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    by Matin Ezidyar, Microfinance Investment Support Facility for Afghanistan (MISFA) and Khalil Baheer, Director Development and Rural Finance of MISFA

    Arefa in tears from a painful abdominal ailment

    For MISFA staff Matin Ezidyar, the trip to Badakhshan was work¬—one of the tasks to tick off from his list of priorities. He was scheduled to meet with some of the beneficiaries of the Targeted Ultra-Poor Programme (TUP), a project being implemented by the Microfinance Investment Support Facility for Afghanistan (MISFA) with funding from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). He went there to learn about the project, which was successfully piloted in Bamiyan province and was recently replicated in Badakhshan province. He was also tasked to interview beneficiaries of the programme and write profile articles about them for MISFA’s information tools. The experience, though short, turned into an unforgettable personal awakening. Mr. Ezidyar finally understood the real meaning of the words “despair” and “abject poverty”. In this article, he shares his personal account of his meeting with one of the TUP beneficiaries in Dhooki, a rural village of Faizabad, the capital city of Badakhshan Province.

    In many ways, Arefa’s house was a reflection of her life. Dark. Bereft. Oppressive. Everything a home and life shouldn’t be.

    The traditional mud house in Dhooki, a rural village outside of Faizabad, has two small storage-sized rooms shared by a family of 10, of which the breadwinner is Arefa, 47 years old.

    One room is the living/bedroom/everything space, furnished mainly by stacks of crusty, worn-out winter blankets, which are not enough to keep the entire family warm during winter, says Arefa. Badakhshan is 2,000 meters above sea level and is well known to have extremely cold temperatures over the winter months.

    The only other room in the house¬¬—smaller and darker—appears to be the kitchen, with a soot-covered woodstove oven providing the only clue that the space is used for cooking.

    It is hard to imagine that 10 individuals inhabit the tiny mud house, but it is even harder to imagine that Arefa is the breadwinner for five daughters, two sons, a dying husband, her aging father-in-law, and ailing, 110-year old mother.

    Arefa’s husband, according to a doctor in Badakhshan, needs to be treated urgently in better-staffed and equipped hospitals in the capital, Kabul; or better yet, in neighbor countries, Pakistan or India. He was diagnosed to have malfunctioning lungs that if left untreated will collapse in a matter of months and take his life.

    Arefa, who is illiterate, has been begging as a way of “breadwinning” for her big household, which is literally scraping by meal-to-meal. She narrated how one time, only two days after giving birth to one of her children, she had to go beg in the streets because there was no food and no money for the next meal.

    As such, getting treatment for her husband is far beyond her grasp. But the thought of just watching her husband die, not being able to do something to save the father of her children, is simply unbearable.
    On top of this burden, Arefa herself is beset by an undiagnosed abdominal illness that intermittently throws her off squirming in agonizing pain. In the course of this interview, Arefa begged for a quick break and doubled over, distress written across her creased face. As she tried to suppress sobs of pain, tears streamed down her cheeks.

    “I have no friends or relatives to run to for help. If I had any, I would not be in this miserable condition,” cried Arefa. “My only friend is the Almighty, and sometimes, I pray and ask Him to take me and my children.”

    One of her children did get taken away, although not by the Almighty as she sometimes prayed for in moments of despair. As if Arefa did not have enough to worry about, she came home one day to find one of her teenaged daughters, Naseema, who is not yet 18, sobbing next to an older male stranger.

    It turned out, she was married off by Arefa’s husband to some stranger from Sheberghan, another province in northern Afghanistan, because he could pay dowry to the family. The sale left mother and daughter wailing until Naseema had to go to Sheberghan to live with her husband and his family.

    But now, Arefa learned that her daughter wants to escape from her new residence and Arefa is extremely worried about the consequences. It is not uncommon in Afghanistan and Pakistan for women and girls in Naseema’s predicament to be the subjects of honor killings.

    Arefa’s life is a clear definition of what being “ultra poor” means. And that is why she is among the 800 beneficiaries selected for the TUP programme from the Faizabad and Khash districts of Badakhshan. Following years of misery, there is a glimmer of hope for Arefa, who, at the very least, can now stop begging in the streets.

    As a TUP beneficiary, she now receives a monthly stipend for basic household needs, including food. She is now also tending to the livestock she received for free, as she gets trained on livestock rearing, basic reading, writing and financial literacy, as part of the holistic support provided by the programme to the ultra-poor for a period of 24 months. Moreover, she now has access to free medication and check-ups at health facilities nearby.

    At the end of this period, beneficiaries are expected to be in a position to apply some of their basic knowledge and skills set to engage in income-generating activities, starting with the livestock they have been caring for. They could also be in a position to take out a loan from a microfinance institution to start their own micro-enterprises in which they could employ members of their households.

    It may take some time for Arefa to get to this point of self-sufficiency, but just waking up every morning these days has gotten a lot easier—she does not have to worry about how she is going to pay for the next meal.

    And every night before going to bed, she is grateful to have learned something new that day. A new skill, new knowledge. All for the new life for her and her family out of abject poverty that she can now hope for; a light she can see glimmering not so far away.

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    Lam PhamKM and Communication Specialist, IFAD Vietnam
    As the Learning Route continues its journey in Nepal, we feature today one of the most active participants, Ms. Sushila Kumari Thapa Magar. Being the Gender and Social Inclusion Advisor of the High Value Agriculture Project (HVAP) in Surkhet, Mid-Western Region of Nepal since last year, she is now development worker for ten years. Sushila will provide her observations and some lessons learn by participating in the Learning Route herself and why these are important to her context, report Pham Tung Lam from the field.
    1.     Could you share with us your expectation in participating in the Learning Route please?
    First of all, there are 3 other colleagues from HVAP who also participate in this Learning Route. Our project addresses social-economic barriers in Nepal by facilitating market-based solutions in value chain development. 
    Personally, I heard about the Learning Route from colleagues who participated in the 1st phase of this program. After they participated in the program, they shared what they did and learned as well as the process of the Learning Route in the PMU.
    At the beginning, I was not clear about the Learning Route, though I knew it is about finding the best practice and learning from it. Being part of this Learning Route, I wanted to explore more about the innovations going around in different projects and different areas. I also wanted to know about how they are involving woman and socially-excluded groups in their programs. Finally, I would like to find out if there are pro-poor and gender friendly tools and technologies so that I can adapt them in my work areas, as well as the process about getting inclusive innovations.
    2.     What are some of the challenges you face in your work context?
    Specific challenges I face in my work context are inclusion of women in different activities that we organize since women in our areas have low level of leadership now. Sometimes, they really want to try something new, but they cannot. This is because of lack of information, gender-friendly technologies and tools, as well as finance. For example, women are interested in doing commercial off-season vegetables but they lack tools and technologies which would be time-efficient, handy and cheap.
    For excluded communities, they face other challenges such as they do not have access to productive resources like land and finance. Further they are mostly illiterate and do not have information where they can get technical assistance and services from. Sometimes they may also lack institutional or group mechanism to get organized. Even if they are organized, they are not strong enough.
    On the other hand, there are risk-averse people whom cannot go for the commercial farming because they fear of failure.
    3.     What do you think about the strengths of the cases selected for the Learning Route?
    I think this Learning Route is all about learning together with and from local communities based on the experiences and learning from their successes and failures.
    We observed quite a few best practices around three districts and each case has its own strengths that we can learn from. In Kavre, the good lessons were with this the Leasehold Forestry. In particular positive change in their livelihoods if they have access to natural resources like land where they plant fodders, grasses which serve as a source of direct income and base for animal husbandry. Furthermore, it can also be source of raw materials which support income generating activities like briquette and indirectly for dairy via animal husbandry.
    In the district of Chitwan, it was women empowerment which proves stronger than what I have ever seen before in other localities. Empowerment is seen in terms of organizing themselves, leadership, innovation, dismantling traditional and removing social barriers which prevent women from being entrepreneurs and self-decisive.
    4.     What have you seen in Kapilvastu which could be interesting and relevant for you?
    The context of Kapilvastu is very different and complex than we saw in other districts. Specially, I was impressed that the bottom of the pyramid groups which can be really strong when they unite together. Women in Kapilvastu seem less vocal but in their context this is way far they have come. Culturally, they have to be bounded within four walls and are not allowed to talk with outsiders. Now not only they talk, they can also express their view, even understand and speak Nepali in front of mass audience even though their own dialect is Awadi. It’s pround to say that household-chores has been shared by men. Also, men support their wives and allow them to attend public meetings, workshops and trainings.
    I really appreciate the way they try to include “differently-abled people” in their program and the loans they are providing is good enough for farmers to start their own business.
    5.     Based on what you have observed, seen and probably learned, what are the most important things that you plan to take home with?
    To be honest, one can compare Learning Route as an exposure visit but this is much more transformative. It does not only expose you to the best practices, learn and adapt it, and but also provides learning opportunities to the visited communities, thus it is mutually beneficial process. In my view, it prepares local communities to be good presenters and good leaders, communicate what they really want to show to others in a systematic way. I have been using exposure visits and SWOT analysis tools in my context, but this Learning Route has combined both and made it a stronger tool for both learning and reflection as a process.
    What I really take home are the key factors that community values should be the starting points of any development project. But sometime we need to facilitate them on what are the opportunities that we can build upon.
    As the Learning Route expected, I am positive that some of the community representatives can be really resource persons in the future in our project areas as technical persons. This has provided avenue to collaborate and work jointly in future days.
    This Learning Route has also re-emphasized that empowerment and economic activities should go hand in hand and the innovation plan is perfectly one of the good initiatives to build upon the learning they have from Learning Route to implement project activities in their own communities.
    As participants are diverse, this can be designed for different levels. In our project context, I see the opportunities for applying this program within and across our value chain in order to learn and reflect within communities. It will motivate learning communities to adapt their best knowledge and encourage communities of practice to put their efforts for improvement.
    I see Learning Route as a co-learning program which can disseminate the best practice locally, nationally and internationally as it provides successful cases and explain the factors behind each success. I see the importance of Learning Route to improve our programme practice. I wish Learning Route every success in the days to come.
    Thank you very much.
    Interaction of Learning Route participants in Chitwan
    Kavre community meeting
    Ms. Sushila Kumari Thapa Magar
    Presentation of the community map of Chitwan
    Representatives from Bijwa cooperative in Kapilvastu

    Presenting merit certificate to Chitwan women group

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    Written by Pham Tung Lam 

    Learning Route participants in interaction at community
    The Learning Route on “Women empowerment, new businesses and sustainable natural resources management” could not look more encouraging and exciting on its final day. Route participants busily exchange views and work as individual or together in group to crack down final details of their innovation plan – a final stage of conceptualizing what they learn and take home after their nine-day journey which have taken them to Kavre, Chitwan and Kapilvastu. 

    Getting to a point of completing her group presentation, Kumari Pabitra Nepali felt motivated and positive than ever. Being a manager of the Karmeshwor Agriculture Cooperative Ltd, in Kapilvastu, she is prepared to turn the newly- gained ideas into actions that will benefit herself and other cooperative members.

