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A different success story

Posted by Greg Benchwick Wednesday, March 20, 2013 0 comments

By Laura Eggens

15-16 March, Cairo - Normally on a Learning Route, the ruteros visit successful cases in the field. This time, the field came to us. Members of the Water Users Union (WUU) in the Tenth of Ramadan village near Port Said joined us in Cairo, accompanied by representatives of the East Delta Agricultural Services Project and the ICARDA research station in the area. Their visit opened our flow of thoughts about what makes collective water management work – or not.

Because of the security situation in Egypt, the Learning Route on water management is a bit unusual. Instead of visiting the Tenth of Ramadan village in the East Delta, we received our third host case in our meeting room in the capital. Luckily, a variety of stakeholders from the region could make it to share their experiences with the ruteros.

On the salt-affected soils of the South El-Husainia plain in the East Delta, it is a challenge to cultivate crops. Like West Nubaria, this region is inhabited by recent settlers who received plots of land from the government. However, the soil structure and lack of fresh irrigation water, in addition to poor social and cultural services, made the region unattractive for many farmers. The East Delta Agricultural Services Project (EDASP) took on the challenge of improving infrastructure, agricultural services and institutions.

Among its activities, the project established WUUs for farmers to collectively implement and control irrigation schedules and mediate in water conflicts. The union of Tenth of Ramadan village is well organised and even won a visit to Spain because of their level of organisation and farmer empowerment. They manage to supply all members with water, even at peak moments.

Despite the success of the WUU in this community, it were its shortcomings that provided the most important learnings of the ruteros. The visitors’ introduction to the WUUs in their region sparked a discussion on farmer ownership. The WUUs and Water User Associations (WUAs) in Egypt were initiated by projects in the region, not by farmers themselves. This top-down approach led ruteros to have serious doubts about the sustainability of the associations after the projects leave the area.

Challenges often give the same – if not more – opportunities for learning. In this heterogeneous group of ruteros, ideas and recommendations came from all corners of the MENA region. Building ownership from the beginning of any WUU or WUA is crucial, the group believed. Letting farmers invest in the associations financially, for example, will secure their participation in it. Additionally, including a marketing aspect in the water associations – or including a water management aspect in marketing associations – will raise benefits from marketing activities for irrigation systems and increase the integration of the associations in farmers’ lives.  But what can be done to support this? Extensionists in Egypt are not adapted to current rural contexts anymore. What can the role of universities be to facilitate change?

This case and discussion provided one of the most important learnings of this Learning Route. “I will take these lessons back to Lebanon with me,” says rutero Georges Chemaly. “We have another way of seeing the subject now. We want to build Water Users Associations to manage irrigation systems, but from the experience here we learned that it is better to first assess what farmers want and what their existing system is. We should adapt the plan so it will be adopted by them, to ensure the sustainability of the associations and the ownership felt by its members.”

IFAD is funding Learning Routes across Africa, Asia and Latin America through the international knowledge-broker Procasur. A global catalyst for change and knowledge sharing, Procasur's work positively impacts the lives and livelihoods for rural talents across the globe.   


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by Gernot Laganda

Ever come across a truly ‘wicked problem’? The term comes from social planning theory, describing a problem that is difficult or impossible to solve for a number of reasons: Incomplete or contradictory knowledge, the number of people and opinions involved, and the interconnected nature of these problems with other problems. So essentially, it is hard to say where the problem stops and starts, or to formulate it in such a way that all stakeholders would agree on its definition. Ask what the problem is and you will get a different answer from each stakeholder.

The CGIAR programme for Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) has a lot of experience dealing with wicked problems. The favourite topic of the 70-odd researchers who are meeting in Bodega Bay/USA this week is the ‘super-wicked’ interface between agricultural production, food security and climate change. Ask anyone in the room if a specific problem in one of these spheres is a symptom of another problem in another sphere, and they would all nod their heads and probably roll their eyes at the complexity of it all. Irrespective of the fields of research these top scientists are engaged in - There is universal understanding that the variety of problems at the interface between agricultural production, food security and climate change is truly inter-connected and linked with lots of other problems. Pulling them apart is almost impossible.

One of the questions these leading scientists are asking  is whether the old model of research, in which knowledge is generated through research projects, written up in papers, reviewed by fellow researchers and then disseminated through conferences, is still fit for purpose. The alternative model that is emerging is the theory of social learning: A way of participatory ‘action research’ in which researchers co-learn and co-experience with local communities, public and private sector entities, development partners and financial institutions. The key question is not so much who is paying for the research and who is writing it up, but who is generating and using knowledge. Rather than a linear process leading from research to dissemination, social learning is a continuous and iteractive cycle of action and reflection which eventually results in institutional and behavioural change. Sounds complicated? Check out the animated video on partnerships for behavioural change, which tries to explain why a partnership-based approach to learning is often more effective than a linear process based on sector-based research.

In the context of IFAD’s work on climate change, the approach of action research and social learning is especially relevant. Programmes such as the Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP) empower local institutions to understand and tackle growing risks in a rapidly changing environment. Social learning is key for these institutions deal with uncertainty, change and surprises, and we won’t be able to understand the impact of IFAD investments if we approach our monitoring job with a static view of the world. Our measurement systems need to become more dynamic, reflecting on processes as well as outcomes. Who is gaining knowledge from IFAD-supported projects? Which partnerships are emerging in which this knowledge is being communicated? Do we see evidence of behavioural change? Applying a perspective of social learning might be just the right ‘wicked’ solution to these questions.

Find out more about climate change, agriculture and food security


By: Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development
Peter Sinon, Seychelles Minister of Investment, Natural Resources and Industry

Called “the island at the end of the world,” Denis Island is one of Seychelles’ 115 islands. Once an important coconut plantation, this privately owned slice of paradise in the western Indian Ocean could hold answers to some of the most troubling problems facing small island states around the world.

