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Written by Clarissa Baldin

Maria Maxaili, widowed, aged 60. Her three children have all
moved to South Africa in search for better opportunities.
I’m just back from Mozambique, where I visited the Pro-poor Value Chain Development Project in the Maputo and Limpopo Corridors of Mozambique (PROSUL). Officially launched on 17 April 2013 in XaiXai, Gaza, PROSUL will work to improve yields, quality, prices and sustainability of production in the irrigated horticulture, cassava and red meat value chains. It will reach 19,550 beneficiaries in the southern Provinces of Gaza, Inhambane and Maputo.

This is already enough for the making of a special project, but there’s more: it is also the first IFAD-supported project to include funds from IFAD’s new Adaptation for Smallholder Programme (ASAP)

ASAP will provide USD 4.91 million to establish improved and climate-smart livelihoods for small farmers. In order to document the climate related issues faced by the smallholders of the Maputo and Limpopo Corridors, I visited 5 districts collecting photo, video and written materials. Here is a snapshot of what I found.

The Smallholder Association of 25 de Setembro, in the District of Chokwe, Gaza Province, was founded in 2007. Today it includes 29 members and covers an area of 50ha where they cultivate maize, beans, peppers, tomatoes, cabbage and onions. This season, however, unable to rely on rainfall and facing problems with their irrigation system, they planted only 30ha.

Ernesto Macuvel, Vice-President of the Association, told me that every time there is a flood, like the one earlier this year, the community is affected – the water pump is damaged, and the replacements have to be imported from the fabricant in South Africa. As the frequency and intensity of the floods increase, their capital erodes, until the point that they can no longer afford to fix the pump and loose the harvest. After every cycle, he says, his community becomes poorer.

The consequences are also felt by Maria Maxaili, aged 60. Her 3 children have all moved to South Africa in search of better opportunities. She told me she misses them, particularly because she doesn’t believe they will ever come back to Mozambique. She says that when she was young, rainfall levels were more uniform in the rainy season, and floods were rare. When I asked her if she had a message for heads of state at the upcoming Climate Change Conference in Warsaw this November (19th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC - COP19), she said she would ask them to undertake a study on the causes of the recurring floods and how to minimize their impacts on the crops.

Maria showed me her maxamba and demonstrated how she weeds the maize. It is precariously located, just a few yards from the river and very vulnerable to the floods – which will certainly be back soon. With challenges of her own, Maria had many reasons to not be concerned about me. And yet, she would walk right by my side fearing that I might fall along the slopes. In her eyes, I was the vulnerable one.

What I found in southern Mozambique was a big promise - with the right adaptation measures, this community has immense potential for increased production, prosperous livelihoods, and dynamic rural areas. I look forward to visiting Ernesto and Maria again next year, to see how PROSUL is being implemented and how IFAD’s work on climate change adaptation is making a difference in the livelihoods of all the other 27 members.

The climate crisis: Transitions in development finance

Posted by Roxanna Samii Thursday, May 30, 2013 0 comments

by Chris Neglia

While the international community is concerned about a rise in global mean temperature of 2°C, climate modelling indicates that we are more likely to reach 4°C by the turn of this century, says
Warren Evans, a senior advisor with the Sustainable Development Network of the World Bank.

Evans was speaking at IFAD’s Rome headquarters on the medium to long-term outlook for climate finance for development. Sourcing the World Bank’s recent study Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4° Celsius World Must Be Avoided Evans noted that the impacts of rising sea levels, ocean acidification, heat waves and extreme temperatures, droughts and floods are already evident worldwide.

Evans has led a prolific career in the development field, living over 25 years in South East Asia, and the last 10 in Washington D.C. with the Bank.

Addressing IFAD directors, staff members and country representatives, he explained his role now is to leave behind some of the tacit knowledge he accumulated and to share his perspective on the lending of development finance institutions amid rapidly changing demographic, economic and climate trends.

