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A photo blogpost by Mariajose Silva Vargas

An ex-combatant waiting to receive inputs for production in Korhogo, Côte d’Ivoire.  © IFAD/Mariajose Silva Vargas
My name is Mariajose Silva Vargas, I am a Bolivian national currently finishing my internship in the Office of the President and Vice-President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). Furthermore, I just graduated from Ghent University in Belgium with an International Master of Science in Rural Development (IMRD) degree.

In June 2014 I went to four different cities in Côte d’Ivoire to collect data for my master's dissertation and for this reason, I visited the IFAD Projet d'appui à la Production Agricole et à la Commercialisation (PROPACOM). Specifically, I met with a special cluster of the project's beneficiaries: the ex-combatants.

Indeed, the country’s last civil conflict ended in 2011, and nowadays there are around 74.000 ex-combatants that need to be reintegrated into the socio-economic life. Thus, IFAD is assisting the Authority of Demobilization, Disarmament and Reintegration (ADDR) by forming, supporting and installing 2000 ex-combatants into the agro-pastoral sector.

 “The project's objective is to integrate ex-combatants, because they had nothing after the two crises. After years of fighting they had to go back to their life,”  said Mr Pierre Soro Seydou, coordinator of the PROPACOM team in Bouaké.

Ex-combatant and his family work in the field near Ferkessédougou, Côte d’Ivoire.   © IFAD/Mariajose Silva Vargas
During the first days of my visit, I was very nervous: indeed, I wondered how to talk to them or ask them about their life after the war, since inevitably the reintegration of ex-combatants is a very delicate issue. Nevertheless, when I met them, their communities and families, they were all very kind and available to answer all of my questions. Therefore, during our conversations, they explained to me that today they just want to take care of their families, and this is one of the main motives why they want to become farmers.

The children in an ex-combatant’s community in Ferkessédougou, Côte d’Ivoire.  © IFAD/Mariajose Silva Vargas
Consequently with the project, the ex-combatants and their communities receive training to start or to return to work in the agricultural sector. In fact, many of them were already farmers before the first crisis in 2002. Indeed, Mr Yefarguia Kone, one of the former fighters said to me:

“I was born in agriculture, before the war I was also a farmer”

In any case, with the training they also learn new techniques to increase the production, such as methods to process cassava into manioc, or shea nuts into shea butter. For them, the formation is essential for many reasons, such as to improve the quality of their production or enhance social cohesion with other people.

Mr Yefarguia Kone explaining facts to me in the field,  Côte d’Ivoire.  © IFAD/Mariajose Silva Vargas
“ After the formation I have found many things that have helped me to improve my everyday
life. Really, the formation have donated me many things, especially techniques in the
agriculture,” said Mr Yefarguia Kone.

A woman from the community producing shea butter, Côte d’Ivoire.  © IFAD/Mariajose Silva Vargas
Likewise, with the programme they get inputs to start production and they also receive further assistance to connect their communities to markets. For instance, Mr Nakoudjana Silue, one of the beneficiaries, got a tricycle to transport the food and sell it in town marketplaces. 

Mr Nakoudjana Silue got a tricycle to transport food to the markets, Côte d’Ivoire.   © IFAD/Mariajose Silva Vargas
 From my point of view, this project is a perfect example of the multi-functionality of agriculture, or in other words, that it can solve many issues in rural areas apart from producing food and fibre: it provides employment; it assures social inclusion of the most vulnerable people; and it can even provide social security and protection.

Written by Miriam Cherogony

The 6th China-Mozambique-IFAD South-South Cooperation workshop held in Maputo, Mozambique on 4-8 August 2014 conference focused on three important policy reforms in China that resulted in unblocking agricultural development and the China Africa Development Fund (CADFund).

The policy reforms focused on Chinese agricultural policy and impacts, agribusiness reform and mechanization, and research and development.  The progress in the Chinese agricultural policy and impacts was presented by Prof Zhang Xiaoshan. Various agricultural policies reforms enabled China to put in place incentives for smallholder farmers. The aim was to increase their participation in the agricultural sector development through improved property rights. The result has been an increase in grain production and incomes for farmers. The paper elicited an interesting discussion on the similarities of the challenges faced by China and Africa in rural urban migration and small parcels of land and property rights. The other was to understand how China has managed to change but Africa has not been able to change. The policies are in place but the difference is in the implementation of these policies in Africa.

