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By Andrea Listanti

Young participants
Photo credit: Francesca Borgia
On the first two days at Terra Madre Youth we made connections, we got inspired, shared knowledge and learnt from each other. The underlying theme of the third day was to put to practice our ideas. IFAD had co-organized an event focusing on young entrepreneurship and agriculture in the Superstudio Piùpurple room.

The purpose of the event was to discuss the global challenge of feeding the world, in an era when we are faced with an increasing decline of young people's willingness to stay or start working in agriculture. We were challenged to present innovative ideas to encourage youth to return to the land and to transform rural areas.

The speakers were young entrepreneurs, who have benefitted from IFAD-PROCASUR projects in Africa, Latin America and Asia. They presented their experience on how they had engaged in agriculture and encouraged others to follow their lead. The interactive session provided the opportunity for the audience to ask questions, share their ideas and put proposals on the table.

Pape Samb
Photo credit: Andrea Listanti
Pape Samb, the chairperson of Global Youth Innovation Network (GYIN), one of IFAD's partners, told the audience that GYIN  brings together governments, private sector and non-profit organizations to create an environment to support youth in development. 

“Young people who decide to devote their lives to agriculture must be put in the condition of becoming entrepreneurs. They need knowledge and capital to start their businesses”, Samb said.

A participant from Zimbabwe asked Samb this thought-provoking question: "Considering that accessing the GYIN’s online platform is essential for building capacity and in many rural areas few of us have access to the internet, how can we ensure that everybody is able to get this opportunity?"

In answering, Samb stressed the importance of the horizontal support. “While we wait for effective infrastructure to be built in rural areas, those who have access to the internet can act as facilitators for those who do not. Moreover, the people in the city can set up a mentoring programme for their brothers and sisters living rural areas and in doing so, they can also build their capacity.”

The moving and profound stories of rural young people who had managed to create a business for themselves and their communities underscored the importance of support and the role of donors such as IFAD in transforming rural areas and making them attractive.

The young speakers
Photo credit: Andrea Listanti
Dhruba, from Nepal, spoke about the role of PROCASUR in the horizontal knowledge-sharing between farmers. “To build our capacity we don’t need to hire experts, because PROCASUR facilitates the horizontal exchange of know-how. It creates a knowledge base to be shared with the community, which meets our needs. Then it gathers different people from different villages to share the information. This innovative approach has led to good results. For example, in Cambodia farmers used to sow the seeds directly to the land. These farmers benefitted from a learning route and learnt from other fellow farmers in the region how to improve the sowing process by using more sophisticated tools”.

Then it was the turn of Ambroise, from Benin. “I decided to work in the agriculture sector when I read the 2010 IFAD annual report, which said that Africa had doubled its agricultural production. I want to feed my country and Africa and I know to do so I have to address many challenges. For example, we need to learn when to sow seeds so that we have a good harvest. We need to know where to buy our seeds, how and when to use fertilizers, where and how to get access to credit." 

"Receiving seeds when it's too late does not make us good farmers. At the same time not having the appropriate equipment, also does not make us good farmers", says Ambroise. "We got a tractor for a three-year test period, and during this time we managed to partner with the organization who provided us with it, this way the grant was renewed for another six years”, Ambroise said, and he proudly showed us a picture of his wonderful tractor.

Photo credit: Andrea Listanti
The moderator, Darlene a young lady from Cameroon, was also inspiring and engaging. Her way of encouraging the audience to interact was very powerful. She too shared her story. “I was studying engineering, when I decided to become a farmer. My parents thought I was crazy, and didn’t want me to pursue my vocation. So I graduated and started working. When I had saved enough money I resigned and I started my own rural enterprise. Some years after, when my parents saw the pictures of my farm, they told me ‘ask us anything you want!’".

"I was invited to speak on national TV, where I showed pictures of my field. Immediately afterwards many people contacted me and told to me ‘wow, this works! I didn’t believe agriculture could be so cool!’. If we want the youth to work in agriculture, we have to bring agriculture to the them and raise awareness about the marvels of this sector", says Darlene.