Much of Evans’ prognosis regarding the challenge of climate change to human systems was palpably shocking. For instance, there is fairly high confidence in attribution to climate change of the Russian heat wave in 2010, which resulted in an estimated death toll of 55,000 people. Drought conditions caused grain harvest losses of 25 per cent (estimated US$15 billion), leading the Russian government to impose a total ban on wheat exports. Evans also cautioned that humans had crossed the threshold of 400 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 in the atmosphere.

“The news is all bad for coral reefs, and ocean ecosystems in general,” he said. If atmospheric CO2 reaches 450 ppm, coral reef growth around the world is expected to slow down considerably and at 550 ppm reefs are expected to start to dissolve. This represents a severe threat to the economic viability of Small Island Caribbean States (SIDS) and would be destructive to marine biodiversity.

The consequences that can be inferred from these projections underscore the urgency of leveraging climate finance for mitigation and adaptation actions, which can still limit the rate of warming to 2°C above preindustrial levels. This is where Evans sees the continued relevance of the World Bank, and other international funds such as IFAD, that are integrating climate objectives into development projects and programmes.

But how can we meet the financing challenge for global public goods, and what are the sources that climate finance is expected to flow from in the future? At present, most climate finance is allocated from public money. However, Evans cited the need to engage the private sector to a much greater extent than has been achieved hitherto. Commercial financial institutions, corporate actors, and institutional investors have the potential to mobilize the resources necessary to take serious climate action. Getting buy in from insurance companies, pension funds and mutual funds could be the tipping point for influencing more low carbon green investment.

Although Evans pointed out that these sources are very risk averse, their attitudes can change as development finance institutions start to take steps to manage risk, such as through portfolio diversification.
Important for IFAD, it was recognized in the discussion that sustainable agriculture is unique in that it builds small farmers’ climate resilience, as well as sequesters carbon in the soil. “Agriculture is the best opportunity to increase food security and reduce emissions,” said Evans. For this reason, climate finance should pay greater attention to increasing small farmers’ capacity to move to sustainable production systems.

In terms of the types of initiatives that climate finance will look to invest in, he mentioned the 6th replenishment of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the capitalization of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) as processes to watch for an indication of mitigation and adaptation activities that hold the greatest prospects for scaling up.

Evans provided many insights into how the World Bank and others can create incentives for the private sector provision of global public goods. Utilizing human ingenuity and innovative financing mechanisms, we have the solutions to avoid a 4°C warmer world that none of us can afford.

Youth in Agriculture

Posted by espen Tuesday, May 28, 2013 4 comments

Ariel Pagaspas, 17, harvests potatoes in Bangao, Buguias, Benguet,
The role of young people in the agricultural sector have been debated extensively, and for good reason. Youth unemployment is a huge challenge with potentially severe consequences, and the agricultural sector is the biggest employer in most developing countries.

Currently, the global population of young people aged 12-24 is around 1.3 billion, and projected to peak at 1.5 billion in 2035. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) estimates that globally, around 55% of young people reside in rural areas. In Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and south Asia, this number increase to as much as 70%. In SSA alone, youth (aged between 15 and 24) comprise as much as 36% of the labor force. With food production having to increase with 60% by 2050 in order to sustain expected food demands (FAO, 2011), adequate integration of young people in the agricultural sector can be a vital factor for reaching those targets..

Consequently, I am often asked the question: “How can we facilitate for increased youth participation in the agricultural sector?”.

In order to answer that question, I would like to first identify some of the key challenges I believe young people face when trying to enter the job-market:
  • Limited jobs: There are limited jobs available, and those that are available tend to go to "more experienced adults", often leaving entrepreneurship as the only possibility;
  • Perception: The agricultural sector is regarded as a poor man’s job and something you do to survive, and not a career. Consequently, many young people are simply not interested in working with agriculture;
  • Not everyone is an entrepreneur: statistically less than 20% of the population globally are entrepreneurial. In developing countries, entrepreneurship is often due to circumstances and not by choice. Globally, 44% of business start-ups have failed by the third year;
  • Lack of experience: By nature of being young, one would not have obtained as much experience as adults. Lack of experience is reportedly the leading reason for business failure, after incompetence;
  • Access to finance: Many financial institutions simply refuse to serve young people as they see them as higher risk than adults; and
  • Being taken seriously: Young people can often miss out on important opportunities as they are simply not taken seriously by their adult peers.
The solution is complex, but I would like to offer two suggestions I believe could make a difference:

Develop educational mobile-phone games: There is limited data available on mobile-phone gaming in Africa, but most young people own a phone and many use it for gaming. Most phones used by young people in Africa today can run simple java-based games. By developing a mobile phone game that young people find entertaining, based around the concept of starting a business in the agricultural sector, young people could learn more about important business principles such as planning, budgeting, marketing, and profit-margins.