    “We should not be afraid of failure. We have now new knowledge, skills, energies and commitment to do something different”, shared Kumari.

    From the field visits, idea from the onion production run by the Pragatishil Agricultural Cooperative in Bijwa inspired Kumari to adapt a new commercial vegetable farming for her own Cooperative.

    According to the idea of Kumari and her group members, they would like to start off a commercial vegetable farming on a leasehold land of 32 kattha (approximately 0,5 hectares) that will generate jobs and regular incomes for 100 local women and men.

    Kumari and her group members presenting their Innovation Plan
    “We did not think about this idea before the Learning Route. We have just grown vegetables based on season and based on our own needs. Seeing good experiences in the host communities have made us think of new ways to bring benefits our community and sustain income”, continued Kumari.

    Local market in Bijwa
    Meena KC, President of Mahendrakot Cooperative, could not agree more. “It is easy and can connect many people working for a common objective at the same time. Small opportunities, if we can analyze them well would bring big success”, she said.

    Sanjay Kumar wrap up learning points at Pragatishil Cooperative
    Having the agreement of working together and complementing each other’s efforts, Meena notes that the two groups will be even stronger and more united for a common goal of social inclusion and empowerment as drivers of economic activities.  “We’d like to work by putting our heads and hands together to implement this project, both women, men and everyone else should be equally included”, added Meena. “Various international organizations or NGO often come to our area with their own idea and funding. Now we will go to them with our proposal for funding, we know where to knock on doors”, she noted.

    “In these nine days of journeying and learning together, we have seen very good cases in women empowerment, natural resource management and income generation activities. We take back very positive lesson learned and experiences”, summarized Kumari.

    The innovative idea of Kumari and Meena was not just alone. Many other initiatives and new proposals were presented by 27 other participants. They provide innovative ways of addressing rural poverty by social inclusion, capacity building and scale up best practices.

    Being a key local facilitator, Sanjay Kumar Jha, Porfolio Programme Manager of Poverty Alleviation Fund (PAF) has been instrumental for the entire process of Learning Route preparation, systematization and implementation. He is content with the process, outcomes and increased awareness on tools available for rural development by all stakeholders involved such as participants, facilitators as well as the visited communities. “The Learning Route has promoted knowledge sharing and understanding of economic conditions and social inclusion as keys to improve livelihoods of rural people”, said Sanjay Kumar.

    “We decide to have a Learning Route in Bijuwa VDC, Kapivastu because good practices of social inclusion are here. They include the fact that Dalit [Dalit are those groups considered as traditionally low cast and excluded from most social and economic development]and female representatives are provided with equal opportunities. Local women can now openly discuss and confidently describe their issues and take leadership positions”, continued Sanjay Kumar while stressing that the case study has helped influence the thinking of participants.

    He also noted that it is not yet the end of the process and future efforts will be made to monitor of project implementation while sustaining and expanding good models which have been proven effective. He wrapped up by emphasizing that “Participants as well as facilitators are indeed very happy. Everyone has some great learning points to bring back home for implementation”.

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    by Laura Arcari

    Ten years ago, on this day, we at IFAD, lost a dear friend and colleague. In the last 10 years, many things have changed. However, one thing that has not changed is our love for Samantha. Today we honored her life…..

    Monday 15 April marks the tenth anniversary of the untimely passing of our colleague and friend Samantha Santoni. Samantha passed away on 15 April 2003 after a battling struggle against leukemia at the age of thirty and she continues to be a strong presence in many of our hearts.

    Samantha was a beautiful ray of sunshine full of positivity; she loved her family, friends, animals and nature. Her favorite flower was in fact the sunflower, its yellow color symbolizing happiness and vitality. The sunflower is also symbolic of spiritual faith and worship as it moves itself towards the direction of the sun so it can get the maximum life-giving rays. Sami, as most of her intimate friends would remember her by, had a passion for the spirituality, her diary initiated with tribal verses from the American Indian tribes and she often gave dream-catchers as presents, she read books on Buddhism and collected angels (Angelica).

    Long before IFAD introduced the concept of open space work environment, Sami worked at the telecommunications on the ground floor next to the garage in an open office connected to the cold Computer Processing Unit along with other IT colleagues. The group formed their own sorority with their rituals of “ciofeca time” (afternoon break with instant coffee brewed and junk nibbles) and shared many hours of bonding time in between the endless calls and on-site office visits for IT assistance. From the outside the office looked like a beauty parlour, white with canopied windows and a heavy fireproof door with an oblo. She was also part of the IFAD girls Volleyball team and participated in the UN Inter Agency games, the dream team with their long hair, short shorts and knee protectors. Many of us would also fondly remember her dancing on the tables at the Charro Café.

    Following her demise, her friends and family planted a pomegranate tree as a symbol of the sweetness of the heavenly kingdom. When IFAD moved to its new headquarters, the tree was re-planted near the child care center where the children laughter would flourish its growth. Today, to honour her remarkable persona, we planted a peach tree. Her friends and colleagues collected Euro 500 as a donation to the Fabbrica Del Sorriso a project to assist children suffering from leukemia.

    …….ho imparato, che non avevo mai capito, che la vita vera è in ogni istante che viviamo.Qualsiasi cosa cambi nella vostra vita, non lasciate mai spazio alla paura, quella davvero non esiste….Ciao Sami

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    Bimala Adhikari, shown with her children, heads a rural women's
    cooperative in Nepal. ©Rocky Prajapati/IFAD
    By Sanjib Kumar Chaudhary

    SURKHET, Nepal – Amidst the hustle and bustle of passing vehicles, dust and honking horns on the Surkhet-Jumla road, about 350 km west of Kathmandu, the patches of green vegetables within a few minutes’ walk are a soothing treat to the eyes.

    The proud owners of the vegetable plots are women, most of them affiliated with the Nari Ekata (“Women United”) Women’s Cooperative. With 124 members, all of them women, the cooperative is not only empowering its members but also creating a bandwagon effect. The result: More and more women are eager to join the cooperative. Thanks to their vegetable farming, they earn enough to send their children to school, pay for other miscellaneous expenses and save a little.

    “The women have literally changed –personally, behaviourally and professionally,” says a member of the cooperative, Shanta Oli. “Women who were once not even able to utter few words in a meeting are now leading income-generators for their families.”

    Linking producers and traders
    Bimala Adhikari, President of the cooperative, manages her family expenditures by growing and selling cabbage, cauliflower, broad leaf mustard and other vegetables. She recently added a plastic greenhouse to grow tomatoes in her small plot of land.
    A doko trader carries produce to sell from house to house.
    ©Rocky Prajapati/IFAD

    “Seeing me earning more by growing hybrid tomatoes, other members have started building greenhouses, too,” Adhikari says. “The techniques were taught by the experts from HVAP,” she adds, referring to the High Value Agriculture Project in Hill and Mountain Areas. The project is being implemented by the Ministry of Agricultural Development and financed by IFAD. The SNV Netherlands Development Organisation and Agro Enterprise Centre are the implementing partners.

    HVAP has provided production and post-harvest support – including quality seeds, technical know-how and advice – to members of the Nari Ekata Women’s Cooperative and other smallholder farmers. The project seeks to create sustainable market linkages between small producers and traders. Concentrating on seven high-value agricultural commodities (off-season vegetables, vegetable seeds, apples, goat meat, timur, ginger and turmeric), it aspires to provide benefits to each actor in the value chain through inclusive development.

    Regional and national markets
    As the sun sets, women traders start collecting freshly harvested vegetables from the plots owned by the cooperative members. They use the doko, a traditional Nepali basket woven out of bamboo culms, carried on the back with a strap over the forehead. Nanda Kala Nepali and Dhanshari Nepali are two doko traders who frequent the vegetable plots, collect the produce and sell it from house to house. In turn, they make a decent income. The doko traders share camaraderie with the growers – and being women makes it much easier.

    The market in Birendranagar Municipality is vibrant with
    merchants negotiating deals. ©Rocky Prajapati/IFAD
    The next morning, before the sun rises, the Babu and Shahi Sabji mandi – or farmers’ market – at the heart of Birendranagar Municipality is vibrant with merchants negotiating deals. The mandi is the largest fruit and vegetable wholesale market in Surkhet district.

    Vegetable wholesaler Prabal Shahi is busy calling and coordinating with suppliers. Truckloads of vegetables are waiting to be unloaded, while other trucks wait to be loaded with produce for regional and national markets. “When I started this business, I had never thought that it would go so far,” Shahi says. “There are many small vegetable and fruit wholesalers in Surkhet. I want to bring them together to make Surkhet ‘numero uno’ in vegetable trading.”

    Shahi’s dream does not seem inaccessible given the volume of vegetables that can be grown in the Surkhet-Jumla, Surkhet-Dailekh and Chhinchu-Jajarkot road corridors, the working areas of HVAP.

    The writer is Communication and Knowledge Management Advisor, SNV Netherlands Development Organisation/HVAP.

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    By John C. Weber and Carmen Sotelo Montes

    Participatory analysis of vulnerability and adaptation
    to climate change in the Sahel
    According to most climate forecasts, people in the West African Sahel— an arid to semi-arid belt stretching across northern Africa—can expect a hotter, drier and more variable climate this century. Already, environmental stresses are being felt and farming is increasingly more difficult in the region. But what do rural people in the Sahel perceive to be the reason for this changing climate? How vulnerable do they feel themselves to be? And, most importantly, what do they plan to do different in order to cope with the threats posed by the coming climate?

    As part of an IFAD-funded project titled ‘Parkland trees and livelihoods: adapting to climate change in the West African Sahel’, we carried out a participatory analysis of vulnerability and adaptation to climate change involving approximately 500 men, women and children from 36 villages in the West African Sahelian countries of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger. The analysis yielded some expected results, and some surprising insights.

    The villagers said some dramatic changes had occurred on their landscapes over the past 30-50 years. They pointed out, in particular, the extensive disappearance of natural woodlands, which over time had been converted into parklands which include annual crops, trees and livestock production. The trees in these parklands continue to be overharvested for fuel, fodder, medicines and foods, which curtails their natural regeneration.  Compounding the situation are the large herds of livestock—owned by the villagers or nomadic pastoralists—that roam free in parklands and woodlands: browsing by these cattle, goats and sheep further limits the chances of trees and seedlings regenerating naturally.

    Another change was the local extinction of many native tree species, especially in the drier regions, as a result of over-exploitation by humans and livestock. In south-central Niger, for instance, villagers could name more than 50 tree species that have completely disappeared from the landscape.

    They also noted the local extinction of most wild animals (especially mammals, birds, turtles and lizards) from overhunting and habitat conversion; extensive soil degradation and reduced soil fertility; lower and less predictable rainfall, and a deeper water table.