Through an “agrotourism” approach that brings together private and public sectors, where a working small-scale fishery and farm simultaneously operate in parallel with an up-market resort, this tiny island is almost completely self-sufficient. It produces its own fish, pork, chicken, duck, eggs, fresh milk, and a range of vegetables and fruits for its inhabitants. For a country that has to import 90 per cent of the food consumed, the success of Denis Island could be a lesson for the rest of Seychelles, and beyond.

With a population of about 86,000 and per capita income of more than US$11,000, Seychelles is an upper-middle-income country with a gross domestic product of $1 billion in 2011, generated primarily through fisheries and tourism. Industrial fishing has surpassed tourism as a source of foreign exchange earnings, with the emergence of Port Victoria as the principal tuna trans-shipment port in the region during the mid-1980s and the development of tuna canning in the late 1990s. Artisanal fishing, however, remains underdeveloped, and like many small island states, unpredictable weather patterns associated with climate change have adversely affected the productivity of small-scale fishers and farmers in Seychelles. In 2010, for instance, the country suffered its worst drought in decades, followed by severe flooding.

Small island developing states like Seychelles are the first to be afflicted by climate change and struggle with its consequences. Plagued by limited natural resources, scarce agricultural land and remoteness from major markets, Seychelles, like other small islands states, are unable to depend on the income of any specific industry. This makes the country financially and food insecure, which in the case of Seychelles is further exacerbated by the scourge of piracy that severely inflates prices or in some instances, completely block the precious food imports it relies on.

While Seychelles aims to be an active participant in regional and global trade, the country is at a severe disadvantage because of its small market size and almost non-existent economies of scale. Imported food is sold in local markets at substantially lower prices than locally-produced food. In some instances local producers of poultry, for example, have been forced out of markets because they are unable to compete. To address this, Seychelles is looking to diversify and promote fresh, locally produced livestock and vegetables, including organic produce, to supply the “haut de gamme” or upscale tourism establishments and local markets. Mixing agriculture and tourism can provide high-quality, organic products to hotels, supermarkets and other markets, as well as increasing employment opportunities for youth. This kind of approach allows the two sectors to not only coexist but complement each other. Such partnerships are critical to enhance agricultural and rural development.

In addition, as one of the world’s most environmentally conscious nations, Seychelles has also legally protected more than half of its total land area from development. The experience of Seychelles and success stories like that of Denis Island are important to share with other small island states looking for ways to strengthen partnerships between agriculture and tourism.

When knowledge is shared across borders, and information, technology and support are directly transferred to smallholder farmers it can be the most effective way to reduce poverty and increase food security. An ongoing International Fund for Agricultural Development grant supports the Regional Initiative for Smallholder Agriculture Adaptation to Climate Change in the Indian Ocean Islands. This initiative is creating a regional knowledge-management platform on adaptation strategies for small-scale farmers. The platform actively disseminates information on conservation agriculture practices such as farming with low or zero tillage, as well as composting, integrating livestock and farming activities, and other environmentally sustainable measures.

This kind of sharing between countries or regions facing similar challenges allows for policies and agricultural projects to be based on a broader risk assessment and a better understanding of interconnections between people and their environmental landscapes. Replicating best practices can drive a major scaling up of sustainable agricultural intensification approaches, which, in turn, can build climate resilience that goes beyond just one island, or one rural community. At the same time, we must be careful not to take a one-size-fits-all approach to agriculture and rural development, but rather tailor solutions to the specific problems of rural communities.

As we look ahead to further progress in the agricultural sector in small island states, let us keep in mind that the challenge of growing more food will be met only if we continue to look for complementary solutions that allow farmers to adapt and develop. Scaling up public-private initiatives not only supports resilience to climate change, but also contributes to meeting the world’s food security, environmental and poverty reduction challenges. In a globalized world, no longer can the solutions to problems of people on one side of the world be ignored by those on the other side – especially when a small island “at the end of the world” may hold the key to solving big problems.

As featured on AllAfrica

Old meets new

Posted by Greg Benchwick Tuesday, March 19, 2013 0 comments

Egypt learning route continues to Old Lands of Sharkia

March 14-15 - Old Lands of Sharkia - After a visit to the New Lands in West Nubaria, the Learning Route continued its journey to a completely different area in Egypt: the Old Lands of Sharkia in the Nile Delta. Here, farmers have been using traditional agricultural methods and crops for centuries, inherited from their grandparents. But inheritance also resulted in highly fragmented land. This context of small plots in one of the poorest areas in Egypt requires a different approach to water management, the ruteros found out.

Walking through the fields around Zankaloun village, the difference with the New Lands is obvious. The village is full of people, the fields are small and the land is green. Using traditional flood irrigation systems, farmers maximise use on their pieces of land of around 1-1.5 acres. Typically, a farmer family in the Delta devotes part of the farm to livestock, part to nourishing their own family, and part to cultivate for the market. The area in Sharkia that we visited is located at the end of the irrigation system using Nile river water, so the communities here suffer from bad quality water and badly managed water distribution.

The ruteros were warmly received by a group of farmers and researchers at the ICARDA water research station in Zankaloun. Here researchers work with farmers, assessing their needs, to develop a package of water management techniques that are most suitable for the farms in this region. They studied the optimal dimensions for raised bed farming, which allows farmers to save on water use while increasing their production. Dr. Atef Swelam, technical coordinator of the Learning Route and himself a farmer in this area, also developed a machine suitable for small plots for creating the raised beds while sowing at the same time – which is becoming a great success.

“At first, to be honest, I wasn’t convinced,” farmer Hajj Mohammed confessed. “I looked closely at the machine and at how much seed would be lost. Then I saw with my own eyes that it worked!” The ICARDA researchers selected Hajj Mohammed, an experienced farmer with a leadership position in the community, as a pioneer farmer to test and demonstrate the raised bed technology on his field. “My field is on the main road,” he explains to the ruteros. “Everyone who saw my crops wanted to know how I did it.”