A study by Doorway to Dreams (D2D), a not-for-profit organisation that works on improving the finances of low- and middle-income consumers, on the effect of D2D's financial education games, showed that both financial self-confidence and financial-knowledge increased when playing finance-educational games [1]. A potential game would also expose young people to a different side of agriculture other than “as a poor person’s job”, which could possible encourage young people to consider the agricultural sector as a potential career. Games for Change and "half the Sky movement" worked together on developing educational games to teach about important social issues in Africa (and other places), which was played by more than 500,000 gamers globally. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CK2O6u89A9c 

Promote microfranchising: Microfranchise as a concept has been around for a while but surprisingly not made the traction in the international development arena as I would have expected. Shortly explained, Microfranchising apply the concept of franchising to businesses at the bottom of the pyramid, where the franchisee replicate a proven business-model by following a consistent set of well-defined processes and procedures. The franchisor removes a lot of the entrepreneurial responsibility from the franchisee by managing many key aspects of running a business, such as marketing, establishing and improving operational procedures, procurement, and so forth. As such, many of the key business-decisions necessary for a startup have already been made and the success of the business rely more on the ability to implement step-by-step procedures than ones entrepreneurial skills.

Youth Business International argue that having access to a mentor is a key success-factor for youth entrepreneurs as it limits the possible negative impact of lacking experience. However, maintaining a mentoring programme is difficult and expensive, as one would have to compensate for the mentor’s time. With microfranchising, the comprehensive implementation support provided by the microfranchisor, who has a financial incentive to see the franchisee succeed, may substitute much of the function of a mentor. Working with an established microfranchise should remove some of the perceived risk by financial institutions. Financial services could possibly even be provided in-kind by the franchisor and paid back with a monthly repayment schedule.

There is limited data about Microfranchising, but preliminary findings suggests that the absolute majority of microfranchises established are still running after three years of operation.You can learn more about microfranchising here , or read about Grameen Foundation’s mobile microfranchising activities here.

What do you think? Could mobile games and microfranchising be the solution for unemployed youth?

Doorway to Dreams, "Can games build financial capacity? A financial entertainment report", Available at: http://www.d2dfund.org/files/publications/D2D_FE-Report_Pages_0.pdf 

Need to be innovative if you don’t want a dry future….

Posted by Maria Elena Monday, May 27, 2013 1 comments

We all know how critical water is for our survival and for the survival of our planet. For poor rural people water is a an extremely precious resource that has also been the cause of civil unrest and conflict.

As you dig into just a few UN water statistics
  • 780 million people do not have access to water (equivalent to 2 ½ times the population of the USA),
  • women spend a total of 200 million hours a day to collect water (enough to build 28 Empire State Buildings every day),
  • by 2050 there will be 9 billion people to feed which means we will need 60% more food and 19% more agricultural water will be used up,

it comes to no surprise that there is great concern about the world’s food and water security.

Given the increased need that there will be for more food and water, worsened by the effects of climate change, we undoubtedly have to be innovative about how efficiently we use the water we have combined with good agricultural practices and good policies.
In IFAD we manage a large water portfolio with about two-thirds of our projects dealing with community-based natural resource management and about half involving water resource management as well as supporting innovative research programme in water for poor rural people.