    We found that most villagers recognized that their own (and their ancestors’) actions were responsible for many of the changes they were witnessing in their landscapes. This knowledge is crucial for any climate change adaptation plan, since it bolsters people’s confidence that they can alter or adopt certain practices to reverse the trend and/or better adapt themselves to a harsher climate.

    Most villagers, surprisingly, saw no link between human activity and a deeper water table, blaming it entirely on natural climate change. Reduced tree cover leads to less local rainfall and a deeper water table, and we had expected this relationship to be clear. It was difficult to explain certain concepts, such as cause-effect-consequence, in local languages, and we often resorted to using local metaphors. Clearly, extension and education programmes that explain crucial ecological relationships to farmers are needed, and we believe farmer-to-farmer exchange of knowledge models would work best.

    To respond to the environmental stresses of the future, the villagers said that the following actions in parklands would form part of their adaptation plan:
    • Practicing farmer assisted natural regeneration
    • Diversifying and increasing drought tolerance of the parklands by planting and protecting a range of selected species, using seedlings produced from seeds that were collected in drier locations;
    • Practicing soil and water conservation; and
    • Controlling free browsing by animals.
    As we expected, villagers in drier regions considered that their trees were more vulnerable to drought compared with villagers in more humid regions. Therefore, adaptation plans in the drier regions must put more emphasis on planting trees that are more drought tolerant and practicing soil water conservation techniques in parklands. Regional differences such as this are important to capture in an analysis of vulnerability and adaptation to climate change. There are limited financial and human resources for implementing adaptation plans, so adaptation plans should focus on the physical and natural resources that villagers themselves identify as most vulnerable to threats in their particular region. In other words, generic adaptation plans that are developed without active participation and input of villagers in different regions cannot efficiently respond to the vulnerability of villagers in different regions.

    It is also important to understand vulnerability and adaptation plans of different gender groups, such as adult men, adult women, young men and young women. Gender roles by livelihood activity are sharply defined in most Sahelian communities. For example, adult men and young men typically engage in agriculture and animal herding respectively, while the sale of food products from trees and fuelwood collection falls on adult women and young women respectively. The gender groups classified these and many other of their livelihood activities as “very vulnerable” or “severely vulnerable” to drought and degraded soils. Adaptation plans of these gender groups must therefore pay special emphasis to these twin threats.

    All groups except ‘young women’ listed “lack of financial capital” as an important vulnerability factor. Young women and young men said “insufficient woodland” was an important factor; this was expected, as woodlands are used for herding animals and collecting firewood.

    Adult women in several villages flagged two more threats to their livelihood in a changing climate: large families and small farm sizes that force many young men to migrate. To the women, managing the size of their families so all children can be properly fed, clothed and educated is an essential component of their personal climate adaptation strategy, and inseparable from their communities’ natural resource management efforts.

    About the research:
    The IFAD-funded project ‘Parkland trees and livelihoods: adapting to climate change in the West African Sahel’ is a partnership of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), national agriculture research institutes, forestry extension institutes and IFAD investment projects in the three countries:

    • Burkina Faso: Institut National de l’Environnement et des Recherches Agricoles, Direction des Eaux et Forêt, Programme de Développement Rural Durable, Programme d’Investissement Communautaire en Fertilité Agricole
    • Mali: Institut d’Économie Rurale, Direction Nationale de la Conservation de la Nature, Fonds du Développement en Zone Sahélienne
    • Niger: Institut National de Recherche Agronomique du Niger, Direction Nationale de l’Environnement, Programme de Promotion des Initiatives Paysannes pour le Développement d’Aguié

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    Écrit par Franck L. Kapiamba Je suis nouvellement recruté comme Chargé d’Appui au bureau Pays-FIDA à Kinshasa, RD Congo

    Pendant mes deux premières semaines de travail, j’ai assisté à deux ateliers de formation visant d’une part l’appropriation des documents de conception du PAPAKIN (Programme d’appui aux pôles d’approvisionnement de Kinshasa en produits vivriers et maraichers) par les membres de l’UGP nouvellement recrutés et d’autre part l’introduction au système de planification, suivi et évaluation des projets/programmes cofinancés par le FIDA.

    A mon avis, la tenue de ces deux ateliers a constitué une démonstration évidente de la mise en œuvre de bonnes pratiques pouvant garantir la bonne performance de nouveaux projets dans le pays. Les programmes en cours mis en place par le Gouvernement et cofinancés par le FIDA en RD Congo dans le cadre du COSOP-1(PRAPE, PRAPO, PIRAM) se sont généralement caractérisés par une faible performance tout au long de leur période d’exécution. Parmi les facteurs grevant cette performance, il y a notamment la faible compréhension des documents de projet par ceux qui doivent les mettre en œuvre, le retard dans la mise en place d’un système de gestion fiduciaire et les faibles capacités pour la mise en place d’un système de planification, suivi et évaluation. En vue de capitaliser ces leçons et de garantir une bonne performance aux programmes appuyés dans le cadre du COSOP-2, le bureau pays-FIDA et le bureau de liaison des projets cofinancés par le FIDA en RD Congo ont organisé deux ateliers de formation qui ont regroupé les membres nouvellement recrutés pour la mise en œuvre du PAPAKIN, les responsables programmation, suivi et évaluation des projets en cours et en phase d’achèvement ainsi que les membres du comité de pilotage.

    Le premier atelier de cinq jours (2-6 avril 2013) sur la mise en œuvre et la gestion fiduciaire du PAPAKIN visait à combler l’écart entre les documents de conception du programme PAPAKIN et la compréhension des gestionnaires et des équipes de mise en œuvre qui devront opérationnaliser ce programme. Alors que les ateliers de démarrage se limitent très souvent à des présentations sommaires du projet sans approfondir la compréhension du montage et des détails opérationnels de mise en œuvre, cet atelier de formation a couvert en détail plusieurs aspects du programme y compris la conception et les stratégies de mise en œuvre de différentes sous composantes, le budget du programme et le lien avec sa gestion financière, les textes juridiques du programme, la gestion financière du programme, l’élaboration du cadre de résultat du programme et la génération du PTBA à partir de ce cadre, les notions fondamentales sur la passation des marchés, etc. Les présentations sur ces sujets par les concepteurs du programme et les consultants ont été alternées par des réflexions et des exercices pratiques en petits groupes. Le deuxième atelier de formation (9-12 avril 2013) a porté sur le suivi-évaluation et le système de gestion des résultats et impacts (SYGRI) des projets cofinancés par le FIDA. Il a été une occasion non seulement d’introduire les participants au système et aux outils de suivi-évaluation mais aussi de partager des expériences pratiques sur la base de leçons apprises de la mise en place du système de suivi-évaluation des programmes appuyés dans le cadre du COSOP-1. Les sujets présentés ont couvert les principes directeurs du système de planification, le suivi et évaluation des projets cofinancés par le FIDA, le concept de la chaîne des résultats, le cadre logique et le PTBA comme instruments du suivi&évaluation, le SYGRI etc. Ces présentations ont été enrichies par des exercices pratiques et la revue des soumissions SYGRI par les projets en cours en RD Congo et en République du Congo.

     Après la tenue de ces deux ateliers, j’ai continué à travailler cette semaine avec les membres des équipes des programmes qui y ont participé, en particulier PAPAKIN et PIRAM. Je suis très particulièrement impressionné par les effets positifs générés par l’utilisation des produits livrés à travers ces ateliers de formation: les membres de l’UGP nouvellement recrutés pour le PAPAKIN forment déjà une équipe cohérente et soudée qui a une vision commune et partagée de « comment les résultats doivent être atteints ». Bien que non encore déployés pour le démarrage effectif des activités du programme, ils se réunissent sous la conduite du bureau de liaison pour identifier les chaînes des résultats, analyser le cadre logique et proposer des révisions, élaborer le cadre de résultat du programme pour 2013-2015, générer et préparer la trame du PTBA par une approche partant des résultats à atteindre avant d’identifier les produits nécessaires à livrer par le projet et les activités à exécuter pour réaliser ces produits.

    Il en est de même du PIRAM où les participants à l’atelier ont continué à travailler sous l’appui du Bureau Pays FIDA pour affiner leurs soumissions SYGRI et réexaminer le cadre logique du programme ainsi que la cohérence du PTBA -2013 avec celui-ci. S’il est évident que la capitalisation de leçons apprises des projets/programmes passés fait partie de bonnes pratiques en matière de conception, de démarrage et de mise en œuvre de nouveaux programmes, il n’en reste pas moins vrai que, dans la plupart des cas, les équipes constituées pour assurer la mise en œuvre de ces programmes sont très souvent déployées pour le démarrage des activités sans aucune compréhension des documents de conception et des approches de mise en œuvre, suivi-évaluation et sans avoir développé une vision commune de « comment les résultats du programme seront atteints ».

    Par l’organisation des ateliers d’appropriation par les membres de l’UGP des documents du nouveau programme et du système de planification, suivi et évaluation des projets/programmes cofinancés par le FIDA, la RD Congo semble résolument engagée dans une nouvelle dynamique pour une amélioration de la performance du portefeuille FIDA dans le cadre du COSOP-2 en cours dans le pays.

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    Jyoti Macwan, General Secretary, SEWA
    Valiben Macwana, Executive Committee member
    Smita Bhatnagar, Senior Coordinator, SEWA

    When was the last time you met a truly empowered woman? Well, earlier in the week, I was lucky enough to meet Valiben Macwana, one of the 1.7 million empowered self-employed women's association (SEWA) members.

    SEWA, based in Ahmedabad, India, is an organization of self-employed women workers who earn their living thanks to their small business. These women do not get a monthly salary, nor enjoy benefits like those of their sisters in the "organized labour sector". And to make matters worse, it seems like these women are "uncounted, undercounted and invisible".

    What is amazing about these women, is their extraordinary will power and their openness to new ideas and innovations.

    With a beautiful smile and a lot of pride, Valiben Macwana shared her inspiring story of the day that she received a mobile phone. Macwana's story is yet another example of the power and potential of how mobile telephony is a catalyst to eradicate hunger and poverty.

    Her first experience with what transformed her business into a successful one was one of utter fear.

    "I was so scared when the phone started moving, that I almost threw it out of the window", said Macwana. "I then gave it to my children, who know more about these things, and they explained that when the phone vibrates, this means I have a message. And you know what was the message? It was the price for the commodity I wanted to sell".

    Macwana may be illiterate, however, she knows how to make the most of the information she receives on her mobile phone. She looked at the information on her screen and diligently transcribed it on a piece of paper. Thanks to this information, she then  decided it was a profitable proposition to make a journey to the local market.

    "Thanks to my mobile phone, now I only go to the market when I know I can sell my products, this way I can save on the bus fare". Saving the bus fare may seem something trivial to some, however, for someone who lives on $1.25 a day, it means putting more food on the table for the family, or buying a pair of shoes for the children or sending the kids to school.

    Macwana's mobile phone also acts as a mini, allowing her to take orders. Knowing the demand has allowed her to plant the right crop in the right quantities, thus avoid producing in excess and being faced with storage challenges.

