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    By: Alessia Valentini

    Climate change, food insecurity and environmental disasters are inextricably linked to one another and strengthening resilience to climate change for farmers and communities is key to sustainability. This was the main message at today’s COP20 side event on Building Resilience to Climate Change and Managing Disaster Risks through Sustainable Agriculture.

    This event was co-organized by the World Farmers’ Organisation (WFO), Caritas International, the International Federation for Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

    Farmers and experts from international organizations and civil society, who directly experience the need for climate-resilient agriculture and risk management, presented best practices and proposed solutions to reduce climate change impacts on agriculture and food security. 

    “Now that the world has realized the importance of climate change and has developed an increased awareness towards this issue, we must understand where farmers stand, what their role is and how can we help them,” said moderator Adriana Opromolla, from Caritas International

    Mr Charles Ogang, President of the WFO in Kampala, said that Uganda has already felt the impacts of climate change in the form of different hazards that are effecting the entire value chain. In response the organization supports and promotes activities such as: fasting mature varieties; avoiding bush burning; managing water on a small scale; supplementing pastures; conserving agriculture; supporting crop insurance; promoting post-harvest management and introducing silo systems.

    The Latin American Office Co-ordinator for IFOAM, Ms Patricia Flores Escudero, stated that: “It is time for the voices of farmers to be heard”. The solution proposed by IFOAM was based on organic agriculture. She proposed a cleaner production system that does not harm the environment and combines traditional and modern technologies to improve the livelihood of those who participate in it. Organic agriculture promotes the health of soils, plants, animals and human beings and it has to be managed in a responsible manner in order to safeguard the health of future generations.

    Mr Jorge Lafosse, National Director of Caritas in Peru, believes that: “Adaptation is not a technical theme, it is a moral and ethical imperative”. Climate change effects are increasing in Peru with increased incidence of floods, droughts, diseases such as malaria and dengue, pests in agriculture and difficulty in water management because of the radical change in rain dynamics. “An immediate response to climate change problems is needed, in order to guarantee food security to farmers”. 

    The National Coordinator for Caritas in Brazil, Ms Jaime Conrado Oliveira, talked about the long experience that Caritas Brazil has with smallholder agriculture in the semi-arid regions of Brazil, where livelihoods are affected by climate change on an area of 980,000 Km2. Their experience has been disseminated through trainings targeted in particular to youth. “Technology needs to be accompanied by capacity building activities and sensitisation, that give information about the ecological specificities of the area and how these can be addressed”. 

    IFAD also believes that smallholders play an important role in the solution to climate change. Through its Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP), the world’s largest climate change adaptation programme, IFAD channels more than US$350 million to at least 8 million smallholder farmers.Smallholders are our clients and we work to build their resilience to climate-related shocks and stresses” said Ms Estibalitz Morrás Dimas, Portfolio Officer from IFAD’s Environment and Climate division. “Our objectives are to encourage better analysis of the climate risk and promote new technologies and new partnerships, in order to achieve development while preserving biological diversity”.

    Many interventions from the floor followed the presentations, leaving space to further discussions on important issues, such as: What is the definition of a climate smart agriculture? Are GMO seeds really climate smart? Where is the place of livestock when disasters struck? Are social changes like migration receiving enough attention? 

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    Written by Jessica Morgan

    The side event Increasing Resilience to Climate Change through Adoption of CSA Practices with a focus on Gender took place yesterday at COP20. It was joint hosted by CGIAR and Associated ANDES, and supported by the University of Missouri, BMZ, IFPRI and CCAFS.

    The side event discussed issues related to gender and resilience vis-a-vis climate-smart agriculture. These issues were raised through looking at existing programmes and initiative results from Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. IFPRI

    There was a great emphasis on Peruvian small farmers in the Andes and the increasing daily struggles they are experiencing. A representative from Parque de la Papa (Potato Park) in Cusco talked about the Sierra communities and the challenges they are facing due to climate change. The main concern is that because of rising average temperatures they have had to grow potatoes at a higher altitude each year. It has risen from 3,400m above sea level to 4,000m. 

    Climate change is also spreading crop diseases, increasing women's workloads, causing landslides due to glacier melt and increasing extreme weather events. This means that the communities can no longer count on the traditional weather knowledge.

    These issues are only going to proliferate in coming years. The speakers at this event discussed that while we are closer to understanding the challenges faced by indigenous peoples and small farmers, finding solutions to their problems has only just begun. 

    When designing climate smart projects care needs to be taken to incorporate indigenous cultures into the design. Initiatives that involve local people and their culture are more successful, more sustainable are more likely engender climate smart practices.

    IFAD's Adaptation for Smallholder Farmers Programme (ASAP) aims to do just this. The programme is working in more than thirty developing countries, using climate finance to make rural development programmes more climate-resilient.

    For example, in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam, IFAD has launched an initiative specifically targeting ethnic minority and women-headed households. The project implements climate-resilient agricultural systems, and diversification of industries, such as shrimp farming. There is also an early warning system to inform small farmers of any imminent weather changes and saline encroachment up the Mekong river. IFAD ensured that each farmer had the means to access such information easily and within a responsive timeframe. Crucially this programme was set up without altering their cultural way of life, recognising local knowledge. 

    IFAD's Smallholder Advantage Report was launched yesterday detailing the projects that IFAD's ASAP has funded. The success of its projects shows how important climate change adaptation is for smallholder farmers and indigenous peoples. This report and this event, confirm that consideration of local contexts and specific needs are vital in project design. 

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    Data, knowledge management and innovation for climate action was the topic of a panel discussion today at COP20 in Lima. With a broad panel of speakers (see full list below), this dialogue represented an opportunity to demonstrate unity across the veritable pantheon of United Nations organizations, which are all involved in collecting data to achieve the key tenets of the sustainable development and climate change agendas. 

    The audience heard experiences from a diverse set of initiatives, from research on ocean acidification (UNESCO), to conserving environmentally sensitive peat forests (UNORCID), to qualitative surveys using a multidimensional poverty tool (IFAD). Researchers and development practitioners alike recognized the role of not only environmental, but also social and demographic data in structuring effective climate action.

    Panellists also accepted the enormous potential of “big data” to paint a more accurate picture of conditions on the ground. For example, since there are multiple factors that affect household vulnerability to climate change, it is greatly beneficial to have access to a variety of data sources that reveal local climate risk, and predict how households are likely to react to those risks. Geospatial and remote sensing data, census data, mobile phone data, data on human migration flows and even crowd sourced data are conducive to understanding vulnerability. 

    Of course, it is not only about data collection, but how it is interpreted and applied, which lead to more informed decision making. There are no perfect models, but by choosing the appropriate parameters in the right settings, we are better able than ever before to refine raw information into practicable knowledge. 