Given the common concerns we share on water and food security and about poor rural people, Dr. Madramootoo (see bio), Dean of the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at McGill University spent one day with IFAD staff to share his experiences, including with President Nwanze who was awarded an doctorate of science, honoris causa at McGill University in June 2012.
During his visit, Dr Madramootoo presented many innovations in water management for smallholder farmers in semi-arid regions and discussed with staff how we can join forces to share knowledge and put research to work on the ground.
In his presentation Dr Madramootoo confirmed that the harsh conditions of farmers in semi-arid regions will be exacerbated by the impact of climate change with temperatures increasing by +5 degrees C by 2050 and the unpredictability of weather patterns disrupting agricultural practices. In fact, any development initiative addressing water and agriculture will have to factor in the impact of climate change.
Dr Madramootoo advised that to improve water security, greater investments are needed to increase water storage, improve on-farm water management, develop/apply innovative technologies, and develop better information and knowledge systems. All these efforts will require strong partnerships - no one will be able to do it alone. And the biggest leap will come from the private sector.
For example, partnerships could be developed with Google and Microsoft - that are looking to invest in these opportunities - to collect, store, analyse and treat large volumes of data for soil and water management.
Dr Madramootoo also presented many areas that have been neglected and that ripe for exploration through small business ventures to improve water security, such as:
  • Soil nutrient assessments
  • Risk assessment to advice governments on how to invest in water initiatives
  • Linkages to carbon storage
  • Piggy backing on the water and sanitation sector as a driver in irrigation development and put in reality an integrated water management
  • Bio- prospecting to determine from indigenous fungi what are the mycorrhizae that can be extracted locally and put in plant roots to extract nutrients and hold onto water in difficult soil conditions – a fascinating approach that uses ancient indigenous knowledge
  • Biochar
  • Conservation agriculture
  • Fertilizer technology
The research that has been validated by McGill University is of interest to IFAD’s beneficiaries and Dr Madramootoo met with technical staff of the Policy and Technical Advisory Division (PTA) and of the Environment and Climate Division (ECD) in the afternoon to explore areas for future collaboration.

Following these constructive knowledge exchange sessions, it was agreed that a Concept Note will be put together on how the two organizations could work together. One area identified was with the ECD in the area of Climate Change and in effectively designing “climate smart” approaches – especially through the Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP) that channels climate finance to smallholder farmers to increase their resilience. The other was with the Policy and Technical Advisory Division on knowledge management related to water resources in particular. Partners at McGill University could be not only support the validation of PTA’s “How to” knowledge products but could also work with partners in the field for dissemination of the products and putting good practices and lessons into practice.
The message of the World Day to Combat Desertification 2013 (17 June) “don’t let our future dry up” characterizes the day spent with Dr Madramootoo in recognizing that we are all responsible for water and land conservation and that there are possible solutions to these critical issues and we can put these solutions into practice by working together.

Trusteeship Council Chamber at UN headquarters, site of an interactive
dialogue between indigenous peoples and UN agencies on 24 May. ©IFAD
NEW YORK – As the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues wrapped up the first week of its current two-week session, participants engaged in a full day of spirited dialogue on issues of mutual concern with UN agencies and funds. The dialogue unfolded during a 24 May plenary session at UN headquarters here. Its tone was constructive but pointed at times, as indigenous peoples’ representatives repeatedly underscored the need for free, prior and informed consent on development activities affecting their ancestral lands.

The right to full consent is articulated in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, but various speakers at the plenary suggested that the UN agencies and funds have not always upheld it. The speakers called upon the international community to engage in meaningful collaboration with indigenous peoples at every stage of the development process. Only an inclusive approach, they asserted, can ensure sustainable initiatives that respect indigenous peoples’ rights and are informed by their traditional knowledge about managing natural resources.

A model of partnership
Several participants in the dialogue credited IFAD for its efforts in this regard. They cited the activities of IFAD’s Indigenous Peoples’ Forum and its Indigenous Peoples’ Assistance Facility (IPAF) as good examples of participatory engagement. Noting that the community-driven development projects financed by IPAF are small in scale, however, they said additional financial resources were needed to support indigenous peoples and their organizations.

