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Climate Cinema series kicks off at IFAD

Posted by Timothy Ledwith Tuesday, March 3, 2015 0 comments

IFAD hosts the first showing of the Climate Cinema series.  ©IFAD
Written by Adam Vincent

Last week, IFAD's Environment and Climate Division hosted the first screening of its monthly Climate Cinema series at the Fund's headquarters in Rome. Organized in association with the Think Forward Film Festival and the International Centre for Climate Governance (ICCG), the event featured three short documentaries and a panel discussion with Enrica de Cian of Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (FEEM), a research institution devoted to the study of sustainable development and global governance, as well as IFAD's broadcast manager James Heer and regional climate and environment specialist Juan De Dios Mattos.

Two of the documentaries had previously been seen at the annual Think Forward festival in Venice, which showcases films about climate change and renewable energy. Currently in its fifth year, the festival is a project of ICCG and a joint initiative of FEEM and Fondazione Giorgio Cini, a research centre for climate policy design. It is open to children and helps presents information to them in a simplified way

Survival through adaptation
The first film was Biljana Garvanlieva's After The Rain (Climate Testimonials), the first-ever climate change documentary made by a Macedonian director. After the Rain opens with a quote from Charles Darwin: "It isn't the strongest of the species that survive, nor even the most intelligent, but the one most adaptable to change." The film then follows four Macedonian women farmers from diverse backgrounds as they react to the disastrous effects of climate change. In all cases, increased precipitation (and especially hail) are causing crops such as tobacco and tomatoes to rot in the ground.

A panel discussion follows the screening. ©IFAD
The second film was Bolivia: Potatoes in Peril, a short documentary produced by IFAD. It follows the work of an IFAD-supported project in one Bolivian village whose main water source had dried up. As their potato yields have fallen correspondingly, many young people have left the village in search of work. The video examines how IFAD's Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme helps communities adapt to climate change. In order to create opportunities for the community to restore itself, IFAD is working with the village to construct irrigation canals and develop new irrigation techniques that can ensure the future of the potato.

The third film was Ephraim Broschkowski and Bernd Hezel's The Value of Soil. This animated short film presented land as one of "mankind's most precious assets," a non-renewable resource that is quickly being depleted. Up to this point, the film suggests, the effects of land and soil degradation have not been considered in value calculations. The result is a downward spiral: Degraded soil stores less carbon, leading to greater climate change, leading to changing water patterns, leading to further soil degradation. Continuing to focus solely on yield and disregard the effects of soil degradation, the film warns, is dangerously unstable.

Films such as these can be powerful tools for advocacy, said James Heer. They are accessible and publicize voices that the audience may not otherwise hear. Although IFAD used to prepare half-hour documentaries for BBC, it now focuses on shorter videos, Heer added, because they are more flexible and have more markets. IFAD videos have been featured on in-flight airline channels, news programmes and social media.

The Climate Cinema series will continue through June. The next installment will be on 24 March, focusing on the theme of water.

If you want to know more about the IFAD building - Get on the roof!

Posted by S.Sperandini Thursday, February 26, 2015 1 comments

By Clare Bishop-Sambrook, PTA

This week many staff have taken advantage of the opportunity to visit the IFAD roof and learn more about IFAD’s greening efforts first hand. Twelve solar panels (hot water system), four gas fired boilers (723 kW each), five chillers and 13 air handling units make up the heating, ventilation and air conditioning in IFAD’s HQ.

The visit in numbers….