    Several members of the audience rightly questioned whether so many centres of data collection have led to fragmentation of efforts with no real added value. Indeed, panellists considered this a legitimate concern, but advocated in favour of standing partnerships between UN agencies, and more open source data on global public goods such as oceans, forests and river deltas. Lastly, it was generally agreed that international forums such as the UN’s COP20 are instrumental to ensuring that knowledge (which is gleaned from data) influences policy. 

    List of Participants:

    Pradeep Monga - UNIDO
    Daniel Schensul - UNFPA
    Satya S. Tripathi - UNORCID
    Jukka Uosukainen - CTCN
    Koko Warner - UNU
    Ilaria Firmian - IFAD
    Phillip Williamson - UNESCO

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    Written by Jessica Morgan

    "Our objective is to manage forests sustainably while also supporting local communities' adaptation to climate change," said Jaime Guillermo Nalvarte Armas from Asociación para la Investigación y Desarrollo Integral (AIDER) Perú.

    Speaking at a side event on Indigenous peoples: Mitigation and adaptation in practice in Amazonia he was joined by representatives from Confederación de Nacionalidades Amazónicas del Perú (CONAP) and Fundación amigos de la naturaleza (FAN) Bolivia. 

    Climate change is threatening the Amazon rainforest causing rising temperatures and decreased rainfall. Precipitation has fallen by 10 percent since 1985. These issues are in turn causing more problems leading to flash floods, unreliable seasons and increased chances of forest fires. This is a huge issue for local people as floods and fires damage vast areas of forest affecting their sources of food and income. 

    Armas explained that AIDER manages community forests, negotiation the territorial rights of indigenous peoples, manages environmental services, and integrates institutional policies and local knowledge to create adaptation and mitigation strategies. 

    AIDER works with indigenous Amazonian communities so they can better provide food and income for their families in a changing climate. Simultaneously these projects will manage the forests sustainably and conserve biodiversity.

    A pilot project running in the Esta community in the Ucayali region in the Amazon is showing promising results. The Peruvian government has recognised the community's property rights which is the first step to deterring illegal loggers from the area. Building a school for training and introduction of low-impact technology has resulted in an increase of food and monetary income for the 300 residents. This increase means the community can better manage its natural resources and live in harmony with the environment. 

    AIDER and CONAP believe that through projects like these conserve the Amazon rainforest. IFAD’s Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme is also working with small farmers and indigenous peoples to protect their environment for future generations.

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    IFAD's Gernot Laganda (left) and Juan de Dios Mattos at
    a 3 December press conference in Lima.
    Interview by Alessia Valentini

    Just ahead of the halfway point in negotiations at the 20th Conference of Parties (COP20) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Lima, Peru, we talk to Gernot Laganda, who is heading up IFAD's delegation, to ask him some questions on developments at the conference. Laganda is Lead Technical Specialist in IFAD's Environment and Climate Division.

    Q: COP20 is the foremost and final opportunity for nations to draft an agreement on climate change before a definitive commitment at the next UN climate summit in Paris, in 2015. What is the general feeling at COP this year and how are negotiations progressing?

    A: I believe there is a unanimous agreement that the hope for Paris should not be so high. There are reasons to be more optimistic, especially after the agreement between China and the United States on reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. However, we will not likely be able to manage these emission reductions in order to remain below the 2 degrees Celsius threshold. We are locked into a future that is at least 2 degrees warmer and we cannot rely on international negotiations to keep us below that threshold. Paris will not be that turning point that everybody wants it to be, but we are definitely taking a good step in the right direction.

    Q: The COP President said at this year’s opening speech that last year's Warsaw climate summit will be remembered as the COP where all Parties made the process transparent and laid solid foundations for the new agreement. After that, the process moved on, and it was a very busy year marked by some significant landmarks, such as the UN Secretary-General's Climate Summit, which had the largest number of leaders in history pledging action to fight climate change. Secretary-General Ban Ki­-moon himself praised us for building the foundations of the new agreement. Where does that leave us now?

    A: I would say that the sense of urgency has definitely increased in the past year. This happened mainly because many countries are now experiencing climate change in their own front yard. Droughts, floods and storms are occurring [more frequently] even in countries that hadn’t experienced this before, such as the United States. There is political awareness and a realization that we have the technologies in place to make a difference. However, the economic interests linked to issues such as fossil fuels, do not make the process easier.

    Q: Is Agriculture being discussed at COP20?

    A: So far, agriculture has not been on the agenda, which shows how this issue is still a “hot potato” as agriculture is on one side a contributor to climate change and on the other side a sector that is highly affected by it. Many delegates here would like to see agriculture being discussed from an adaptation angle and we in IFAD strongly agree, as we support climate-smart agriculture and would like to see the COP go in this same direction.

    Q: What is the key message you would like to send out at COP20?

    A: The message that IFAD has been promoting for a long time in the context of the climate negotiations is that if we want to solve the problem of climate change, we must not forget about smallholder farmers. They are very closely linked to the ecosystems that we need to protect, to the value chains that produce income for national economies, and to the possibility of reducing the carbon footprint of agriculture. Smallholder farmers are an important part of the solution to climate change as they can help us transform the agriculture system in a climate-smart way with higher productivity, higher resilience and lower carbon footprint.

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    Written by Juan De Dios Mattos

    It is warm in Lima, warmer than I thought it would be. But the weather seems to be helping to get people in groups to talk about climate change and adaptation. Friday was very good in terms of meetings and engaging participants to discuss with them on IFAD and its Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme. Several people stopped at the IFAD booth to request information about what we do and how we do it. Because it gets a bit hot inside building G (where IFAD’s booth is), most meetings are done outside. Getting a chair or a table is sometimes challenging.

    One of the topics we discussed today is how food consumption is related to climate change, and specifically, to climate change adaptation. It seems that food consumption, which is viewed mostly as an urban issue is somehow disconnected from the discussion of adaptation of smallholder farmers. As urban areas grow, demand for food will change. Food production and storage will need also to adapt to this new scenario. Will small farmers need to change what they produce or how they do it to adapt to this change? How will climate change influence food demand? IFAD will need to evaluate these future scenarios to provide the funding and technical assistance to governments and producers in a consistent and efficient way. 

    The UNFCCC’s COP20 in Lima, and of course, the side events, help people to be in the same place to talk about the same thing. But at the same time, when attending the side events or the discussions in general, it feels like we are talking about everything and trying to discuss all possible angles and possible alternatives. Although discussing those issues is important, there is the risk of losing focus and momentum. Luckily, it seems that small farmers and agriculture in general is gaining space in the discussion. 

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    Written by Jessica Morgan

    “Food is a human right, but there are more hungry people now than at any time in history” says ActionAid International (AAI).

    AAI along with ActionAid Bangladesh (AAB) say that climate change is threatening food production for small farmers in developing countries, leading to serious food access problems for many indigenous communities. 

    By securing access to education for children and adults AAB hopes that food security can be improved for these communities. As part of this it’s developing partnerships with local communities and training partner organizations. According to AAB, food insecurity is fast becoming one of the most pressing issues it has to face. 