“We encourage IFAD to continue with this funding and even increase funds,” said Myrna Cunningham, a Nicaraguan activist and member of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

IFAD's seat at plenary session of the UN Permanent Forum
on Indigenous Issues.  ©IFAD
Another speaker who addressed IFAD’s record was Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Executive Director of the Indigenous Peoples’ International Centre for Policy Research and Education. Tauli-Corpuz has been instrumental in building trust and partnership between IFAD and indigenous peoples. She played an active role in the extensive consultations that led up to the first global meeting of the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum at IFAD in February.

“This process,” she said, “allowed indigenous peoples to formulate a global plan of action in relation to IFAD, which was presented to the senior management, Executive Board and the Governing Council.”

Tauli-Corpuz told the plenary that IFAD had provided a “model of partnership of an intergovernmental body with indigenous peoples” by facilitating such direct exchanges with decision-makers. She recommended that the Permanent Forum “call on the UN agencies, bodies and funds to emulate the ways IFAD is operationalizing a partnership with indigenous peoples.”

In a further recommendation, Tauli-Corpuz urged IFAD itself to help reframe the agenda of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), a global partnership engaged in research for a food-secure future. The CGIAR agenda, she said, should place a greater emphasis on developing inclusive research partnerships with indigenous communities.

Full and effective participation
Antonella Cordone, IFAD’s Coordinator for Indigenous and Tribal Issues, also spoke at the plenary. She re-affirmed IFAD’s commitment to supporting projects that build on the skills and knowledge of indigenous and tribal peoples, and ethnic minorities, in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean.

Participants in the Indigenous Peoples' Forum at IFAD, held
in Rome in February 2013. ©IFAD
Indigenous peoples are “valued partners” whose development “continues to be high on our agenda for poverty reduction in rural areas of developing countries,” Cordone said. As evidence, she cited IFAD’s Policy on Engagement with Indigenous Peoples. That policy, she noted, calls for the establishment of an Indigenous Peoples’ Forum “as a concrete way to institutionalize consultation and dialogue with indigenous peoples, with the aim of improving IFAD’s accountability to its target groups and its development effectiveness.”

The first global meeting of the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum at IFAD was a milestone for the organization, Cordone said. She reported that participants in the event “underscored their commitment to partnering with IFAD in working towards the ambitious goal of reducing rural poverty, pointing out that there can be no sustainable rural development without indigenous peoples.”

By helping to strengthen traditional institutions, open new livelihood opportunities and empower women – among other successful practices – IFAD-supported projects have been building a “true and effective partnership built on mutual trust” with indigenous peoples for years, Cordone observed. “We are convinced that only by working together we can make a difference,” she said. “That is why we look forward to our strengthened cooperation with the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and like-minded agencies and indigenous peoples’ organizations.”

Joining forces to speed up economic empowerment for rural women

Posted by Hazel Bedford Thursday, May 23, 2013 0 comments

"Inspiration" was the focus of the first two sessions of the 2013 Retreat on the Joint Programme Accelerating Progress towards the Economic Empowerment of Rural Women being held at IFAD today and tomorrow. About 40 participants from IFAD, FAO, WFP and UN Women gathered to hear about achievements, challenges and opportunities in the seven pilot countries: Ethiopia, Liberia, Niger, Rwanda, Guatemala, Kyrgyzstan and Nepal.

Economic empowerment for women is recognized as a fast track to improving gender equality between woman and men, driving economic growth and advancing women's human rights.

Your mother might have told you that money can't buy you happiness. But research shows she was probably wrong. In any case, it surely buys you practically everything else. How's this for starters: nutritious food, clean water, physical safety, healthcare, schooling, decent clothing, a mobile phone, a bicycle. Money also buys less tangible things: status, hope, freedom, choices, self-respect, security, comfort.

An op-ed published this week in The Hindu makes another critical point about the effect of economic empowerment for women: "high levels of female employment and earnings are critical to lowering domestic violence against women".

What follows is a personal account and a personal reflection on the morning's work and the significance of the aims of the Joint Programme.