In the summer do not open windows because unfiltered, moist air enters the building and can block the chilled beam (air conditioning) unit in the offices
IFAD is the only building in Italy to have achieved the gold level of the Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) voluntary green building certification for Existing Buildings – Operations and Maintenance (EB:OM). No UN or IFI building has yet to achieve this certification at the Platinum level
Visual inspections per day
Two visits per day by the maintenance technicians to ensure all critical elements of the mechanical and electrical installations are working properly
Payback period on the solar panels which were co-financed with Gemmo (maintenance contractor)
LEED points
If IFAD maintains the points from the original certification in 2010, IFAD needs 11 points to move from gold to platinum level on LEED
The frequency with which the air filters are cleaned; recommended practice is 4 – 6 weeks
Base temperature for building in winter
Base temperature for building in summer
Sq metres
Solar panels
Signed up for the visit to IFAD’s solar panels this week
Per cent
Women in the IFAD Facilities Team
Per cent
Share of air travel (by staff) of IFAD’s total greenhouse gas emissions
Per cent
All occupied areas of the building are air conditioned and have light quality of a minimum of 350 Lux
Per cent
All hot water requirements during the summer months should be met from the solar panels
Energy Utilization Index (EUI)
IFAD obtained an EUI of 202 kWh/m2/year – some 40 per cent better than best practice for a building such as IFAD HQ in this climatic region
Completed the ADM survey (at least 300 are required in order to potentially gain an extra point in the LEED evaluation)
Sq metres
Area of lawn and flowerbeds requiring watering in the summer
Water tanks on the roof  heated by solar panels with additional tanks in the basement to store a further 9500 litres of hot water
Water tanks in basement for harvesting water from the rooftop
Average volume of water used per day in IFAD

Thanks to the rooftop tour guides: Dave Nolan and Antonio Russo

Written by Adam Vincent

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director Oxfam International, gave the inaugural IFAD Lecture at the recent 38th session of the Governing Council, IFAD's annual meeting of Member States. Her talk, entitled The Future of Aid, discussed the relevancy and future of aid in a post-2015 world.

"I cannot pretend that we don't need aid," Byanyima said, "but good aid needs to work itself out of a job." Although aid has the potential for great change, too often donors prioritize their own needs over those of their partners, she suggested. Aid should primarily benefit people at the grassroots, catalysing investments and empowerment. It needs to support the poor and marginalized so that they can find their voice and take a more active role in their communities.

First and foremost, local people need to be "in the driving seat" of partnerships between governments, businesses and rural communities, Byanyima explained. Farmers are rarely asked what they need or want, she said, and programmes responding to these desires are "even rarer." Aid should support the progress that citizens envision. Smallholder farmers are not mere beneficiaries, Byanyima noted; they are potential "innovators, investors and voters" who could flourish with the proper support.

Furthermore, aid needs to work against corruption. According to Byanyima, tax avoidance costs developing countries (and their citizens) €123 billion each year. Aid should support governmental efforts to build "efficient and effective" financial systems that help channel more aid to those who need it most. Additionally, she said, aid needs to be sustainable and not tied to "protectionist policies" or other schemes that benefit donor countries.

Challenges for a post-2015 world
Byanyima went on to list the three challenges post-2015 rural development must address: climate change, inequality and women's empowerment.

Oxfam's Winnie Byanyima gives first IFAD Lecture. ©IFAD/Flavio Ianniello
First, Byanyima said future rural development strategies must respond to the reality that the "poorest and most vulnerable are being hit hardest by climate change." Changing and unpredictable weather patterns are affecting crop yields, leading to hunger and malnutrition. As a result, Byanyima warned, by 2050 there could be 25 million more malnourished children – the equivalent to all the children in Canada and the United States.

Second, Byanyima called inequality "possibly the biggest challenge of our era." Proper aid should tend to people, not just plants, she said, and focus on improving food security and income in addition to crop yields. Aid needs to support the poor and marginalized – who "are often politically, socially and geographically remote from development decision-making," she said – in finding their voice and influencing resource distribution. Donors must also ensure that their donations are benefitting smallholder farmers, not reinforcing oppressive power relationships.

Aid must empower women
Finally, Byanyima noted that aid should empower women, specifically. Gender inequality starts with the low value placed on girls, she said, which then extends to public decision-making. The resulting cycle of marginalization devalues girls' lives, impeding their access to education, resources and opportunities. As a result, even though they work more than men, women farmers are still often rendered invisible.

IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze with Oxfam Executive Director
Winnie Byanyima. ©IFAD/Flavio Ianniello
Unrepresented in investment decision-making, women may miss out on the benefits of aid. Men tend to value productivity-raising investments, for example, whereas women tend to prefer investments that save time and add value. If you were to ask women in a Tanzanian village what investments they most needed , Byanyima said, they would likely say a water pump close to the village could save them hours of time. Aid needs to especially recognize the needs of women, which may otherwise be overlooked, she added.

Byanyima concluded by recognizing the incredible progress in the Millennium Development Goals era, during which "we have seen the fastest reduction of poverty in human history." Aid has played a significant role in this achievement, she said, but there is still work to do: We must continue our commitment to rural development, with a keen eye to climate change, inequality and women's empowerment. We must find not only agronomic solutions but also social, political and environmental ones. There is still a place for aid in the future of rural transformation, Byanyima said – but it should work toward its own eradication.

Written by Larissa Setaro

The second global meeting of the Indigenous People's forum convened on 12-13 February 2015 in IFAD's headquarters. Held every two years, the Forum is a dialogue between the United Nations, represented by IFAD, and representatives of indigenous peoples from all over the world acting as ambassadors of their own experiences, traditions and cultures. This year the focus was on indigenous peoples' food systems and sustainable livelihoods.

Indigenous peoples have a long history of food systems depending on the traditional knowledge of their local ecosystems. In addition, they play a vital role in preserving and recovering the natural environment that shaped their livelihoods and cultures for centuries, acting as stewards of biodiversity.

In this regard, the Forum hosted a session on the relationship between indigenous food systems and nutrition, and two experts on the subject were invited to speak: Harriet Kuhnlein, Professor Emerita of Human Nutrition and founding Director of the Centre for Indigenous Peoples’ Nutrition and Environment (CINE) at McGill University in Canada, and Treena Delormier, Assistant Professor, Native Hawaiian and Indigenous Health, University of Hawaii.

Nutritional value of indigenous foods

CINE's research started in Canada with the Mohawk Council of Kahnáwake, located near Montréal, Québec. Interested in understanding the impact of indigenous food in indigenous peoples' diets, Kuhnlein and her team developed a methodology on documenting traditional food systems to understand their nutrient composition, benefits and threats. The data collected would then be kept to help the community preserve knowledge on local food systems.

Through the methodology, they developed a range of case studies that involve 12 communities worldwide. CINE's team found that generally, when indigenous products are part of people's diets, they have a positive nutritional impact and should be protected. An example that surprised me comes from the Inuit community, where the traditional food is muktuk, the skin and underlying blubber of the whale. These products contain vitamin C and A, besides micro-nutrients such as iron and zinc, that can be of particular relevance in areas where the growth of fruits and vegetables is constrained by ecological features.

It was also interesting to listen to the experience of Delormier, who herself comes from the Mohawk Council of Kahnáwake and stressed that food is what we are and where we come from. Delormier explained that economic, social and environmental transitions are threatening their food systems. She emphasized that often indigenous products are of higher nutritional value than food bought in supermarkets – which, while inexpensive, is low-quality food that increases carbohydrates and sugars in diets and can lead to obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, premature heart disease and shortened life spans.

A pertinent comment came from an indigenous peoples' representative from Bolivia, who stressed that indigenous products are central to their nutrition and cultural identity. However, in some cases external forces undermine the preservation of food systems, as it is happening with quinoa, which is becoming less available to indigenous people given its international demand. In these cases, long term, sustainable solutions are overlooked in favour of the driving forces of globalization. Another example comes from the Green Revolution that – through large mono-cropping of high-yield varieties – led to high dependence on a few major cereals varieties and loss of biodiversity.

Table laden with candles and food staples from around the world at the Indigenous Peoples' Forum.
©IFAD/ A. Vincent

Dietary diversity and resilience

During the Forum, participants said that indigenous peoples' can have a role in feeding the growing global population through their sustainable ways of preserving ecosystems and therefore conserving the world's biodiversity. However, they still need recognition of their rights, governments willing to work together with them in partnership, access to technologies, and a policy balance between the growing pressure of globalization and the preservation of indigenous culture and food systems.