Participants follow Discussions

The agribusiness reforms and agricultural modernization in China was presented by Prof Zhang Xiaoshan.  Although there existed diversified patterns on achieving China’s agricultural modernization, the policy makers favored the development of specialized households based on family farming and regarded it as mainstream in the agricultural management system. The households were encouraged to form cooperatives or associations. This enabled farmers to enter into secondary and tertiary industry and gain added value through the marketing and processing of their primary products. The mixed and diversified agricultural production system will continue to exist in China’s agriculture these are also inter-connected with China’s urbanization and industrialization process. This will inevitably influence the reform direction of rural land tenure system and rural governance structure. The key issue during this development is how to protect the interests of small farming households and protect the scarce resources of arable land, water and protect the environment. The plenary discussion centered on the weaknesses in the cooperative model on governance and management and this remain a challenge in China as well.

Investment in agricultural research and development was presented by Dr Chen Qianheng. The paper explained why the public sector is the main financier for R&D. R&D is a public good and returns take a very long time to realize. The investment in agriculture research comprises about 0.5% in China’s GDP, lower than the world’s average level (1%). In china, there are 2 million enterprises but only a few large-scale or technology-oriented enterprises are engaged in agricultural R&D. The future of agriculture technology is in the area of biotechnology, water saving technologies, agricultural mechanization and precision agriculture. In all OECD countries, modern agriculture focus mainly on high efficiency and competitiveness of agriculture, food security and increase in farmer’s incomes. The plenary discussions centered on private sector involvement in R&D; how farmers can participate in R&D and how R&D can be revamped to bolster productivity. The discussions drew on the similarities on R&D and how to make R&D relevant for the stakeholders to invest in it.

The China Africa Development Fund (CADFund) was presented by Henry Liu. In 2006, at the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, the President Hu Jintao announced the establishment of CADFund to encourage and support Chinese enterprises to invest in Africa. It has four offices in Africa namely Johannesburg, South Africa; Lusaka, Zambia; Accra, Ghana; and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The Fund determines investment terms according to the industrial features, return on investment, risks, exit timing and approaches etc. of the projects.  Investment term of the Fund towards a single project is mainly 5 - 8 years, and will not exceed 10 years in principle. On a single project the Fund can invest USD5-50 million. It has 78 projects worth USD2.9 billion with a specific fund for Lusophone countries; Angola, Cape Verde and Mozambique. The CADFund is supporting the Wanbao project through a loan of USD60 million from China Development bank and equity of USD58 million (49%) from CADFund and USD60 million (51%) from Wanbao Enterprise joint venture of USD200 million. The CADFund signed a memorandum of understanding with IFAD in 2007. Now they are working on the modalities to link to the IFAD operating model and develop a CADFund-IFAD partnership.

The motives for China’s enterprises’ Overseas Foreign Direct Investment (OFDI) in agriculture are very complex. It cannot be attributed to a single factor motive such as land grabbing overseas. The Chinese argued that so far, only a very small part of the agricultural products grown abroad was taken to China. A large portion is sold in the local market or exported to third markets. Therefore, China’s OFDI in agriculture has little impact on guaranteeing China’s food security. Most imported agricultural products from Africa are non-food items, including cotton, hemp, silk, oilseeds and other such products. The Chinese admit that China’s firms compete with local growers and some enterprises do not have a strong awareness of environmental protection and social responsibility but this is not the whole story. It is important to note that China’s enterprises’ agricultural OFDI increased agricultural investment, employment and expanded the supply of agricultural products in the local market of the host country. In the long run, the presence of China’s firms with advanced technology will benefit competition: through the expansion of local supplies while providing cheaper technologies that can be adapted and adopted by local farmers. China’s enterprises’ agricultural OFDI is win-win for the host country and China.

With the rising demand for food in China and the world, more and more Chinese enterprises will venture out. In order to eliminate anxiety about land grabbing from local farmers, Chinese companies should choose the suitable mode of agricultural OFDI. Deborah and Tang (2009) pointed out: “Any efforts by foreigners to produce on a large scale are likely to continue to be controversial. Systems of outgrowing, where farmers maintain control over their own land but have incentives to produce under contract to a central company, could be a middle ground.” Considering many host countries’ food insecurity, China’s companies can come to some agreement with the host country government on the share of land output. In order to benefit local agricultural firms more, China’s firms can set up co-operative enterprise or joint venture with local company to produce agricultural products. The discussion focused on land grabbing and environmental impact assessment citing the scale of these investments. The win-win strategy at the moment seems to favour China and needs to be revisited in terms of cross cultural issues, value addition of raw products, further technical assistance to improve governance and ownership, and more trade between China and Africa.