Speakers and participants
Photo credit: Andrea Listanti
The fourth testimonial was Blanca, from Peru. She spoke about access to credit for rural youth. “I started working with 14 other young companions, but initially we didn’t have enough resources to invest in our project. Fortunately my mother gave us the land where we built our farm, using the tools provided by PROCASUR. IFAD helped us obtaining access to credit. Thanks to IFAD and PROCASUR we are helping rural youth realizing their dreams”.

After the workshop, Blanca told us she was so happy to have attended Terra Madre Youth event, and she was looking forward to participating in other Slow Food-organised events.

Photo credit: Andrea Listanti
Last but not the least, we heard Zoeliarimalala's story who comes from Madagascar. “My island is famous for its livestock. I milk my cows, and my dream has always been to produce and sell yogurt. When I started I didn’t have access to electricity nor to the internet. I began my activity by going door to door and selling them my yogurt. After two months I started selling my products in other cities and villages. But artisanal yogurts are sold everywhere in Madagascar, so there is a lot of competition among producers. I knew that if I wanted to succeed, my product needed to be different", says a proud Zoeliarimalala.  

"I was lucky to meet a young producer of Moringa - a tropical plant. We decided to cooperate and create an innovative product that maintained the characteristics of yogurt and added the high nutritional value of Moringa. Now we are feeding two elementary schools and two middle schools. Our yogurt and Moringa is healthy and cheap and has contributed to increase food security and nutrition for the boys and girls of these schools".

Zoeliarimalala’s story was truly emotional. It was incredible to see how a tiny girl could be so strong and determined. Listening to her, as well as to others, was a unique experience. We really got to understand what are the best practices to develop innovative ideas around food production.

Utterly inspired, on our final day, we'll be taking all of this to the Expo. 

Terra Madre Youth - #WeFeedThePlanet – Day 2: Getting inspired

Posted by Roxanna Samii Monday, October 5, 2015 0 comments

By Andrea Listanti

Superstudio Piu
Photo credit: Andrea Listanti
The first day at Terra Madre Youth focused on making connections and meeting people. And we succeeded to break the ice!!! The theme of the second day was inspiration!

We were challenged to  develop innovative solutions to feed the planet, and to do this we had to form our own opinion on food production. The first step was to listen to the others, that is why the halls of Superstudio Più, (each of which has a different colour) were filled with young people eager to attend conferences and participate in discussions. The programme was full of debates on various topics, with many hosts delivering speeches.

Serge Latouche, partisan of the degrowth theory, was the first to take the stage. His style while different from that of Raj Patel and Carlo Petrini, who spoke took the floor the first day, was equally engaging. He sat down, spoke calmly, taking his time to find the proper words in his almost perfect Italian.

Inspiring lectures, debates and talks
Photo credit: Andrea Listanti
His speech was very inspiring, challenging and thought provoking. “We live in a society of unlimited growth. A society which seeks infinite consumption through an unlimited production which results in unlimited pollution”, said Latouche. According to him, marketing, irresponsible credit lines and producing products that are obsolete overnight are the three “bubbles” of a corrupt economic system which produce unsustainable “growth for the growth”.

The current system is unsustainable, reminded Latouche. On the one hand from an ecological point of view, the high carbon footprint on the environment has adversely impacted biodiversity, on the other hand from a social point of view, avidity and the limitless desire of consumption has led to an unhappy society which since the financial crisis of 2008 is in constant quest for equality and wellbeing.  If we apply these concepts to food system, we see that an intensive industrial production involves a massive, high mechanized exploitation of land, threatening small-scale farmers and their valuable cultural diversity.

Serge Latouche
Photo credit: Andrea Listanti
Latouche explained his idea of a new, happy society based on subjective well-being, in which sustainable food productions play a pivotal role. “Food is not a commodity, we have to keep food out of the capitalistic idea of market”. A young participant asked how can we practically build a society that is different from what we have. We all felt a sense of déjà-vu: as on the first day we had asked Joris Lohman a similar question.

“You already have the answer. Joining initiatives such as Slow Food  is a form of resistance to counter bad food culture and a consumer-driven society. Good, clean and fair is also the philosophy of the degrowth. Embrace this… think globally, act locally”, said Latouche.

