people who would otherwise be driven to migrate to overcrowded cities where they face an uncertain future. Investing in agriculture reinforces not only food security, but security in general.
    In an Africa where 20 states are classified as fragile and 28 countries need food assistance, the need for a real rural transformation backed by investment and not just words is critical – I have often said that declarations don’t feed people.

    Investments must be focused on smallholder family farms. Small farms make up 80 per cent of all farms in sub-Saharan Africa. And contrary to conventional wisdom, small farms are often more productive than large farms. For example, China’s 200 million small farms cover only 10 percent of the world’s agricultural land but produce 20 percent of the world’s food. The average African farm, however, is performing at only about 40 per cent of its potential. Simple technologies – such as improved seeds, irrigation and fertilizer – could triple productivity, triggering transformational growth in the agricultural sector. It is estimated that irrigation alone could increase output by up to 50 per cent in Africa.  Rural areas also need the right investments in infrastructure – roads, energy, storage facilities, social and financial services – and enabling policies backed by appropriate governance structures that ensure inclusiveness.

    If we look at the countries that have met the Maputo commitment, we see that investing in agriculture works. Given that agriculture has become lucrative for private investors, and about 60 per cent of the planet’s available uncultivated agricultural land is in Africa, there is no mystery why we hear about so-called ‘land grabs’. Opportunity draws foreign investors. There is nothing wrong with foreign investment. But it has to be managed, to the benefit of all.

    What is a mystery is why, with such a vast potential and a young population just waiting for a reason to seize it, our African leaders do not announce that they will redouble their efforts to drive an inclusive rural transformation, with concrete commitments, that will make Maputo a reality. I hope that after the Malabo meeting, that will be a mystery no longer.

    African economies have grown impressively. But it is time to stop focussing on GDP figures and instead focus on people. The majority of our people are engaged in agriculture, and the neglect of that sector must stop if we really want to realize the healthy, peaceful and food secure Africa that we know can be. It is not a dream; it is a responsibility.

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    By Margot Steenbergen & Gernot Laganda

    “I could better understand the reality of how climate change is affecting the ‘on the ground reality of small scale farmers’, in a safe environment, without my investment actions being harmful.”

    This comment was made by one of the participants of an innovative two-day climate change workshop held in Kigali, Rwanda. The workshop was organized by the Single Project Implementation Unit (SPIU) of IFAD-supported projects in Rwanda. The specific programme that initiated this workshop is the Climate Resilient Post-Harvest and Agribusiness Support Project (PASP). This  project includes an innovative grant for climate change adaptation provided by IFAD’s Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP).
    ©IFAD/Red Cross
    Alphonse Mutabazi, Climate Change expert from the Rwanda Environmental Management Authority “preparing” for a flood.
    The Rwandan context is unique in the global ASAP portfolio, in that it focuses on post-harvest climate risk management. Post-harvest losses is one of the greatest sources of inefficiency in agricultural production in Rwanda. Current losses for key agricultural commodities amount to up to 30 percent of harvested product. If no action is undertaken, these losses are expected to increase, considering the country’s reliance on rainfed agriculture and its vulnerability to climate change.

    The country strategy supported by IFAD plans to create 200 collection points for agricultural produce, called HUBs. For the moment, the programme focuses on the five value chains of maize, cassava, beans, Irish potatoes, and dairy. These value chains are part of the Government of Rwanda’s flagship Crop Intensification Programme (CIP).

    Reducing post harvest losses through the creation and support of climate smart HUBs is a practical example of climate change adaptation. Some regions in Rwanda are experiencing increasingly longer dry spells, alternated by shorter, but more intensive periods of rainfall. An on the ground reality is that harvesting now takes place at wetter times of the year. Consequently, farmers can no longer rely on the sun to dry cereals to safe moisture content.

    Moreover, the IFAD supported project allows for specific climate risk management actions, including improved use of weather forecasts. The programme is novel, and the idea of climate change, and climate change adaptation are relatively new to the country programme team. As part of the initial capacity building strategy, a climate change workshop was organized.

    In addition to technical lectures by the Rwandan Meteorological Agency (RMA), and the Rwanda Environmental Management Authority (REMA), the Red Cross and Red Crescent Climate Centre was invited to allow for the participants to ‘experience’ the effects of climate change, in the safe setting of the Ministry of Agriculture.