The strategy for agricultural development in Mozambique was presented by Mr Adriano Ubisse. Mozambique has a population of 24 million. Agriculture is fundamental for food security and economic development. The focus is on increasing production and area and improving the genetics. The strategy is linked to CAADP and PRSP to create competitive and sustainable agriculture, access to markets, food security, and ensure social equality. The initiative has four pillars: (i) increasing agricultural productivity and production; (ii) access to markets for improvement; (iii) sustainable natural resource; and (iv) strengthen institutions. The implementation is focusing on three corridors; (i) Nagala corridor in the north (ii) Beira Corridor in the central and (iii) Limpopo corridor in the south. This is coupled with the technical centres in each of these areas to support the development of the corridors. The participants will visit some of these technical centres during the field visits.

The IFAD Mozambique investment was presented by Mr Cândido Jaque, Directorate of Investment and Cooperation, Mozambique. IFAD began operations in Mozambique in 1983 and has provided more than US$200 million in financing for 12 programmes and projects in the country. Currently there are five on-going projects – PRONEA (supports the government's National Programme for Agricultural Extension); PROSUL (improve the climate-smart livelihoods of smallholder farmers in the Maputo and Limpopo corridors), a small EU project that focus on MDGs; ProPESCA (support to artisanal fisheries), and PROMER (supporting the Markets). The Chinese cooperation is focusing on Maize, Cotton, and Rice as well as development of the research centres.

The PROMER presentation on the development of markets was done by Ms Carla Honwana.  Agriculture is the main source of income in rural Mozambique. She mentioned that the project is driven by a reference committee in the various regions with representatives of public, private, civil society and farmers. The projects support (i) extension services focused on market access to advise the smallholder farmers to produce according to market demand; (ii) production and quality; (ii) adult education; iii) support to rural traders, access to financial services through savings and association groups; and iv) support market information systems which include prices, products, etc. The programme is supporting knowledge management in its parent ministry, DNPDR to ensure the Ministry has ownership of the lessons learned.

The Wanbao Project was presented by Mr Armando Ussivane, Chairman of Agriculture Sector Strategic Plan (PEDSA). In Mozambique there is a total of three million hectares of irrigated land. The demand for rice is 550,000 tonnes with only 300,000 tonnes produced locally, leaving a gap of 250,000 tones to meet.  This led to the development of the Wanbao project or PEDSA. It has three objectives namely: (i) increase production and productivity; (ii) access to markets; and (iii) sustainable national resource management. In 2007 there was a twinning arrangement with China for technological transfer, and value addition in storage and processing.

Before the project, the main problems have been (i) poor land preparation; (ii) use of low branching variety of rice (yield 6 tonnes/ha); (iii) direct planning which uses a lot of seed; and (iv) poor control of water. The technological transfer will address these problems by (i) focusing on land levelling; (ii) use of high branching variety (12 tonnes/ha); (iii) use of pre-germinated seed when planting (35kg/ha) and (iv) regular control of water. The lower Limpopo irrigation project is worth USD250 million with irrigation infrastructure costing USD113 million. The approach is a private public producer partnerships arrangement targeting direct support to small-scale farmers and partial support (50% start-up) to emergent farmers who own 5-10 hectares. The project is on course to achieving the target set on the irrigated area; at the moment it has achieved 8,000ha. There was a number of cross cultural issues and adjustments (Chinese and Mozambican) that needed to be addressed for the project to remain on course.
Rice Drying Facilities at Wanbao Project

Discussion on what can be improved on the China-Africa agricultural cooperation:

  • China needs to hear the African voice in terms of ownership of the decision at all levels and demand driven strategies in order to have common understanding on both sides
  • Improve on the cross cultural understanding on win-win and there is need to borrow what works well in both cultures
  • China should set up factories in Africa to produce the technologies in Africa to increase cost effectiveness  
  • China needs to change the mindset on the view of Chinese technologies by providing after sale service and the technologies should be simple, adaptable and affordable to the African farmers 
  • China should provide information on the technologies available and the price ranges of the technologies for different markets
  • The trade imbalance between Africa (Exports 2.8 billion) and China (imports 2.5 billion) should be improved and there is need for preferential trade agreements to increase trade e.g. add value to the technologies in Africa and value addition for the raw materials that China imports
  • China should provide additional technical assistance to support the countries from USD30 million to assist in the development of investment policies to support the cooperation  

What can Africa do?