The ruteros identified a number of reasons why this technology became a success. Yes, the machine was simple and well adapted to the small plots, but one of the crucial success factors was the good relationship between the farmers and the researchers. The research station lies between farmers’ fields and research outcomes are shared with farmers in an understandable manner. This makes the farmers of this area, who are generally reluctant to adopt new technologies, open to learn new things.

Perhaps it is because of this relationship that the farmers who received the Learning Route were happy to exchange knowledge with us, as visiting outsiders, as well. The different nationalities in the group of ruteros aroused the curiosity of some farmers. What are the success stories from all these countries, they wanted to know. Ruteros from Sudan, Palestine, Morocco, Syria, Tunesia, Lebanon and Yemen shared some interesting initiatives, creating an inspiring atmosphere of mutual knowledge exchange. “When we thought of the Learning Route methodology,” said Guillen Calvo, the general coordinator of the Learning Route, “this is exactly what we had in mind!”

IFAD is funding Learning Routes across Africa, Asia and Latin America through the international knowledge-broker Procasur. A global catalyst for change and knowledge sharing, Procasur's work positively impacts the lives and livelihoods for rural talents across the globe.  


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By Ilaria Firmian

Last week I was on a design mission for ASAP-ACCESOS programme in Bolivia, and I got the chance to participate in a meeting of rural women that the IFAD country office organised in La Paz on March 15th, in collaboration with FAO, WFP, UNIDO, UN-WOMEN and PRAIA.

The objective of the one-day event was to share, disseminate and replicate successful experiences of Bolivian women. Almost 80 participants came to present their managerial experiences that resulted in economic returns, to describe the processes through which they and their families went, and also to talk about achievements and difficulties.
The very first thing that hit me were the colours and the shapes in the room: from traditional hats to coloured fabrics, to babies carried on their mothers’ shoulders.

The meeting was organised around three sessions, focusing respectively on:

  • Entrepreneurship
  • Food security
  • Traditional knowledge

All presentations, as well as interventions from the floor, were bringing to the table very pragmatic experiences from daily life (from dealing with child education to dealing with alcoholic husbands), and one intervention that did much so was the one from the Vice-Minister of Justice, Mrs Isabel Ortega, focusing on women's leadership, where she made clear that any form of leadership has to be based on traditional rules, knowledge and respect.

Actually, the debate in the last session was all on traditional knowledge, and participants admitted that they started realising even more the importance and the richness of their culture (both immaterial and material – in fact, presentations also illustrated traditional handcraft and ways of weaving and dyeing lama and alpaca wool) when foreigners showed interest to it.

Someone said that "their future comes from their past" – and this of course refers as well to the economic value that tourism and market attach to that “past”.What came out clearly from the event, is that women, especially when they get organised into groups, become economically powerful - especially by adding value to production -  and can play a big role in supporting the economic development of their families and communities. Therefore capacity building and technical assistance for value-addition are necessary interventions. However, there are still too many women who do not get access to trainings because of cultural or “logistical” reasons.

As Jaana Keitaanranta, the IFAD Country Programme Manager, said in closing the event, there is still a lot to do, and IFAD and partner agencies should continue collaborating in empowering women, as well as youth, and make their voice heard even more.

Events such as this one play a role in helping women feeling empowered, strengthened and recognised.

March 12 and 13: Reclaiming the desert

Posted by daniela cuneo Friday, March 15, 2013 0 comments

By Laura Eggens, ILEIA
The Learning Route set course for West Nubaria, an area where “the desert has been reclaimed”. Overcrowding in the fertile land of the Egypt Delta led to resettlement of a number of farmers in this so called “New Land”. Initially, infrastructure, social services and proper irrigation structures were missing in this area, making it an incredibly hard place for farmers to thrive. On March 12, ruteros learnt how an initiative in West Nubaria turned the fate of these farmers around. 
Thirty years ago, small-scale farmers, landless farmers and “graduates” (educated Egyptians with some funds to invest) started their move to the New Lands. Canals from the Nile were directed to West Nubaria, irrigating the infertile desert land. Not only were many basic services like schools and clinics missing, but the available water was not enough to irrigate the 100,000 hectares of this area. Fortunately, when the ruteros arrived in this region yesterday, the farmers’ situation was very different. What happened here to turn this inhospitable area into a success story? What did the ruteros learn?
We visited the office of the West Nubaria Rural Development Project (WNRDP), funded by the Egyptian government, the Italian cooperation and IFAD, where we were introduced to a number of initiatives in the area – not only in the field of improved water management techniques, but also in terms of community development, marketing support, credit facilitation and farmers’ organisations. We experienced the changes in the lives of two types of farmers: the “investor”-farmer Atef Hafiz, owning and innovating on his almost 100 acres of land; and small-scale farmer Ahmad El-Far with a diversity of crops on his farm of approximately 17.5 acres. The last stop at the ICARDA research station in West Nubaria showed us where farmers in the region can learn from experimentation with varying amounts of irrigation and fertilizer applied on different crops, to discover the ideal water saving combination for this type of soil.
Seeing the different aspects of this case, the ruteros paid special attention to innovations and what were critical factors for success, making these innovations possible. But they also looked at some challenges that remain, and recommendations they could make based on the experiences in their own country. In this way, the Learning Route becomes a vehicle for knowledge exchange in both ways!
The ruteros saw in the West Nubaria case the importance of farmers’ willingness to change. It was a great advantage that land was given to small-scale farmers as well as graduates and investors, educated and experienced farmers who are able to experiment and develop techniques suited for this harsh environment, with the financial and organisational backing of the WNRDP. Farmers like Atef Hafiz and Ahmad El-Far share their positive experiences with other farmers. “This farm is open for anyone to learn from,” says Atef, who also produces his own videos for others to learn from. “I had an education, but not everyone here has that. People can use my real life experience, which is specific to the New Lands water and soil situation.”
For the farmers in this region, it is a pleasure to share their success stories with the ruteros. The farmer Zineb for example, who travelled from far to meet us at the ICARDA research station, wishes we would have come to visit her farm. Her peach orchard is beautiful now, she says, despite the extremely difficult start she had in this land. Mostafa el Sayad, the director of the WNRDP, also believes that farmers appreciate the visit of the ruteros. “They will get feedback on their work, but it is also good for them to feel heard. The visit of the Learning Route convinces them that they are doing something right, something worth sharing.” It showed from their knowledgeable answers to the (sometimes critical) questions of the ruteros, that they are the experts in their own context.