    North-west Bangladesh is one of the most hunger-prone regions of the country. Due to increased flooding, only one crop per year can be planted leading to food shortages and malnutrition. AAB explains that it is working to increase the food rights for the people and empower these communities to adapt to climate change independently. 

    It does this training in new technology and  climate-resilient crops, while stressing the importance of biodiversity and paying people for productive time lost when they take the trainings. 

    IFAD's Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme is also working with small farmers and indigenous peoples to empower communities, adapt to climate change and address food insecurity. 

    COP20 runs until 12 December in Lima, Peru. IFAD is working throughout the conference. Keep up to date with our Twitter and read more about our events.

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    written by Alessia Valentini

    It’s day  five at the UNFCCC’s COP20 in Lima, Peru, and agriculture was being discussed at the Sustainable production and consumption joint side event, where the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) was one of the key speakers.

    The UN reports that one third of food for human consumption is wasted each year, due to trends in consumption and production. These unsustainable patterns are thought to be one of the major cause of the continued deterioration of the global environment.

    The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) presented their Sustainable Food Systems Programme (SFSP) which is a unique collaboration between leading intergovernmental agencies in the areas of food, agriculture and environment. Its objective is to improve resource use efficiency and reduce the pollution intensity of food systems from production to consumption, while at the same time addressing issues of food and nutrition security. 

    “Waste and lack of food resources do not happen accidently, they are the result of how systems are organized. We need to involve all stakeholders, recognize the diversity in which we work and  most importantly engage all actors in the decisions, including governments, the private sector and civil society,” said FAO’s Alexandre Meybeck.

    In Latin America current consumption patterns, especially gasoline consumption for transportation, are not sustainable according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (UNECLAC), and are contributing to climate change at a global level. 
    At the community level IFAD is trying to increase productivity, while at the same time reaching global targets for adaptation, by supporting more efficient production system. IFAD’s Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme(ASAP) is contributing  to more sustainable production by focusing on smallholder farmers, providing them with the tools and information they need to reduce losses related to climate risk. 

    The Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV) supports households by promoting clean and sustainable cooking solutions. So far they have helped 600,000 families switch to biogas as a source of domestic power for cooking. This has resulted in health improvements through less accidents and toxic fumes, increased access to power and conservation of biomass. 

    According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) efficiency improvements can be obtained through cooperation in the workplace. This can take various forms, such as information sharing, direct or indirect consultation, and financial participation. Investing in strategies to improve workplace relations through cooperative means can promote innovation, improve flexibility and facilitate change. It can increase enterprise productivity, efficiency and competitiveness, and lead to more job satisfaction and better wages and working conditions for workers. ILO cited a case from the hotel industry in Thailand and in the Philippines where there was an an 18 percent reduction of laundry expenses, a 30 percent cut in energy use and a 40 percent reduction in food waste.

    The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) also works to ensure resource efficiency and cleaner production. It aims for lower carbon industrial development through increasing  process efficiency, minimizing  process emissions and switching to low-carbon inputs. All of this will help increase industrial efficiency.

    A rich Q&A session followed the presentations, with interesting observations from the audience. The general opinion was that the main cause of waste, both at the production and consumption level, is in the way cities are organized and in our lifestyles. If we want to see some progress we must modify our behaviour and remember that we are all actors of change.

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    Addressing Risk, Financing Resilience was a rare, candid discussion held at COP20 in Lima today, where panellists elevated their rhetoric to have a genuine discussion on the challenging issues surrounding how to raise more climate finance for initiatives that are critical to building resilience for smallholder farmers.

    Yamil Bonduki of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) led off the talks by raising the importance of attracting diverse sources of finance in support of national low-emission strategies and sustainable development priorities. His work with the low-emission capacity building programme looks at how to incentivize the private sector to get involved with mitigation and adaptation activities by developing bankable, risk for return investment opportunities.  

    Pablo Ramirez of Starbucks brought a private sector perspective into the discussions. With over 21,000 stores worldwide, there are enormous pressures on the supply chain to source their brand of specialty coffee, he stated. He referenced a CIAT study on the Colombia coffee sector, which forecasts that a 1.5 degree rise in temperature would wipe out 65-70 percent of coffee production by 2050 if nothing is done to adapt production methods.

    In response they are implementing pilot projects to engage their coffee exporters as direct lenders to smallholders, enabling them to offer low interest rate loans so that their producers can afford to invest in climate-smart techniques. Furthermore, the pilot relies on a robust extension system, with over four visits to small farms a year. In this way producers get used to communicating with extension agents as well as making regular payments on their loans. This approach enables them to run their farms as effective small enterprises.

    Speaking on what’s needed for country level readiness for climate finance, IFAD’s Gernot Laganda explained that in small-scale agriculture, the technologies to adapt to climate change are generally known, however due to barriers such public policy disincentives, lack of commercial lending, political economy and elite capture, these technologies often do not take hold.

    Kathryn Milliken of the UN’s World Food Programme stated that many smallholders critically lack access to risk financing instruments such as insurance products that can help them cope when extreme climate events do occur. The R4 Rural Resilience Initiative is another pilot intended to help meet smallholder demand for insurance, structured so that beneficiaries can purchase policies by contributing their labour toward climate-smart infrastructure works, such as water harvesting tanks, cisterns and roads.

    Panellists were challenged to provide a framework for moving from innovative pilots like the ones described, to large scale implementation, which is often a constraining factor that precludes projects from achieving sustainable results. Here each speaker offered pragmatic solutions; always pivoting from real-world barriers to solutions. Laganda identified several scale mechanisms that are being leveraged by IFAD’s Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP). 

    These include using climate finance to 1) influence public policy processes; 2) produce partnership spaces between government ministries and national meteorological services ; 3) crowd in commercial lending; 4) create new financial spaces such as small funds at the community level; and 5) build human capital through farmer field schools and other learning institutions. If we keep piloting without thinking about how to achieve scale, then we will not be able to affect lasting change, he said. 

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    Written by Jessica Morgan

    "The Global Landscapes Forum is a platform where we can interact with different stakeholders and also learn about the way they see this movement," said Juan De Mattos, IFAD’s Regional Climate and Environment Specialist for Latin America and the Caribbean.

    Today is the first day of the 2014 Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) which takes place over the weekend outside the main UN climate summit agenda here in Lima, Peru.
    It explores the role of sustainable landscapes in the new climate and development agenda. Topics such as agriculture in a new climate regime, land use, climate resilience, vulnerability and climate-smart agriculture are major topics for the GLF. 

    IFAD is very interested in the issues being raised and the different stakeholders participating at this event. Representing IFAD at the GLF were Estibalitz Dimas Morras and Juan De Dios Mattos:

    Q: Why is the GLF an important event for IFAD?