A good speaker is not necessarily right, but certainly inspiring. We took Latouche’s inspiring words with us as we joined other sessions and discussions. Superstudio Più  hosted sessions focusing on land grabbing, edible insects and intercultural gastronomy. The debates were not the only attraction. Outside the seminar rooms, people met each other, talked, played and danced. Walking around at "Terra Madre Giovani" is far from being a waste of time, it is a source of inspiration.

We are activist.......
Photo credit: Andrea Listanti
We met Carlos, one of our “twins. Carlos is 27 years old dairy producer from Venezuela. He is not too talkative. He stares at the world with his proud eyes. I asked him whether it was the first time he was traveling outside Venezuela, to which he answered: “It’s the second time, but the first time I come to Europe". We really wanted to know his story and he indulged.

“I was born in the city, but then moved to the countryside. I've been living in a rural area for the last 13 years”, he told us. “We moved because in the rural area I can do what I like most, I can cultivate my passion for agriculture. When I wake up in the morning I go the fields where I feed and take care of my animals”.

Carlos has had his share of challenges. For example, the irrigation system of his farm is broken and he cannot buy fertilizer for his crops. Fixing the irrigation system would cost him 180 million Bolivar.

Our "Twin" Carlos
Photo credit: Andrea Listanti
He told us “The broken irrigation system means, not being able to make money and more importantly, it is preventing others from joining my enterprise. Things would be better if I had a business partner, but no irrigation systems means no partners”.

Recently, Carlos was able to benefit from a IFAD-funded project. Carlos told us that the IFAD-funded intervention helped him and his community a lot. “It helped because funds are being distributed equally among many different small-scale producers”, told us Carlos and we were proud to hear this.

Then we switched gears and started talking about youth and the land.  We asked him whether he thought other young Venezuelans would be willing to move to rural areas and make agriculture their profession just like he had done. “I don’t know anyone who would do something like that. Most of the young people in Venezuela leave rural areas… They abandon the land. But people around me say that I’m lucky, because I managed to build my own life and I’m doing what I’ve always loved to do”, said Carlos.

Here in Italy we normally don’t have any relation with the land. We live in our houses in the city and buy food in the shops. But for someone like Carlos things are different. We asked him whether he could conceive of a life without land. And his answer was loud and clear: “No I cannot think of a life without land. Even if my wife left me, I would stay behind. I want to teach my children to love the land. I love agriculture, I love breeding and livestock. When I was a child my parents bought me a bicycle and I sold it to buy hens. So As you can see my passion for land and agriculture dates back to my childhood and is something that has stayed with me…..”.

Lessons and concrete experience are the two components of knowledge, and we were lucky to have both. Inspiration is part of the learning process, and we learnt a lot and were equally inspired a lot. Now we are ready for the third day, when knowledge and inspiration will be used to create new campaign ideas, business plans and communication strategies through creative sessions and workshops.

Terra Madre Youth – #WeFeedthePlanet - Day 1: Making connections

Posted by Roxanna Samii Sunday, October 4, 2015 0 comments

By Andrea Listanti

Immortalizing departure for "Terra Madre Youth"
Photo credit: R. Samii
On Friday 2 October, 40 young enthusiastic and passionate IFAD colleagues left for “Terra Madre Youth”. They are reporting live so that all of us can follow their extraordinary experience .

We are proud to be IFAD young delegates, even if our badge just says “participant”. We are bringing our voices to Milan, to “Terra Madre Youth” which is taking place in Milan from 3-6 October. The event, organised by Slow Food and Slow Food Youth Network with the support of IFAD, has brought together 2000 young people from all over the world who are engaged and work in food production industry so that together we can find innovative solutions to address global hunger. 

Our mantra - “We feed the planet” - is omnipresent. You see it everywhere... It is prominently displayed in the “Superstudio Più” and “Mercato Metropolitano” - the venue for seminars, workshops, public events and shows. We are trying to make the most of all of this, with passion, enthusiasm and the awareness of being part of a present that works for and needs to shape the future.