Interested in learning more? Read the first blog

A few days ago I sat in the learning event on satellite imagery and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) organized by  PTA, ECD  and the European Space Agency (ESA) thinking this will probably be a different and interesting event, but will be somewhat removed from IFAD and its projects. Well, I was literally star struck!

As I listened to the various presentations from colleagues at ESA (Stephen Coulson, Torsten Bondo, Chris Stewart, Benjamin Koetz and Alexander Link) facilitated by the IFAD experts Emily Coleman, Francesco Rispoli and Sophie De Vos, I was overwhelmed by the notions: satellites, GIS mapping, Synthetic Aperture Radar, etc. Sophie gave an excellent overview of what she does with GIS and IFAD supported projects and programmes are increasingly making use of these technologies for mapping land and natural resources, for spatial analysis.
Remotely sensed satellite data is one of the tools that can be used both on its own and with GIS to analyse our environment, help answer questions or find solutions to problems.

Well, you are now thinking fine but how exactly does that fit in with IFAD and its projects? How can satellite imagery support IFAD in its operation for rural poverty reduction?

Not only  is satellite data useful for IFAD projects, it is an absolutely essential tool in the long term. Satellites, also referred to as remote sensing , enables objective observations of the status of remote rural areas consistently over space and time. This information can be used to design, plan, monitor and assess the impact of development projects. How about receiving invaluable information on crop state monitoring, biomass forecasting, inundation areas and land parcels which allows IFAD to better monitor their projects?

Emily and Francesco, through their work on weather index-based insurance with the IFAD-WFP Weather Risk Management Facility, have been researching the world of satellite information for a current project which is trying to develop and test different remote sensing methodologies to see if they can accurately record and predict crop damage caused by adverse weather events, particularly drought. This is not the only activity where satellites are being used for IFAD activities.

With ESA, initially, 3 trials for satellite data were done in projects in Madagascar for rice acreage, irrigation infrastructure and small land tenure maps. One of the projects  focused on food security, and IFAD required accurate information to determine the current state of crop acreage and how land cover had changed in the last 15 years. ‘Incorporating this data in our projects helps us to strengthen local capacity and transfer this knowledge to local stakeholders to improve national capacities, in addition, with the correct mathematical models, even small projects can easily be scaled up in other areas’ said Benoit Thierry (former CPM for Madagascar). Now more substantial demonstrations across a wider range of investment projects are being carried out.

In Botswana, EO will help to improve crop production by boosting cereal/maize yields in the arable lands in the Agriculture Services Support Project (ASSP) as the heavy rainfalls and flooding in the semi-arid regions has led to a decline in productivity.

In the Gambia due to yield difficulties because of the rainy season, EO assists in the Participatory Integrated-Watershed Management Project (PIWAMP) to help to improve the rice production yield given the limited growing season. Moses Abukari – CPM for Gambia said ‘this is an important tool for policy dialogue, I am able to demonstrate to the Ministers that this has been useful for their country”.

In Niger,  IFAD is concentrating its operations in the Tahoua, Zinder and Maradi regions, that has been experiencing severe droughts and food insecurity. IFAD is now helping to increase agricultural and pastoral household productivity, and EO can be part of the monitoring and evaluation system by providing up to date statistical analysis on changes in farm land use. The results can monitor crop type, crop acreage and responses to changes in irrigation patterns.

In Sao Tome and Principe IFAD is involved in the Participatory Smallholder Agriculture and Artisanal Fisheries Development Programme (PAPAFPA) . EO’s services’  here can help determine the extent of forests and provide up to date information on main forest types, cover and logging. Andrea Serpagli, CPM for Sao Tome and Principe agrees that it is important to show the government that it could become an ‘eco paradise’.

Finally, in Vietnam under the COSOP Results-based country strategic opportunities programme IFAD is supporting Vietnam to develop long term strategies for natural climate change adaptation and EO can document it by satellite maps and statistical analysis, in particular how the delta can develop over time. The learning event was the first time colleagues had got together to discuss these topics, and given the interest, it will not be the last.

As Adolfo Brizzi, Director of the Policy & Technical Advisory Division of IFAD  said in his introduction to the event – “this time, it really is rocket science…….”

More food for thought checkout the ESA press release

CAMARI-TEAM NATIONAL TRAINERS HAVE STARTED BUILDING THEIR PYRAMID IN CAIRO

Posted by Dr. Yasser M. A. ALY Wednesday, March 13, 2013 0 comments

Kamal, Fathi, Gamal, Ibrahim and Hamdi wrote,



National trainers from Egypt, Sudan and Somalia have successfully completed the first week of the TOT Programme in M&E conducted by Regional Trainers in TEAM MISR, ALMUKATTAM- Cairo.

The training course is the first session of a package of three courses targeting National Trainers from IFAD funded projects and others.

The group is in its way to complete the first course by the end of this week, and by that the participants will lay the foundation for CaMaRI National Trainers Group.

