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Laos: a rural perspective – photo exhibition opens in Vientiane

Posted by Susan Beccio Friday, September 27, 2013 0 comments

By Stefania Dina

IFAD opened the Lao People’s Democratic Republic office exactly one year ago and we thought that the best way to celebrate this occasion was to “put a face” on the people we work with in rural communities. Laos: a rural perspective, a photo exhibition, was launched in T’Shop Lai Gallery this week in Vientiane.

The high attendance at the opening and the very enthusiastic feedback we received are indicative of the trust that people have in IFAD's work, and its relevance in an agrarian country. Furthermore, they confirm the importance of our field presence and the need to project a public face as we carry out IFAD’s mission on a daily basis.

The photographs were taken by internationally-renowned photojournalist G.M.B. Akash, who visited IFAD projects in Laos in 2012 and was back for the opening and for the launch of the photo book.

Akash spoke about his experience working in the country. “The people I met in rural Laos were very welcoming and happy to show me how they are working to improve their livelihoods. IFAD really does give people the opportunity to change their own lives,” he said.

In addition to the main exhibition in T’Shop Lai Gallery, more photographs can be seen in five centrally located Vientiane cafés and restaurants: L’Adresse, Aria, Le Banneton, Joma Nomphou and Makphet. The photo exhibition will be open to the general public until Wednesday, 9 October.

Here are some scenes from the opening. All photos ©Bart Verweij

Farmers listening to agronomic advice from the Oil Palm Expert on an IFAD supervision mission
We are currently on a supervision mission for the Vegetable Oil Development Project (VODP2) in Uganda. We have two teams - one looking at the oilseeds component in Eastern and Northern Uganda, and another looking at oil palm growing in Kalangala District.
One of the mission team members is an oil palm expert. He is called Billy Ghansah and the farmers always look forward to the missions just so they can get all their palm related questions with experiences from West Africa. The expert works with the extension workers in their support to the farmers. The oil palm farmers have with time come to understand that the advice they get from the oil palm expert and the Kalangala Oil Palm Growers' Trust (KOPGT) field extension staff is very important in making their gardens more productive and increasing yield.
Billy (Oil Palm Expert) explains to the farmers and field extension workers that 
sooty mould fungus is spread by mealy bugs, and how to prevent it.

A farmers' leader gives a vote of thanks to the team for sharing with them
information to help them earn more from oil palm
When the farmers had just started planting the palms in 2006, some of them did not bother much about applying fertilizers. One of the key challenges for KOPGT was that, in spite of all the extension messages, some farmers would sell off their fertilizers on the black market for a quick buck. The first farmers started harvesting in 2010 and are earning very attractive incomes. On average, a farmer earns about USD100 per acre per month, and the gardens are 5 acres on average.

"Why are the fronds of my palm tree drying up?"
This female farmer, Imelda Nalubowa (center)
 wont let the expert go before getting a solution!
Fast  Forward. September 2013: farmers are now demanding to not only have the required fertilizer but to have it delivered in time so that their palm trees are healthy and more productive. These farmers have now realized how important it is to follow agronomic practices to ensure high quality fruit and to maximize profits from their fresh fruit bunches sales.

In the field visit to Kagulube Block on Wednesday 25 September, each farmer wanted the team to go to their gardens so that the oil palm expert could look at the trees they thought were not doing well for one reason or another. There was a farmers meeting and each farmer had a question. Some wanted to know why the leaves of their palms were yellow and what they could do about it? A female farmer was worried that there were insects eating up the shoots of her palms. Luckily, there was an entomologist from the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO), which has signed an MoU with VODP, to provide support to farmers. He was able to respond to her question and give her useful advice.

What do we learn from all this?
  • If you are providing very useful information to farmers, they will be eager to receive and apply it. Useful information for farmers in this case is information which enables them to earn better incomes from their agricultural enterprises.
  • Missions are a great opportunity to interact with beneficiaries and see things from their perspective, and then work with them towards obtaining meaningful answers to their questions and concerns. Missions are not 'business as usual' because there is constant change and team members have to adapt.
  • Sharing useful information is not a once-off event. Information should be shared consistently until the message is clearly understood by all and is implemented. Imagine someone had given up telling the oil palm farmers that they needed fertilizer? Consistency has paid off. Now the farmers are where they need to be - a place where they don't wait for you to bring the information to them, but they are eager to learn, and will go out of their way to ask and find answers.

For IFAD, missions offer a great value proposition for projects especially when the teams work towards meeting expressed needs.

Impact: A female farmer has built this permanent house from her sales
of oil palm fresh fruit bunches.