    JDM:I think it's important for IFAD to participate because lots of grass roots organisations, communities, indigenous groups, producers and local NGOs are all taking part. It's kind of a different angle for the climate conversation and negotiations than we have at COP20. Here is a platform where we can interact with different stakeholders and also learn about the way they see this movement. I guess we can learn more about what has been going on in different parts of the world. This event is important for us because we need to know and differentiate different players and groups and target our projects and research towards the right people. 

    Q: So what is IFAD actively doing at this event?

    JDM:We want to share our knowledge and projects with other agencies. At this event we are going to distribute our materials, with a focus on IFAD's Adaptation for smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP. We will explain to participants what our goals are and the growing needs of smallholder farmers for climate change adaptation. There's a lot going on here for IFAD. 

    Q: Building from Juan's answer, what do you think IFAD can share at this event?

    EDM:I think this event can give us a space to connect with participants of many different communities and local and regional governments. What IFAD can share is its ASAP programme and its knowledge for smallholder farmers adaptation strategies. There are many organisations here that are working at a community level so I think the ASAP programmes will have a lot of relevance for them.

    Q: So what can IFAD take from this event back to Rome?

    JDM: Contacts and relationships built at this event. I think we can take these back to Rome and continue working with them. It's difficult of course to see and forecast how it's going to work out in the future, but I think we're closer to relationships with more local NGOs and grassroots organisations. As we continue working with small farmers and climate change adaptation it is essential to have good partners and this Forum and ones like it can help us identify them. 

    COP20 runs until 12 December in Lima, Peru. IFAD is working throughout the conference. Keep up to date with our Twitter and read more about IFAD’s events taking place at COP20 in Lima.

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    Written by Francesco Farnè

    On the eve of World Soil Day and its celebration through events in Bangkok, Rome and Santiago, The Guardian published Sir Gordon Conway's think piece Soil isn’t sexy- but it could explain hunger in Africa

    This was probably the most engaging way to introduce a topic that will be at the top of the global agenda in 2015 considering that the UN 68th General Assembly declared 2015 the International Year of Soil. 

    On 4 December, the Montpellier Panel launched its 2014 report, No Ordinary Matter: conserving, restoring and enhancing Africa’s soils, at IFAD headquarters in Rome. For those who may not be familiar with this body - The Montpellier Panel is a group of African and European experts in the fields of agriculture, trade, ecology and global development. The Panel's goal is to provide the necessary support to realize agricultural development and food security priorities in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

    The event brought together Sir Gordon Conway, Professor of International Development and Agriculture for impact at Imperial College, London, and Chair of the Montpellier Panel; IFAD President, Kanayo F. Nwanze; Camilla Toulmin, Deputy Chair of the Montpellier Panel and director of the international Institute for Environment and Development (IIED); David Radcliff, Senior Advisor for Agricultural Research for Development at DG Development and Cooperation, European Commission; and Henri Carsalade, Chairman of Agropolis Foundation Board of Directors.

    President Nwanze introduced the topic underscoring importance of soil for Africa. He pointed out that soil depletion is a threat to farmers, food security and biodiversity. He reminded the audience that most of the rural people and smallholder farmers live in and cultivate land that has low quality soil.

    After Dr Nwanze's introduction, Sir Gordon and his colleagues presented the Montpellier Panel report. 

    The research underpinning the report shows that almost 65% of arable land, 30% of grazing land and 20% of the forests in Africa are already damaged. This has huge economic costs, estimated to be more than $68 billion per year.

    Moreover, the report highlighted that soil depletion is strongly interconnected with climate change, as it contributes to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, thus advocating to make sustainable soil management a global priority.

    In conclusion, the panellists put on the table a number of policy suggestions and recommendations:

    Firstly, investments in sustainable soil management practices are crucial to Africa’s future. Financial support by donors and governments to R&D/innovation programs can really make the difference. 

    Secondly, secure land rights are a basic condition for good land management. Land ownership can be an incentive for farmers to keep soil healthy. 

    Thirdly, introducing soil evaluation methods is necessary to quantify the costs of land degradation. 

    Lastly, it is important to embrace Integrated Soil Management (ISM). ISM aims at integrating green agricultural practices with a selective and targeted use of inputs.

    This is just the first step towards the recognition of soil as a global priority. And hopefully, the International Year of Soil 2015 will open the way to addressing the issue of soil depletion in Africa. 

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    Written by Harriet Kim

    In 2012, the IFAD-WFP Weather Risk Management Facility (WRMF) launched an innovative project to develop satellite-based solutions for index insurance to benefit smallholder farmers. On the 1st and 2nd December 2014, key experts and leading institutions from the project’s Evaluation Committee were invited to come together for the first time. The two-day workshop provided a platform for productive discussion on the main findings from the project so far, challenges, opportunities, and next steps.

    IFAD-WFP Weather Risk Management Facility and project objectives:

    WRMF began in 2008 to conduct research, build capacity, and implement initiatives to improve risk management innovations to foster agricultural development and enhance resilience against production risks, including climate shocks.

    Index insurance is a particular risk management tool that can play a part in a holistic approach for smallholder farmers in agricultural development, food security, and disaster risk management interventions.

    The AFD funded project – remote sensing for index insurance, running until 2016 - is trying to find solutions to one of the main constraints identified in index insurance: the lack of good quality, on-the-ground weather and yield data. Insufficient data results in poor product quality; consequently, farmers risk not being compensated for losses, increasing their vulnerability and causing them to lose trust in the insurance sector. Historical and near real time data are necessary to construct the index, design and price the product, and understand when it is triggered and compensation should be paid. Consequently, the project focuses on remote sensing innovations for capturing yield loss that could then be used in insurance schemes that best fit the specific micro-level needs of smallholder farmers.

    Three different types of remote sensing innovations are being developed, tested, validated and evaluated in the project:

    1.     Index insurance products which capture yield loss, are being tested based on a range of different approaches from those based on vegetation indices, to estimations of evapotranspiration, soil moisture, or rainfall.

    2.     Crop maps created from radar satellite imagery are being developed to try and distinguish homogenous crop areas and growth patterns, as well as identify different crops in smallholder areas.

    Start of season indicators are being used as a first indicator for crop development success or failure to monitor crop yields and vegetation.

    Based in Senegal, there are four geographic areas of focus for the project which differ in rainfall pattern, levels of agricultural production, and risk profile. The remote sensing partners develop an index for the key smallholder crops (maize, groundnut and millet) in each area of operation.  At the same time, ground monitoring of crops is undertaken to validate accuracy and build a more detailed picture about the risks and constraints faced by the smallholders.

    Partners in the WRMF project:

    The project unites a wide range of different actors working in remote sensing, index insurance, aid and development, and agricultural research to develop, test, validate, and evaluate the remotely-sensed indexes and other products developed. Project partners include:

    Remote sensing: VITO, together with EARS, FEWS NET, GeoVille,  IRI for Climate and Society, ITC – University of Twente, and sarmap;

    Crop monitoring: ISRA together with experts from CIRAD and CERAAS;

    Project evaluation committee: reinsurers (Munich Re and Swiss Re), space agencies (NASA, Italian Space Agency - ASI, European Space Agency), index insurance actors (GIIF, I4, PlaNet Guarantee), in-country experts (CSE, CIRAD/CERAAS, ISRA), and remote sensing experts (FAO, JRC, WFP, Technical University of Denmark).