    There is no doubt that we moved from anecdotal examples of how mobile telephony and ICT4D in general are improving lives of millions of people. What we, as development workers need to do, is to make sure that  rural development and agriculture related activities include and embed ICT4D solutions and consider embracing and adopting m-development!wholeheartedly embrace m-devel

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    If you have been on a project implementation support mission, you know the feeling of fulfillment and relief that one gets when the Aide Memoir has been written, discussed and agreed upon by the project management team. You generally feel that you have added value and have learned something new in the process. It is on a day like this, on a mission to the Rural Markets Promotion Programme (PROMER) in Mozambique, that our team leader, Claus Reiner, also the Country Project Manager, suggested we take an evening off to have dinner as a team.

    The members of the team who had been to Maputo before suggested a visit to the fish market and off we went! The market has stalls with all sorts of sea food – fish, crabs, prawns, etc. It is a rather basic market, some kind of make-shift roof over the stalls, made of old tarpaulins and an assortment of sisle bags. I expected there would be a fishy smell, but I thought the market, being in the capital, would be more modern.

    One of our colleagues who lived in Maputo for two years - entertained us with tales of how slippery the market vendors are, and their custom of cheating you several times over if you are not careful or in company of a local person. Everyone was thus alert and ready to make sure that we got value for their money.

    The first stop was in the stalls where you buy your choice of fish and other sea food. The ladies have electronic hand held weighing machines and so we begin to think ‘these can’t be messed with, surely?’ and with some confidence, two of us begin to make orders for the rest of the team. Every kind of fish, ‘camarai’, crabs, prawns, squid, etc selected is carefully weighed. Not to be out-witted, the two decide to re-weigh the goods on someone else’s scale. To everyone’s surprise, the second scale shows much higher weight than the one for the seller, meaning that we have to pay more money. They quickly rush back to the original scale, weigh again, and decide to pay.

    Feeling a bit comfortable that we have not been cheated, we walk to the restaurant right next to the stalls where the fish is supposed to be prepared. In the restaurant, there is another weighing scale so our representatives decide to weigh the goods again! Guess what? They are all less than what we have paid for (at least we knew how much a kilo of the different kinds of fish bought cost).

    We see our two colleagues rushing out of the restaurant where the rest of us have taken seats on the verandah and ordered some drinks, back to the market stalls. They explained that they went to the guy who sold them the biggest fish, and told him that the restaurant scale shows something else and managed to get back 250 meticai (the Mozambique currency). Then they go to the lady who sold the lulus and ask for refund. She carries the extra lulus to the restaurant where upon seeing the original goods she sold weighed, says that “that weighing scale has malaria” and walks out. The guys, in hot pursuit run back to the market to get the third lady who sold the king prawns, only to find that she has disappeared away after seeing her two colleagues being followed up to pay up.

    “All is well that ends well” Finally the two team members accept defeat and take their seats. They have understandably been worked up by the whole process and all they need is a beer, and for the food to get ready quick. The food does come, after about fourty-five minutes and looks delicious! Those who get to eat it confirm that it is great – worth the hassle! Two of us planned to have chicken because we do not really like fish.  

    The discussion, as we eat is - about the whole unfortunate business of not being able to trust anyone, and yet business essentially, should be done with a healthy measure of trust. Unfortunately, everyone agrees that this is not something that happens only in Mozambique, but it is a worldwide problem. Actually, someone gave an example of how in the developed countries, cab drivers will take advantage of tourists who do not know the rates by charging them exorbitant prices for short distances. For people who have been working on a project that promotes markets and access to markets, this is one other aspect that we realize has to be emphasized.

    The other questions are, is there a standards bureau in Mozambique? Is it possible that that institution can change the measurement standards aspect of the way business is done in the fish market? When traders are trustworthy, they will have more customers visiting their stalls regularly and more frequently. They can ensure a steady, regular income, and expand their businesses just by working towards making their clients have confidence in their scales. Doing business is about building a good reputation. Has anyone tried to explain this to them? Has anyone bothered to combat the cheating by making use of scales that are tampered with illegal and holding the perpetrators liable or maybe encouraging and rewarding those that are trustworthy? Just a thought - for development partners out there, looking at improving livelihoods of small scale traders.

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    by Rima Alcadi

    By 2050, the world will host more than 9 billion people. Developing countries’ agricultural production will need to increase by 60 per cent in order to adjust to this burgeoning population – which will in turn require an estimated net annual investment of US$83 billion. Of course, these investments must be sensitive to the sustainability and resilience of agriculture and food systems as well as support agriculture as a key driver of economic growth, job creation and poverty reduction. With this in mind, it is clear that in pursuing rural development, partnerships are essential - and partners need to appreciate the critical role and the interests of smallholder farmers.

    On the 30th of April 2013, IFAD organized a roundtable discussion to identify the main drivers of inclusive and sustainable value chains, and partner with the private sector in this regard. The roundtable, which was moderated by Marcela Villarreal, FAO Director of Communications, Partnerships and Advocacy, was certainly well attended, with IFAD and FAO staff, as well as government representatives. We had prominent speakers – most notably H.E. Dirk Niebel, Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Federal Republic of Germany as our guest of honour, as well as IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze, Director General of Bioversity International Emile Frison, IFAD Associate Vice President Kevin Cleaver and Unilever Italy General Counsel Giulia di Tommaso.

    H.E. Dirk Niebel, Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Federal Republic of Germany and IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze

    The roundtable “icebreaker” was a video – a very inspirational one, given a theme which is close to everybody’s heart (i.e., rural poverty reduction), mind (striking the triple bottom line, i.e., how to make value chains profitable, environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive) and taste buds (chocolate!!!). Indeed, while we munch on our next chocolate bar, we would do well to appreciate the challenges faced in terms of pests and diseases and unsustainable production processes. These challenges hit the smallholder farmers hardest, as they are the main producers of cocoa, yet they affect us all. The video was on the MARS-IFAD partnership in Indonesia, where together we helped to improve the quality of cocoa and boost yields. This translated into a mutually beneficial relationship, and the training provided to farmers via the cocoa development centres is already producing 60% increases in yield. Now we are scaling up the cocoa development centres to new areas. See the video.

    IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze highlighted that our willingness to be innovative is an essential ingredient – in our financing as in our partnerships. He proudly highlighted that IFAD pioneered practices that are now part of the mainstream – for instance focusing on sustainable financing mechanisms (i.e., financing through lending rather than grants), the participatory design of programmes and projects, and an emphasis on country ownership and cofinancing by domestic partners. These approaches are today recognized as best practices in sustainable development and have been crucial to the success of IFAD-funded projects and programmes. In recent years, IFAD has also been strengthening and further developing public-private partnerships in support of smallholder agriculture. This is because the Fund recognises that the private sector has become a major engine of growth in rural economies. IFAD views smallholder farming as a business, and advocates for others to approach smallholders and their needs with this in mind. So when we refer to “private investments in agriculture” we should not envisage the big companies only – but also the smallholders, because cumulatively they make large investments, in terms of their own money and labour. In fact, they are the primary on-farm investors in agriculture.

    H.E. Dirk Niebel, Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Federal Republic of Germany kicked off by stating that it is an outright scandal that 870 million people are still suffering from hunger, and that this is unacceptable. Recognizing that most of these people live in rural areas, promoting rural areas is key to fighting hunger and poverty – which is precisely what IFAD does. This is why IFAD is a particularly important partner for BMZ. In 2010, the BMZ made rural development and food security one of its priority areas and invested more than 2.1 billion euros to help prevent famines. BMZ’s ten-point programme for rural development and food security is also geared towards establishing partnership with international organisations like IFAD. He announced that, immediately prior to the roundtable, BMZ and IFAD signed a Joint Declaration of Intent: this collaboration will specifically promote the access of small farmers to markets for agricultural products by developing value chains, so that small farmers can produce more, in a sustainable way, and increase their incomes. The aim is to help smallholder transition towards market-oriented entrepreneurs. Responsible investments are required, with like-minded partners that are looking to the future and enhancing opportunities together.

    Of course, the discussion would not have been complete without the perspective of the private sector, and Giulia di Tommaso (both Communication Director and General Counsel at Unilever Italy) ably provided that for us. Unilever operates in over 100 countries and flaunts a 50 billion euro turnover in 2012, mainly in the fast moving consumer goods sector. Knorr, Lipton, Dove are a few of the most famous Unilever brands. She told us that almost 50% of the raw materials sourced by Unilever come from agriculture, with 1.3 million smallholder farmers supplying over 12 crops (including tea, vegetables, spices, oil crops, cocoa and milk). There is a clear business rationale to ensure the sustainability of supply and linking smallholder farmers to global value chains. This is firmly embedded into the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, that looks at new business models for sustainable growth. Unilever works with smallholder farmers as part of this vision and is looking for ways to increase smallholders’ role in the value chain, so that they can benefit from value addition in processing and not only from production. Unilever found that partnerships with governments and with local NGOs have been of essence in unlocking this potential. Concurrently, Unilever is working hard to assess its impact on the ground - to ensure they deliver on what they promise and to identify approaches worth scaling up.

    Director General of Bioversity International Emile Frison also made a very insightful presentation, highlighting that if we want to tackle the issue of hunger and poverty, investment that are very specific to agriculture for smallholders should be proactively pursued. In our work with Bioversity, IFAD smallholder farmers are indeed at centre stage. He highlighted that more is needed to meet their needs and that risk management is vital and of increasing importance. Maximising yields are not a solution if increases in productivity come at the expense of increases in risk. This is because farmers are risk averse – and understandably so, given their stakes are so high. Value chains are an important approach – but we must go beyond looking at single value chains (i.e., based on a commodity only) and we must instead focus on strengthening multiple value chains – involving neglected and underutilised species that are important for smallholder farmers' food security and resilience and that envisage farmers as innovators and not merely as producers. We also need to promote and involve local entrepreneurs in developing small machinery specifically adapted to the needs of smallholder farmers, recognising also the role (and addressing the needs) of women farmers. A prime example of this is the IFAD-funded grant to Bioversity implemented in the Kolli Hills (Tamil Nadu) in India, where we increased smallholder farmers’ income and food security from millet farming by improving agronomic practices leading to higher yields, redressing the drudgery associated with its traditional processing, improving value addition, stimulating product development and marketing. The role of these neglected crops with regard to promoting a sustainable and nutritious diet is also a major asset to be considered.

    IFAD Associate Vice President Kevin Cleaver strongly reiterated that farmers need to feature more strongly as private sector in the debate – farmers, their groups and their cooperatives. He highlighted IFAD’s experience in promoting inclusive value chains – with examples from Uganda with palm oil, Rwanda with tea, Sao Tome and Principe with cocoa – in these interventions, IFAD-supported projects helped deliver crucial support to smallholder farmers along the value chain: organizing farmers into groups; capacity-building and training; access to finance; support for market standards and certification; better linkages with markets; and financing for small-scale market infrastructure. He highlighted that private enterprises do not want funding, but they require public investment that produces good infrastructure (meaning roads, water, education, electricity). He referred to this as creating a good “public space”. The marginality of rural areas, he said, has a lot to do with policy neglect and urban bias in services and investments.