What does it mean?
It's hard to say in a jargon-free nutshell what economic empowerment means, because in fact it means so many things. It means earning money, being paid for your work where before you may have worked for nothing. It means being paid a fair wage that compares with what others are paid for similar work. It means having the power to negotiate fair prices for your produce. It means having the power to decide how the money you have earned is spent, or not spent in the household. It means having the power, the education and the information to decide about investments, savings, loans. It means being able to go to a bank or a microfinance institution and being treated fairly when you get there. This list is not exhaustive.

Launched in 2012 in New York and Rome, the Joint Programme aims to speed up economic empowerment for rural women by building on ongoing work by the four agencies in the seven pilot countries, maximizing synergies and scaling up approaches that work. To be effective, the Programme has to respond clearly to issues identified at national level and complement existing activities.

In five out of the seven pilot countries consultative workshops have been held with the four agencies, government representatives, local partners, women's civil society groups and rural women's associations. Some countries are also using focus groups and interviews to identify stakeholder priorities. Good practices are being collected and successful initiatives are being mapped.

Country ownership and common challenges
Participants at the Retreat underlined the importance of the Joint Programme being 'owned' by the countries to ensure that achievements and progress are sustainable over the long term. Aligning work programmes with country development priorities is also essential to getting buy-in from governments and local partners.

Common challenges across the countries relate to sharpening the focus of the Joint Programme and clarifying how the agencies work together on the ground in widely different contexts. In many cases local stakeholders are very enthusiastic about the new programme and there's a need to manage expectations while the groundwork is finalized and activities get under way.

The retreat runs for two days and aims to hammer out details and agreements that will enable the ambitious Joint Programme to move up a gear and, in the words of Clare Bishop-Sambrook, IFAD Senior Gender Adviser, "turn the ripples made so far into waves".

©IFAD/Horst Wagner
The availability of Market Information System (MIS) have proven to be an important tool to help increase market transparency, alleviate information asymmetries, allow farmers to adjust production and ultimately obtain a higher price for their products.

A Michigan State University study on the “Impact of Agricultural Market Information Systems Activities on Market Performance in Mozambique” suggests that access to market-information increase probability of farmers-participation in market-activities by 34%, and increase the mean-price obtained for commodities sold with as much as 12% [1].

However, the reliability and sustainability of MIS’ have historically been a major challenge, and most systems stay reliant on donor support throughout their lifespan. The majority of MIS’ are based on data collected by enumerators, who observe prices in public marketplaces and report these to a central system, for example via a mobile phone. This is very human-resource intensive and costly, and require substantial amount of management and supervision. As prices reported often go through a rigorous control prior to being disseminated, many system often report data that is outdated and of no use to the farmer. 

SANGONeT and International Development Enterprises (iDE) started with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a mobile phone point of sale (POS) and inventory control app in Zambia called Lima Links. The data generated from the POS is then used to obtain real-time and accurate price information, which is disseminated to farmers, completely eliminating the need for using third party enumerators. This does not only reduce cost (and thus increase likelihood of a sustainable business model) but also reduce the margin of error and delay of delivering price information.

Lima Links is still at very early stages, but it is a very interesting innovation in the MIS realm, well worth following further.You can access an excellent assessment of MIS in East Africa done by USAID here , and read USAID's profile paper on Lima Links here .

[1] Kizito, Donnovan, & Staaz. (2012). Impact of Agricultural Market Information Systems Activities on Market Performance in Mozambique

BRCK: the solution to shaky internet connections?

Posted by espen Wednesday, May 22, 2013 0 comments

Having lived in Africa, I have experienced first-hand the challenges, frustrations, and not to mention the immense negative impact on efficiency experienced with shaky internet connections, primarily due to frequent power outages and flaky ISPs.

But with BRCK, which is described as the “backup generator for the internet”, this could according to them
now be in the past. Shortly explained, BRCK allows for you to define a range of ways of connecting to the internet, such as ethernet, Wi-Fi, 3G or 4G, and will shift between them depending upon the status of your existing connection. It can support up to 20 computing-devices at once and has an eight hour battery life, which should allow you to stay online until the original connection has been restored.

At the moment, the BRCK is at prototype-stage, but Ushahidi (the makers of the BRCK and not-for-profit that built a crowdsourced mapping platform as a consequence of the Kenyan post-election violence in 2008), is raising funds using Kickstarter, and is well advanced to reach their fundraising goal.