Getting up close and personal
Photo credit: Andrea Listanti
The first day focused on making connections and meeting people. Everyone was encouraged to connect with other fellow participants and start sharing ideas about sustainable models for future food production systems. IFAD’s fellows, many of whom are interns, had the opportunity to meet young farmers and food producers — our companions - who have benefitted from IFAD-funded projects and programmes in Africa, Asia and Latin America. 

To get things going and to break the ice, Joris Lohman, representative of Slow Food Youth Network and member of the Executive Committee of Slow Food International, reminded us that we had all gathered at “ Terra Madre Youth” to “find a new vision and new projects to feed the world”.
We made it..... Registered IFAD delegates
Photo credit: Andrea Listanti

During the Europe Meeting in the Red Room (the main hall of Superstudio Più), a fellow participant from Australia stood up and asked him what can we practically do to achieve this while we are here. Considering that all of us can and are reporters, a good starting point is to share our thoughts and listen to those of others. “As reporters  you are collecting bits and pieces from everyone’s experiences to make a story”, Lohman reminded us. This is what we will be doing on a daily basis!

We took advantage of a break to have a look around. There are people from all over the world, different cultures and traditions, indigenous peoples, farmers and more. Some of them are dressed in their traditional costumes. Their colourful outfits beat Milan’s grey weather and give us a sense of relief and excitement. 

Food is perhaps one of the best connectors in the world and has the power to bring people together not only in Italy, but globally.  So, at lunch, which was rigorously vegetarian, we had an opportunity to get up close and personal with our companions and “twins”. 

"We Feed the Planet"
Photo credit: Andrea Listanti
We met Gladys, a 26 year old young lady from Tanzania; Solomon from Ghana and Lywa from Senegal. Gladys has beautiful braids and as we engaged in conversation, we shared with her that we’ve heard Tanzania is an enchanting place, she indulged with a smile and confirmed. 

As Italians we consider Parmigiano cheese as one of the most nutrients foods. But to our biggest surprise and chagrin, we discovered that parmigiano was not as appreciated as we would have expected. Many of our companions did not eat it, even though it was perhaps the most nourishing part of our meal. 

We got our share of consolation when we saw Solomon and Lywa  appreciating Italian coffee! We took a selfie together. “Post it and tag me on Facebook”, they told me.  To which I replied, “Will do, don’t worry”. 

Solomon, a member of the IFAD-funded Global Youth Innovation Network (GYIN) knows a lot about IFAD-funded activities s in Ghana. “IFAD-funded activities are  well designed, the challenge is to engage directly with the beneficiaries, especially young people. A good example is Ghana Agriculture Sector Investment Programme (GASIP), which has a full component on rural young people”, Solomon told us.
Let's get the show on the road
Photo credit: Andrea Listanti

In the afternoon the 'stars' went on stage. The first to speak was Raj Patel. He talked about how the quest to make profits in the food production system has had devastating impact on the environment. “We live in the era of cheap food. Since 1990 food is becoming cheaper, and this food is the industrial food. Food industries make large profits out of it and this has an adverse impact on rural people”. 

He continued to tell us that the production of cheap food means exploiting the environment. Patel’s crie de coeur was: “There is no way industrial food can be sustainable. We need to change the global food production system, and in order to do that we need to confront capitalism. We are powerful when we address the powerful”.
After Patel, Carlo Petrini, the Slow Food founder, took the stage. Carlo is an inspiring and passionate speaker . He walked on stage and said : “when I entered this hall and saw all of you, I had the extraordinary feeling that our ideas, our projects and our future is in good hands.” 

Carlo’s message to us was while Expo is coming to an end, Milan finally is experiencing engagement. If we join forces, we can bring about change and advocate for an alternative and better food culture. 

Our vegetarian lunch
Photo credit: Andrea Listanti
Carlo challenged us and told us: “Our food production system does not work because industrial production asks more than our Mother Land can give. Many people are exploited in order to produce more, and the only people who suffer from the ‘free-market food system’ are smallholder farmers, whose rural communities can no longer sustain themselves. Using the network you care building, YOU must change this productive system”.