    Our audience interaction was also very rich, with interventions from IFAD staff as well as from Argentina, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, India and other government representatives. Several questions and caveats were raised, including the need to beware of monopsonies (with smallholder farmers over-dependent on few buyers only), the need to encourage local and regional markets, creating “public space” to generate investment not for foreign direct investment only but also for generating local investments, and partnering with private sector companies’ that evolved from promoting Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to the concept of responsible investment (i.e., considering the triple bottom line). Nonetheless, IFAD is wary of the danger that some private investors may wish to exploit poor rural smallholders and precautionary measures are methodically taken to ensure this doesn’t happen.

    To wrap up, some of the major messages that came through are: farmers play an important role as innovators, and a priority should be to improve their voice and bargaining power; it is important to create better rural employment opportunities (an interesting read in my opinion is Gary Fields’ book “Working Hard, Working Poor” ); we need to promote multiple value chains and address risk; and to achieve all this and more, partnerships are essential – not only for financing, but also to promote innovation, knowledge generation and knowledge sharing;

    Useful links

    Concept note
    Private-sector strategy - Deepening IFAD’s engagement with the private sector (2011)
    IFAD and the private sector: building links to accelerate pro-poor rural development
    10 points for a strategic approach to partnering with the private sector
    BMZ website

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    by Sheila  Mwanundu and Marie Clarisse Chanoine

    The Multilateral Financial Institutions Working Group on Environment (MFI-WGE), was conceived in the late 70’s by MFI directors.  The Group’s work is seen within the perspective of high expectations in the development community to see substantive progress in reducing transaction costs, strengthen capacity, and improve development effectiveness and borrower practices through harmonizing donor policies, procedures and practices information on recent developments on environment. Environment is referred to in a broader sense which includes bio-physical, social, economic, biological and cultural inheritance aspects. The working group reflects the post-Rio approach of embedding environmental and social impacts into risk management.

    The Multilateral Financial Institutions Working Group on Environment (MFI-WGE), of which IFAD is a member,  is convened twice a year and hosted by the different MFIs on a rotational basis. This year, IFAD had the pleasure to host the Spring meeting and to welcome Environmental managers and responsible of several institutions such as African Development Bank, Black Sea Trade and Development, Department For International Development,  European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Eurasian Development Bank, European Investment Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, International Finance Corporation, Japan International Cooperation Agency Nordic Investment Bank, Nordic Environment Finance Cooperation and World Bank.

    The meeting, which took place on April 24-26 2013, has been an opportunity for these institutions to share experiences and lessons learned from their interventions in a refreshingly informal and honest environment. The focus was primarily on new trends related to climate change, environmental and social issues and safeguards in each institution, and the identification of practical areas of cooperation that would ultimately make a difference in the operations -on the ground- of the respective institutions. It was recognised by all members that environmental and social impacts are entwined and should be considered into the programme/project cycles  using qualified technical specialists. Thus, in-depth discussions covered environmental impacts as well as social impacts (including resettlement, indigenous peoples’ issues,  participation of local communities and vulnerable groups).

    At this meeting, there was no shortage of talks, spanning the urgent need for an integrated approach to safeguards, to greater focus on human rights, to timely and targeted response to climate change through the use of satellite data. A major focus of this 3-day workshop was the review of  environmental policy development of various member institutions.

    The group discussed about Cross-cutting issues in policy updating, including Performance Standards, Use of Country Systems and Innovations, especially in Medium Income Countries.

    Special focus has been given to crosscutting topics such as gender, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender),  Indigenous People, land tenure, and sharing of guidelines while co-financing same projects. We had also an opportunity to introduce Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP) which is a major new climate funding stream for a comprehensive integration of climate and environment into wider policies of IFAD. As climate change is transforming the context of our work, it has become central to our mission and must be a big part of our institutional future.

    Moreover, the working group on environment discussed about how to invest in technologies to reduce black carbon, that is a short lived climate pollutants produced by incomplete combustion of fossil fuel and biomass.  Climate finance and Green Economy have been mentioned throughout the meeting. For several members, there is a need to unite science and climate change practical strategy.

    The World Bank shared the findings of  first phase of surveys throughout the world in various country  such as Canada, Argentina, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Ivory Coast, Indonesia amidst many  others.  Further to an agreement that there is a need for modernization of the Bank’s policies, the aim of the consultations is to consider whether and how the World Bank can address emerging areas in new safeguards. This was an essential topic as several institutional safeguards have been inspired by Word Bank model.

    Related discussions focused on how to deal with projects which don’t respect environmental  standards, how to give a rapid response to damages caused by projects, and finally how to deal with countries who don’t want transparency.

    Sustainable development goals triggered a lively debate among participants, who were concerned by the need to limit the numbers of goals in order to address them appropriately. They also stressed that multilateral institutions should create better environmental sustainability indicators. Yet, among this abundance of information and analysis, one presentation struck all for its clear headedness in assessing the challenges of achieving real change in environmental sustainability in IFAD. Moreover, Independent Office Evaluation (IOE) gave details on Environmental and Natural Resources Management (ENRM) Progress of IFAD Operations. ENRM is one of five rural poverty impact domains and the weakest impact areas. Its evaluation focus on the extent to which a project or programme contributes to changes in the protection, rehabilitation or depletion of natural resources and the environment. IOE recognised that IFAD had taken significant steps to improve its ENRM performance since 2002 but it’s too early to assess climate change impacts. Actually, achieving large scale positive environmental impacts remains a challenge.

    The meeting concluded with a  visit to  the European Space Agency (ESA) in Frascati, where the Group learnt how satellite information can be used for various purposes such as vulnerability assessments and weather forecasting. The Group was honoured to meet the Italian Astronaut, Paolo Nespoli, who delivered a 3D presentation on life in space.

    The meetings have proved useful, in terms of discussing issues of common interest and exchanging information on best practices   The principles and best practices in harmonisation are progressively being integrated into the Fund’s environmental assessment process. IFAD should continue to pursue these objectives consistent with its specific mandate – enabling the rural poor to overcome their poverty. The next meeting will be hosted by the Asian Development Bank in Fall 2013 in Manila, Philippines.

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    Smallholder farmers in  Navrongo district, Ghana.
    ©IFAD/Fabiana Formica
    NEW YORK, USA – The United Nations Committee on World Food Security, or CFS, held a briefing at UN headquarters yesterday for the Economic and Social Council, which has broad responsibility for specialized UN agencies and commissions addressing economic, social and environmental challenges. Among other remarks, the briefing featured a keynote address by the Chair of CFS, Dr. Yaya Olaniran. He said the committee, founded in 1974 as a policy forum on food and nutrition security, was working to increase its transparency, inclusiveness and effectiveness.

    “This generation has the capacity to end hunger and extreme poverty,” Dr. Olaniran asserted. “There is increasing political will. What is needed now is action.”

    Zak Bleicher of IFAD’s North American Liaison Office was one of several other speakers at the event. Bleicher delivered a statement on behalf of the three Rome-based UN agencies – the Food and Agriculture Organization, IFAD and the World Food Programme – which provide technical support and expertise to CFS as members of its Advisory Group. The statement supported a major purpose of the briefing: to build bridges between the food and agriculture hub in Rome and counterparts at the UN in New York. Excerpts follow.

    Today, 870 million people are not getting enough food to meet their most basic dietary needs. Almost 1 billion persons are poor and food insecure, and most of them live in rural areas. Up to 2 billion people suffer from various forms of malnutrition. Meanwhile, to meet the demand of a global population that is expected to reach 9.1 billion by 2050, food production in developing countries will need to double in the same timeframe.

    Addressing the multi-dimensional nature of this challenge in a sustainable manner requires an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ approach, focused on identifying successful practices, building partnerships and developing the right policy approaches in a spirit of country ownership but also of international coordination. The ‘big tent’ of the CFS is the most inclusive platform to gather a broad range of inputs, recognize the legitimate voice of different stakeholders, and build support and opportunities for collaboration in the implementation of decisions by Member States….

    The CFS is the only global forum that brings together the full range of stakeholders in food security – from national governments to farmers’ organizations, civil society, the private sector, international financial institutions, technical agencies and – of course – the Rome-based United Nations agencies.

    The need for a forum for policy coordination has never been clearer. We are confident that the CFS will step up to this challenge. We are working in concert as never before, supported by a world-class panel of experts … dedicated to the eradication of hunger and malnutrition. We hope that this work can also prove to be a valuable contribution to the discussions around a post-2015 development agenda and the articulation of sustainable development goals.

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    Hosted by the IFAD – Rural Livelihood Improvement Programme (RLIP), the second edition of the 5-days Learning Route on Pro-Rural Poor Public and Private Partnership started yesterday the 6th of May in Lao PDR.
    As small streams coming from 5 different provinces from Southern Laos (Champasak, Salavan, Attapeu, Savanakeli, Sekon), the 19 participants(18 female, 1 man) of this Learning Route are flowing onto a “River of Learning “, starting to know each other.  In the next days, they will travel to learn about the key elements behind the success of public private partnership able to ensure a long-term and sustainable access to market.

    As the participants’ pointed out during  the first day these are indeed one of the major challenges for small-producers in Laos: poor infrastructure to connect villages to market centers in the rural areas, prices fluctuation , the lack of knowledge on market dynamics, low marketing skills to promote and sell are amongst the main obstacles producers have to face. These constraints should be also considered within a broader socio-economic context affected by the migration abroad  of rural youth, the lack of capital to start new businesses and a weak networking with the private sector. However, despite these difficulties, poor rural farmers can still count on the richness of the country’s natural resources, availability of labour force and the strong presence of governmental programmes supporting them in accessing to new markets. Moreover, the demand for organic foods, handicrafts and other natural products is increasing, opening up new business opportunities for poor rural people.

    The Learning route will be completed on the 10th of May when the participants will shape their innovative ideas into innovation plans for the benefit of their community and their project.
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    Photo with the asparagus producers champions in Darkhied, Sansai district, Lao PDR

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    by Richard Aiello, Ambrosio Barros and Martin Raine

    Excellence in project management translates into remarkable project results and impact on the ground, that is why project management skills can make the difference . A total of approximately 60 WCA and ESA CPOs and Project Directors have attended a first training workshop in Tanzania/Arusha in October 2012 (only Anglophone participants) followed by one on-going one in Senegal/Dakar (with Anglophone and Francophone participants).

    The two events focused on enhancing project management skills from a people management (e.g., leadership styles, receiving and giving feedback, coaching) and a technical (e.g., project strategy, sustainability, logframe, M&E/RIMS, Annual Work Plan and Budget) point of view.

    At the end of the follow up workshop in Dakar, the Anglophone participants welcomed the Francophone cohort sharing with colleagues their experiences and their enthusiasm.