  • African countries need to avoid supply driven development through the review of investment policies, identification of financial needs, and allocation of budget to the cooperation 
  • Every country should have a clear entry strategy for the cooperation which highlights what is required to be shared with development partners.This should include land issues, human resource capacities and other gaps that need to be addressed in the cooperation 
  • Improve research extension linkage to enable technological transfer to be speeded up in the host country  
  • Improve Africa's participation and engagement in the cooperation and learn from the Nigerian example of active participation in the cooperation for a common cross cultural understanding on the win-win strategies 
  • More access to information on Chinese technologies provided through Government, set up demonstration of these technologies (include TORs of consultants, specifications, etc.), and strengthen the bureaus of standards to reinforce on standards   
  • There is need for a centralized information on the development partners investment requirements 
  • Government should encourage private sector involvement in the agricultural sector through enabling policies to encourage them into the sector.
  • Understand and improve the quality of agricultural products to meet the requirements for the Chinese markets. 

The importance of the south-south cooperation to IFAD was explained in the presentation of the scaling up agenda by Mr Cheik Sourang, Strategy and Knowledge Management. This presentation showed south-south triangular cooperation as an entry point for improved efficiency and impact at scale in agriculture and rural development. He mentioned the pathways, drivers and spaces for scaling up. He emphasized on the need for more systematic and proactive approaches, in order to reap the benefits of scale through learning, replication and partnerships. A learning event on the south-south and triangular cooperation will be hosted by IFAD on 12 September 2014 in Rome, Italy.

Visita FIDA a Oaxaca

Posted by Beate Stalsett 0 comments

Written by Mariana Castro Álvarez

Kanayo F. Nwanze, el Presidente del FIDA
©IFAD/Katie Taft
Durante el mes de julio, el señor Kanayo F. Nwanze, el Presidente del Fondo Internacional de Desarrollo Agrícola (FIDA), y su equipo de dedicados especialistas en temas para América Latina  y el Caribe viajaron a la Ciudad de México.

La agenda del viaje versó sobre diferentes actividades, sobre las cuales resaltan las reuniones con algunos de los representantes de Alto Nivel del gobierno Mexicano dedicados a la Agricultura, Hacienda, Desarrollo Social y asuntos forestales.

Además, se presentó un estudio regional sobre la agricultura familiar en América Latina, elaborado conjuntamente entre Centro Latinoamericano para el Desarrollo Rural (RIMISP) y el FIDA.
Parte de la misión consistió en una visita de campo a Oaxaca, en la que el sr. Nwanze, junto con delegados de la Comisión Nacional Forestal, visitaron un grupo de mujeres que han recibido capacitación en la producción de seda, en la sierra norte de dicho Estado mexicano. "Creemos que la población rural es parte de la solución a los problemas del mundo", mencionó el Presidente del FIDA. "Cuando las inversiones se han dirigido a las zonas rurales, hemos observado una y otra vez que las personas se han visto empoderadas para cultivar más alimentos, poner en marcha sus propios negocios, mejorar la nutrición de sus hijos y enviarlos a la escuela. Hemos visto como mujeres y hombres de las zonas rurales transforman sus comunidades".
Tejedoras de seda Oaxaca
©IFAD/Mariana Castro Álvarez

Junto al Fondo para el Medio Ambiente Mundial y en asociación con la Comisión Nacional Forestal, FIDA financia en México un proyecto que está creando nuevos sistemas de aprovechamiento forestal sostenible y de fijación de carbono, al tiempo que introduce programas para el fomento de emprendimientos rurales, gracias a los cuales la población de las comunidades Santo Domingo Xagacía y Santa María Yalina se han visto beneficiados.

El proyecto con las mujeres de Santo Domingo Xagacía, está enfocado principalmente a la capacitación en la producción de seda, un proceso heredado de generación en generación, que además de su potencial para la generación de ingresos, contribuye a preservar la cultura local. A pesar de que esta es una región en la cual la pobreza extrema afecta a más de la mitad de la población, el Presidente del FIDA comentó que "las desigualdades pueden eliminarse si nos damos cuenta hasta qué punto las zonas urbanas y las rurales son interdependientes".

©IFAD/Mariana Castro Álvarez
Por su parte, Josefina Stubbs, Directora de la División de América Latina y el Caribe de FIDA, quien también participó en la visita de campo, hizo énfasis sobre la importancia de  coordinar los diferentes recursos que se destinan a las comunidades, para poder así lograr el mayor impacto posible en el desarrollo rural, en este caso de las mujeres productoras de seda.

“Hay que ver cuál es la manera de hacer al producto menos costoso y de calidad homogénea, para que pueda tener un mayor mercado (…) y mantener en la mente la importancia de conversar con algunas tiendas en Oaxaca o en la Ciudad de México, para ofrecerles la compra de prendas elaboradas con el mismo trabajo de las mujeres, el cual es de excelente calidad, mencionó Josefina Stubbs. Asismismo, comentó sobre un programa regional de apoyo a emprendimientos de mujeres rurales, el cual es financiado por el FIDA y ejecutado a través de ONU Mujeres.