It will be interesting to continue following the development of the BRCK. At the moment it is priced at $200, which is a little steep, but I am sure the cost will be reduced as they reach economies of scale.

What do you think? Is the BRCK it?

Participants listen to opening statements at the 12th session of the UN
Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. ©IFAD/Bridget Scallen
NEW YORK – The 12th session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues opened here yesterday, drawing more than 1,000 participants – including indigenous peoples’ leaders who are partnering with IFAD on rural development projects around the world.

The two-week session began as indigenous peoples, many in traditional clothing, filled the cavernous General Assembly hall at UN headquarters. They were greeted by the melody of an Andean flute and a ceremonial welcome from Chief Sidney Hill of the Native American Onondaga Nation. A series of speakers followed, outlining the objectives and aspirations of the Permanent Forum, which serves as the UN Economic and Social Council’s advisory body on indigenous peoples’ rights and issues.

Several of the speakers noted that the current session of the Permanent Forum would play an important role in setting the agenda for the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, to be held in September 2014. Several also asserted that indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledge – and their vision of sustainable development based on respect for culture, identity and the environment – must be integral to the global agenda that will follow the Millennium Development Goals after the MDGs’ target date passes in 2015.

Platform for dialogue 
The theme of sustainable development in indigenous communities figured prominently in two IFAD-related side events that followed the opening session. The first of those events was a review of IFAD’s engagement with indigenous peoples and the findings of its Indigenous Peoples’ Forum, which held an inaugural global meeting in Rome this past February (see video at the bottom of this post).

Panel at UN Permanent Forum side event on IFAD's engage-
ment with indigenous peoples. ©IFAD/Bridget Scallen
Antonella Cordone, IFAD’s Coordinator for Indigenous and Tribal Issues, introduced the side event. She explained that the institution’s dialogue with indigenous peoples in rural areas actually began in earnest in 2003. Six years later, she recalled, IFAD adopted its Policy on Engagement with Indigenous Peoples as the basis for an equitable partnership with indigenous communities involved in rural and agricultural development projects.

The Indigenous Peoples Forum at IFAD is an outgrowth of the policy’s emphasis on full partnership. While the Forum is scheduled to convene a global meeting every other year, Cordone stressed that it is not primarily a meeting but, rather, a process. “It is a platform of continuous dialogue between IFAD and indigenous peoples at the regional, national and international levels,” she said.

A starting point
A panel of indigenous peoples’ leaders spoke at the side event, representing grassroots organizations that are engaged in just such a dialogue with IFAD in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean. The leaders agreed that the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum is a vehicle for meaningful cooperation on reducing poverty and increasing food security in some of the world’s most marginalized communities. They cautioned, however, that it is still just a starting point for improving the lives of millions of indigenous women and men in poor rural areas.

Devasish Roy, a member of the UN Permanent Forum,
at one of  the IFAD-related events. ©IFAD/Bridget Scallen
“IFAD is opening a door,” said Joseph Simel, Executive Director of the Kenya-based Mainyoito Pastoralists Integrated Development Organization. But to ensure success in the long term, he observed, the best practices developed by individual projects in indigenous communities must be adopted widely and institutionalized in IFAD and beyond.

Joan Carling, Secretary-General of Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact, added that IFAD has a critical role to play in advocating for recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights. “Land tenure is at the heart of indigenous peoples’ food security,” she said, citing the need for national policies that ensure access to ancestral land and resources. Indigenous women’s empowerment is another area that urgently needs attention, Carling said.

“It’s not enough to have a policy on indigenous peoples,” concluded Myrna Cunningham, a Nicaraguan activist and member of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. “Policies have to be accompanied by mechanisms for implementation.” Such mechanisms, she said, require indigenous peoples’ participation at every level, as well as adequate resources to make a significant impact on the ground.