    This is a new learning initiative that is in line with good and most recent training practices. The first group of CPOs and Project Directors have had the opportunity to experiment their learning after the session in October in Arusha. In May 2013, they came back together in Dakar. On this occasion they shared their experiences, their challenges and how they went about overcoming these. This was a great example of putting what they learnt to practice, thus ensuring that the learning, “sticks” and does not “wash away” shortly after the training.

    In addition to enhancing project management skills, the participants expanded their network and shared experiences across borders. And the good news is that once back in their respective countries, they are continuing to network and exchange with each other and  IFAD-funded projects.

    This is a WCA/ESA/HRD partnership, (Luyaku Nsimpasi, Sylvie Marzin, Geoffrey Livingstone, Miriam Okong’o, Martin Raine, Ambrosio Barros, Federica Iachetti, Dounamba Konare, Michael Isaack, Rahel Getachew, Gabriella Quintavalla, Richard Aiello), where once again we have all experienced how working across divisions is needed, useful, motivating and fun !!! We have truly enjoyed it, we feel we have reinforced our understanding of the challenges faced at country level and also built a stronger partnership with new and old colleagues from our Country Offices.

    Finally we would also like to share some of the comments from participants:

    Luyaku Nsimpasi (IFAD Representative and Country Director Senegal) said “ I was very impressed by the frankness and openness of the project coordinators and CPOs in sharing experiences with their peers. This openness has surely highly contributed to the success when discussing experiences in leadership, planning and implementation.

    Mwatima Juma (CPO Tanzania) said “this has been my first exposure with a training that included follow up. I believe that this format has made the training more effective and practical and I will be able to apply better what I learned since during the follow up I have had the chance to ground the learning experience and expand it. I have also made connections with new colleagues with whom I believe I have created a special link also thanks to the content of the training that has provided us with several opportunities to experience a different kind of conversation that while exploring real issues has worked intensively on our emotions”.

    Irene Jumbo-Ibeakuzie (Programme Manager Nigeria) said “it has been a grand experience for us. Some of the things we thought we were doing right needed to be readdressed. During the two sessions I have further appreciated the importance of the full participation of the programme coordination in the process of the development of the Annual Work Plan & Budget to ensure proper guidance. I have also appreciated better what effective team work is really about, and how important it is to coach staff to improve productivity and results".

    Dick Siame(CPO Zambia) said “From my point of view this training is helping project leaders open up and address potential issues with staff. As a CPO it empowers me to navigate more effectively on projects and with project managers strengthening  my ability to represent a clear reference for planning purposes. I also found particularly useful enhancing my understanding of how different people react to situations and learn how to respond to their reactions guiding them towards the required goals. I felt inspiring that as a group we jointly came up with…. a manager has to find a way to work in the same way with all members of the team without being distant from any member, this is not always easy but we need to make sure it happens".

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    Do improved roads increase the availability of medical services in remote areas? They do. In addition, they also improve the mobility of women, the availability of products and agricultural inputs in rural markets, the possibility for children to reach their schools and the connectivity of rural producers with suppliers and buyers, as the Market Infrastructure Development Project in Charland Regions(MIDPCR) shows.

    Charlands in the coastal area of Bangladesh.
    Jointly funded by the Government of Bangladesh, IFAD and the Government of the Netherlands, MIDPCR has been working since 2006 to improve the livelihoods of women, men and children living in the one of the most remote and poor area of Bangladesh, regularly struck by cyclones and subject to flooding. Poor road infrastructure limited access to larger markets, increased production costs due to high input and transportation costs, and lowered prices due to remoteness. With a total investment of USD43.9 million and targeting poor primary producers, small traders (both women and men), and women laborers  MIDPCR constructed road and market infrastructure, created employment opportunities in construction works and providing training and access to financial services to support start-up of income generating activities.

    LCS member with her ID card, enabling to sell
    her produce at the market toll free.
    Over the implementation period of 7 years, 432 km of road and 66 markets were constructed under MIDPCR. Instead of using regular contractors, the project worked with Labor Contracting Societies (LCS) for market infrastructure and village roads. LCS are groups of women who, after receiving training, construct roads, market infrastructure and boat landing stages. In an area where employment opportunities are scarce and women traditionally do not work outside the house, this was a rare opportunity to earn some money. The majority of group members were coming from landless households, in many cases the women were heading the household. For their work they did not only receive a salary for every day worked, they also received part of the profit made during the construction works. Upon conclusion of their works, many of the women joined MIDPCR’s partner NGOs who offered training and microcredit to support the women in taking up an income generating activity. While the women spent their daily salary on family consumption, many used the profit earned to purchase assets such as land to cultivate vegetables or livestock. So while the LCS work is a one-off opportunity, it can start a development path. Manju Rani, who is the sole income earner for herself and her little son, for example,  used part of the BDT 25,000 (USD300) profit from constructing Mothertoli Bazaar to buy a milk cow and a calve. Some of the milk she uses for family consumption, the remaining milk she sells at the market. As all LCS members, Manju received a toll free card that enables her to sell her produce at the market without having to pay toll. Once she has raised 
    After participating in the LCS works, Irani Begum leased a shop
    in the Women Market Section of Nazirpur Market.
    the calve, she plans to sell it to buy a second milk cow. Ex-LCS members report that in addition to an increase in income and savings, the period of food shortage has been decreased, in some cases even eliminated, and many women used their building skills to improve their own houses. And they say, that their work and the fact that they now earn money has strengthened their self-confidence and position in the community. One ex-LCS member even decided to run in the Union Parishad elections. And won with a large majority. “We are now known as skilled persons”, said Manju, “and we know that we can stand on our own feed.”

    Pharmacy at Nazirpur Market.
    In addition to creating employment opportunities for women, the roads and markets built under MIDPCR had another effect: they triggered a socio-economic development in the region, benefiting the entire community. Nowadays at the markets, people can purchase more or less the same products as in bigger cities, including seeds and other agricultural input. Markets are growing by additional shops, restaurants, pharmacies that are built through private investments. Shops and tea stalls are opening up alongside the road – all this creates additional employment opportunities, particularly for landless households. Surveys, conducted in the project area, shows the impact of the improved infrastructure on the life of rural people:

    • Travel costs have decreased significantly, thus connecting remote villages to social services and the market. Passenger fares for motorized vehicles on project roads have decreased by 8% on market days and 38% on non-market days, while control roads show an increase of 134% and 88% respectively. A similar trend is observable for transport of goods.
    • Travel time has decreased as the average speed of motorized vehicles has increased by 136% during dry season and 182% during monsoon and the average speed of non-motorized vehicles has increased by 114% during dry season and 155% during monsoon.
    • 95% stated that the access to health service has improved.
    • 87% responded that the access to schools has become better (and some respondents added, that the quality of teachers has improved as they are now willing to be posted in this area), school enrollment in primary schools nearly doubled between 2006 and 2013.
    • 87% answered that access to markets has strongly improved and that goods and services have become more affordable.
    • 50% stated that mobility of women has increased, respondents also said that women can now travel alone. A large part of respondents on the other hand said, that women still not travel to nearby towns or markets. However, girls' enrollment in primary education more than tripled and women report improved access to maternal and child health care programs.
    • 70% responded that their food security has improved, of which 40 said it has strongly improved. Respondents also mentioned the increased variety of available food.
    • 75% indicated an increase in income since the construction of the road, with 26% mentioning a large improvement as new roads reduce travel time and increase accessibility of jobs, ultimately allowing increased income. In addition, the newly constructed roads have encouraged  road based employment, such as different transportation modes and road maintenance for destitute women. 
    • Value of land has increased, varying strongly between 7% and 900%.

    Building on this experience, the Government of Bangladesh and IFAD, in partnership with ADB and KfW will scale up MIDPCR’s infrastructure component in the Coastal ClimateResilient Infrastructure Project (CCRIP), which is expected to benefit 3.5 million people in selected Upazillas of 12 coastal districts.

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    Access to computers for the rural poor has been on the radar of the development community for quite some time now, with both advocates and critics vividly promoting their personal views.  The primary point of the critics is rooted in the opportunity-cost of investing in computers, meaning that there are many more important things that the rural-poor may need (such as clean drinking water, improved health, and access to teachers) than a computer.

    Farmers in Swaziland prepare the soil for new planting season ©IFAD
    In many cases I agree. However, in some cases there are real needs, and an economic-case to be made for access to computers.  I came across one such case during my recent travel to Swaziland, where some advanced farmer-companies consisting of poor rural farmers wanted a computer and appropriate accessories to effectively manage their business. This included simple tasks such as photo copying, typing, emailing, accounting and budgeting. One company we visited had already started to budget for purchasing equipment and planned to invest in a computer shortly.  However, for an entrepreneur living at the base of the pyramid, the barriers to entry into owning a computer are often too high.

    A simple Google search reveal that even equipment envisaged for rural Africa is very expensive. For example, the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) cost more than $209 in 2011[1]. On the basis of such expenses, if the 40% of the global population living on less than $2 a day would want to access a computer, they would have to spend around 30% of their annual income. With average global spending on Information communication technology (ICT) being around 3%[2], it is unrealistic to expect a rural-poor user to be able to absorb such a cost.  It would take 10 people to share the cost in order to reach “global expense levels”, and even then the cost would be at the expense of other vital things such as food, medicine, or education for your children. Other low-cost initiatives estimate prices at $500[3], or the $350 Nigerian Inye tablet[4].

    Raspberry Pi - courtesy wikipedia
    This was until recently, when the Cambridge-designed Raspberry Pi ( ) was introduced. The Pi (as it goes as) can be bought in two models at $25 and $35 respectively. The price can be a little deceiving as you only buy the circuit board, and would need to obtain an SD card; power cable; keyboard; mouse; and some sort of screen separately, but it still leaves some room for excitement, and here are my four reasons why:

    A big expense with imports are always the duties, and unfortunately, most computers currently tend to be produced outside of Africa (the Inye for example is produced in China). If you import a $1,000 or even $500 item, taxes can add up. However, at $35 unit cost, taxes should not have such a huge effect as even a 100% taxation would result in a $70 unit. 

    The Raspberry Pi is highly flexible in terms of cost, you can use it with almost any type of television set (which often is available in rural areas) ; without a case or possibly build one yourself; and can run it completely on opensource software, saving licensing fees or having to use pirated software.
    When I visit rural areas I often see “old” non-functioning computers left in some corner of an office. I would argue there are a range of accessories available locally, such as computer mice, cables, or even monitors that could be acquired at a relatively low price.

    The Pi is based on Linux, which is virtually virus free.Viruses are a huge problem with windows machines in Africa. In addition, the system is installed on an SD card, which can be very easily (and at a relatively low cost) replaced, possibly resulting in less computers being left unused due to software problems.