In a newly planted garden, the farmer is taught to not 'choke' the seedling.
This farmer also asked how much fertilizer of each required type
he needs to put on his 1 acre garden.

By Cristiana Sparacino

The first ever retreat of project staff from IFAD co-financed projects and programmes in Burkina Faso is taking place in Léo, Sissilli. This has been a unique opportunity for project/programme staff to get to know each other and exchange on many themes which affect the day to day implementation of their projects and programmes.

The objectives of the retreat included: (i) to get to know each other and learn about what IFAD and all its co-financed projects are doing in Burkina; (ii) determine whether there are practices and/or innovations which would merit being shared and if so, how to share them; (iii) determine if there are common difficulties in the implementation of projects and programmes and together propose shared solutions and (iv) discuss openly and have fun.

The organizers took on the world café facilitation methodology very seriously. Each table was prepared with colourful local tablecloths, had flowers on the table and made sure that the room set-up enhanced conversation amongst coffee-table guests. Indeed exchanges were lively and frank.

The world-café theme of the first day was "what exit strategy is required that will assure the durability of project investments and the sustainability of the institutions set-up through project support"? Amongst many ideas and proposals, some of the ones which were ranked the highest include: (i) exit-strategies must be developed at project design; (ii) exit-strategies must be in place at the onset of project implementation and they must be prepared together with all the actors involved in project implementation (Government, target group, project staff, etc.); (iii) exit strategies must include the training and preparation of target-group's organizations in order to assure that these will be able to take over certain project activities once the project will have completed; (iv) exit strategies must include the preparation of Government decentralized bodies to take over the supervision and follow-up of certain project activities once the project will have closed and (v) many more.

The conclusions of day two will come tomorrow...stay tuned!

What are the keys to the success of Pakistan’s microfinance industry?

Posted by Timothy Ledwith Thursday, September 26, 2013 2 comments

By Jonathan Agwe

Microfinance can be one of the most effective instruments to eradicate rural poverty and boost sustainable development. And Pakistan, in particular, has been widely recognized as a pioneer and laboratory for innovation in the provision of microfinance services – with a proactive stance on putting clients first.

Fozia, 28, shows cloth at the shop that she started with a microfinance
loan in Sindh Province, Pakistan. ©IFAD/Asad Zaidi
The Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund, the Pakistani Microfinance Network, IFAD, the U.K. Department for International Development and the Government of Pakistan recently joined forces to organize a conference on financial inclusion. Held in Islamabad, the conference highlighted the impressive growth and resilience of Pakistan’s microfinance market. Other industry players are becoming more and more interested in learning from Pakistan’s experience in order to improve their own performance.

So…what has contributed to this success? To answer that question, we in IFAD’s Policy and Technical Advisory Division have prepared a non-technical paper analysing some of the factors, actors, triggers and drivers that have made Pakistan’s microfinance market so robust. The information in the report is based on documentation prepared by the Pakistani Microfinance Network’s communication team. Please read the report to learn more. We hope that many of its findings can be adapted or replicated in other countries.

Knowledge exchange catalyzes action to conserve the Lake Tana Basin

Posted by Wairimu Mburathi Wednesday, September 25, 2013 0 comments

The Lake Tana watershed in the Ethiopian highlands of Amhara region is a prized jewel to the nation as the source of the Blue Nile, providing over half of the Great River Nile’s water source. Despite its ecological importance, land degradation caused by erosion, a high-density population and over grazing have diminished the fertility of soils and jeopardized the ecosystem of the watershed.

The IFAD supported Community Based Integrated Natural Resource Management Project, launched in 2010, aims to improve the livelihoods and reduce poverty of 450, 000 households in the Lake Tana watershed. The initiative will be implemented over a seven-year period, bringing about an investment of 25.4 million USD, of which IFAD contributes 13 million USD, to address land degradation in the Lake Tana watershed. The project introduces natural resource conservation and up-scales sustainable land management practices in 27 woredas (districts), within 4 administrative zones. Additionally, a 4.4 million USD contribution from the Global Environmental Facility, will pioneer new approaches, including climate change mitigation measures, to develop the nation wide sustainable Land Management Platform.

Soil and Water Conservation in Lake Tana district

A central element of the project is soil and water conservation to regenerate degraded lands and preserve forests, ensuring the management of natural resources within the Lake Tana basin. The region has a thriving ecosystem, which provides a vital source for the livelihoods of the rural poor, who primarily engage in farming, agro-pastoral and pastoralist activities. 

Project activities rely on elected watershed committees to mobilize the community to dedicate their labour and time to construct physical structures and plant the necessary forage and trees to rehabilitate watersheds, thus reducing losses created by climatic impacts and the mismanagement of water and natural resources in the region. So far, 145 watershed committees have been formed, all supported by 15 woreda (district) watershed technical teams, trained in soil and water conservation techniques.