All the participants enjoyed the social life and the good preparation done by TEAM Misr, the Regional Center of Excellence in North Africa.

The participants would like to convey their gratitude to all the organizers and all those who assisted them to start the foundation of their pyramid.


By Kelsea Brennan-Wessels, Editor, Earth Obervation, ESRIN

From 800 km high, Earth-observing satellites are assisting international developmentorganisations with their work in developing countries. Satellites enable objective observations of the status of remote rural areas consistently over space and time.

The Mekong Delta in Vietnam is one of the worlds richest agricultural regions and due to the amount of rice produced there it is often referred to as Vietnam’s ‘rice bowl’. The crop feeds the rest of the country and produces enough to make Vietnam one of the worlds top rice exporters.

But the local agriculture – and, as a consequence, the nation’s economy – is threatened by sea level rise and the subsequent influx of salt water.

In order to identify long-term changes in rice cultivated areas and evaluate the effect of salinity intrusion on these areas, satellite data are being used to create land use and land cover maps for statistical analysis.

This is just one of five service trials within a collaborative project by ESA and the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), which finances agricultural development projects primarily for food production in the developing countries.

The other ESAIFAD projects include land use, land cover and crop monitoring in Niger, Gambia, Botswana and São Tomé and PríncipeSpecialised European Earth observation service providers are also involved, including Deimos Engenharia (PT), Finnish Geodetic Institute (FI), GAF AG (DE), Geoville (AT) and Sarmap (CH).

The collaboration aims to raise awareness within IFAD about how Earth observation technology can be customised to IFAD activities around the globe. This includes assisting in establishing country strategy plans, assessing food security, managing water and adapting to climate change.

On the African island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe, the biologically diverse rainforest inObo National Park is under threat from illegal logging. To support IFAD and the local government’s monitoring of logging activities and deforestation, yearly maps of forest cover, types, clear cuts and deforestation are being produced. This service trial supports the overall IFAD project aim to implement more efficient practices in the rural sector.

The five ESAIFAD service trials follow the success of three pilot trials on rice acreage, inundation areas and land parcels in Madagascar.

IFAD’s partnership with ESA is timely and relevant since IFAD is focusing on using multi-layered tools and approaches to enhance the analysis, planning, monitoring and evaluation of its investment operations, as well as providing better information to guide decision and policymaking processes,” said Ides de Willebois, Director of IFAD’s West and Central Africa Division.

“As one of the outcomes from these five pilot countries, IFAD expects to have broader understanding of the added value of using Earth observations services during the various stages of investment operations in measuring project performance to scale up the fight against rural poverty.”

Looking to the future, the upcoming Sentinel series of satellites being developed under Europe’s Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) programme will continue to provide operational data to organisations like IFAD.

The Sentinel-2 mission will provide complete coverage of Earth every five days and at a resolution of 10 m. This will be particularly useful for agricultural monitoring and change detection.




Big is beautiful

Posted by Greg Benchwick Friday, March 8, 2013 0 comments

Reporting from the learning route site, 2nd case study on farmers´ organizations – COPAG

It is hard to imagine that the immense factory of COPAG, producing fruit and dairy products, has started 25 years ago with only 39 farmers who decided to unite and become stronger against the middlemen of citrus fruits in their region. Traders bought large quantities for low prices from small farmers and sold them with large profits to foreign companies to be transformed abroad. All the added value was produced there.

The farmers started with a storage unity, to help farmers and not to sell their products just after the harvest, when prices are low. This was soon followed by a fruit processing centre. In 1993, COPAG started in milk: milk was collected in decentralized milk collecting centers, checked and transported to a milk plant near Taroudant, to be transformed into yogurt.
 

On Thursday, the ruteros were invited to COPAG for a presentation and a tour. COPAG is a big company now, employing 5.600 persons in manufacturing and distribution and with a turnover of more than 30 millions of Dirham. It is quite an experience to walk around between big milk reservoirs, buildings with different unities of production and all the trucks and busses driving off and on. But the company still breaths the spirit of small producers. A large part of the terrain is destined for the production of cattle fodder: no need for a milk factory to have it, but a great service for the farmers that are member of COPAG cooperative.
 

This small farmer’s focus only became more clear when the ruteros visited one of COPAG’s 72 member cooperatives El Guerdane. This cooperative was created in 1996 with 18 members. They had COPAG’s support for the construction of a cooperative complex, consisting of a milk collection center, shops where members of the cooperative can buy tax free, stores for equipment (at the disposal of the farmers) and cattle feed, a school for the sons and daughters who did not finish their school but who want to continue the work of their parents in farming and in the cooperatives.
 

All the services provided by COPAG respond directly to farmers’ needs and have been initiated on the base of decisions by the managing board of COPAG, consisting of 9 representatives  from different cooperatives. ‘I now really understand why cooperatives are the best structures to benefit the small farmer,’ says Tarik from Morocco, ‘it is the only way to give small farmers ownership in their organization. The learning route has given me the opportunity and the methodology to dig and look at the problem from all possible sides. It is a great experience!’ 


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By ANOC
The learning route on Farmers’ Organisations in Morocco shows three different types of organisation to the ruteros, all with their own characteristics. The route has arrived in the region of Meknès, where ANOC is supporting sheep and goat producers.

After COPAG, the learning route started a long voyage to the Meknès region in the north of Morocco. The first stop was in Marrakech, where we smelled and tasted some traditional food and ceremonies at the Jemaa ef-Fna fair in the evening. The following morning we worked on the second case analysis, a very important step in the learning route (later more on that).
 

Then the bus took us to Beni Mellal, where Hicham Radi, director, and M'Hammed Riad, president of the Agricultural Chamber of Tadla-Azilal welcomed us warmly.