©IFAD/Mariana Castro Álvarez
Como parte de la agenda de trabajo, el equipo de FIDA visitó también la comunidad de Santa María Yalina, en la que seis jóvenes han puesto en marcha un pequeño negocio de venta de carbón vegetal.
Ahí se pudo constatar la viabilidad que tienen los negocios rurales liderados por jóvenes, con un enfoque de aprovechamiento sostenible de los recursos naturales. “El éxito de las poblaciones rurales depende de cuán bien estén organizadas. La estructura organizativa es sumamente importante para lograr cohesión, trabajar conjuntamente y diseñar planes de negocios que luego puedan generar mayores ganancias”, comentó el Presidente del FIDA con los jóvenes empresarios.

Al finalizar la visita, el sr. Nwanze recalcó: "Si las economías rurales no son dinámicas, las personas continuarán migrando hacia las ciudades en busca de trabajo. Necesitamos un mundo en el que la población, el empleo, los servicios y las oportunidades estén distribuidos de forma más equilibrada".

Muyu Raymi - Tales of Diversity from the Sierra of Ecuador

Posted by Valeria Smarrini Monday, September 8, 2014 0 comments

The young lady is holding two or three ears of corn in her hands, which she has chosen from a selection on display on a white cloth spread on the floor, and she is pointing at kernels of different colours, mentally counting them up. “Do you think this one is good enough? Can we win with this one?” – she asks to another girl, who is producing more cobs from a large bag, and adding them to the collection. “Take that one, that one is even better” – is the reply.

Maize and bean varieties presented by grant
beneficiaries at the Muyu Raymi seed fair
I am attending an event called Muyu Raymi, a yearly seed fair held in Cotacachi, in the Imbabura province of Ecuador. Muyu Raymi is an important event for farmers: there they can bring their products, meet other farmers from different communities and exchange what they have brought. In addition to this, there are also competitions, where traditional food is offered for tasting and participants receive prizes. For example, there is a prize for the biggest ear of corn, and one for the ear containing the highest number of varieties.

This year, the event was organized by the prefecture of Imbabura, the municipality of Cotacachi, and the Union of Peasant and Indigenous Organizations of Cotacachi (UNORCAC), in collaboration with the Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Agropecuarias (INIAP), Ecuador’s national agri-research institute. Several international development partners contributed to this – IFAD being one of them, through the Bioversity International programme on Improving productivity and resilience or the rural poor through enhanced use of crop varietal diversity in integrated production and pest management. And this is what has brought me there.

Pests and diseases account for a significant share of harvest losses each year, and in developing countries this can result in diminished food security and deterioration in the livelihoods base for many smallholders. It is intuitive to understand that monocultures are at high risk, as large surfaces planted to the same crop have uniform resistance and can be wiped out in the event of an outbreak. The underlying idea of the programme is that if different varieties of the same crop are planted at the local farm level, this will result in a reduction in pests and diseases and, ultimately, in an increase in productivity. Bioversity International and their partners are working on this concept in four countries (China, Ecuador, Morocco, and Uganda), and for six staple species: banana, barley, common bean, faba bean, maize, and rice. In Ecuador, two areas of work exist: one on banana and platano on the coast, and one in the mountains on maize and common bean. An evaluation of this programme is what brought me to the Muyu Raymi, where maize and bean are being exchanged.

INIAP is the responsible agency for this part of the programme. Bean and maize varieties are so many in this area that it actually was a problem to have them all identified when the activities started. INIAP had to revise their initial idea of baseline assessment and organized a competition asking school children to spot all the different seeds in their parents' fields, and come back to the programme coordinators with samples and names. Now the programme has a community seed bank in Cotacachi, where crop mixtures are available for farmers to borrow, with the agreement that part of the harvest is returned to the programme, to be then further shared under the same conditions. In the meantime, scientists continue to be at work, to come up with further findings on resistance and productivity.

So, the young lady mentioned before belongs to one of the households targeted by the programme. In case you were wondering, she did win and was able to walk back home with some new tools that, judging by the look in her eyes, promise to be helpful for her daily work in the fields. Before she started meticulously selecting the ear to present for the competition, I managed to ask the girl if at fairs of this kind she can really find new varieties she had not known of before. “Maybe not totally unknown” - she replied -  “but for sure I was able to find varieties that I remember my grandparents used to harvest when I was little, and then have disappeared from my community. This is a good thing, isn't it?”. 