Valuable knowledge exchange

Learning exchange visits have played a critical role to up-scale sustainable land management practices and drive community ownership of project activities. So far 7,711 farmers received national resource management training, along with 1,563 officials, strengthening community based integrated watershed management. These exchanges have been central to launch soil and water conservation practices to revive and treat 9,662 ha of communal lands and 40,824 ha of farmed land in Lake Tana watershed.

In Kernwary a kebele (ward) within Dangila district, community members elected a watershed committee in 2012, and have since developed an integrated water management action plan and launched community action to rehabilitate and protect a 120 hectare watershed central to the biodiversity of the area.

During the initial project phase, attempts to launch watershed conservation activities were short-lived, as members in the community did not respect allocated closures and were unconvinced that conservation measures would work. Although 60 acres of communal grazing land and the protected watershed was dedicated as a no grazing zone, livestock owners would often encroach into protected areas. Without the sustained participation of the community, it was difficult for the watershed committee to initiate and maintain water and soil conservation of communal lands.

Early this year, 133 people in Dangila District, including 88 farmers, traveled to Tigray, for a learning exchange session on soil and water conservation practices. Champion farmers in Tigray demonstrated how they revived severely degraded lands and shared tips on how they built and maintained physical structures, plants and foliage to protect their watershed from erosion. After attending this learning exchange and viewing how watersheds may be conserved, action and enthusiasm to sustain project activities was ignited as they gained an understanding of the importance of conserving their watershed. Importantly, officials from the Bureau of the Ministry of Agriculture and extension workers up-scaled soil and water conservation efforts, guaranteeing institutional support to community efforts.

Talking to several members of the committee, gave an insight on how learning exchanges catalyzed communities to dedicating their time to reviving the biodiversity and fertility of their watershed. Watershed committee members described how they initiated community action, by mobilizing people to volunteer 40 days a year to construct trenches, bunds, waterways and plant forage to revive their watershed. Delegating sub-teams of 5 people, direct by an assigned leader, they organized trainings and guided conservation activities with the support of the Bureau of Agriculture experts in the Kebele. Additionally, the committee patrols the watershed every Sunday to monitor developments within conserved areas.

Yeshi alem Wasi, the Chairman of the watershed committee explained:

Seeing is believing, and our learning experience in Tigray, convinced us that recommended conservation measures would work. After we saw how preserving indigenous trees and plants and increasing forage maintains the ecosystem, we were inspired.

In Tigray, farmers told us that we are sleeping on a bed of gold, with the privilege of living on high yielding land, whereas, they were sleeping on a bed of rocks, on land with low potential. They managed to reap benefits off their land by undertaking conservation measures and this inspired our community to intensify watershed protection efforts. We were driven to prove that we could successfully undertake conservation activities to improved our soil and water resources. The community hopes to maintain these efforts and become role models and share their experiences and knowledge on conservation practices with others in the region.

Yeshi alem Wasi, (left) the chairperson of the Watershed Committee and a fellow committee member describe challenges and successes faced while undertaking watershed management activities in Kernwary, Dangila District, Ethiopia.
The communities’ perception of watershed conservation changed, catalyzing mass action within the kebele. Upon their return, they extended the closure of communal land and phenomenal changes have been witnessed due to conservation of the watershed. Mulugeta Dereshe, the project coordinator for activities in Dangila, explained how farm yields within Kernawary increased due to improved soil quality caused by less erosion, foliage and boosted water percolation. In fact new springs and rivers have recently formed and a rare species of Sembelet grass, has re-grown in the area after its disappearance for 42 years, within the watershed enclosement.

Ensuring that livestock does not graze in enclosed areas has enabled indigenous trees and foliage to flourish.  The watershed is solely accessed for a cut and carry system to gather grass, which now grows in abundance in the area, and is used to feed cattle, construct houses and sell on the market. A bundle of harvested grass can fetch up to 50 Bir  (2.6 USD equivalent) in the market, providing farmers with additional income or savings, particularly for women and landless members of the community, enabling households to use their limited income for other basic necessities.

Community exchanges are a persuasive platform that is dynamic and appealing to community members who may not be literate and have limited understanding of how an encroaching urban population, over grazing and cutting forage may cause erosion, and deteriorate soils and water sources in the watershed. Active communities posses key local knowledge and experiences, which will convince others in the region to increasingly take on soil and water conservation practices. 

A nun and community member of Kernwary Kebele (ward), cuts grass to feed her livestock in the protected watershed. 

Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme

Posted by Marjolein van Gelder Wednesday, September 18, 2013 0 comments

Informal Seminar Meeting shows the importance of upscaling climate proof concepts within the rural agricultural development agenda

Climate change imposes  stress on the livelihoods of smallholder farmers, as their low availability and access to capital makes it difficult for them to properly deal with environmental pressure. The large impacts that climate change has and will have in the future pressures us to rethink the way of our investment. IFAD has set up the Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP) which aims to increase the resilience of small farmers against the impacts of climate change. An informal seminar, which was held at the 17th of September, informed country representatives about the urgency of the programme and the objectives of ASAP.

Biogas installation Mali

ASAP was launched in 2012, with a project in Mozambique currently running, and projects in Bangladesh, Bolivia, Djibouti and Mali to be starting  soon. Another nine projects are in the design process and will be implemented over the next two years.

One of the main objectives of the programme is to get climate finance to smallholders: most climate funds are now directed towards mitigation efforts, and even if they are spent on adaptation, the funding barely reaches small holders in low income countries. Besides, smallholders are very often not taking part in the climate debate. ASAP will make an effort to alter this situation. The second objective is to mainstream climate change awareness across all IFAD’s work. This will be considered successful once climate change is part of our risk and results management and when, for example, our economic analysis includes the costs of climate change. By creating mechanisms for direct finance and the mainstreaming in other investment programmes, ASAP is contributing to increasing smallholders’ resilience to climate risks.
The programme considers how smallholder farmers are affected by climate change in several ways. It aims to support farmers in reducing the losses caused by an increased variable climate, by for example financing early warning systems or creating knowledge about crop variety. But it is also taking advantage of new opportunities. When temperatures rise certain regions which have not been available for agriculture until now, such as high altitude regions, could become accessible for agriculture usage. Thus IFAD will responds to both the negative and positive impacts of climate change. In addition, ASAP, is focused on the upscaling of existing practices and technologies and the supporting of new, innovative approaches. An example of upscaling is agroforestry and watershed management, whereas early warning investments are new innovative approaches which are to be implemented and further explored.

ASAP strengthens  vulnerable links in the value chains as is the case of Bangladesh, where it is financing submersible road infrastructure to withstand  extreme weather events. Climate change affects all stages of  the value chain: from farmer to consumer. Therefore IFAD has created a programme which considers all those aspects in order to protect smallholders against the complex impacts of climate change.

One third of all IFAD's projects will have an ASAP component. They are funded by donor money received from Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Sweden. However, the funding needs are enormous. In many regions a critical number  of smallholders are threatened by the effects of climate change. In order to garner much-needed additional resources, we must demonstrate our effectiveness in reducing climate risks.

Knowledge Management in Practice

Posted by Ann Turinayo Friday, September 13, 2013 0 comments

Providing a platform for Stakeholders to come together

By Line Kaspersen, IFAD Uganda County Office

Effectiveness and efficiency of decentralised project implementation requires that we are all on the same page, and working towards the same objectives. Usually, the challenge is in finding a proper coordination mechanism to bring all actors on board. To address this need, the Vegetable Oil Development Project – Phase 2 held a start-up workshop for the oil seeds component in Lira, Northern Uganda, 11 - 12 September. In this workshop, millers, researchers, district local government officials, representatives from financial institutions, and organisations of service providers, together with the project management unit came together to discuss the challenges and opportunities along the oil crops value chain, and the positioning of VODP2 in addressing some of them. The component promotes, through a value chain approach, the production and marketing of sunflower, soya bean, ground nuts and sesame at smallholder level, and works with the private sector to integrate famers into the markets.

About 29 districts were represented by over 100 participants - the future oil seeds champions! The overarching theme was “poverty alleviation” which led to critical questions from an active audience. For example, one participant wanted to know why as a country Uganda continues to export grains when we have a trade balance deficit. Uganda acts as a bread basket for the region, providing huge potential for earning of foreign exchange and better prices for the farmers. Strong inclusive markets are a win-win situation.

Mr Charles Twikirize, the District Production Officer from Mbale, Eastern Uganda,
asks for answers. Such forums serve as knowledge sharing events.
VODP2 Project Manager, Ms Connie Masaba,  
explains the high level development objectives of the project

The Component was officially launched by the Minister of State for Agriculture, Hon. Zerubabel Nyiira. He appreciated the targeted support of smallholders and further highlighted the strengths of the project of contributing to wealth for the nation, and wealth at farmer level which enables each individual to overcome poverty and transform individual livelihoods. According to the minister,
There are three critical elements and these include seed, land and knowledge. And farmers need to embrace agriculture as a business not a default option
LC5 vice-chairperson of Lira appreciates the support to smallholder farmers:
“Small trees make the forest thick. Large trees can never do that".
The afternoon consisted of working group sessions. Each group discussed 4 indicators of the logical framework in detail; objectives of increased production versus productivity; linkages to research or how to monitor the work of service providers were raised.
These discussions contributed to ownership of the project at district level, where we all agreed during the wrap-up session that timely communication through the appropriate channels will help us achieve impact!