The 16 Agricultural Chambers in Morocco represent the agricultural producers and until the restructuration in 2011, mainly big farmers, local businessmen and owners of companies were elected. Now at least 20% of the elected have to be representatives of Farmers’ Organisations. M'Hammed Riad would like to see this percentage rise: ‘It’s good to have representatives of Farmers’ Organizations in the council, for it makes it easier to elaborate on plans for the local population and engage more people in it.’ 


After a great lunch and many questions and discussions in an informal ambiance with local administrators and representatives of Farmers’ Organizations, the route went on to M’rirt, almost 100 km south of Meknès. There the ruteros were going to meet the third experience of ANOC , the National Sheep and Goat Association with its headquarters in Rabat.

ANOC’s main objective and activity is the genetic improvement of sheep and goats. The ANOC case is quite special, as it brings together technicians (performing veterinary services that used to be provided directly by the state), with sheep and goat producers at local level and of all sizes. 


ANOC unites 73 farmers’ groups in 40 provinces all over Morocco and supports them in the genetic improvement of the sheep and goat races that have been indicated by region. For that, ANOC puts a technician and a car at the disposal of the group. The technician executes with the farmers a breeding programme for their livestock. Farmers pay their membership to ANOC and a prime per animal in the breeding programme (3 to 20 Dirham, according to the quality of the animals).

The farmers proudly presented their sheep and goats to the ruteros and were eager to talk about the positive results that ANOC has brought them: ‘Before ANOC farmers easily lost half of their herd or more, in case of epidemics or severe droughts,’ explains Mohamed Mourchid, ‘but now we know that we need to give them extra fodder and we keep a close eye on their health. We’re very happy that those thing do not happen anymore.’


ANOC provides an interesting example of delegation of a non-profit state service (which is genetic improvement of small ruminants) to a farmers’ association. It means that farmers participate in defining and giving shape to a governmental policy, for ANOC is steered by the general assembly  consisting of the presidents and treasurers of the farmers’ groups. The general assembly chooses a committee of 21 representatives from the 6 regions and two of the ministry of Agriculture, whom at their turn choose an executive board of 8 people.

Although the state finances the functioning of ANOC to a large extent (directly and indirectly), the farmers are put into a competitive scene, as the prices of the animals increase with their genetic status. This is measured every year by a technical commission, consisting of farmers, an ANOC technician and some representatives of the ministry. You don’t often see this kind of constellations, which stimulates farmers’ engagement in technical services.


After this interesting case, the learning route went on to the last station at Meknès, to synthesise all experiences and to work on Innovation Plans that will make sense in the countries of the ruteros. More on that tomorrow!

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By ANCA

The learning route on Producers´ Organisations has finished with the first case, which was ANCA, National Association of Women´s Cooperatives of Argan oil. Argan oil comes from the nuts of a special Moroccan tree, and it has many cosmetic and consumption functions.

The ruteros of the learning route visited the cooperative of Tamaynoute and had meetings with members of the ANCA bureau and of two intermediary structures, which are unions and an Economic Interest Groups (GIEs). This probably sounds complicated, and indeed, it took quite some questions and answers before we had it all clear!

Women work in cooperatives at village level, cracking of argan nuts to collect the almonds. After grinding the almonds by hand, some cooperatives with machines do the pressing of the oil and the packing themselves, others send the almonds to their union to take care of it. The GIE and the union represent cooperatives in commerce and economic transactions with foreign clients. ANCA is the umbrella organization with a merely social function of representing women’s cooperatives in (inter)national meetings and fairs, organizing trainings, literacy courses and managing a credit fund.

´Women gain a lot when they work in groups,´ was the clear statement by Ahmed Abdalghani from Sudan. He was impressed by the organization of women and the impact of it on their production and on themselves. Certainly a lesson to take home.

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Learning = working

Posted by Greg Benchwick 0 comments

By Mireille Vermeulen- ILEIA
 
A Learning Route is a continuous process of training in the field organized thematically around successful experiences, case studies and best practices on innovative rural and local development in which local actors themselves become trainers.

The first learning route in Morocco on Producers´ Organisations has started! Hammou Laamrani, director of Karianet, was very clear on the first day Monday 25th of February: the learning route is a hard and tiring work. And the ruteros have sensed it at the end of the first day: a long day of explanations, presentations and discussions.

But the ruteros who did inform themselves about the learning route before their application, could have known reading the definition of a learning route as used by PROCASUR, the oganisation that developed this methodology:

When we start decorticating this definition, we sense easily the first dimension of the word: learning is an active verb. The dictionary mentions: gathering, assimilating, studying, discovering, teaching, informing, practicing, repeating, initiating, instructing, doing, explicating, finding, observing. One immediately realizes that it is quite an exercise. At least 14 different activities to find some innovations and practices!

The second dimension is the double side of the process: in the learning route, some ruteros are experts in their profession and become students during the route. At the other side, there are local actors who are experts of specific experiences  and who become the teachers during the route. The two change roles. Imagine the efforts this takes on the ruteros and the local hosting organisations!

The third dimension is linked to the process of traveling: the route started on the 25th of February in Agadir and will end the 4th of March in Meknès. The experiences during the route will determine the final lessons. Moreover, the result is an Innovation Plan, to be implemented in the home organization, so it is only the start! Hard work indeed, this learning route…

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By ILEIA
Twenty participants from nine countries in northern Africa and the Middle East and a support team of experts from four other countries are gathered in Agadir since February 25th, for taking a Learning Route in Morocco on Producers’ Organisations.

The 13 nationalities form the ingredients for a multicultural experience of learning and a recipe for participatory knowledge building and exchange. The Learning Route is a concept developed by the Latin American organisation Procasur (www.procasur.org) (another international condiment for the learning experience!). The idea is that local actors (finishing touch by the chef cook) with certain good practices share their experiences with the participants of the route, whom at their turn formulate innovation plans to implement in their home situations, based on this learning. ILEIA travels with them and documents the experiences of participants and local actors.