The first day ended at “Mercato Metropolitan” with the Disco Soup, a dancing dinner with leftovers of vegetables that would have been wasted otherwise. Music finished what food had started. As the night came to an end, we took stock of the connections made on our first day. And tomorrow we are looking for more inspirations and new connections so that we can start bringing about change.

By Ilaria Firmian

Last week in Addis Ababa IFAD organised together with GEF and partner agencies a 3-day workshop on the Integrated Approach Programme on Fostering Sustainability and Resilience for Food Security in Sub-Saharan Africa.

This is a major programme of $116 million to support twelve countries (Burkina Faso, Burundi, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Swaziland, United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda) targeting agro-ecological systems where the need to enhance food security is linked directly to opportunities for generating global environmental benefits. The 12 country projects will be supported by a regional ‘umbrella’ project for coordination, capacity building and knowledge services. (see: http://ifad-un.blogspot.it/2015/06/ifad-lead-agency-on-new-gef-programme.html )

The overall purpose of the meeting was to finalize the results framework for the umbrella project and agree on its functions and its interactions with the country projects.
The first day of the workshop aimed at building a common understanding on the priorities of the GEF IAP, as well as on the main features of the umbrella project. The three guiding principles of the GEF IAP are Engage, Act and Track (EAT), reflected in the three core components of each of the 12 country projects.

The presentations shared by the country design teams were very interesting, and despite the distinctness of challenges addressed showed a number of common aspects, such as the focus on up-scaling (providing hierarchical support to institutions, or Engage) and out-scaling (facilitating farmer to farmer knowledge diffusion, or Act)  good practices, the adoption of landscape approaches and the complementarity between value chains approaches (bringing incentives) and landscape approaches (ensuring environmental sustainability) and tools for monitoring and assessment (Track).

An entire session of the workshop was dedicated to discussing resilience, with presentations from different stakeholders (Bioversity International, GEF-STAP, ICRAF) showing a range of different perspectives, that only partially took on board the social aspects of resilience – still too ecologically focused.

‘Resilience is a value-laden concept: each group of stakeholders (environmentalists, climate experts, local households) takes resilience in its own way. Each project will inevitable have a different definition of resilience which is based on project context and actions,’ said Steve Twomlow, Climate Adaptation Specialist. 

A general agreement was reached on the fact that the IAP needs to provide evidence that sustainable agriculture is good for food production system and the environment, and that this evidence has to reach policy makers.

In order to do that, many concrete actions have been proposed for  the umbrella project, including:
  • Providing support on knowledge management and cross learning among countries;
  • Building capacity of the country projects on measuring Global Environmental Benefits, including using tracking tools,  earth observation/satellite data and other Monitoring & Assessment (M&A) tools;
  • Managing inter-sectoral engagement  and facilitating policy dialogue to influence policy change
On the theme of M&A a Share Fair was organised on the afternoon of Day 2 to allow all participants to familiarise with methodologies developed by the  different agencies. Among many others:  the FAO Ex-Ante Carbon-balance Tool to estimate GHG emissions, changes in carbon stocks and enhancement of carbon sequestration; the ICRAF Land Degradation Surveillance Framework to check the Status and trends of ecosystem health; IFAD Multi-Dimensional Poverty Assessment Tool to measure poverty impacts, improvement in farmers’ livelihoods and food and nutrition security; and Bioversity International Diversity Assessment Tool for Agro-biodiversity and Resilience.

The workshop ended with the official launch of the Programme in the presence of experts from existing dry land and food security initiatives from African Union, European Commission, UNDP, French Embassy, DfID, Great Green Wall initiative, and others. They presented their respective experiences in a panel session and welcomed the IAP coming to join forces with existing efforts. 

With support from IFAD, the Government of São Tomé & Principe has promoted public/private partnerships to further rural economic development and poverty reduction.  These efforts produced partnerships with four companies: KAOKA (France), which imports organic cocoa; Cafédirect (UK), which imports Fairtrade certified cocoa; Hom&Ter/Agrisud International (France), which imports organic pepper; and Malongo (France), which imports organic coffee. In addition, more than 5,500 smallholders are involved in these partnerships. In this context geographic indications are being set up for cocoa, coffee and pepper. Efforts are also being taken to develop sustainable agro-tourism packages linked to the three value chains.