Why Country Programme Management Team Meetings?

Posted by Ann Turinayo Monday, September 9, 2013 1 comments

Some Highlights from the Uganda Country Programme Management Team (CPMT) Meeting 4 – 6 September 2013

We recently held our CPMT in Masindi District, Western Uganda. The CPMT focused on the Household Mentoring methodologies, implemented by District Livelihoods Support Programme. This is because other projects have been requesting for an opportunity to learn about household mentoring, and had requested that this CPMT be convened for that purpose.

Participants included staff from the projects, Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Ministry of Agriculture – the Plan for Modernization of Agriculture (PMA) Secretariat, Uganda Cooperative Alliance (UCA), Uganda National Farmers Federation (UNFFE), Uganda National Agro Dealers Association (UNADA), and Masindi District Local Government.
Some of the participants of the CPMT in Masindi
Why CPMTs?

A CPMT is a forum for sharing knowledge, experiences and lessons learned among projects in Uganda.   The CPMT meetings have been organized to handle different thematic areas as the projects deem needful
 For this CPMT, the objectives included;    Sharing experiences, lessons learned and impact of House Hold mentoring, discussing opportunities of sustainability and scaling up, as well as providing feedback to projects towards enhanced performance.
Building onto the lessons learned from the Learning Route Methodology, we prepared in advance for the field work by dividing the participants into four groups, each to look at a different aspect, and then report back to the plenary, as follows: Effectiveness of implementation arrangements; Relevance of intervention in relation to community needs; Impact of interventions; and Lessons learned, key innovations
Over all, the field work was successful and the plenary presentations and discussions were very animated as people shared what they observed in the field, what they learned and what they thought was replicable.

We also shared something on project performance in regard to the Project Status Reports and how we can ensure improved rating through effective management and implementation.

In the last session of the CPMT, an evaluation of the whole meeting was made by participants, and suggestions for improvement made. In their own words, the participants said that they loved
Sharing experiences and field visit with time to interact with beneficiaries to understand the implementation approach and impacts on ground. Presentations were relevant, and so was the representation of other stakeholders.

Overall, the objectives of the CPMT were attained, and for the next one, we shall aim at Inviting some of the other partners we did not invite this time round, hold status meetings with each project prior to CPMT, and  provide more detailed guidance on what we expect of project presentations and review them in advance to make sure they stay focused on the topic

Here is the CPMT in photos!
Farmers' groups have been supported with ox-ploughs to increase area of land tilled
under DLSP enterprise grants

CPMT visits a female headed poor mentored household

After being mentored, the lady in the second pic above has now started building a better shelter for herself!
(visible impact of household mentoring)

Under the infrastructure component, this is one of the roads that has been opened up
to enable rural farmers gain access to markets

Mr, & Mrs. Byalero, have been mentored since 2010. Here, they
are showing off the crops they have been able to plant by working together as a family.

With the household mentor, Julius (in black shirt), and the Community development Officer, Irene
(spotting a baby bump),  in Kijunjubwa Sub county
A lady shows of her land certificate to the Commissioner Aide Liaison (Ministry of Finance), Maris Wanyera
(left). Land registration ensures security of land tenure for poor rural households

IFAD is there, even in the remote villages of Orissa

Posted by Timothy Ledwith Friday, September 6, 2013 0 comments

Women from a remote village in Orissa State, India. ©IFAD
By Antonella Cordone

ORISSA, India – Greetings from Orissa, where the Joint Supervision Mission for the Orissa Tribal Empowerment and Livelihoods Programme (OTELP) is finalizing its work.

This IFAD-funded project started in 2009 in seven districts in Orissa, and is being implemented in about 1,000 remote villages. These are conflict areas where the opposition Naxal movement is strong, but the project has not been threatened, as this is a project of and by the people. The communities that OTELP supports are composed mainly of tribal peoples: Soura, LanjaSoura, Konda, Kutia Kondha, Paraja, Bonda, Bhumija and Koya. Through various land reforms, they have lost their forest lands – their natural habitat and resources – and, as consequence, have been impoverished.