Through the Indigenous People's Forum and a dedicated session on indigenous food systems at IFAD's Governing Council, IFAD renewed its engagement in preserving and supporting indigenous food systems, rights and identity. Juliane Friedrich, IFAD Senior Technical Specialist on Nutrition, encouraged a holistic approach to improving nutrition, and emphasized the important role of indigenous peoples in that approach. Her point was supported by Adolfo Brizzi, Director of the Policy and Technical Advisory Division at IFAD, who said that diversity is resilience and resilience is a way to manage risks.

Senegal spearheading innovations in rural development

Posted by Steven Jonckheere Tuesday, February 24, 2015 0 comments

Since 1979, IFAD and the Government of Senegal have been working together to eradicate rural poverty in the country. As such numerous agricultural and pastoral innovations have been introduced.  They helped to increase production and supported the shift from subsistence agriculture to market production. The IFAD portfolio contains many examples of technical innovations emerging from experiences in other countries that were reproduced in Senegal. At local level, the projects in the portfolio encouraged producer organizations and decentralized government services to adopt the innovations. Following a value chain approach, IFAD-supported projects have contributed to reducing food insecurity, increasing incomes and creating jobs, especially of women and young people.

IFAD and the Government of Senegal realize that it is now time to capitalize and scale up the innovations that have been piloted with the support from IFAD. As a first step, two events have been organised to share the results and best practices from IFAD supported projects in Senegal and to see how innovations can be scaled up: on 9 and 10 February 2015 a national workshop was held in Dakar bringing together all national stakeholders and on 17 February 2015 a seminar was organised during IFAD’s 38th Governing Council for a broader audience.

The innovations and best practices are plentiful. Some examples are:

Inclusion of young people: PAFA has been using an innovative targeting approach to create jobs for rural youth. They are encouraging local sports and cultural associations to prepare proposals in order to obtain project support. Forty-five associations are being assisted by the Project in terms of financial support and capacity-building. As a result, more than 4,000 young women and men are now involved in agriculture related practices. This has allowed them to turn into successful agricultural entrepreneurs. PAFA is providing young women and men with both decent work and livelihood options in their rural communities, so they can remain there if they choose.

Value chain roundtables: PAFA has set up four value chain roundtables (millet/sorghum, cowpea, sesame and hibiscus), bringing together key value chain actors and offering a space for dialogue. The roundtables are responsible for the following activities: (i) increased seed production to ensure members have access to certified seed; (Ii) the dissemination of the market prices; (Iii) dissemination of information on rainfall; (iv) commercial and financial intermediation between producers and buyers; (v) the establishment of an internal control system the quality; (Vii) dispute resolution between producers and buyers.

Decreasing input subsidies: PAFA provides farmers’ organisations with subsidies to acquire quality inputs (certified seeds, fertilizers and agricultural equipment). The financial support last three years and decreases over the years: 80% in year 1, 60% in year 2 and 40% in year 3. The model allows: (i) to facilitate access of small producers to markets at remunerative prices, (ii) to ensure that small farmers have access to quality inputs, (iii) to ensure buyers get the required quality and quantity; (iv) to empower farmers’ organisations in the area of access to inputs; (v) to strengthen rural enterprises and their capacity to mobilize the savings of beneficiary households.

Improved village poultry: PAFA has developed a holistic approach to village poultry, which has proven to be extremely successful. The characteristics of the model are: (i) setting up farmers’ groups in a transparent and inclusive manner; (ii) technical training tailored to the needs of the beneficiaries, especially women; (iii) close technical follow-up provided by local extensionists; (iv) construction of henhouse with local material as a shelter during the night; (v) breeding local chickens that are adapted to the environment and farming conditions; (vi) vaccination and other preventive measures; (vii) production of feed by the beneficiaries themselves using local ingredients.