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    Written by Alessia Valentini

    On the edge of UNFCCC’s COP 20 in Lima, Peru, the Development and Climate days(DCD)took place this weekend. This two-day event was co-organized by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre (RCCC).

    Participants were invited to share ideas and better understand how the climate and poverty agendas can be best connected. Participants  at the DCC sent a clear message to the COP20 negotiators that they should be aiming for zero extreme poverty and zero net emissions within a generation. 

    At the Lightening talks: What is our vision for achieving zero extreme poverty and zero net emissions, theparticipants were divided into small groups to cover a range of  sectors including agriculture, education, health, youth, water management, climate security and media communications. 

    The group discussing climate-smart agriculture was led by Tinashe Chavhunduka, a farmer representing the World  Farmers Organization (WFO), who’s  participation in the COP20 was supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)

    “I am really enjoying  the DCD because they manage to bring together different voices  from civil society, that are not represented at the COP negotiations, and we in IFAD strongly support this,” said Ilaria Firmian from IFAD’s Environment and Climate Division. 
    IFAD is strongly committed to climate change adaptation for smallholder farmers and believes they are a very important part of the solution to the problem of climate change, even though they are often overlooked in global and national policy debates. 

    Through its Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme(ASAP) IFAD supports smallholders and provides them with theinformation, tools andtechnologies thathelpsbuildtheirresilience toclimatechange. 

    The main message conveyed at the DCD was that the actions of reducing emissions and eradicating poverty are strictly linked to one another, and both require radical transformation. 
    CDKN’s Sam Bickersteth) said: “We need to aim higher to reach our target. We can’t be in a business as usual stage any longer.” 

    Yolanda Kakabadse, President of WWF International, echoed his message, adding: “Perhaps we should be talking about climate crisis and not climate change. We do not have a choice. No water, no clean air, no biodiversity, no life”.  

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    para Estibalitz Morras Dimas

    “En esta COP20 es necesario considerar el tema de la adaptación, es fundamental  llevar a los grupos humanos más vulnerables a la resiliencia. Si estuvo en manos del hombre el origen de los problemas, también está en las manos del hombre la solución” - Con estas y otros afirmaciones el Sr. Manuel Pulgar – Vidal, Ministro del Ambiente de Perú y Presidente de la COP informaba sobre el avance de las negociaciones COP20/CMP10 a la Reunión Parlamentaria que tuvo lugar en el Congreso de la República (Lima) con ocasión de la Conferencia de NNUU sobre el Cambio Climático en la mañana del lunes 8 de Diciembre. 

    Representantes parlamentarios nacionales de más de 40 Países, así como organismos observadores (incluidos representantes de Naciones Unidas, Parlamento Europeo, Parlamento Andino y de la Comunidad Económica de los Estados de África Occidental), recalcaron un unánime acuerdo de que es tiempo de pasar a la acción, ya se ha fallado en ocasiones anteriores y aunque los efectos del cambio climático tendrán repercusión en todo el planeta, serán los más vulnerables los que se lleven la peor parte. 

    No se trata de una cuestión de solidaridad, sino de un compromiso político – es crucial que se discuta sobre las oportunidades económicas de lo que actualmente nos está costando “no hacer nada”. El medio ambiente no se valora en términos reales, puesto que generalmente no se trabaja para producirlo sino para extraerlo, preguntémoslo: ¿cuánto cuesta no hacer nada? – en algunos países la inadecuada gestión de los recursos naturales y los efectos del cambio climático pueden afectar hasta un 7% del PIB anual. 

    La Reunión Parlamentaria adoptó un breve documento, preparado por el Relator Sr. Sergio Tejada teniendo en cuenta las diferentes aportaciones, que entre otros concluye:

    La urgente necesidad de respaldar los esfuerzos de los países en desarrollo, en particular de los más vulnerables, como los pequeños Estados insulares en desarrollo, los países de África y los países menos adelantados, para ejecutar sus planes de adaptación. Por tanto, reconocemos que es preciso encontrar un equilibrio entre adaptación y mitigación. También es necesario actuar con resolución para aplicar los compromisos de apoyo a los planes y medidas para la adaptación en los países más vulnerables al cambio climático. Instamos a los gobiernos a que asignen prioridad a la revisión y verificación del apoyo para la adaptación, a la supervisión de los riesgos y a la aplicación de medidas destinadas a mejorar la resiliencia para afrontar las consecuencias del cambio climático. 

    Parece ser que el FIDA va por buen camino aunque todavía quede mucho por recorrer. Por el momento a través del Programa de Adaptación para la Agricultura en Pequeña Escala se tiene la meta de apoyar por lo menos 40 procesos de dialogo (nacionales o internacionales) que promuevan la adaptación en países como Bolivia ( a través de planificación participativa a nivel municipal) , Nicaragua (mesa de Cambio Climático), Yibuti ( Código de Conducta para la Pesca y la Acuicultura Responsable) o Bangladesh  ( Dialogo político sobre el fortalecimiento de la Resiliencia Comunitaria). 

    Queda todavía una semana donde vendrá la parte más dura de las negociaciones sobre el financiamiento mundial para hacer frente al Cambio Climático. Se estima que el 95% de los fondos, sean públicos o privados se vienen usando en mitigación. Sin embargo en el tema de adaptación, los países desarrollados están corriendo más rápido con fondos propios – es necesario aumentar la contribución en adaptación a los países más vulnerables. Para esta semana, entre otras quedan importantes preguntas en el tintero: ¿Qué países deben ser los financiadores? ¿Qué se financiará?  Mantengámonos atentos, el debate sigue abierto. 

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    By  Marian Amaka Odenigbo

    Ever wondered how pastoralists earn their livelihoods and make a living?

    In October 2014, while on a supervision and implementation support mission to the IFAD-funded Smallholder Agribusiness Production Programme (SAPP) in  Zambia, I was told that pastoralists used to bring their animals and spend between two-four days along the highway to Lusaka waiting  for potential buyers.

    In these cases, typically  livestock is transported  for sale in pickup vehicles which have  poor loading and unloading facilities. The lack of appropriate infrastructure increases the  risk of animals escaping and potentially being injured. Furthermore, when the animals escapes, there is also risk of road accidents.

    The IFAD-funded projects and programmes in Zambia are addressing these types of  challenges and constraints faced by small-scale farmers through a value chain development approach.

    A value chain development approach links all the various steps required to get the product from the farmer to the consumer. In doing so it addresses the opportunities and constraints faced by all actors in the food supply chain and attempts to improve the final product and commodity.

    SAPP is a  joint Government of Zambia and  IFAD-supported value chain development programme which focuses on transforming subsistence farmers to business-oriented farmers.