This IFAD-funded project with the Government of Orissa is not only reaching very remote areas to improve the livelihoods of the poor tribal peoples; it is also reaching out to the poorest and most vulnerable, including the landless and widows. Some 30,000 landless people have been identified in the project area, and about 15,000 pattas (land titles) have been secured so far in approximately 450 villages.

Rights of access
Land titles traditionally have been assigned to the head of the family, hence to men, but the project detected this inequality and adjusted its approach to include both the wife and husband in each title certificate. Single women and widows, too, are now receiving title to their plots of land.

Village women in Orissa. ©IFAD
Central to identity of indigenous and tribal peoples is their relationship to ancestral territories and resources, which form the basis of their livelihoods. To support that relationship, OTELP is helping tribal peoples secure their rights of access to communal forest land through the Forest Right Act.

The process of applying for access to forest land in this area is quite cumbersome and time-consuming, particularly for the majority of tribal people who are illiterate. Non-governmental organizations that are implementing the project provide legal support to villagers as they apply to use and manage forest resources in ancestral territories from which they have been alienated for so long.

Duti’s story
Many aspects of OTELP’s work are illustrated by the experience of Duti, a young man in the project area.

When he was a boy, Duti’s otherwise normal life took a different turn when he suddenly lost his father. His mother, a housewife, was forced to become a daily wage labourer to feed her children. Without a title to the land on which they resided, Duti’s mother, now 60, recalls living in fear and uncertainty. “Every night if there was a commotion outside, I used to think: Where shall I go with these kids if I am asked to vacate?” she says.

Duti and his family outside their home. ©IFAD
In time, Duti joined his mother as wage labourer while transitioning from childhood to youth. Later on, he married, and his mother took ill. With an ailing mother and a pregnant wife, what he earned could hardly give them two square meals a day.

‘Now we can plan for our future’ 
But a big change occurred in April 2012, when Duti and his wife Pulmi received a patta to homestead a small plot of land. The micro plot provided enough space to build a house, a kitchen garden for growing vegetables, and a backyard for poultry.

Duti’s family has expanded their daily menu – with rice, dal and vegetables, eggs and occasionally even mushrooms. With a roof over his head, Duti now has access to electricity from a solar panel provided through a government convergence scheme. In addition, the patta has helped him get a certificate that enabled his five-year-old son to receive free education in the government primary school.

“I never imagined that we would ever have a plot of our own,” says an Duti’s mother, clearly elated.

“Earlier, we used to live for a day,” Duti adds. “Now we can plan for our future.”

Thanks to the great OTELP team for their warm hospitality during our stay.

Berkeley - "What are you going to do?"

Posted by Mattia Prayer Galletti 1 comments

I must admit that I did not expect so many queries and questions to my first post. The two most FAQs were: “What are you going to do? “ and “What did you do to get there?”. Regarding the first question (the second will be dealt with the next post) I have a learning agenda composed of teaching (“the most effective form of learning”), attending selected courses (held by Alain de Janvry, Olivier de Schutter, Miguel Altieri) and working on my own research related to agriculture, nutrition and health.

Prof. Lynn Huntsinger, Chair of the Division of Society and Environment, within the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management (ESPM) who invited me as Visiting Scholar requested me to teach an interactive reading seminar for graduate students based on real-life experience.  Let me share with you the course description and some of the replies I received from the students/participants who have enrolled (18 at the moment). This will give you a sense of their experience and expectations from the course. Do you think I will be able to meet them? I will keep you posted. Ciao

Course Description: ESPM 290 SEM 006 Fa13

Topic: Implementing and assessing internationally funded development projects: theory and application

The interactive reading seminar will meet for 2-hours once per week for six weeks (from 23 September to 28 October). The purpose is to help graduate students bridge the gap between development theory and its application by sharing the challenges that arise from: i) the implementation of projects and programs supported by an international financing institution like IFAD; and ii) the assessment of their impact. Hence, students will be exposed to specific projects supported by IFAD that have been completed and evaluated. Since the mandate of IFAD is to focus on fighting rural poverty, the seminar will cover a range of topics regarding: i) sectoral/sub-sectoral domains such as rural development, natural resource management, and micro-finance; ii) vulnerable social groups such as indigenous people, marginal farmers, women and youth; and iii) key development processes such as targeting, empowerment, participatory planning and monitoring and evaluation. Finally, the seminar will be an opportunity to exchange views on some of the fundamental questions of development and international cooperation (why, how and for whom), its current situation and future perspectives, with reference to the work of different authors like Amartya Sen, Edgar Morin, Dave Snowden and Serge Latouche.


Dear participants, greetings from Rome! 

Let me first thank you for having selected this course.

I have prepared few questions listed below so that I can know a bit more about you before the beginning of the course and, above all, do my best to address as much as possible your interests and expectations.