More than fire dances, cocoa and coconuts

Posted by Susan Beccio Wednesday, September 3, 2014 0 comments

By Susan Beccio and Antonella Piccolella

This week, a dedicated group of IFAD colleagues and partners participated in the International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in Apia, Samoa. It was an action packed week with a number of highlights. The opening of the conference began on Sunday night, with a ceremony and a traditional fire dance.
Traditional Samoan fire dance, at the opening ceremony of the SIDS conference. 
©IFAD/Susan Beccio
The centrepiece of our participation was the side-event: More than cocoa and coconuts: investing in rural people, developing agriculture. This session presented how IFAD forges partnerships to successfully match smallholders and business opportunities, and generate environmentally-friendly win-win solutions for producers, buyers and consumers in a rural context - and in small island developing states.
It was a fast-paced session that began with an introduction by  Chase Palmeri, Country Programme Manager for the Pacific Islands (and mastermind of the session) and Périn Saint Ange, Regional Director East and Southern Africa Division, followed by the screening of Small Island Developing States - Partnering for Sustainable Development a video which set the scene for the discussion. 

Périn Saint Ange opens the side-event. ©IFAD/Susan Beccio

In IFAD we say that working in the field is complex, challenging - and also immensely rewarding. Putting together and running a side-event is no exception. Imagine an open tent, hot and glaring sunshine, the buzz of fans, gusts of trade winds - and yet the show must go on - and it did.

The "talk show" which followed the screening, was dynamic and interesting. Many of the people that were featured in the video were in the tent, talking about their experience in real time. Our favourite host, Ron Hartman, also Country Programme Manager in the Region, guided the discussion. 

The keynote speakers were:
  • Adalberto Luis, Responsible for the Cocoa Value Chains at the Cooperative for Export and Market of Quality Cocoa (CECAQ-11), São Tomé and Principe
  • Isikeli Karikarito, Cicia High School Principal, Fiji
  • Byron Campbell, Project Manager ‘’Market Access and Rural Enterprise Development Project  (MAREP)’’, Grenada
  • Andrea Serpagli, Country Programme Manager for São Tomé and Principe

Participants of the side-event, from left, Ron Hartman, Andrea Serpagli, Adalberto Luis, Byron Campbell, Isikeli Karikarito. ©IFAD/Susan Beccio
The discussion covered the following areas:

Partnering with the public sector: Making smallholder farmers voices heard in Grenada.
IFAD has established strategic partnerships in Grenada with both the public and the private sector to enhance access to markets and entrepreneurship opportunities, particularly for young rural men and women. The Market Access and Rural Enterprise Development Programme (MAREP) provides the Government of Grenada with a unique financial instrument to implement rural policies that benefit the poor. IFAD is playing a bridging role between public sector, smallholder farmers and other rural entrepreneurs by supporting the engagement of its target group in country-driven processes.

Partnering with civil society: Participatory guarantee scheme in Fiji
Joining hands with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, IFAD has been supporting farmers in the Pacific through the Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community (POETCom). The POETCom is working with members of the Cicia Rural Development Committee and the community to build farmer capacity to manage certification requirements and meet market demands and standards through a method of organic certification known as a Participatory Guarantee System (PGS). The IFAD-funded initiative has offered a low-cost way to achieve organic certification and develop local market chains.

Partnering with the private sector: Fairtrade organic cocoa production in São Tome and Principe
In São Tomé and Principe the end of the cocoa industry seemed inevitable, but IFAD recognised the potential for a high quality cocoa market. It developed key partnerships with the Government, local cooperatives of cocoa producers and private companies operating within the organic and fair trade markets to re-launch the cocoa industry. By combining organic production and fair trade principles cocoa exports have increased 30-fold and 2200 smallholder farmers have seen their incomes raised five-fold. At the same time biodiversity protection and sustainable uses of resources have been promoted.

We concluded the session with Périn Saint Ange presenting IFAD's Approach to Small Island Developing States and wrapping up. 

Some of the take-away messages were:
  •      It is key to pick the right partners and build trust. 
  •      Trust needs time to develop.
  •      Good partners are those with a long term development vision.
Overall the side-event and IFAD's participation at the SIDS conference was a great success. We had the opportunity to share our knowledge and experience and confirm our future commitment to the rural development of small islands states - a large number of nations that share common obstacles and challenges as well as a unique context and set of circumstances.

Complimentary bottles of virgin coconut oil from Kiribati and copies of our approach paper. ©IFAD/Susan Beccio

By Susan Beccio

Isei Namacamaca (right) grows lettuce and other vegetables in the highlands. Bevatu Settlement, Nadrau, Viti Levu, Fiji. 
©IFAD/Susan Beccio

I stopped off in Fiji for a few days last week, before arriving in Samoa for the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States. I wanted to see some of the work that IFAD is doing in the country. Through the Partnership in High Value Agriculture Project (PHVA), farmers are learning to grow a variety of produce and to tap into the high-demand tourism and hospitality market. 