The Learning Route is more than the usual study tour, for the participants have to be more committed, as well as their organisations, who accept the implementation of the innovation plans. But local actors also have more responsibilities: they become the teachers and trainers of the participants during the route. It means that their knowledge is acknowledged, often for the first time. Imagine the impact of this validation!

The Learning Route in Morocco will focus on Producers’ Organisations, to understand the good experiences in this country with cooperatives at local level and their umbrella associations at higher levels. The first organisation that will share its experiences is ANCA (www.anca.ma), the
national association of women cooperatives for the production of argan oil, a Moroccan specialty.

The second is COPAG (www.copag.ma), a cooperative representing almost 13,000 cattle producers and owning a big company manufacturing fruit and dairy products. The third is the sheep and goat organisation ANOC (www.anoc.ma), working in close cooperation with the state for the genetic improvement of small ruminants.

Follow us in the coming days and hear more about the learning in this route!


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Learning Route in Morocco

Posted by Greg Benchwick 0 comments

Meeting Successful Farmers’ Organizations 
After many Learning Routes in South America, Asia and East Africa, the first Learning Route in the MENA region has started on Monday 25th of February in Morocco. PROCASUR  has taken the opportunity to organize this route on Farmers´ Organizations (FOs), together with Karianet (www.karianet.org), ILEIA (www.ileia.org) and Diversity and Development (an international organization based in Morocco). 

In Morocco, Farmers’ Organizations play an important role in promoting rural development. The government’s development strategy is partially based on the experiences of successful FOs. The Learning Route will pass through the regions of Agadir, Taroudant and Mekès to visit three of them.

The first one has been ANCA, the National Association of women’s Cooperatives on Argan oil.
On Tuesday and Wednesday the ruteros had meetings with some of the members of ANCA´s bureau. Their presentations and discussions made clear that one of the biggest difficulties has been to convince men and women of the relevance of cooperatives. It took a long time before everyone saw the positive impact on income, women´s capacities and market access, but times seem to have changed now and there is general appreciation for the work of cooperatives.

On Tuesday the ruteros also went to visit the cooperative of Tamaynout. The women showed the different stages of argan oil production. After collection this starts with cracking the nuts, to acquire the almonds. These are roasted if they are being processed into consumption oil, this roating is not needed in case of cosmetic oil. Then the almonds are pressed into oil, filtered and packaged. Some cooperatives have their own machines for pressing and filtering, other cooperatives send it to their union which own the equipment.

The lessons of ANCA’s experience that the ruteros will take are very divers and provide many ideas for implementation back home. ‘I’m still dazzled with all the innovate practices that I have see here,’ said one of the ruteros, ‘this is such a rich experience!’

The participants of the route learned that governance structures and objectives at different levels of the organization, the valorization of women’s work at village level, the added value of processing, packaging and marketing are all elements that have contributed to the success of the cooperatives.

But also the social function of ANCA was very much appreciated: ANCA represents women and given visibility to women’s role in argan production.

The ruteros will work out their dazzling ideas and leave Morrocco with a concrete Innovation Plan to implement in their own countries. First they travel on the second case. We will keep you posted!

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I remember a time a while back when I proposed to colleagues that we run a story on violence against women and I was told that gender-based violence was ‘not on our agenda’ – and in any case there were sensitivities, cultural differences to respect.
Thankfully, today that tune has changed. Sign up to your favourite social media channels and you’ll be overwhelmed by thousands of voices sharing their stories, calling for action, agitating as loud as they can. The theme for the UN Observance of this year’s International Women’s Day is “Time for action to end violence against women”.
That’s a sea change – or perhaps just the beginning of a sea change. Now that gender-based violence is no longer taboo, we’re beginning to understand in more detail what a massive, intractable challenge it is.
A tweet from The Elders today says that at least 1 in 3 women around the world have been beaten, coerced into sex or abused. Chilling statistics show that in some countries as many as 75% of women think being beaten for burning food, arguing or refusing to have sex with your husband is acceptable.
It’s one thing to sign up to the fact that male violence against women is a burning tragic issue that should concern us all. It’s another thing to muster the collective energies and perspectives of disparate groups and movements across the globe to look at the myriad causes, and to search for solutions that will stick.
On this year’s International Women’s Day, debates have been taking place around the world, not just to put gender-based violence in the spotlight, but to deepen our understanding about what triggers it and how to win the battle against it.

IFAD's gender team at the International Women's Day 2013 event hosted at World Food Programme

In Rome, the UN agencies that focus on food security, agriculture and rural development – FAO, IFAD and WFP – held a very interesting discussion on the nexus between gender-based violence and food security. The International Development Law Organization also took part in the event, which was hosted by WFP and supported by the Government of Iceland.
The panel redressed the typical UN gender imbalance – with 1 male and 3 female panellists. In the Italian tradition, the audience wore festive sprays of yellow mimosa. The Director General of the International Development Law Organization, Irene Khan, opened by saying “For me, every day is women’s day.”
Khan talked about the inequality in her own culture where “law has not been on the side of women and even today they are not equal under the law in some areas”.  And she pointed out that “women are trapped in a gap of not receiving justice in informal or formal systems”. Looking towards solutions, Khan said “Legal empowerment works best when approached holistically. It needs to go hand in hand with social and political empowerment…. IDLO has started to use the phrase ‘culture of justice’, rather than rule of law because it is all of these things working together that lead not only to justice, but to empowerment as well.”
Lourdes Tibán, current Assembly Member of the Legislative Body of Ecuador, reminded the audience of the importance of change beginning at home: “Work needs to begin in the family,” she said. “We need to give a role to – yeah – our sons and men to wash the dishes, everyone needs to be equal.”
She went on to stress the need for change outside the home too: “Women need access to seeds and land. Women need to be part of international trade. Women need to be able to sell their surpluses,” she said. “I think that’s how you reduce violence.”
IFAD’s Cheryl Morden closed the event and you can read her remarks here.