    Smallholder  farmers in this programme are engaged in various commodities including; small-livestock, beef, groundnuts, common beans, cassava, aquaculture and rice.

    New marketing pen constructed in Lusaka through SAPP matching grant
    The programme has  intervention plans addressing key weaknesses to create an enabling environment for rural commercial development. These interventions include organizing, smallholder farmers in groups and cooperatives and connecting them to input suppliers and local private sector outlets. Furthermore, it is providing  the necessary infrastructure such as facilities for collective marketing, ramps for loading and unloading livestock, post-harvest processing, thus adding value to the final products and commodities.

    The mission visited the  Munyenze livestock Service Center in Monze District. This livestock service center has a standard ramp, weighing scale, functional bore hole with a regular veterinary services and disseminates technical information to the smallholder producers.
    Input supply shop in Lusaka small-livestock market
    established through SAPP matching grant

    Its operation is focused on transparent and improved market for cattle, collection and storage of milk from farmers on a daily basis with deliveries to the main depot every second day.

    Esther Hatwiko, a female beneficiary rearing five cattle expressed appreciation for SAPP intervention in her business.

    "The availability of veterinary services  saves me time and transportation costs. Now I no longer need to travel  great distances in search of such services", said Hatwiko.

    During our mission, we were able to observe the routine information dissemination activity at the centre which constitutes an entry point to raise awareness on nutrition-related issues.

    The beef value chain has great potentials for  nutrition mainstreaming. For example, the beef Intervention Plan includes a consumer awareness campaign to educate consumers about quality and different cuts of meat. This activity helps consumers be updated on meat storage and refrigeration norms while providing advice on high-nutrition recipes.

    Small Livestock Association of Zambia located in Lusaka constructed a market point that includes selling pens for pigs, goats, sheep and chicken with certified disease free and abattoir assurance. Health measures in place at this center include monthly medical check on abattoir workers and acceptance of only certified disease free animals in the market points.

    Animal pens in Lusaka small-livestock market  
    Simukonda Branda a chicken seller expressed her appreciation for the increase in  income  from trade at the market point. "My previous trade of kapenta (dried fish) generated 50-70 kwacha on daily basis but now I make 200-400 kwacha by buying and selling chicken at this center", said Branda. “Before I used to walk about 3-4 km in search of chicken to buy and sell and often came back without finding any ".

    "By doing business in this center I  save on transportation costs, avoid the stress of being stopped at veterinary check points and have the assurance of actually selling my product", added Branda.

    Mutuna Shadrech, another smallholder producer, estimated that his income from sale of pig increased  from 400 to 600 kwacha. “By bringing my animals for sale to this center, I gain knowledge from the technical training sessions, get useful information and learn from other farmer experiences”, said Shadrech.

    In transforming farmers from subsistence to business-oriented , IFAD-funded SAPP has  proven to be a  pathway for nutrition mainstreaming.

    Moore Beef

    Moore Beef, a Zambian based private sector whose core business is to supply fresh meat (beef, pig, sheep and goat meat) to the Pick & Pay supermarket in Lusaka has offered to partner  with SAPP and train Zambian smallholder herders on breeding high quality livestock heads.
    Moore Beef’s  abattoir in Choma district provides a secure market, as the private company has enough demand to regularly buy livestock. “Partnering with Moore Beef would allow the project beneficiaries to count on a secure income and save at least four days of travel per month”, says Abla Benhammouche, IFAD representative in Zambia. This demonstrates a win-win situation for the smallholder farmers and the private sector.

    The MoreBeef intervention aims to reach out to over 10,000 smallholder herders and producers. This linkage is geared towards production and processing of high quality livestock and nutritious meat products.

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    At the COP20 UN climate summit. ©IFAD

    Written by Chris Neglia

    The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in Article 2, clearly identifies the importance of achieving food security under a changing climate. At a Davos-style discussion at COP20 in Lima, a panel of experts presented their views on how this goal could be met.

    Julie Lennox of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) reminded the audience that when referring to food security, we are not just talking about agriculture, but the entire mosaic of rural land use that humans rely on for the provision of sufficient, safe and nutritious food. When working to achieve global food security, she urged the UNFCCC process to look beyond agricultural sectors and take a system-wide view – likening the scope of change needed in food production to the industrial revolution that transformed Europe in the late 19th century.

    IFAD’s Gernot Laganda warned of potential tipping points that could seriously challenge food systems in developing countries without a strong commitment to climate adaptation by the international community. Similarly, Alexandre Meybeck of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) stated that while no more than a 2 degree Celsius rise in the global average temperature is the goal set by the Convention, this also translates to a 4 degree rise on continents and upwards of a 6 degree rise in arid environments. Under these conditions, it is hard to imagine how small farms can be self-sufficient in many of the most vulnerable areas, he said.

    Despite the dire forecasts, the panellists advocated for strong collaboration and partnerships involving the public and private sector actors, centred around smallholder farmers who must be the agents of change in the shift toward a more sustainable food paradigm.

    Jethro Greene, Chief Coordinator of the Caribbean Farmers Network and also affiliated with the World Farmers Organization, said that although smallholders practice some of the most efficient farming methods, they are often stigmatized as unproductive or merely recipients of handouts.

    “Smallholders are entrepreneurs,” said Greene, “and they need support in order to cluster into more powerful economic groups.”

    This model is already working in the Caribbean, where the private sector prefers to source food products from small, local producers. But smallholders need to be seen as small businesses to be attractive to large buyers.

    Greene challenged the Rome-based UN food and agriculture agencies to come out of their silos and bring smallholder solutions to large financiers (eliciting great applause from the audience).

    Richard Choularton of the World Food Programme (WFP) acknowledged the tendency for project planning and financial rules to be inflexible once set. However, he said, WFP addresses this challenge by setting project design at the local level.

    Meybeck of FAO also referred to fora that bring together multiple stakeholders such as the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture, where the Rome-based agencies strive to respond to climate and environment problems as one entity.

    The face-off between panellists made for a lively discussion, with quality interventions from the floor. When Thomson Reuters’ Alexander Doyle, who moderated the event, asked whether Greene was satisfied with the responses given by the Rome-based agencies, he simply smiled and said, “It’s a start.” 

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    By Anura Herath

    I have had the “golden opportunity” to listen to a great keynote speech delivered by Professor M S Swaminathan, one of the world authorities in rice breeding research. He spoke at the Regional Workshop organised by IFAD’s Asia and the Pacific Division in Siem Reap, Cambodia on 2 - 4 December 2014. The theme of the workshop was “Transforming Rural Areas: Strategic Visions for Asia and the Pacific”. The workshop was opened by His Excellency the Prime Minister HE Hun Sen of the Royal Government of Cambodia.

    Professor Swaminathan shared the wealth of his experiences that span over a period of six decades. Many elements resonated with me as potential solutions to key challenges of transforming rural areas. Hun Sen touched on all of the key challenges .