1.            Your academic experience: what have you studied so far? 

2.            Your work experience: in particular, have you got already any field experience? (you can send me your CV if you want)

3.            Your contribution to the course: Is there anything you have worked, or are working on, that you want to share during the course?

4.            Your plans: what is your next academic target and how this course fits with it?

5.            Your expectations regarding the course: are there any specific topics you would like to be covered?

Finally, let me stress the point that the main purpose of this seminar if to bridge your studies with some real-life experience. Hence, I don’t plan to engage in any formal teaching but I can promise that I will share with you whatever I find thought provoking. I also promise that I will be available for follow-up discussions over coffee if needed. I very much look forward to interacting with you.

Kindest regards

Mattia Prayer Galletti

Senior Evaluation Officer

Independent Office of Evaluation

Tel. +39 06 5459 2294

Skype: mattia.ifad


"I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy."

— Rabindranath Tagore

Here are two replies:

Hello Mattia,

I'll answer your questions in order.

1) What have I studied?     I am a first-year doctoral student in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management here at Berkeley (I'm Lynn Huntsinger's advisee), so have no experience here yet. I am currently enrolled in "Political Ecology" and in "Sociology of Forests and Wildlands," as well as a required seminar for my cohort.  Prior to Berkeley, I have a self-taught M.A. in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Social Ecology. My coursework for the program had four foci: climate change; energy security (both global and specific to the U.S., mostly focusing on peak oil); alternative food movements (agroecology, organics, etc.); and green urban design and planning.  My undergraduate work mostly focused on conservation biology. During my undergraduate years I spent six months in Namibia, four in Ecuador, and two in British Columbia working on and studying conservation issues.

2) My work experience is quite varied, and also atypical of a doctoral student. Rather than trying to explain, I'm attaching a CV. Not listed there is a recent temporary field research technician position at Oregon State University setting up research sites for a long-term forestry study.

3) Is there anything you want to share during the course?        My most relevant experience for this course is the two years my wife and I spent in Ethiopia with the Peace Corps. We were working in the environmental sector, living in an illegal village in the middle of Bale Mountains National Park. While our village had fairly minimal direct impact from development projects, we certainly witnessed many other instances of development in various forms around the country. Given how much aid and development money is spent in Ethiopia, it might be helpful to have the viewpoint of someone who saw how it was used and how it worked/didn't work first-hand.

4) What is your next academic goal, and how does this course fit that goal?      I am pursuing a Ph.D. in a field with which I have very little experience. My research goal is to examine how international (mostly) development practices affect the land use and land management practices of nomadic pastoralists. I do not have a geographic region selected yet due to lack of the necessary contacts, but China and/or Mongolia currently seem promising. Following my degree I intend to advocate for better land rights for nomads, and for a more appropriate application of development funds/efforts so as to maintain as high degree of autonomy among those groups as possible. For example, the forced settlement of nomads by governments around the world is a primary concern, as are large-scale development projects (e.g. dams, agricultural land grabs) that result in physical displacement of nomadic groups from traditionally occupied lands.

5) My hope for this course is to gain a better understanding of the process by which development grant applications (i.e. future projects) are evaluated and judged. Why do some projects get funded and not others? What attributes of the prospective project site are considered when evaluating a grant proposal? How are effects to the local population (target and non-target) determined and weighed?  As an advocate for an indigenous group, how would someone fight for or against a development proposal being funded? How can the funding process be improved to better respond to the relevant ethics, ecology, and cultural issues of a particular project area?

Thanks for asking for input, Mattia. I'm very much looking forward to the class.



Hello there! A pleasure to make your acquaintance. My name is Pierce Gordon, a MS/PhD student here at Berkeley in the Energy and Resources Group. I'm glad you asked these questions to find out a bit more about me. So, here goes!

1.            Your academic experience: what have you studied so far? 

I have undergraduate bachelor's degrees in Applied Physics and Aerospace Engineering, through a dual-degree engineering program between Morehouse College and the University of Michigan. I am currently in my second year of my Master's program here at Berkeley, on a track towards a PhD.

2.            Your work experience: in particular, have you got already any field experience? (you can send me your CV if you want)

My CV is attached.

3.            Your contribution to the course: Is there anything you have worked, or are working on, that you want to share during the course?

To be quite honest, my experience in international development is relatively thin. I do have a few I'd like to speak on, however:

The project which lit my fire in international assistance you can see on my CV; it was the HelpNSBEHelpHaiti program. In the spirit of the Haitian 2010 earthquake, a year later I orchestrated a campus-wide fundraising initiative which raised over $2,000 for a working water pump in Croix-Marchaterre, Haiti.