    As the Pi is simply a circuit-card, it opens up the opportunity for a local market where cases and used accessories can be sold. Similarly, the use of opensource software would arguably make it easier for local entrepreneurs to provide tech support and additional services around software packages. Although it would probably not be a comparatively huge employment-generator ,  it may create additional jobs and create an IT-ecosystem that is less dependent upon non-African supply-chains. For example, a certified Microsoft supplier will need to have gone through certain training and pay a fee to Microsoft, which may act as a barrier-to-entry for local entrepreneurs. 

    Additionally, working with opensource will lower the barriers-to-entry into software development for local developers as per definition, almost anyone can contribute to an opensource software project. It would most possibly open up a need for software developed for local context and needs, and thus create a demand for local software developers. Subsequently, more activities and demand in the African-software-development-sphere would quite possibly result in increased innovation and software being developed from the continent.     

    Obviously the Pi is not the solution to all problems, and there are potential challenges. One being that the Linux operating system is not as widely used as Windows. However, there are Linux capable people on the continent and vibrant communities emerging that could support the introduction of the Pi. To explore the potential of low-cost-computers further, a few Pi’s are being tested in IFAD-financed programmes in Mozambiqueand Swaziland. The pilots include the Pi as a business tool for rural-farmer-companies and rural extension offices, and as a mean to access information online such as extension services through small rural-youth-run internet cafés.

    What do you think? Could the Pi make a difference in Africa?

    [1] Rawsthorn, "A few stumbles on the road to connectivity", Available at:
    [3] Balacing Act Africa, "Intel and AMD battle for low-cost computer market", Available at:
    [4] BBC, "Nigeria's low-cost tablet computer", Available at:

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    The second edition of the Learning Route  “Pro-Rural Poor Public and Private Partnership in Lao PDR, Best practices and successful strategies in Attapeu Province seen through women’s eyes” ended successfully on the 10th of May.

    The River at the beginning of the LR
    During the 5 days event the 20 female participants experienced field visits, discussions and analysis sessions that resulted in the development of action plans to improve their communities’ livelihoods through better access to market, stronger and improved group management, and strengthened relations with the private sector.

    Every day participants made the Learning Route River wider with their knowledge, expectations, challenges, lessons learned and recommendations. On the last day, new ideas and innovations plans contributed to reach the maximum river’s flow, with many streams getting communities in 5 different districts of Southern Laos.
    The river of learning by the end of the LR
    As Ms. Bouasavanh Homdouangphachanh  (representative for a community association, SNRMPE Project, Salavan province) pointed out “the most significant lesson experienced through the Learning Route is that the development of new business activities goes hand in hand with the improvement of education and the enhancement of gender inclusion at the community level. Sustainable business activities could take place only where there is a well organized community or group, a good management of the environment and the natural resources. 
    Pro-rural poor public-private partnerships put “People” at the centre of a range of integrated activities for livelihood improvement”.

    Integrated strategies and approaches to foster pro-poor rural PPP should be drawn on the base of key components. Participants highlighted some of them:

    • Clear organization structure and sharing of roles, responsibilities and rules, and participatory decision making processes complemented by transparent and accountable financial management are key to ensure effective group management.  In this framework, the role of women at both production and decision-making process, should be strengthened. 
    • The sharing of a common vision among group members and collective future plans are key for the sustainability of the experience over time
      The establishment and regular management of a collective fund is indispensable for the development of the group’s activities.
    • The written agreement between farmers, public and private sector is an indispensible asset and it must reflect responsibilities of the various parties. The role of the public sector goes far beyond the community infrastructure development to access the market. Counting on the trust of the community, local public organizations have the responsibility to support the strengthening of the group developing sustainable dynamics that can ensure benefits for the whole community and guarantee the establishment of a  fair relation with the private sector.
      On the other side,  the private sector plays an important role as trainer, introducing the farmers to new effective and efficient techniques that can improve the productivity and preserve natural resources.
    • In order to have fair deals it is important for the farmers to know the overall market context (price and quality standards) of the products they will sell to the private sector 
    • Cultural identity should be preserved and valorised. The promotion of handicrafts with a strong cultural identity (such as in the case of the natural dyes fabrics manufactured by the Taliang women) in fact, can generate incomes for the producer. The identification of the source and origin of a product, and its cultural identity, can attract market demand and ensure new incomes.

    LR innovative ideas!
    Based on these learning, participants developed strategic innovation plans focusing on the creation  or the improvement of pro-rural poor PPP at local and regional level. 

    Each innovation plan creates in its own specific way linkages among key components, such as: community organization’s strengthening, sustainable partnership between public and private sector, diversification of local production and strategies for the improvement or creation of market access for poor rural people.

    Here below the list of the proposals, ordered by best rating, following the innovation plan contest. Two additional evaluations will be undertaken by Procasur and the Projects and the four final winners will be communicated by mid June.
    1. Strengthening Taliang’s group structure and internal capacity building to access the market and engagement with private sector (Vangxay village, Sansei Attapeu)
    2. Enhancing community livelihood and income strengthening the knowledge on organic vegetables production and planning (Phonsin community, Savanakhet province)
    3. Enhancing group access to market though spicy souse quality improvement in Salavan province
    4. Improving productivity and quality of asparagus Asparagus plantation from the successful experience of Dakhiet and Mr Phimpsa
    5. Community based knowledge exchange to improve chilli plantation quality (Dongvai comunity, Champasak province)
    6. Development of community based network to  enhance the knowledge and know-how on livestock vaccination (Sekong province)
    7. Strengthening Katua’s community knowledge on coffee marketing and promotion for a better access to the market (Paksong, Champasak province)
    8. Improving organic watermelon plantation in Sansai district, Attapeu province
    9. Community based knowledge exchange and training on natural dying in Xaysetha district, Attapeu province   
    Innovation plan presentation
    Innovation plan competition

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    Small farmers are always linked to the local private sector, at the time when they buy input and tools from suppliers and when they sell their produce to traders and sellers. But often these linkage are not strong enough to secure high quality input and the necessary technical knowledge, hindering small farmers to increase their productivity and diversify into higher value agriculture production meeting the market demand.

    The IFAD-supported Market Infrastructure Development Project inCharland Regions (MIDPCR) addressed this by systematically building linkages among the different actors of one value chain. The project’s Rural Enterprise Component (RED), implemented by the international NGO iDE, aimed at identifying and linking small-scale producers to lucrative market opportunities and adopting a systematic approach to develop sustainable value chains in the project area, one of the most remote and poor areas of Bangladesh.

    RED activities have increased the income of fish farmers
    by USD270. ©IFAD/G.M.B.Akash
    Until today, the RED activities have led to an increase in crop yield and additional income per farmer ranging from BDT3,000 (USD 40, fruit garden) to BDT21,000 (USD270, fish), strong linkages between different stakeholders of a value chain; sustainable input supply and technical assistance for farmers through to 52 private sector institutions, 4 public agencies and 2 research organisations; adaptation of more than 30 new technologies (such as pheromone traps, pond water and soil testing services, hybrid seeds, plastic crate for vegetable transport, early separation of chicks and inoculum, a bacteria that when mixed with seeds can increase production by 20% and significantly reduces the need for urea fertilizer once plant is grown). Within the two years of project implementation, successful interventions were scaled up throughout the area, increasing the outreach from 20,000 to 72,000 farmers.

    Nurul Amin, Project Manager at iDE, explains the approach, success factors and lessons learned of MIDPCR’s RED activities:

    How did the project strengthen the market linkage and value chains?

    The activities, can basically be broken down in 3 steps: First, we identified the agricultural products with the highest commercial potential in the area through field work and studies. These products were chosen based on a number of criteria, such as the potential increase in overall productivity, number of farmers/households involved in the cultivation, geographic dispersion in the project area, potential to structure and strengthen the value chain, opportunities to introduce and access new technologies to improve quantity and quality of production and potential to link with MIDPCR markets. On this basis, we defined target interventions and cluster areas.

    Following this, we started to build linkages among the relevant actors of the selected value chains. While local producers normally were only in touch with local traders/sellers when the production was concluded, RED activities brought relevant actors together before the actual production started, which allowed to identify market demand, input shortages and technical assistance needs. This was done through meetings and workshops, such as pre-season planning meetings on the village level, bringing together local suppliers, producers and traders to discuss product market demand, input supply, availability of services and a production plan for the coming season as well as linkage workshops on the Upazilla [sub district] level. These workshops brought together all actors along one specific value chain -the Market Management Committees, traders, suppliers, service providers, producers and relevant government officials – aiming at building relationships among farmers, input suppliers, service providers, traders/buyers; improving the capacity of farmers to seek services from other value chain stakeholders; and creating interest of input suppliers and buyers/traders to expand their business activities.

    Poultry farming is particularly suited for 
    women farmers as it can be done within 
    the farm.  ©IFAD/G.M.B.Akash
    Finally, we built the capacity of rural producers enabling them to increase their production and meet market demands by organizing technical assistance and introducing new technologies. In our trainings, we brought in the relevant actors along the value chain as experts and business service providers. In Marketing and Management Trainings, for example, farmers learned how to turn their farming into a commercial activity, about their target markets and how to develop entrepreneurial capacity. Further, together with the farmers, we identified technical issues that were hindering them from increasing their production or meet market quality standards. We then facilitated private sector led technology demonstration at local level and organized visits, for example to expert farmers who were already very successful in their production or utilized new technologies or to the main markets where one specific product is sold or to input suppliers that were known for good quality inputs. While this supported farmers to clarify specimen with main sellers, exporters and marketing managers, it also increased their market access and strengthened linkages with value chain partners.

    Do you expect these linkages to be sustainable?

    Yes. As those interventions created benefits for all actors along the value chain, it is to be expected, that the created links will be sustained and farmers can continue to grow their business. Also, we already see a spill-over effect: While under MIDPCR mainly farmers who were already farming a particular product, other farmers in the region, once they saw the difference in income made through a new variety or technology, adopted the approach as well.

    What were critical factors leading to the success of the project?

    The main success factors during the implementation of the RED component were

    • that we applied a market development approach to secure private sector actors’ participation – if there is a business opportunity, the project intervention will be sustainable and beneficial to all stakeholders involved;
    • that we followed a bottom up approach to ensure that activities were demand-driven and addressed the actual needs of farmers,  rather than imposing activities and products from the project; and
    • that the roads and markets constructed under MIDPCR’s infrastructure component ensured an enabling environment for farmers to access markets as well as for suppliers/traders to come to the farm gate.

    Fishermen selling their produce at the market 

    in Bakergonj. ©IFAD/G.M.B.Akash
    What are the lessons that you take away from this project?

    Looking back at the RED activities, there are a number of lessons that we have learned, such as

    • combining value chain development activities with access to finance (as applied in MIDPCR’s NGO activities) will help farmers to adopt new technologies/varieties;
    • both husband and wife should participate in activities as our experience shows that both are controlling different areas within the household, and both joining in the training enables them  to take a joint informed decision rather than one partner blocking it;
    • increasing farmers associations’ business management capacity can ensure sustainability of project interventions and increase benefits for farmers;
    • working with trader associations can potentially open up additional connections for farmers on quality inputs and selling channels;
    • competition is a key factor to ensure quality for the farmers;
    • the private sector should be involved from the design stage if a project is targeting increased private sector involvement.