    Professor Swaminathan delivering key note address at the Asia and Pacific Regional Workshop in Siem Reap, Cambodia.  ©IFAD/Kimlong Meng

    The greatest challenge as both orators eloquently presented to us is that the world will need 50% more grains by 2030. This grain will need to be produced with almost 30% less arable land. Asia and the Pacific region will take on at least 2/3 of this burden. It will effect the food security of rural poor people unless the challenge is systematically addressed and solutions are found. Food production will become more difficult with degraded soil, depleted natural resources, and demographic changes that are taking place through rural - urban migration.

    I take Professor Swaminathan’s words as a set of guiding principles to facilitate rural transformation. There was one underlining theme that ran throughout his speech - a series of holistic approaches are necessary to drive rural transformation. Approaches such as an evergreen revolution - including organic, green and climate smart agriculture and opportunities for market driven non-farm employment both entail multipronged strategies. On the agricultural front, it is the norm rather than exceptions.

    Managing five key areas -  namely soil, water, technology, credit with insurance, and remunerative markets to increase farm production, as Swaminathan reiterated, would be fundamental in agrarian transformation. A prototype of such integration is the bio-village model of sustainable food and livelihood security. This model addresses both on-farm and off-farm development while keeping the focus on natural resource conservation and enhancement. These are imbedded in the holistic approach to rural development.

    Many of the IFAD projects that I know of, especially the ones that have been designed during the last 10 years have the potential to take this holistic approach on board. Examples can be found in Sri Lanka, Philippines, India, and Bangladesh. The Dry Zone Livelihood Development Project in Sri Lanka and Northern Mindanao Community Initiatives and Resource Management Project in the Philippines for instance have had activities to cover all five key areas listed above.

    One can find many of such projects if one looks at the records. Of course these projects had an element of complexity in the design which in some cases brought about implementation difficulties while others did well. Lately, the IFAD project designs have taken a different approach. Simplicity in design has been emphasised and as a result at least the designs that I have had a chance to look at have lost the spirit of the holistic approach. Particularly the designs with a value chain focus have dominating features of the commodity approach. A debate that I would like to initiate here, before losing the echo of Professor Swaminathan’s words, is the importance of bringing the holistic approach, at least to some extent, into the IFAD project designs.

    We can look for a fine balance between simplicity – which means having two, or maximum three components in a design - and the essential interventions in a particular target area that are needed to attain the transformation.  Encouraging partnerships, which was one of the main discussion points of the workshop, provides an opportunity to integrate  the holistic approach.

    Issues regarding responsibility and accountability of implementing partnership arrangements and activities therein are a concern, particularly when such activities are critical to achieving total progress. It is therefore essential, in my view, that serious discussions be held and important commitments from other parties be included in agreements, perhaps including the project loan agreement, if IFAD depends on partnership arrangements. This applies to those that are offered by the respective government institutions.

    Another option would be to identify critical activities of an ongoing result chain that provide an opportunity for IFAD to intervene effectively. The process requires research beyond the Country Strategies and Opportunities Programme (COSOP), area targeting and scoping which is more than alignment and harmonization with government policies, and critical path analyses with holistic approach in mind in project designing. We need to discuss whether we respect such approaches seriously in the designing process of projects. There may be other options and approaches. The purpose of this blog is to open up the discussion and to take maximum advantage of deliberations that we had in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

    Anura Herath, IFAD Country Programme Officer, Sri Lanka

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    As appeared on UN:CC learn

    8 December 2014, Lima, Peru. An unusual side event at the annual Climate Conference in Lima (COP 20) provided a snapshot of what the United Nations is doing to support climate change education and training for children, youth and adults. Panellists and participants discussed how learning can actually ‘make a difference’ on the ground as well as the role of formal, non-formal and informal approaches. The audience also actively engaged in a game on climate risk management animated by the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre (RCCC). The event was hosted by UNEP, UNITAR, UNESCO, UNICEF, FAO, and IFAD in collaboration with YOUNGO. It was moderated by Mr. Daniel Abreu, National UN CC:Learn Focal Point at the National Climate Change Council (CNCCMDL) of the Dominican Republic.

    In his welcome remarks, Mr. Angus Mackay, Manager at UNITAR’s Climate Change Programme pointed out that funding and programmes on sustainability issues is at an ‘all time high’ and that especially young people have never been so aware of sustainability issues. “However, actual behaviour change is not following automatically. We need to make sure that programmes actually lead to measurable results, including effective monitoring and evaluation,” he said, referring to a recent publication by FAO (“Making It Count: Increasing the Impact of Climate Change and Food Security Education Programmes”). The event featured three case examples illustrating UN projects and programmes for different age groups: beginning with climate change education for children; to empowering youth to take action on climate change; to professional training for adults. Ms. Mariana Alcalay, Education Project Officer at the UNESCO Office in Brazil introduced a pilot project for training teachers on climate change education for sustainable development in the State of Santa Catarina. Ms. Alcalay highlighted that as a result of the programme children are not only showing keen interest in climate change related issues, but are also taking the message out to their communities.

    Mr. Brighton Kaoma from Zambia, who connected via Skype, talked about a youth movement that has been inspired by the UNICEF-supported Unite4Climate programme. Mr. Kaoma underlined that “Unite4Climate aims to inspire the leadership aspect that’s embedded in every young person.” In Zambia alone, over 1,000 youth have been trained on locally relevant solutions to address climate change and environmental problems.

    Mr. Naysan Sahba, Director of UNEP's Division of Communications and Public Information, presented the Partnership for Environment and Disaster Risk Reduction (PEDRR) which offers a range of training activities for professionals, including national courses and regional train-the-trainer workshops. The latest learning activity offered by PEDRR is a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on ecosystem-based solutions for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. Mr. Sahba announced that “our target is to reach out to 1 million people over the next five years.”

    The highlight of the event was a climate risk management game that involved the entire audience in an active exercise on decision-making under time pressure. Participants were asked to split up in groups and decide on whether to invest in flood protection or not. A die was thrown to determine whether a flood happened (number 6) or not (numbers 1-5). “To illustrate the effect of climate change, we change to a different die with higher probabilities of throwing a six, meaning a flood,” Mr. Maarten Van Aalst, Director of the RCCC, explained. “We have played this game in various settings, including the White House. For the IPCC authors we asked them to use their own report to inform their decision-making. Made them think quite a bit…”, Mr. Van Aalst jokingly said. The game has been also used in the framework of IFAD’s Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture (ASAP) projects. “Traditional training approaches don’t always work at the community level. We need to break down complex concepts such as climate risk management and make them relevant to local planning contexts”, Ms. Ilaria Firmian from IFAD highlighted. “The game is not only fun, but speeds up learning, dialogue and action on climate risks.”