    Through the tried and tested methodology of ‘serious games’, the participants appreciated the value of forecast based decision making.
    ©IFAD/Red Cross
    Some decisions had better outcomes for the participants than others

    Three decades of development investment decisions made in the space of an hour, while taking into consideration complexities caused by climate change? No problem for the participants of this climate change workshop.

    Similarly, being asked to think as a HUB manager, they were presented with the following options:

    For the next year, do we invest in:
    A)Collecting and processing maize, and ensuring the maize flour will reach a market (regular HUB activities);
    B)Ensuring we do not suffer the negative consequences from a potentially devastating flood, by purchasing hermetically sealed harvest storage bags;
    C)Longer term, more expensive climate risk management measures, such as elevated and more robust storage facilities;
    D)Improved Flood Early Warning Systems, which similarly require an initial investment.

    Complex trade offs, in a complex setting triggered rich discussions. The real value of improved early warning systems and longer-term climate risk management became more evident. In a country that is 85 percent rural, largely agriculture dependent and highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate stresses, a shift towards longer-term protection could be very beneficial.

    The workshop not only improved the understanding of climate change, but also fostered the grounds for new partnerships between different government agencies. All in all, a very promising start of the IFAD supported Climate Resilient Post-Harvest and Agribusiness Support Project of the Government of Rwanda.

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    June 12, 2014
    by Melissa Reichwage

    @IFAD/Siegfried Modola
    Farming systems that integrate crops with livestock carry much of the weight of the world’s food systems. These “mixed” farming systems produce about half of the planet’s food on 2.5 billion hectares. They not only account for over 90% of the world’s milk supply and 80% of the meat from ruminants but also provide most of the staple crops consumed by poor people, including maize, rice, sorghum, and millet.

    Given their importance and vulnerability to climate variability, smallholder mixed crop-livestock systems should be a primary target for strategies to produce more food while taking less from the land.

    Climate change is happening even faster and with more damaging effects on the world’s food security than previously anticipated, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s most authoritative body on climate change science.

    Agricultural research for development can make a big difference at every step from field to fork by, for example, providing new strategies that help smallholder farmers balance the needs of livestock and crops or by encouraging and guiding investments and policy. Scientists have identified a number of adaptation options: including better technologies, such as drought-tolerant crops; behavior changes, as in diets; improved land management practices; and new policies to foster market and infrastructure development.


    One of the biggest challenges in implementing climate-smart agriculture is ensuring that solutions are locally appropriate. “Dozens of activities can help crop-livestock farmers adapt to climate change or reduce their emissions, while boosting their food security. But there is no fixed package of interventions or a one-size-fits-all approach,” said Leigh Winowiecki, a CIAT soil scientist, who is working on the project.

    By linking social and ecological tools and datasets, CIAT and partners are identifying and scaling out context-specific strategies for climate-smart agriculture.

    The “Increasing food security and farming system resilience in East Africa through wide-scale adoption of climate-smart agricultural practices” project led by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), through the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), specifically its Flagship 4 on policies and institutions for climate-resilient food systems, is being supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

    Over the next 3 years, the project will work closely with IFAD and national and international partners in Tanzania and Uganda to scale up climate-smart options. An assessment of the impacts and suitability of these options at the local level will help mixed system smallholders, especially women and marginalized groups, make better choices about a number of practices and techniques on offer, based on their real needs. The innovative approach includes spatially explicit monitoring and modeling of land health and agronomic suitability, and on-farm participatory research to ensure the success of the practices on the ground.

    By working with farmers and local, regional, national, and international partners to mix and match the most locally appropriate solutions, climate-smart agriculture is becoming a bit smarter.

    Learn more about CIAT’s partnership with IFAD in the Stewardship Report outlining our shared vision of a world without poverty and hunger.

    Originally posted on CIAT website

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    Across sub-Saharan Africa agriculture is the backbone of the economy, accounting for 30-40% of nations’gross domestic product, and a leading source of jobs for over two-thirds of the population. Improving the productivity, profitability and sustainability of agriculture on the millions of farms that cover the African continent is essential for ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity in the region.

    Even though women make up a large share of Africa’s farmers, they are, for the most part, locked out of land ownership, access to credit and productive farm inputs, support from extension services and access to markets, to name just a few factors essential to their productivity. This array of daunting challenges means that, on average, Africa’s female farmers produce less per hectare compared with men, which adversely affects their families, communities and – in the long term – entire countries.