The panel discussion closed on an upbeat and hopeful note with UN Women’s song for International Women’s Day 2013 – One Woman 

From the 25 February to the 1st of March, the Learning Route on Pro-Rural Poor Public and Private Partnership took place in Attapeu province, Lao PDR. Farmers and staff from IFAD programme and projects in Lao PDR found in the LR an opportunity to learn from successful experiences in small rural
business developed in the frame of Public and Private Partnerships and supported by the IFAD – Rural Livelihood Improvement Programme (RLIP).
This great experience is now completed (find the learning route intro post here).


What did we learn? What will we bring home?
During the Learning Route, the host communities invited participants to explore and to learn about the past and present situation of their villages. Cozy and joyful community meetings offered villagers the moment to tell about their story, explaining the main changes occurred over time, the main occupation and livelihoods, and to share with participants their visions and expectations about the future. 

Participants had the chance to experience the reality of the daily life of these champion communities, today engaged in partnership with the Public and Private sector. Communities showed how they are able to conduct small rural-business by selling to private enterprises their products, such as organic asparagus, natural dye textiles and organic coffee, counting on the support of governmental program.

Demonstration of asparagus sale, Darkhied village (Organic Asparagus Producers Group) 


Learning on the waving process of natural dyes textiles (Taliang Women Group)


Organic coffee nursery in Daxeum village (Organic Coffee Producers Group)




lessons learned…
How to create and strengthen long-term partnerships with the public and the private sector to promote rural
business, its internal dynamics as well as the risks and opportunities for the parties to engage in such relationship, have been among the main lessons learned participants said they will “bring back home” along with new knowledge and ideas.

Community level
At community level, the presence of some elements has been recognized as key to establish a sustainable path for livelihoods improvement. The group cohesion, a shared willingness to achieve common objectives and a clear vision of the future, as key factor to mobilize people and to strengthen alliances over time; the accountability and the financial transparency within the same members of the group but also with external stakeholders and finally the equilibrated division of roles/responsibilities and an internal gender equity and participation in the group management and activities, are all element that should coexist at the same time. The presence of these elements will create internal cohesion of the group and a great sense of trust not only for the members but also for the external stakeholders like public and private sector that will be engaged in activities and business with them.

Private Sector
The identification of a private sector who is willing to undertake long-term investmentIndeed the return of the investment will arrive, but on longer time basis. The private sector will have to engage concretely with the community development, supporting the village in its process of learning and practicing new “business skills”. A trustful relation between communities and village must be established and with that a long term plan with shared objectives, where at the first place there is the community livelihood enhancement, through the market income generation activities development.
Coordinating its activities with the public sector, the private investor will be able to achieve results more quickly, as the public sector play a crucial role not only in terms of supporting communities' mobilization and organization but also in terms of needed infrastructures for commerce.

Public Sector
The engagement of the public sector is fundamental in order to break the vicious circle of poverty in the rural communities. The public sector plays a fundamental role as interlink between the private sector, who otherwise would not be able to communicate and the communities. The public sector can protect the communities from unequal and unsustainable relations with the private sector, avoiding any type of exploitation (labor, land, rights etc). Moreover the public sector can address the knowledge needs and can create interlinks between villages. The public institutions can develop with the communities a larger scale plan for market sales development, giving more weight to the voice of united groups of farmers in their relation with the private sector.
Finally the public sector can support the group of farmers in learning how to establish contracts, negotiations and how to develop sustainable strategies to stand alone in front of the private sector once the production and the skills will be appropriately developed.

Sharing Risks and Benefits: inter-relations among PPP actors
Starting new income generation activities within a PPP system is an appropriate way to let rise the livelihood in rural community. Trustful relations among well organized entities is very important. To achieve this balance many changes must take place. Strengthened and fair organizations (farmers group, private and public institutions) must dialogue and plan together the objectives in the future, not only in economic terms (market), but also in terms of individual, social and environmental development.
At the very beginning of a public, private partnership each stakeholder risks something, on the other side, once the relation are well established and balanced, there is a big potential of social, and economic growth.  

The innovation plans

Rich discussions have been the basis for the design of 11 “Innovation plans” where the participants identified specific and pragmatic actions that could improve the livelihood of their communities.
An internal competition saw as first winners of the competitions the following innovation plans:

1st Position
RLIP- Strengthening farmers groups organizations for improved banana plantation productivity.
RLIP – Strengthening Asparagus Producers Group in Attapeu province.
SNRMPEP – Building farmers know-how for pig rising.
2nd position
RLIP – Food security improvement though enhanced group organization and crops plantation.
SNRMPEP – Enhancing farmers capabilities in coffee plantation and sales.
3rd position
SSSJ – Enhancing group organization and farmers knowledge in cardamom plantation in Sayaboury though farmers-to-farmers trainings..

A group formed by technical experts will evaluate the plans and will follow up in order to identify the “final winners”. More information will be soon available here: http://asia.procasur.org/portfolio_item/pro-rural-poor-public-and-private-partnership-in-lao-pdr/


Many thanks to...

Once again we would like to thanks the communities of Darkhied, Taliang and Daxeum for having taking part enthusiastically to the Learning Route. Their knowledge and attitude inspired all of us, their professionalism and attention to the m
A last but not least thanks goes in primis to RLIP who hosted the Learning Route, facilitate in terms of logistics and proactively participated in the learning process and in the discussions, and thanks again to SSSJ, SNRMPEPXaysetha Agriculture OfficePhouvong Agri Office in taking part into the LR and made this event so special.

























Additional info are available here (ProcasurAsia website)