Promoting local consumption: To promote the consumption of local products, PAFA has trained more than 800 women and young girls in processing and cooking techniques using local cereals. Furthermore, hotel and restaurant owners have been sensitized to introduce dishes prepared with local products in their menus.

Stories from Swaziland: New Gardens with Healthy Vegetables

Posted by Christopher Neglia Monday, February 23, 2015 0 comments

Based on a report by Priscilla P. Mkhatshwa, a farmer from Vikizijula,  Siphumelele Ngqwane, an Extension Officer in Siphofaneni, Regional Development Area, Ministry of Agriculture, Tengetile Mpila journalism student at the University of Swaziland, Dumsani Hlanze, Sustainable Agriculture Graduate Trainee at the Lower Usuthu Sustainable Land Management Project (LUSLMP), and Norman Mavuso, a Sustainable Agriculture Coordinator at Swaziland Water and Agricultural Development Enterprise (SWADE)

Makhundlu in Swaziland’s Lowveld region is often drought-stricken with smallholder farmers dependent on external food aid. The low quality of the land means growing crops can be tough and food security is extremely volatile.

In response, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Tinkhundla  (Swazi term for traditional leadership) and Regional Development worked together to design the Lower Usuthu Sustainable Land Management Project (LUSLMP), also referred to as LUSIP-GEF. The project is financed by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Swaziland Water and Agricultural Development Enterprise.

In Makhundlu water is a very precious natural resource. The closest supply is six kilometres away and only provides enough for domestic use,  so growing crops or tending to livestock can be incredibly challenging.

The project targeted family farmers in the area who were most affected by the lack of water (mostly women) and help improve their food security. It provided the farmers with the tools and workshops necessary to cultivate permaculture gardens and adopt rainwater harvesting methods.

Permaculture gardens involve incorporating wood ash and manure into the soil when it is tilled. This improves the soil's ability to retain water, increases its fertility and stops pest infestations. Then a 5-10 cm layer of mulch (dried grass or leaves) is applied which keeps moisture in the soil, regulates soil temperature, suppresses weeds and reduces soil erosion during the heavy rains.

After this a variety of seeds are planted from leaf and root vegetables that are mixed together to reduce pests and diseases. The crops are watered three times a week around the base of the stems to conserve as much water as possible. Two weeks after planting a liquid fertiliser of water mixed with manure is applied. Organic anti-pest sprays are used, made from ingredients such as aloe and lemongrass.

The farmers learned about the principles of permaculture from workshops and demonstrations. Of the 44 farmers that were trained, 41 went on to start their own permaculture gardens which they organised in groups to provide each other with support and advice.

The project provided each farmer with a starter pack of mixed seeds to begin their permaculture. Project staff made frequent visits to answer questions or provide any help the farmers might need. They also organised farmer learning exchange visits where farmers shared experiences, skills, challenges and solutions.

As well as the permaculture starter pack, the farmers were given training and materials to build their own rainwater harvesting tanks. This means that they have clean water which they can use to water their gardens.

Farmers increased their knowledge by exchanging experiences during farmer learning exchange visits
The 41 farmers who participated in the project have benefitted in many ways. They now have fresh vegetables free from synthetic chemicals, fresh water and have created strong bonds in the community by working together.

Farmers and their families now 
consume fresh, healthy vegetables
The cost of vegetable production has decreased and the farmers no longer have to go and fetch water from the borehole during the rainy season. However, there were some initial challenges to the project. The first stage of a permaculture garden is particularly labour intensive which the farmers found hard to accept. Also during summer there is a lot of work in the maize fields so most farmers prioritise their work on the fields and neglect their gardens.

However, overall the project managed to overcome these issues. Agnes Mangwe, a farmer from Vikizijula in Makhundlu now has a permaculture garden and sells lettuce from it to pay for her grand-children's school fees.

“I advise farmers to start a permaculture garden so that in five years’ time the poverty rate in the country might be decreased and there will be no one struggling in the country,” said Mangwe. “ Farmers should move from being dependent on food aid towards being self-reliant.”