    Despite the centrality of agriculture in the economies of most African nations, relatively little is known about why farms managed by women are on average less productive. This“knowledge gap” in turn translates into a “policy gap” in the steps that African governments, their development partners, business leaders and civil society can take to equalise opportunities for female and male farmers.

    On 16 June IFAD invited the World Bank to present one of their most recent publications: “Levelling the Field: Improving Opportunities for Women Farmers in Africa”. This new report, jointly produced by the World Bank in partnership with the ONE Campaign with financial support from IFAD’s West and Central Africa Division, seeks to focus international attention on the impediments that Africa’s women farmers face in feeding their families, increasing farm incomes and lifting the heavy burden of poverty in rural areas.

    By combining information and backing it up with new surveys that allow for the disaggregation of results by gender, this report uncovers new evidence that explains some of the factors responsible for the low productivity of female-managed farms in Africa. The report profiles six countries – Ethiopia, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda– that together account for more than 40% of sub-Saharan Africa’s population. It presents the clearest evidence to date about both the breadth and the depth of the gender gap in African agriculture.

    The presenters argued that existing agricultural policies need to become better attuned to the issues that undermine the productivity of female farmers, and new policies and programmes must be designed and implemented to address their particular needs. Ten policy priorities were presented that are informed by the main drivers of the gender gap identified in the country profiles.

    1.Strengthen women’s land rights.

    2.Improve women’s access to hired labour

    3.Enhance women’s use of tools and equipment that reduce the amount of labour they require on the farm

    4.Provide community-based child-care centres.

    5.Encourage women farmers to use more, and higher-quality, fertiliser.

    6.Increase women’s use of improved seeds

    7.Tailor extension services to women’s needs, and leverage social networks to spread agricultural knowledge

    8.Promote women’s cultivation of high-value/cash crops

    9.Facilitate women’s access to and effective participation in markets

    10.Raise education levels of adult female farmers

    The presentation was followed by interventions from IFAD colleagues. Khadidja Doucoure, Regional Gender Coordinator in West and Central Africa, presented the significant progress that IFAD-supported projects in the region have made over the last years in promoting gender equality. IFAD’s Land Tenure Adviser, Jean Maurice Durand, explained that IFAD has learned that defending and expanding women’s rights requires comprehensive action at different levels: information and capacity building; organizational and empowerment measures; legal assistance and advocacy. Land tenure issues are inextricably linked to gender relations and thus a gender analysis is critical to design effective, targeted actions. It is often necessary to put complementary measures in place to enable women to influence decisions about their rights to land. Intra-household dimensions must be taken into consideration. Wafa ElKhoury, IFAD’s Senior Agronomist, highlighted the importance of looking at the management of a farm in a holistic manner. The timeliness of labour and inputs is important. Given that traditional extension systems do not favour women, farmer field schools appear to be more appropriate. Women need to be encouraged to join farmers’organisations. Finally, IFAD’s Technical Adviser on Value Chains, Marco Camagni, emphasized that the starting point should always be the market. However, a balance must be sought between cash and food crops. Access to information is key and partnerships with the private sector should be strengthened.

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    By popular request, I've put together a cheat sheet for the 2013 IFAD Annual Report, which came out yesterday. Like all good cheat sheets, this one saves you time and effort, giving key figures from the Report in bite-sized chunks.

    For a glossy cheat sheet with pictures and short stories, take a look at the Annual Report Highlights.

    Here are the big numbers, correct as at 31 December 2013:
    ·        241 ongoing programmes and projects with an IFAD investment of US$5.4 billion and a total value of US$12.2 billion

    ·     25 new programmes and projects approved in 2013

    ·      New funding worth $884 million approved

    ·      63 new grants approved in 2013 worth US$50.0 million

    ·      Total IFAD loan and grants operations since 1978: US$15.5 billion

    If you want the details behind those figures, or more information on the various types of cofinancing, disbursements or repayments – take a look at Table 2 IFAD at a glance in the Financing Data chapter.

    Here's the breakdown of the big numbers region by region.