Sereana Ratu is the leader of the village woman's group, she is receiving citrus plants from the project. The group cultivates fruits and vegetables to improve their family's diet. Leawa village, Viti Levu, Fiji. ©IFAD/Susan Beccio

Poor nutrition and dependancy on food imports is a typical condition on small islands in the Pacific. The project, together with partner NGO's and the Ministry of Agriculture, is addressing these issues by helping smallholder farmers to diversify their crops and become more food sufficient.

A commercial farm in Sigatoka sells produce directly to buyers from the hospitality industry. Viti Levu, Fiji
©IFAD/Susan Beccio
Migrant farmers come to work on a commercial farm in Sigatoka to learn new farming techniques that they bring back and apply to their own small farms in other parts of the country. The commercial farm sells directly to hotel buyers who have a high demand for a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables year round. PHVA has helped the owner of this farm to set up irrigation systems that use a low amount of water, given the water constraints on the island. 

Workers at the Manasa Trading company sort long beans and cut off the tips in order to conform to export standards for a New Zealand buyer in Sigatoka, Viti Levu, Fiji   ©IFAD/Susan Beccio

Monasa Trading is a privately-owned company that was set up in 2010. It buys produce directly from famres in and around Sigatoka and sells the produce to companies in New Zealand and Canada. The project helps Suren Kumar, owner of the company, to meet export standards and to work efficiently with local farmers. He exports 10 - 15 tons of produce per week. 

Sereana Rakalo is a member of the women's group who grow citrus. Here she is outside her home in Naiyaca Village, Viti Levu, Fiji   ©IFAD/Susan Beccio
In places like Fiji, a little bit of support and technical guidance can go a long way. Small island states like Fiji deserve our attention, not just as tourists but as development partners as well. 

*Originally published here on the CCAFS blog

As year 2015 has been earmarked as the International Year of Soils to highlight the urgent need for better soil management, many are promoting conservation agriculture (CA) as a key solution for African farmers. Yet, a slow adoption in sub Saharan Africa raises questions on the effectiveness of CA and the true value of such cropping practices for smallholder farmers. A new CCAFS report, based on collaboration with IFAD and CIRAD, gives some answers.

Will CA help respond to the urgent need to preserve our soils?

Out of over 930 million people living in sub Saharan Africa (SSA), about two thirds depend on rain fed smallholder agriculture for their livelihoods. Fragile soils, growing aridity and unsustainable practices like overgrazing, soil-depleting crop cultivation and firewood collection are rampantly degrading over two thirds of African land [UN Economic Commission for Africa]. Fighting this land degradation has recently yet again been listed in the development priorities by representatives of the Least Developed Countries in Cotonou. In SSA countries like Uganda, research shows that better land management practices are linked to reduced rural poverty.

Conservation agriculture (CA), which was initially developed as a response to the US Dust Bowl in the 1930s, is one of the approaches increasingly promoted on smallholder farms in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) to tackle this land degradation and improve soil health. Proof of its popularity, the First African Congress on CA took place in March in Zambia, where CA is already practiced on more than 5% of cultivated lands.

CA combines three cropping practices to help reduce erosion and water run-off, increase soil fertility and ultimately the crop yields. These consist of minimum or no-tillage to reduce soil disturbance; permanent soil cover, using crop residues as mulch; and crop rotations or intercropping, especially with nitrogen-fixing legumes.
Many experiments across the globe have shown the very positive impact CA can have on crop yields and livelihoods. In the Kulunda Steppe in Siberia, where half of the 42 million hectares of cropland are degraded, farmers were suffering from decades of declining yields. Scientists in this region began experimenting with CA three years ago and have already seen yields rise by around 20 to 25%. These encouraging results suggest CA could offer a relatively inexpensive solution to prevent the next Dust Bowl in the Russian Steppes.

But, to what extent could small farmers in SSA benefit from CA, and in which conditions? To help set the story straight, a CCAFS report  has just been published following the analysis of 41 studies identified as comparing CA with conventional tillage based practices in various agro-ecologies and climate conditions of SSA. This meta-analysis of existing data helps us better understand what conditions result in positive crop responses to CA practices as well as identify the factors that limit the adoption and impact of CA and potential solutions to address these.