Training women's groups in the construction of ferro-concrete water harvesting tanks
Permaculture Garden

The key to this project's success was the willingness of the community to teach each other and work as a team. Farmers told us they appreciated the continued collaboration with the project staff, but were now able to make their own way. This is what has made the project approachable and sustainable.

Since this initial training in 2011, more than 500 permaculture gardens and 700 rainwater harvesting tanks have been established in the project area.  A further 100 gardens have been  constructed in the peri-urban communities of Manzini and Mbabanes.  In addition the project has trained primary school teachers to introduce Permaculture into the school curriculum and at national level to the National Curriculum Centre.

Based on a report by Lynn Kota, LUSIP-GEF National Project Manager, Prince Mngoma, LUSIP-GEF Environment Coordinator, Clement Gamedze, LUSIP Community Development Officer,  Debra Khumalo, reporter from Agribusiness Monthly magazine, Lwazi Dlamini, Journalism student at the University of Swaziland and Msutfu Fakudze, Director of the NGO Conserve Swaziland.

The village of Luhlanyeni is located in the Mamba Chiefdom of Swaziland, one of the driest areas in the country. While drought causes serious issues for smallholder farmers in the area, it is flash flooding and erosion that pose the biggest threats.

The Sihlangwini Sustainable Land Management project, initiated in 2010, is working to tackle the issues of drought, flash flooding  and declining soil fertility.  
The programme is part of the larger Lower Usuthu Smallholder Irrigation Project supported by the Global Environment Facility (LUSIP-GEF). It is financed by IFAD and the GEF, and implemented by the Swaziland Ministry of Agriculture and the Swaziland Water and Agricultural Development Enterprise.

Luhlanyeni has suffered from degraded lands due to overgrazing and lack of managed drainage systems. When flash-floods arrive, heavy rains are channelled into gullies which became deeper and deeper each year through erosion. Some of these gullies have grown up to twelve meters wide and over six meters deep.

The gullies are encroaching on arable land in and around Luhlanyeni village reducing the areas suitable for cultivation and grazing, endangering the livelihoods and food security of the community. 
Some have grown so wide that some of the villagers' homes were in danger of collapsing into them.
The community decided something needed to happen to stop the rich topsoil from washing away and more arable land being destroyed. They had already attempted their own solutions to the problem but they knew that they needed more help.  

The Sihlangwini Sustainable Land Management project began in early 2011. It involved hosting workshops to look at the causes of the gullies and possible prevention measures as well as sustainable land management practices.  It then provided training for the community members to build on their existing knowledge to rehabilitate the land. Additionally the project supplied the necessary field tools for the restoration processes.  

The community used a combination of biological and mechanical approaches to restore the degraded areas. Biological approaches consisted of planting trees to stabilise the soil and using drought-tolerant crop varieties. Mechanical approaches included the use of gabions (metre-square wire baskets filled with stones used to stop erosion) which were placed into the gullies.

Recognising the problem of erosion, local farmers had started collecting and using stones – but it was not enough

The main objective was to make sure the community understood the causes behind land degradation and how they could combat the threat year after year. The project also included additional training and workshops on teamwork, HIV/AIDS and gender equality.

Although the land was heavily degraded, the community can now use it again for farming. Roughly 21 hectares of land have been recovered which has aided over 150 farming families in strengthening their food security and providing them with additional income.

Nomsa Tfwala, Vice Chairperson of the project said: “We are now able to grow sweet potatoes, groundnuts and fruit trees. We have also been able to sell the peanuts we produced to the community. We no longer need to go and buy food since there is now enough from our own land!”

The project ended in 2013 and has been lauded as a great success. The experience in Luhlanyeni has inspired a nearby community, Sithobelweni, to rehabilitate a large area of their own.
The key to its success has been down to the commitment of the community. The project was driven and initiated by the community itself, building on the solutions and skills they had already implemented.

“The community had already started collecting stones, but more was needed,” said Msutfu Fakudze

Sikelela Magagula summed up: “What I have learnt is that all these development projects in our communities become much easier and more successful if they come from and are led by the people.”