    West and Central Africa

    ·         52 ongoing projects in 22 countries

    ·         US$1,042.3 million invested by IFAD in the region’s ongoing portfolio

    ·         5 new programmes and projects for a total IFAD investment of US$198.7 million


    East and Southern Africa

    ·         44 ongoing projects in 18 countries

    ·         US$1,183.8 million invested by IFAD in the region’s ongoing portfolio

    ·         5 new programmes and projects for a total IFAD investment of US$159.3 million


    Asia and the Pacific

    ·         60 ongoing projects in 18 countries

    ·         US$1,765.2 million invested by IFAD in the region’s ongoing portfolio

    ·         6 new programmes and projects for a total IFAD investment of US$186.1 million


    Latin America and the Caribbean

    ·         41 ongoing projects in 19 countries

    ·         US$617.9 million invested by IFAD in the region’s ongoing portfolio

    ·         5 new programmes and projects for a total IFAD investment of US$97.1 million


    Near East, North Africa and Europe

    ·         44 ongoing projects in 19 countries and Gaza and the West Bank

    ·         US$785.2 million invested by IFAD in the region’s ongoing portfolio

    ·         4 new programmes and projects for a total IFAD investment of US$83.9 million

    If you're interested in the details of new programmes and projects, these are all covered on the AR CD-ROM. We also give a link to projects in the pipeline if you want to keep ahead of the game.

    The Annual Report isn’t just about numbers. It’s also about issues, strategies and stories. The Programme of Work chapter gives an overview of the main issues in each region and key areas of work with results. You’ll also see 2013 investments and disbursements by lending terms in the regional pie charts.

    If you want to know which countries we’re working in and where we have country offices, you can consult the map.

    Last but not least, take a look at the stories from the field and learn about some of the courageous and talented people we work with.

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  • 07/01/14--07:20: The power of seaweed

  • When the Finnish botanist Peter Forsskal made the first collection of Red Sea seaweeds during an expedition to South Arabia in 1763, he likely had no idea of their rich vitamin and mineral content. In fact even today, countries like Djibouti that depend on food imports, do not properly utilize the bounty that the Red Sea has to offer. 

    Some seaweeds produce unique phycocolloids with innumerable uses as gelling, thickening, emulsifying and stabilizing agents in cosmetics, textile, pharmaceutical and food products industries. Seaweed colloids are present in toothpastes, shaving creams, body creams, hair lotions, perfumes, medicinal syrups, salad dressings, bakery products, ice creams, fruit and other beverages, agrofertilizers and livestock feed to name a few. On the beaches of Djibouti, phycocolloid rich seaweed can be found in abundance, neglected because their virtues are largely unknown.

    Djibouti offers ideal habitats for harvesting seaweed varieties that have industrial, agricultural and medicinal applications. These are characterized by an extensive continental shelf, clear water for good light penetration and many intertidal lagoons, which provide dynamic water currents for favourable seaweed growth.

    Long-term changes in sea temperatures due to climate change are bringing about more auspicious conditions for the proliferation of algal blooms. Warmer waters and greater ocean acidity broadens the seasonality of seaweed growth, and expands their range into different climates. Moreover, increased salinity in freshwater ecosystems can also induce their spread to lakes and rivers. While this can be a harmful phenomenon in the case of toxic algal species, in Djibouti seaweed farming represents an uncharted economic opportunity.

    The project to support the reduction of vulnerability in coastal fishing areas (PRAREV-PÊCHE) is investing in a pilot operation to harvest red seaweed (livestock feed) and brown seaweed (cosmetics market), targeting women as the primary beneficiaries. The overall approach of the project, which is co-financed by an IFAD loan and ASAP grant funding, seeks to address the weak resilience of fishers to adapt to climate change, given the low level of socioeconomic development and recurrent exposure to natural disasters.

    Although the potential for seaweed farming is huge, since it is not widely practiced in Djibouti, pilot farming trials are necessary to train a critical core of local people, who can then further advance this activity once the project comes to an end.

    The PRAREV project will also provide important training in conservation of marine habitats to protect the sensitive mangrove forests and coral reefs. Local capacity building will be a key determinant of the uptake and sustainability of both seaweed farming and conservation management.

    The marine waters of Djibouti are strategically located along busy shipping lines to European, East African and Asian countries, giving the country a comparative advantage in farmed biomass. As such there is a pressing need to decisively invest in human capital and research to develop the marine sciences in support of seaweed farming.  

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    On 17th June 2014 over 600 project staff, senior officials from the Federal and regional Government, Donors and other stakeholders congregated in Debrezeit, Ethiopia to launch the third phase of the Pastoral Community Development Project (PCDP). The PCDP III launch was an opportunity to discuss the project design, assess lessons learned and successes from the past and incorporate theses into the implementation of new activities.