Yes, CA can bring long term benefits for farmers if all three components are practiced

A key finding was that by combining no tillage with mulching, a farmer will yield on average 300 kg more per hectare in the first three years and even more thereafter, compared to conventional practices. However harvests will be lower in the long run if he practices only no tillage without soil cover and crop rotation.
Another finding is the importance of the use of fertilizer as a condition of success for CA farmers. Farmers yielded about 400 kg more per hectare through practicing CA when nitrogen fertilizer application was higher than 100kg per hectare. Given that the majority of SSA farmers apply much less fertilizer, on average around 8kg per hectare, this calls for the appropriate use of small quantities of fertilizer such as fertilizer microdosing, to benefit fully from CA’s potential.

CA could improve farmer livelihoods and resilience

Scientists attribute the positive yield impact (up to 300 kg more per hectare) of the combination of no-tillage, mulch and crop rotation to several benefits of crop rotation such as better soil structure, less pests and the biological nitrogen fixation which occurs when legumes are used as a rotational crop.   

The impact of CA will vary depending on seasonal rainfall. Overall, the meta-analysis shows greater yield gains in rainfall above 1,000mm than in drier conditions. However, some studies claim the opposite as heavy rains on mulched soils often induce aeration problems and waterlogging.

CA has been praised as a good climate change mitigation and adaptation technique. In particular, it has beenpromoted as a technology to cope with more erratic rainfall, due to the effects mulching seems to have on soil-water-balance. But this may be overstated.

“The results of this study do not show clear evidence of this potential,” said Marc Corbeels, a researcher at CIRAD (French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development) who led the study. “On average, yield benefits from CA were relatively low under dry climates in SSA: 140 kg per hectare,” he explained.
Long-term experiments on no till have shown that up to 10 tons of additional carbon could be sequestered in soil. However a recent CIMMYT study of the carbon sequestration potential of no tillage practices concludes that its impact on mitigation has been overstated.

Still, CA advocates crop rotation as well as no tillage and the positive impact of crop rotation in climate change adaptation is widely accepted. Many long-term field studies have directly compared continuous maize cultivation with a legume based rotation. A replicated controlled experiment in Canada found legume based rotation provided an additional 20 tons of soil organic carbon per hectare after 35 years. Rotation with legumes also adds organic nitrogen to the soil and breaks the lifecycle of pest and diseases, reducing the need for “carbon costly” chemical fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides, further contributing to climate change mitigation
Another CA benefit of promoting legumes in crop rotation or intercropping is nutrition. Research in Malawi found that families intercropping pigeonpea in their maize fields were more likely to get enough calories even during dry years than families practicing maize monoculture.

But CA may not fit for all: understanding adoption constraints

Despite its success in some regions, CA is not being widely adopted in SSA. Among the adoption issues identified is that the use of crop residues as mulch/soil cover competes directly with other very important uses such as fodder to feed animals in mixed crop-livestock farms. Poor families also often use maize, sorghum or millet stalks as cooking fuel.

"It is important that the study highlights adoption constraints like these so we can identify potential solutions to ensure CA is being practiced where it is most suitable for the smallholder farmer," adds Stephen Twomlow, a Climate and Environmental Specialist from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) which helped fund the study.

The greater benefit may vary depending on the farm. A crop residues trade-off analysis in West Africa found that while some farmers may get better returns by using crop residues for fodder, others benefit more from its use for mulching and nutrient recycling.

Some agronomists point out that CA may not suit all soils. The analysis suggests that CA works better on loamy soils compared to sandy and clay soils. Poorly drained soils are in general inappropriate as mulch can cause waterlogging and crop diseases.

Despite crop rotation benefits, farmers resist introducing legume rotation in continuous crop monocropping (eg maize monoculture in Malawi) due to the lack of legume markets for sales. Unless there is a ready market for the grain, smallholder farmers in SSA tend to grow grain legumes on a small proportion of their farm land, just for subsistence, and certainly not enough to provide a rotation across the farm. This highlights the need for policies, infrastructure and new markets to encourage better adoption of legume rotation practices. A successful example of this is in Ethiopia where policies supporting better seed access, training and markets have led farmers to dramatically increase chickpea cultivation alongside teff.

Sustainable farming practices like CA has a crucial role to play in SSA, where there will be 1.5 billion mouths to feed by 2050, in a drier and more fragile environment with increasingly scarce resources. Providing tailored advice for each region is key and despite evident benefits in many situations, CA may not be the solution for all.

Download the report

Meta-analysis of crop responses to conservation agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa by Marc Corbeels (CIRAD), Raymond Kofi Sakyi (Georg-August-Universität), Ronald Franz Kühne (Georg-August-Universität) and Anthony Whitbread (Georg-August-Universität).

The research was undertaken with funding from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).