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    ©IFAD/Susan Beccio 
    Wafaa El-Khoury, Senior Technical Advisor on Agronomy at International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) just returned from the Strategic Meeting of The Global Cassava Partnership for the 21st Century. This year’s theme was “Declaring War on Cassava Viruses in Africa”, an important topic since cassava experts are reporting new outbreaks and an increased spread of Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD). According to experts the rapidly multiplying plant virus could cause a 50 per cent drop in production of a crop that provides a substantial source of food and income for 300 million Africans. El-Khoury highlights that close cooperation between the research, development and donor communities is needed to keep the disease under control in the already affected areas of East Africa while ensuring the prevention of its entry into West Africa. Here are her takeaways from the meeting, and recommendations for the future.

    Q: How is the topic you discussed at the conference relevant to IFAD and its operations?

    Cassava is among the most important crop for the livelihoods of IFAD’s beneficiaries mainly in Africa, but also in Asia and in Latin America. IFAD loans and grants portfolio includes substantial investments in the development of the cassava value chains as well as in ensuring food security for the most vulnerable people, especially in regions with difficult environmental conditions and in areas at risk of effects to climate change. As you may know cassava has been seen as a stable and resilient crop in the face of effects of climate change. The occurrence of a virus disease would directly affect IFAD’s operations in these countries reducing the chances of success in value chain enhancement activities, and also impact food security and nutrition related activities. Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) is a virus disease (2 active viruses) severely infecting all cassava varieties that have been newly developed resistant to the Cassava mosaic disease (CMD), another disease that has been devastating East and Central Africa for over a decade. CBSD is transmitted through the whitefly vector and through cuttings used for vegetative propagation. The cassava experts are reporting new outbreaks, and an increased spread of the CBSD epidemic in East Africa is worrying and the concern would increase substantially if the virus spreads to West Africa and even other continents. IFAD should play an active role together with the international research and development community to resolve the problem as soon as possible, and I will give a more detailed perspective in the text below.

    Q: What do you think has changed for the farmers who have been dealing with such threats over the years?

    ©IFAD/Gerard Planchenault
    It is true that farmers have had to deal with biotic and abiotic threats throughout history, and farmers have dealt with them in various ways, mainly through the selection and multiplication of best landraces that could survive these threats. Traditionally farmers have selected crop populations with the most stable yield and not necessarily the crop with the highest yield. Today farmers are under pressure to increase productivity and production for food security and income generation. This is achieved mainly through crop intensification with changes in cultural practices and cropping patterns, often with a reduction of genetic diversity across landscapes, but also with the cultivation of new crops in areas previously considered not adapted to their growth. These developments have been accompanied by an increase in the movement of human beings and genetic material across countries and continents, and by a changing climate affecting the populations of pests, diseases and their interaction with host plants. All these factors are resulting in an increasing global incidence of emerging infectious diseases. Studies have shown that these are mainly the result of pathogen introductions into new areas (56% of cases), weather related (25% of cases), changes in farming techniques and systems (9% of cases), changes in vector populations (7% of cases ) or genetic recombination of the pathogen or habitat disturbances (Anderson et al 2004).

    Around 50% of these emerging infectious diseases are viruses and they can quickly get established and spread to epidemic levels. Research has shown that emerging infectious viruses developing into disease epidemics are consistently linked to human-induced changes in agricultural production systems.

    African farmers have in the past decades witnessed a series of epidemics that have devastated their staple crops. Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) is presently still restricted to East Africa but the research and development community have serious concerns that it will soon move to Central and West Africa devastating the main cassava-producing areas. The problem is further complicated through the emergence of new populations of the whitefly vector that are highly prolific with very high multiplication rates, resulting in high disease transmission rates and causing severe crop damage through their direct feeding on the plant. The increased vector populations are expected to be favoured through the effect of climate change in Africa. CBSD is a disease that produces limited leaf symptoms which makes it difficult to spot and eliminate infected plants early in the growing season, but at harvest time, severe root symptoms are observed (necrosis, browning of the roots such that they are not fit for processing or eating).

    Q: What should we in IFAD be doing differently to equip our beneficiaries to better deal with the threats of cassava viruses? 

    Through its loan and grants IFAD has been extremely active in the past decades in the promotion of cassava productivity in Africa. Not only did it promote the introduction of new highly productive varieties adapted to the needs of the farmer and markets, it has supported farmers and women in postharvest cassava transformation and value additions. Through its grants system, IFAD’s support was crucial to the pan-African control of the devastating cassava mealy bug pest through the environmentally and eco-system friendly method of biological control.

    However, with the continuous changes in agricultural production systems, natural landscapes and global climate, the risk of pandemics is expected to increase. Development interventions, including IFAD’s interventions should accordingly ensure the resilience of farming systems ahead of the emergence of the problem. The response at the onset of the epidemic should be holistic, based on multiple interventions with considerations at landscape levels beyond the farm level. Considerations should also be given to awareness raising and policy interventions at the national level and beyond. The disease control should never rely on one single solution such as only the introduction of resistant varieties but should include various disease management options and major elements of capacity building to ensure sustainability of interventions and capacity of farmers and national institutions to respond to similar future shocks. Among possible IFAD interventions that go beyond research is through its rural finance activities and its linkage to the private sector to support farmers in accessing virus free clean planting material, often a limiting factor for farmers while it is one of the most critical disease management practices. Capacity building of farmers and farmer organization in identifying the disease and establishing community-based phyto-sanitation, which has proven effective in disease management could also be part of IFAD’s interventions. IFAD could also play a critical role in institutional capacity development and support in national coordination for contingency planning and response to similar emergencies. IFAD could also fund research on multiple management solutions to CBSD as well as on understanding the future risks and mitigation strategies for the emergence of pests and diseases of food security crucial crops as cassava.

    Q: What are your three most important takeaways that you would like to share with colleagues/partners? 
    1. Emerging trans boundary epidemics affecting staple crops can only be managed through international cooperation involving the research, development and donor communities. They would require also political will for action and hence a lot of advocacy and awareness raising with the national, sub-regional and regional levels that would influence relevant policy and decision-making bodies.
    2. Pandemics –whether affecting humans, animals or crops, are becoming more frequent and more devastating.Learning from previous epidemics is critical to assess the potential risks, and enhance preparedness and effective response at the national, regional or global levels. Critical elements to achieve such response is the preparation of contingency plans for quick and effective interventions, vigilant surveillance systems, functional seed systems and proper support to farmers and their organizations for efficient field level response. Awareness and policy support are pre-requisites for the success of any intervention. There was a general agreement at the meeting that CBSD elimination is not possible, especially where it is now endemic in East Africa. In this case management is critical, especially through the control of the vector and through use of clean propagative material. It is however important to try to prevent the entry of CBSD into West Africa and the other continents through vigilant and systematic surveillance, which allows for early detection and eradication upon its entry to new areas and before it grows to epidemics.
    3. There is still a lot of missing scientific information about CBSD and other potentially devastating cassava virus diseases to be able to manage them properly in the field. More research is still needed on topics covering the resistance and tolerance of cassava improved varieties and landraces to CBSD, its distribution within the plant, transmission through whiteflies and through propagative material, and the effect of plant nutrition on disease expression and severity. In all cases, the disease management strategies should depend on combined interventions through the use of virus-free planting material, elimination of infected material from the field, sanitation and other cultural practices, host plant resistance (to virus or whitefly vector), and very importantly the integrated management of the whitefly vector (integrated pest management, IPM).

      Watch video on CBSD from CIAT

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      By Kanayo F. Nwanze

      For more than a decade, Asia’s economies have been on the move – and so have its people. The scale of migration from rural to urban areas and across international borders is historically unprecedented, and twenty-first-century Asia is its focal point.

      In Asia’s developing countries, the power and potential of remittances – the money that migrant workers send home to their families (many of whom live in poor and remote areas) – is immense. Currently, over 60 million migrant workers from the Asia/Pacific region account for more than half of all remittance flows to developing countries, sending home about $260 billion in 2012.

      China, India, and the Philippines are the three largest recipients of remittances, while Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Vietnam are also in the top ten. The money is often a lifeline: it is estimated that 10% of Asian families depend on payments from abroad to obtain their food, clothing, and shelter.
      But, while remittances to developing countries are five times higher than official development assistance, the enormous potential returns for society have not been realized – and can be secured only if the flow of money can be channeled into effective rural and agricultural development, particularly in fragile states and post-conflict countries. Doing so would contribute significantly to creating jobs, enhancing food security, and fostering stability in countries emerging from strife.

      In order to establish such channels, we must scale up key initiatives, identify new opportunities, and map out the road ahead. The fourth Global Forum on Remittances, which runs May 20-23 in Bangkok, will do just that. Convened by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Bank, the forum will bring together policymakers, private-sector players, and civil-society leaders to chart a course for leveraging the development impact of remittances sent home each year in Asia and around the world.

      At IFAD, our starting point is always the three billion people who live in the rural areas of developing countries. We work to create conditions in which poor rural women and men can grow and sell more food, increase their incomes, and determine the direction of their own lives. We believe that diasporas and the global donor community can leverage the flow of migrant investment if they form partnerships with national governments for long-term development of the rural communities that are so often the beginning of the migration chain.

      More than 215 million people around the world live outside of the countries they call home. But most families that rely on remittances operate outside of the world’s financial system as well. Despite the global prevalence of electronic money transfers, most migrant workers are excluded from the convenience of modern banking services, dependent on costly cash transfers that often require rural recipients to travel significant distances.

      As a result, migrant workers are forced to initiate more than one billion separate transactions worldwide each year. That means more than one billion trips for rural women and men to collect their money. Adding up the cost of the transfer, travel, and time, remittances are far too expensive for people living in poverty.

      IFAD has been working in more than 40 countries to ensure that rural families can have easy access to remittances, and are better able to use them as savings or investments that go back into their communities. The amount of money at stake is staggering: It is estimated that over the next five years, more than $2.5 trillion will be sent in remittances to developing countries, with almost 40% – coming in the form of payments of $50, $100, or $500 at a time – destined for rural areas. While the majority of family remittances will always be used to meet immediate needs, IFAD’s experience shows that rural families would seize opportunities to save and invest, even small amounts, if they had better options.

      While remittances should and can be leveraged to bring about impressive results in poverty reduction, let us not forget that there is an underlying issue that needs to be addressed. Young people, the leaders and farmers of tomorrow, are leaving their rural communities behind in search of better opportunities. We need to turn rural areas into vibrant and economically stable communities that provide opportunities for young people to earn a living, build their capacities, and start a family.

      We should not ignore the enormous development potential of remittances to rural areas. Let us empower families to use their hard-earned money in ways that will help to make migration a matter of choice, not a necessity for the generations to come.

      Originally posted on Project Syndicate

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