Visit to local market in Bedonia @IFAD/S.Jonckheere 
A selected group of people involved in the Smallholder Commercial Agriculture Project in Sao Tome and Principe, who were in Italy for EXPO Milano 2015, participated in a study tour to learn from Italy’s experiences with organic agriculture, geographic indications and agro-tourism. Italy presents a success story in organic fruit and vegetable production, taking advantage of favourable climate and agronomic conditions and close geographic access to major markets. Organic farming growth in Italy is rapid and the domestic organic market is taking off. The Sao Tome delegation visited an organic horticulture farm and an apricot farm in Bedonia (Emilia Romagna) and exchanged experiences with the producers on issues related to certification and market access. Further, they visited the local market where the organic produce is being sold and learned about local economic development.

Visit to company making parmigiano reggiano cheese
Geographic Indication (GI) labelling is used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin. In order to function as a GI, a label must identify a product as originating from a given place. GIs are typically used for agricultural products, foodstuffs, wine and spirits, handicrafts, and industrial products. Goods carrying the GI designation benefit from special protection rights. A GI right entitles those who possess it to prevent its use by a third party whose product does not conform to the applicable standards. Italy is very much on the forefront of setting up geographic indications. Some of the most famous ones areParmigiano Reggiano cheese and Prosciutto di Parma ham. The Sao Tome delegation visited a company making parmigiano reggiano and another one making prosciutto di Parma and talked about the challenges of effectively managing a GI, the long-term benefits for those directly involved and its impact on the territory it refers to.

Visit to local mushroom fair @IFAD/S.Jonckheere 
Agrotourism is the form of tourism which capitalizes on rural culture as a tourist attraction. It is similar to ecotourism except that its primary appeal is not the natural landscape but a cultural landscape. If the attractions on offer to tourists contribute to improving the income of the regional population, agrotourism can promote regional development. To ensure that it also helps to conserve diversity, the rural population itself must have recognized agrobiodiversity as valuable and worthy of protection. Agrotourism is very much rooted in Italy and is formally regulated by state law since 1985. The Sao Tome delegation visited a so-called agriturismo in Bedonia and a local mushroom fair in Borgotaro. They also exchanged with the local tourism office on how to integrate tourism, local identity and local economy.

Children playing the Sao Tome national
hymn @IFAD/S. Jonckheere
São Tomé and Principe is a small country consisting of two islands, located off the western shore of the African continent. Its primary economic activity is agriculture, with cocoa constituting its principal item of exportation. The isolation of Sao Tome and Principe created a biological diversity within the country that is composed of diversified ecosystems, forests, plains, savannah, and fens. The wealth of the biodiversity of the Islands is recognized by scientists worldwide. The sustainable exploitation of the biological diversity of Sao Tome and Principe is directly related to its conservation, so that it can also generate revenue for the local communities and thus reduce poverty.

Representatives from IFAD-supported project at
the Sao Tome Pavilion @IFAD/S. Jonckheere
By participating in the Cocoa Cluster at Expo Milano 2015, Sao Tome and Principe aims to show to the world that it is possible to find a balance between cocoa production and conserving  biodiversity, while at the same time improving the living conditions of local communities. Sao Tome’s experience demonstrates the vast potential of collective action and public/private partnerships to further rural economic development and poverty reduction. Sunday 27 September 2015 was the  São Tome and Principe day at Expo Milano 2015 and a number of events were organised, such as seminars, concerts, plays and food tasting.

Photo story on the cocoa value chain
@IFAD/S. Jonckheere
On Friday 25 September 2015, two seminars were held to present the work the Government has done, with the support of IFAD, on developing innovative and sustainable agricultural value chains and promoting responsible agro-tourism. The Participatory Smallholder Agriculture and Artisanal Fisheries Development Programme (PAPAFPA) has set up partnerships between the São Tomé government, IFAD, the Agence Française de Développement and European companies, aimed at developing entire value chains (from production to final markets) within an ethical framework. These partnerships enhance returns on investments in traditional cocoa, coffee and pepper value chains through the use of organic and Fairtrade certification and by linking to European markets. In addition, geographic indications are currently being piloted for the three commodities. Smallholder families participating in the programme have seen their yearly income increase, on average, from a level of 25 per cent below the poverty line to 8 per cent above it. Many producers have invested in home improvements and items such as bicycles, generators, radios, refrigerators and television sets. Some successful producers have used the profit from organic cocoa production to set up small roadside shops, run by women, generating further profits for families.