I also became a part of the Human Needs Project in my first year of graduate study, in the hopes that it would turn into breeding ground for dissertation research. I acted as a consultant for a small energy grid for a developing co-op which aimed to serve many of the needs of a large stake of Kenyan residents in Kibera, Nairobi, a well-known slum.

As someone who has built my current experience upon being a critic of inequitable systems, and a trained scholar, I'm here to learn from other's experiences, and can't wait to hear about the other development opportunities that you and the other registered students have experienced.

4.            Your plans: what is your next academic target and how this course fits with it?

My next academic target is the Masters, followed by the PhD.

My research interests include human-centered design practices for tangible technologies for the multidimensionally poor. Many design projects instilled by NGOs, multinational corporations, governmental institutions, Bretton Woods Institutions, and academic breeding grounds currently use interdisciplinary methods like never before. However, many previous forays into the fields by technological designers have created failures which are diverse, yet related. I intend to research the processes through which powerful entities create these technologies, the actors and fields included, and how multiple variables in design contribute to technology success.

I love having the opportunity to hear about current trends, opportunities, and causes for alarm concerning the community from individuals who make a career about the work, and what are important fields of interest to research and become an activist for.

5.            Your expectations regarding the course: are there any specific topics you would like to be covered?

I'd love to learn about:

The place, and relationship between disparate actors in the development community,

the design and implementation of projects, through history, and today (differences, similarities, etc).

personal advice for the development community about what is actually keeping us back from solving many problems,

and the place of certain intervention technologies (ICTs, water cleansing, sanitation, energy, cooking, lighting, health) that are helping communities out of poverty.

As earlier shared (link), during this LR, we visited three cases, focusing on two different business models: Nucleus estate and out grower model (VODP), and Contract Farming (Star Café &Kabeywa United Coffee Farmers Group; Kawacom).
We also got presentations from Kakira Sugar (nucleus estate and out grower scheme), and Kayonza Tea Growers (contract farming), although we were unable to visit them.

Each of the cases was analyzed on aspects of Ownership, Voice, Risk and Reward.

Case 1
Vegetable Oil Development Project, Kalangala (implemented under a public private partnership arrangement). There is a farmers' Trust, the Kalangala Oil Palm Growers Trust (KOPGT) which links the farmers to the private sector Oil Palm Uganda Limited (OPUL). KOPGT supports farmers to produce quality fruits, access inputs, financing and the market, as well as supporting the farmer structures  under the farmers' association. Farmers are paid through the bank on a monthly based, based on the prevailing price and how much they have produced.

Mr. Chin shows off some crude palm oil from the mill

Some LR participants at the palm oil mill.
This is where the out growers sell their fresh fruit bunches
A fresh fruit bunch

One of the farmers from Beta West Block sharing with the LR how they benefit from the PPP
The farmers are organized in blocks, and units under the farmers association and the Kalangala Oil Palm Growers Trust

LR participants pay close attention to Mr Chin (Private sector) as he explains how they work with the farmers

Case 2
Star Café, Kapchorwa 
Under Star Café the Kabeywa United Coffee Farmers' Group (KUCFG) accesses market for their produce and get some trainings. KUCFG has 365 members (100 of these are women) who are all small scale coffee farmers in Kapchorwa District. Star Café collects the coffee from the farmers and pays them later.
A KUCFG farmer's garden - they encouraged to inter-crop for food security.

One of the farmers keeps cattle on zero grazing, for food security and nutrition

The SIPI falls, one of the amazing sights of Kapchorwa

LR participants meet with Star Café and the  KUCFG

Case 3
Kawacom (U) Ltd, Kapchorwa
Kawacom is a subsidiary of the international commodity trading house Ecom Agroindustrial Corporation, and is known as the biggest exporter of organic coffee. It works directly with individual farmers by signing contracts with them. The company currently works with about 8500 farmers growing Arabica coffee. Kawacom pays farmers cash upon delivery of the coffee to the wet mill or agreed upon collection points.
Farmer Omar welcomes the LR to his home

PROCASUR's Diana at Omar's farm

It is slippery! Careful as you walk down into the farm lest...

Omar and his wife explain what they have learned about mixed farming, organic farming and farm maintenace

Omar and the Wife receive a certificate of recognition from one of the LR Participants

A copy of the contract that Omar and his wife have signed with Kawacom

Breath-taking sights of Kapchorwa

Inacio of Mozambique, presenting a certificate to Kawacom representative

IFAD's Line appreciates a model farmer with a certificate

Time for a hike to the Sipi falls! LR can be fun!

And, finally, All work and no play...?!