    Mr. Daniel Abreu summarized the discussions by pointing to the importance of results-based training, the role of non-formal education in reaching out to people that are not part of the formal education system, and the need for life-long learning on climate change issues. “This is actually the approach we are taking in the Dominican Republic”, Mr. Abreu pointed out. “In our national climate change learning strategy we have set out a vision of strengthening climate change education at all levels, from schools, to universities, to professional training centers, but also working with civil society and the media,” he said. “This approach is relevant not only for developing, but also for developed countries!”

    Examples of UN initiatives and resources for climate change education and training
    The One UN Climate Change Learning Partnership (UN CC:Learn)
    Climate Change Education for Sustainable Development (CCESD)
    Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Ecosystem-Based Solutions for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation
    FAO Food Security and Climate Change Challenge Badge
    IFAD e-Learning Course on Smallholder Agriculture, Environment and Climate Change
    UNICEF Unite4Climate Zambia
    IFRC/Red Cross Red Crescent games on climate risk management

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    Written by Jessica Morgan

    A new scientific paper in Elesevier magazine has been published investigating the challenges and advantages of IFAD's innovative biogas operations in Kenya and Rwanda partnered with Biogas International (BI).  Since 2011, IFAD and BI have collaborated to test and pilot portable, low-cost flexi-biogas systems; the Flexi Biogas© (FBS) for smallholder farmers.  The system promotes the use of clean sources of energy for cooking and lighting needs in rural areas.

    Similar to an open-ended pillow case, the FBS consists of a plastic digester envelope housed in a greenhouse tunnel. The tunnel acts like an insulated jacket, trapping heat and keeping the temperature between 25 and 36 degrees Celsius. The combination of the tunnel and the plastic bag increases the volume of gas production and reduces the retention time, ensuring a high rate of fermentation and gas production.

    The study highlights how FBS devices have the potential to address important and pressing issues in sub-Saharan Africa. Issues such as agricultural and energy difficulties related to cooking and lighting needs, climate change, social cohesion and household income.

    The paper constructs a thorough study of these FBS units through analysis of peer-reviewed papers, project documents and research interviews. It has been found that this technology can reduce energy instability whilst also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.


    The project, funded by IFAD remains in its pilot phases. Yet there is a large amount of data available so some conclusions can be made. The overriding benefit is that FBS units synergise solutions to three major concerns within Kenya's rural population.

    Time collecting firewood, mostly performed by women, takes from 3-5 hours daily. This time can now be allocated to income generation opportunities and spending time with children (imparting knowledge and education).

    Biogas digesters produce a by-product which is a high nutrient quality organic fertilizer. This helps agricultural and food security needs. The use of it in Kenya has shown increased production yields and also a higher quality of vegetables.

    The organic fertiliser leads to a reduced demand for chemical fertilisers meaning income can be saved for other essential items. This in turn means less pollution as the production of fertilizers and their consumption emit large volumes of greenhouse gases which biogas does not.

    However there is history of stigmatism against biogas users in Kenya due to previous biogas failures. Also construction of the FBS requires skilled technical expertise and complex logistics, making installation expensive and time-consuming.

    This is exacerbated by the county's environment policy. It states that secure land tenure is a prerequisite to building permanent installations, such as FBS. In rural communities secure land tenures are hard to acquire, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.  This means that the systems are struggling to spread to a greater number of people.

    Yet with this knowledge in place improved project design can start to combat these issues, understand policy procedures and improve and spread the use of FBS. Well-targeted subsidies on renewable energy sources and the removal of subsidies for fossil-fuel based sources such as firewood, charcoal and kerosene will be powerful incentives for people to take an interest in biogas.

    The paper concludes that because these units show such promising results, continued effort needs to be made to communicate the benefits of these systems to the target audience and support continued assistance to the purchase and use FBS.

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    Written by Francesco Far

    If you don’t know about AgTalks, you are missing a riveting new series of events organised by IFAD with the aim of presenting the human face of family farming by sharing the latest policy and innovation research findings, as well as different viewpoints on smallholder farming.

    Through the series we are putting forward the latest thinking, trends and research on policies and innovations in small-scale family farming.

    As you may know, the UN has declared 2015 the International Year of Soils. And earlier in the month, on the eve of the World Soil Day, we at IFAD had the honour and pleasure to host the launch of the Montpellier Panel report"No Ordinary Matter: conserving, restoring and enhancing Africa’s soils".

    As the International Year of Family Farming comes to an end and we embark to celebrate the International Years of Soils, on 11 December, we hosted the second session of Agtalks which focused on the topic of soils, fertilisers and their relations with smallholder family farms.

     ©IFAD/Giulio Napolitano
    This session brought together  three experts in field of fertilisers working with smallholder farmers:  Nicole M. Mason, Assistant Professor in the Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics at Michigan State University (MSU); Kari Niedfeldt-Thomas, Senior Manager, Social Responsibility, and Executive Director, The Mosaic Company Foundation at The Mosaic Company; and Pablo Tittonell, professor of the Farming Systems Ecology group at Wageningen University.

    Dr Mason talked about the importance of fertilisers for Africa. She painted a vivid picture of two Zambian farmers, Bernard and Matimaba–one whose farm had government funded fertiliser subsidies and the other who did not. This was how she introduced the audience to the current African policies on fertilisers, underlining their weaknesses and contradictions and supporting her thesis through many other smallholder farmers’ stories from her personal experience in Africa. She talked about the importance of putting in place  efficient policies as the way to take smallholder families out of poverty and ensure food security.

    ©IFAD/Giulio Napolitano
    Ms Niedfeldt-Thomas pointed out in her intervention that access to crop nutrients and training in their use have a tremendous potential for improvements in smallholders’ lives. Through examples from her experience in India, Guatemala and Africa she highlighted how agronomic knowledge can bring higher yields, which means higher income and steps towards food security.

    Mr Tittonell focused his intervention on soil and its organic matter. Soil organic matter is only 5% of the soil, but it makes the difference between an arid sand desert and a fertile valley. To underline this, he showed the audience some soils samples, explaining the characteristics of a healthy soil. He also talked about why it is crucial to preserve organic matter through conservation practices in agriculture (e.g. avoiding soil tillage; preserving permanent soil cover; favouring crop diversification). Conservation agriculture plays an important role in preserving soil from degradation, but, even though some evidence shows that it can help, restoring soil organic matter in deteriorated lands remains an open question.

    ©IFAD/Giulio Napolitano
    After their interventions, the three experts engaged in a panel discussion and answered questions from the floor. One of the points raised during the discussion was about the definition of fertilisers. Some of the audience was under the impression that the speakers neglected organic fertilisers, focusing only on industrial ones. All three speakers agreed that fertilisers are not only mineral, but also organic and their properties are the same. So, their integrated use is fundamental in addressing the issue of soil fertility.

    The second session of AgTalks session raised issues such as the need for a holistic and long term approach. And it made a positive contribution to the debate on such issues, presenting  a unique opportunity to make the necessary linkages  between smallholder farmers and soil preservation.

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