Seminar on sustainable agro-tourism
in Sao Tome @ICEA/P. Sciurano
At the same time, PAPAFPA has also supported the development of sustainable agro-tourism. Agro-tourism offers the opportunity for tourists to participate in the process of food production, to learn more about the lives of the rural people, and for local communities to generate additional income generation. The project facilitated the setting up of a platform which brings together a range of public and private stakeholders at national and regional level (tourist operators, eco-lodge and hotel owners, agricultural cooperatives and international certification bodies) and develops common tourist packages. As such, a “cocoa route” has recently been inaugurated, which allows the visitor to familiarize him- or herself with the production and processing of cocoa and to engage with local communities. The work is now being continued under the Smallholder Commercial Agriculture Project.

Food and identity: local recipes on the grill

Posted by Beate Stalsett Tuesday, September 29, 2015 0 comments

Written by Bertrand Reysset 

Participants at the congress in Milan. Photo credit: Bertrand Reysset
The VI World Congress of Agronomists, held in the Expo conference room, started on Tuesday 15 September in Milan. 500 agronomists from all around the world were gathered to discuss the connection between food and identity.

I participated in the opening session together with the president of the World Association of Agronomists, Mrs María Cruz Díaz Álvarez, officials from Italian authorities, agronomists from all over the world, as well as representatives from FAO.

It was an opportunity to recall IFAD's strong support for rural smallholders for nearly 40 years, and that working with agronomists and using agronomical science is a part of IFAD’s DNA.

The conference topic, Food and Identity, was also an opportunity to highlight a recent IFAD campaign that celebrates the local recipes of rural people. Local recipes are at the crossroads of nutrition, culture, food systems and climate challenges. Climate change is putting local recipes and products at risk, and this is affecting local identities and tradition. In Lesotho the change in rainfall and snowfall patterns are challenging rangeland management, threatening the future of their traditional mutton stew (Sechu Sa Nku). In Vietnam sea level rise threatens rice paddies and freshwater pond fisheries in coastal areas, lands that yield two staple ingredients that go into sweet and sour catfish soup. In Rwanda and Guatemala, higher temperatures will reduce kidney bean and black bean yields, which are used in traditional sauces. These examples of local recipes threatened by climate change show concretely how our climate affects the future of local and nutritious cuisine, and thus impact not only food security but also cultural assets.

IFAD invests in building climate resilience for these distinguishing food systems, to sustain rural development and cultural assets even under a changing climate. In Lesotho, an IFAD project to improve rangeland management and quality is being supported. In Vietnam, salt tolerant rice and catfish species are being developed. In Rwanda and Guatemala, climate resilient farming practices help to buffer higher temperatures. We call these actions our "Recipes for Change". All this and much more is made possible through the support of our Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP). These concrete investments resonated with the agenda of the World congress of Agronomists, and there is valuable knowledge to draw from this event.

The event also reflected the orientation towards sustainability taken by the agronomists’ community. After having launched the Green Revolution over 50 years ago, the community is now aware of the challenges ahead to sustain food for an increasing population, while having a lower environmental footprint. The concept of a new green revolution is today gaining currency: agriculture today needs to sustainably intensify production, reduce agrochemical and food waste, and play a multifunctional role (combat climate change, ensure nutrition, landscape management, social support, etc.). The Congress will bring its message to political leaders in all parts of the world.

This trip to Milan was an excellent opportunity to share views and meet technical experts in the field of agronomy. I had the chance (and the time) to visit the Expo and UN pavilion before leaving and I highly recommend it. The scenery is amazing, our colleague Giacomo is an enthusiastic guide, and the UN team has done an incredible job. If you pass by the Expo, don’t miss this pavilion! And you can even enjoy low carbon transportation: there are direct trains from Rome to the entrance gate of the Expo.