    The project launch was opened by Mr. Tessema Legebo, Country Programme Officer for IFAD and Mrs. Louis Scura, Sector Manager at the World Bank country office. Since the inception of PCDP in 2004, 1.9 million agro-pastoral and pastoralists have improved their livelihoods through project support. Investing in community led development plans, generated by pastoralist and agro pastoralist themselves; the project has successfully implemented development activities to serve their demands. The fifteen year project has now reached its third phase, aiming to reach an additional 2.6 million beneficiaries, expanding activities to an additional 113 woredas(local administrations) in Somali, Afar, Oromia and the Southern Nationalities, Nations and Peoples Region (SNNPR). 

    H.E Mulgeta Wuletaw, State Minister for Federal Affairs
    Tessema Legebo from IFAD opens the project launch
    H.E. Mulgeta Wuletaw, the State Ministry of the Ministry of Federal Affairs, chaired discussions. Closing the workshop, H.E  Wuletaw encouraged project staff to use the momentum of past successes to successfully achieve targets and results in the third phase to bring about tangible benefits for pastoral and agro-pastoral communities. Several staff also received awards for their champion efforts to implement activities over the first and second phase of the project. 

    Axan Ziad awarded for  outstanding project performance

    Project staff awarded for exceptional project performance

    PCDP, which has been implemented since 2004, recently completed its second phase. PCDP II established 2,658 in 55 Woredas through a community investment fund. Engaging pastoral communities in development groups, they jointly decide on their priorities for basic services and activities they would like to pursue to improve their livelihoods. The project investment fund is then used to support these development plans that are implemented by the local administration. Through this structure of support, PCDP has improved access to safe water sources and establish animal health posts, local clinics and schools amongst various activities. PCDP has also successfully initiated disaster risk mechanisms, invested in forage and water development and developed livestock marketing and vaccination centres - enabling beneficiaries to build their resilience to disasters, such as, prolonged drought and conflict over scarce resources. 
    A livestock market established two years ago by the project community investment funds in Miesso, Oromia. Previously, the closest market was over 50km away and cattle owners faced risks of being robbed by cattle raiders while transporting their animals. 

    To improve the success of community driven service provision, PCDP III will develop a community level monitoring and learning system to enable beneficiaries to track projects, identify problems and account for results. The system will enable community leaders to periodically have an exchange with the local administration, thus holding implementing partners, project staff and local government actors accountable for community investments.

    PCDP has also established 448 Savings & Credit Cooperatives (SACCOs) in Somali, Afar, Oromia and SNPPR, all regions where populations, particularly pastoralist have limited access to banks and other financial service providers. This is a significant achievement as only 8% of the Ethiopian population have deposit accounts with commercial banks. SACCOs play an important role for pastoral communities to jointly save and create revolving loan funds for their members to finance income generating activities, such as, goat & sheep fattening, cattle rearing and processing of meat and dairy products and intensifying farming to sell highly nutrition and high value vegetables. However, new SACCOs formed through the project continue to face challenges; with low membership, SACCOs struggling to generate enough savings to maintain a revolving fund that may feasibly finance income generating activities. During the launch project members explored how they may link SACCOs with Unions and Cooperatives to strengthen their ability to mobilize more savings through increased membership.

    A low cost drip irrigation scheme and established with project support in Oromia, Ethiopia

    In the past, many SACCO’s hesitated to initiate revolving loan funds fearing that arrangement may not meet the requirements of Islamic Financing, fundamental to the moral and ethical beliefs in a predominately Islamic society. The launch was also an opportunity to explore how to use appropriate language to discuss loans while sensitizing the community, and shared experiences on how some SACCOs gained the trust of Islamic communities once local Imams approved their activities.Additionally, as pastoral communities traverse across regions to various grazing lands; it is often difficult for them to regularly deposit savings and access loans. As a result, PCDP III will explore mobile banking structures. Ultimately, PCDP III will strengthen linkages with the Federal Cooperative Agency and strategically link with IFAD financed Rural Financial Intermediation Programme.



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    29 June 2014 marked the 10-year Anniversary of the entry-into-force of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA). To celebrate the event, the Secretariat of the International Treaty and the FAO Office in Geneva organized a high-level celebration on 3 July 2014, in the United Nations Office in Geneva. This meeting was attended by Ministers, Ambassadors, international institutions, as well as civil society and private sector representatives. The celebration focused on the Treaty as an instrument to assist low-income food-deficient countries through the support of their farming and local communities, reviewing the political and technical results achieved, and designing a future trajectory for the Treaty’s work.

    The event was organized around an interactive panel discussion, featuring several high-level speakers. These included:

    ·         Dr Graziano da Silva, Director-General of FAO (video), reiterated FAO's support to the International Treaty, including as host of its Secretariat.

    ·         HE Mr Abdullah Nasser Al-Rahbi, Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva and Consul General (Oman), reminded us of the importance of the Muscat Ministerial Declaration, highlighted the need to work together to help meet the challenges of water scarcity and drought, find ways to increase food security, alleviate extreme poverty and counter the effects of climate change on the production of key food crops in the Near East and North Africa (NENA) Region.

    ·        Dr Shakeel Bhatti, Secretary of the International Treaty, reminded us of the important role of plant genetic resources for adapting agriculture to changing climatic conditions and for food security, including as material for breeding, biotechnologies, etc.

    ·         Mr Matthew Worrell, Chairperson of the Governing Body of the International Treaty, highlighted some of the important achievements of the International Treaty, including of its Multilateral System (MLS), Standard Material Transfer Agreements,  and the projects funded under the Benefit Sharing Fund.

    ·         Dr Agung Hendriadi, Director of the Indonesian Center for Agricultural Technology Assessment, proudly reminded us that Indonesia was the first developing country to provide funding to the International Treaty, and he hopes that this will serve to set the example to other developing countries as well, considering that the MLS requires strong commitment and support

    ·         Mr Oliver Allen, the First Counselor of the Delegation of the European Union to the UN and other international organizations in Geneva, highlighted that the EU was the major funder of the International Treaty, together with Norway, having contributed EUR 5 million. The EU considers the work of the International Treaty as fundamental for development, and in particular for smallholder farmers who are most dependent on agro-biodiversity.

    ·         Dr Silvana Maselli, Researcher and Professor of the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, presented the results achieved in Guatemala through a project under the Benefit Sharing Fund, where 1340 families from poor marginal communities in Guatemala were supported in establishing community seed banks and capacity building - on a range of themes including farmers' rights, seed management and storage, group formation, climate change adaptation, etc.

    ·         Dr Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, Executive Secretary of the CBD, highlighted the collaboration between the Secretariats of the International Treaty and the CBD, guided by a framework for collaboration. He reminded us of the importance of the Aichi targets and the Nagoya Protocol.

    ·         Mr Gagan Khurana, Head of Country Operations and Partnerships, Grow Africa Partnership of the World Economic Forum, emphasised the importance of involving the private sector - specifically referring to Public Private People Partnership (PPPP) - to ensure that innovative technologies developed benefit smallholder farmers

    ·        Ms Rima Alcadi, Grants Portfolio Adviser IFAD, highlighted the relevance of biodiversity to rural poverty reduction, IFAD's experience in managing projects/programmes related to the sustainable utilisation and conservation of biodiversity and the advantages of working with International Treaty.

    ·         Dr Pedro Braga Arcuri, representative of EMBRAPA in Europe, reminded us that the Treaty requires reliable, regular flow of funds. He highlighted the important role of neglected and underutilised species (NUS) for food and nutrition security and climate change adaptation and told us that EMBRAPA is intending to propose to the UN an International Year on NUS.

    ·         Mr Guy Kastler, smallholder farmer representing La via Campesina, told us that smallholder farmers like him are fond of the International Treaty, as it recognises farmers' rights and because they are aware that these resources are increasingly important for climate change adaptation. He also highlighted that local landraces have a higher capacity to adapt to climate change, compared to PGR stored ex situ. He would like the International Treaty to further work on and develop Access and Benefit Sharing mechanisms.

    ·         Ms Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the UNCCD (video), declared that the UNCCD Secretariat wishes to further strengthen the partnership with the International Treaty - especially as there are significant areas of overlap between productive land and biodiversity.

    ·         Ms Marie Haga, Executive Director at The Global Crop Diversity Trust, underscored that no country is self-sufficient when it comes to plant genetic resources. For example, cassava is vital to the economy of Nigeria as it is the world's largest producer of the commodity. However Nigeria, has barely 12% of the cassava PGR, whereas Brazil, that ranks the commodity 18th in terms of importance to its economy, has 25% of the PGR, as it is the centre of origin of cassava.  She also underlined the various ways in which The Global Crop Diversity Trust and the Secretariat of the International Treaty, including via a new initiative (to be launched soon!) called DivSeek - child of a 10 year project on crop wild relatives.

    ·         Mr Garlich von Essen, Secretary General of the European Seed Association, gave some suggestions on how to improve the financial sustainability of the International Treaty and its MLS. He said that the private sector, and breeders in especially, are very grateful to the work of the International Treaty - particularly as a tremendous effort was made to ensure that all major stakeholders were involved in negotiating the text and that it focuses on PGR for food and agriculture. This has improved mutual understanding and relevance of the Treaty.


    The text of the statement delivered by IFAD is copied below.


    Respected colleagues,

    Ladies and gentlemen,


    It gives me great pleasure to be here on behalf of IFAD, the International Fund for Agricultural Development. I thank you for the invitation to celebrate this important event with you. We, at IFAD, attach great importance to biodiversity as a key development resource and to the work of the International Treaty.

    IFAD is a specialized agency of the United Nations dedicated to alleviating rural poverty in developing countries. Our starting point, therefore, is to ask ourselves: “What is the nexus between rural poverty reduction and biodiversity?


    As we celebrate this 10th Anniversary of the coming into force of the International Treaty, let us recognise that a decade ago, this question would not have been so obvious to answer. Now, also thanks to the work of the International Treaty, the connection between biodiversity and rural poverty reduction is very clear. Globally, there are 1.2 billion people who live on less than US$1.25 a day, and 70 % of them are in rural areas and rely directly on ecosystems for food, water, fiber and fuel. Any change in biodiversity patterns will first and foremost affect the viability of rural survival.


    Let me now turn to “What IFAD has done in this area.”

    We did an analysis to identify the degree of involvement of IFAD in addressing the nexus between rural poverty and biodiversity. The analysis was based on IFAD-funded grants and loans.

    We found that 54 grants, for a total value of over USD 50 million, referred explicitly to biodiversity. Prominent partners included: Governments, CGIAR centres such as Bioversity International, ICRAF and CIAT, FAO, Oxfam, icipe, CSOs, and others.

    In terms of loans, 48 IFAD-funded investment projects, representing cumulatively over half a billion dollars, relate to biodiversity. Recently, we have supported government-led investment projects in Bolivia, China, Djibouti, Ecuador, Kenya, Laos and The Philippines.

    What did we learn?

    We learnt that farmers care about their biodiversity. Farmers are already voluntarily maintaining biodiversity on their farms. There are good reasons for doing so, including: (1) for risk management, to maximise stability against drought or pests and diseases; (2) for diversity of uses, including for different recipes; (3) in order to optimise factors of production, for example to balance labour, water or other input requirements such as fuel wood necessary for cooking; and (4) to smooth out irregular cash flow and food availability and access to cover the hunger season and address nutritional needs, for example by growing varieties with different maturities and nutritional values.

    We have noted the important role of cultural biodiversity too– for example, knowledge of medicinal plants or indigenous crops suited to the local climate - and we found thatlocal knowledge about biodiversity differs between women and men.

    IFAD firmly believes in conservation through sustainable utilization. We appreciate the value of biodiversity most when we can use it. We have also long recognized that poor rural people are important custodians of biodiversity and have found ingenious ways of conserving and utilizing it – for instance through sacred groves and community seed fairs. IFAD was the first UN agency to promoteNeglected and Underutilized Species– also known as promising crops for the future. These crops are produced and consumed locally and are therefore easily accessible to people in rural areas, where the largest proportion of malnourished people live. The promotion and commercialization of these products have important positive effects on incomes, food security, nutrition, health, local cultural identity and self-esteem – as well as conserving agro-biodiversity.

    At IFAD, we firmly believe in the importance of multi-stakeholder partnerships to improve the adaptability and adoptability of technologies co-generated by researchers, civil society and farmers alike. That is why we invest in participatory technology development.


    This brings me to our partnership with the Benefit-Sharing Fund of the International Treaty. As you know, the Benefit-sharing Fund is a mechanism to prioritize the conservation and use of biodiversity in addressing poverty reduction. IFAD supported the Benefit Sharing Fund, through the initiative “Leading the Field.” In identifying which of the projects IFAD would support, an important criterion was relevance to poverty reduction within the IFAD country programmes. This criterion was applied not only to help strengthen the ongoing IFAD-funded projects in the country, but also to enhance the potential for scaling up and broadening our national partnership base.


    Besides the funding provided to the projects under the Benefit Sharing Fund, we found that the International Treaty plays a fundamental role in influencing policy-makers at the international level. We believe that from a practical stance, inviting CSOs and NGOs to the discussions helps ensure that what is ratified at the international level, is then implemented locally – especially with regard to farmers’ rights.


    Through the various high-level events organized by the Secretariat of the International Treaty, the latter has played the role of a knowledge broker. Henry Ford once said “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” It is reassuring to note how effective the Secretariat has been in establishing a broad base of strong partners who are effectively working together. Moreover, we in IFAD were pleased to note that the International Treaty is increasingly ensuring that farmers will be directly involved in almost all aspects of the work.


    To conclude, let us recognise that people who live below the poverty line are wealthy when it comes to biodiversity and culture. We must support initiatives that celebrate and reward these rural communities for conserving this enormous wealth for us all. IFAD is an IFI firmly dedicated to rural poverty reduction. Our support to the International Treaty is also meant to signal to you, distinguished delegates, that this is an important initiative when it comes to sustainable rural development. Our funding alone , however, is insufficient - but we hope it can serve to catalyse additional support from other donors.


    At this point, on behalf of IFAD, I wish the International Treaty a happy 10 year anniversary. It is a young treaty, but as the saying goes, it's not the years in your life that count but the life in your years - and with its 131 contracting parties, there's certainly much life to celebrate.

    Thank you!

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    by Abdelhaq Hanafi

    Some 33 million people are estimated to be poor in Egypt, more than half of whom reside in rural areas whose main source of income and employment is derived from agriculture. A key sector in the Egyptian economy, agriculture provides livelihoods to 55% of the population, and directly employs about 30% of the labour force.


    © IFAD/Marco Salustro
    Sabah Hassan Aldin joins in the wheat
    threshing activities in Soliman village,
    West Noubaria
    Against this background, the current laws are crucial in enhancing the potential of the agricultural sector, like the law regulating cooperative systems. In a recent meeting with the Minister for Agriculture and Land Reclamation (MALR) of Egypt, IFAD learned that MALR made a proposal for changes in the law and reforms within Agricultural Cooperatives. The proposed changes to the current cooperative system seek to strengthen the institutional structures, enhance the governance of the cooperatives, and establish a special subsidiary body including an election board charged with overseeing board elections.

    During this meeting, Dr Adel El-Biltagy, the newly-appointed Minister of MALR recognized IFAD’s significant role in contributing to the reduction of rural poverty and enhancement of national food security in Egypt. Special mention was made with regards to state-of-the art technologies suited to Egypt’s context as well as research-related support providing right access to information. IFAD’s comparative advantage lies in continuing to work closely for and with smallholder farmers and rural entrepreneurs and their organizations in rural areas.


    ©IFAD/Taysir Al Ghanem
    In West Noubaria, Heinz provides
    farmers with seed and buys
    their tomatoes at an agreed price
    The Country Programme Manager for Egypt presented the findings of the design mission for the new IFAD-funded project in Egypt, entitled Sustainable Agriculture Investments and Livelihoods (SAIL).  The SAIL project is building on successes of the ongoing West Noubaria Rural Development Project, which has promoted settlement in lands reclaimed from the desert as well as the establishment of farmer marketing associations, and thus, for the first time made small farmers an attractive proposition for large exporters and processors in Europe and the Middle East. The new SAIL project is expected to reach some 280,000 people in the new settlements (in Lower, Middle and Upper Egypt) as well as provide support to the adjoining secondary areas related to the provision of social and economic services, especially for young people. The total project cost is estimated at approximately USD 90 million, of which USD 69.6 million will be financed by IFAD.

    © IFAD/Marco Salustro
    West Noubaria, sprinkler irrigation
    on a forage field.
    From 1980, IFAD has invested in eleven projects in Egypt valued at US$659.4 million (including 337 million in IFAD financing). Of these, seven have closed and four are ongoing. IFAD’s programme in Egypt has comprised two main themes and groups of activities: support for settlement in the new lands in Lower (northern) Egypt and support for productivity improvement in the old lands in the Nile valley and Upper Egypt.

    Funding through the Global Environment Facility is being explored with the Ministry of Environment of Egypt for an estimated value of US$ 7.5 million. In addition,  the Saudi Fund for Development has expressed an interest in granting an estimated US$ 20 million for the projects that focus on the use of small-scale renewable, solar energy.

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