Self-driven development
One existing mechanism for implementation – the Indigenous Peoples Assistance Facility (IPAF) – was the subject of the second IFAD-related side event held at the Permanent Forum yesterday. Established in 2007, the facility aims to strengthen indigenous peoples’ communities and organizations by financing small projects that foster self-driven development. In the process, these projects generate innovative approaches to rural development that potentially can be replicated and scaled up.

UN Permanent Forum participants confer in the Trusteeship
Council Chamber at UN headquarters, New York. ©IFAD
IPAF is governed by a board composed mainly of indigenous members. It has approved grants in support of more than 100 projects to date.

The IPAF side event featured representatives from indigenous peoples’ organizations that co-manage the facility with IFAD in the various regions where it works, as well as partners implementing projects with IPAF grants. In a series of presentations, they demonstrated how IPAF support has helped their communities apply traditional knowledge about sustainable agriculture to enhance rural livelihoods and food security. One presenter, Gregory Juan Ch’oc of the Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management, in Belize, praised IPAF for enabling indigenous peoples to pursue “development with identity” in the face of the historic suppression of their cultural heritage.

As the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues continues in the coming days, IFAD and its partners will be looking toward a future in which development with identity is not the exception but, instead, the rule for indigenous peoples worldwide.

VIDEO:  Indigenous Peoples' Forum
Watch a recap of the first global meeting convened by the Indigenous Peoples' Forum at IFAD in February 2013. The video was screened to a visibly moved audience yesterday at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Harnessing the remittance boom #gfr2013

Posted by Roxanna Samii Monday, May 20, 2013 0 comments

By Kanayo F. Nwanze

For more than a decade, Asia’s economies have been on the move – and so have its people. The scale of migration from rural to urban areas and across international borders is historically unprecedented, and twenty-first-century Asia is its focal point.

In Asia’s developing countries, the power and potential of remittances – the money that migrant workers send home to their families (many of whom live in poor and remote areas) – is immense. Currently, over 60 million migrant workers from the Asia/Pacific region account for more than half of all remittance flows to developing countries, sending home about $260 billion in 2012.

China, India, and the Philippines are the three largest recipients of remittances, while Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Vietnam are also in the top ten. The money is often a lifeline: it is estimated that 10% of Asian families depend on payments from abroad to obtain their food, clothing, and shelter.
But, while remittances to developing countries are five times higher than official development assistance, the enormous potential returns for society have not been realized – and can be secured only if the flow of money can be channeled into effective rural and agricultural development, particularly in fragile states and post-conflict countries. Doing so would contribute significantly to creating jobs, enhancing food security, and fostering stability in countries emerging from strife.

In order to establish such channels, we must scale up key initiatives, identify new opportunities, and map out the road ahead. The fourth Global Forum on Remittances, which runs May 20-23 in Bangkok, will do just that. Convened by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Bank, the forum will bring together policymakers, private-sector players, and civil-society leaders to chart a course for leveraging the development impact of remittances sent home each year in Asia and around the world.

At IFAD, our starting point is always the three billion people who live in the rural areas of developing countries. We work to create conditions in which poor rural women and men can grow and sell more food, increase their incomes, and determine the direction of their own lives. We believe that diasporas and the global donor community can leverage the flow of migrant investment if they form partnerships with national governments for long-term development of the rural communities that are so often the beginning of the migration chain.

More than 215 million people around the world live outside of the countries they call home. But most families that rely on remittances operate outside of the world’s financial system as well. Despite the global prevalence of electronic money transfers, most migrant workers are excluded from the convenience of modern banking services, dependent on costly cash transfers that often require rural recipients to travel significant distances.

As a result, migrant workers are forced to initiate more than one billion separate transactions worldwide each year. That means more than one billion trips for rural women and men to collect their money. Adding up the cost of the transfer, travel, and time, remittances are far too expensive for people living in poverty.

IFAD has been working in more than 40 countries to ensure that rural families can have easy access to remittances, and are better able to use them as savings or investments that go back into their communities. The amount of money at stake is staggering: It is estimated that over the next five years, more than $2.5 trillion will be sent in remittances to developing countries, with almost 40% – coming in the form of payments of $50, $100, or $500 at a time – destined for rural areas. While the majority of family remittances will always be used to meet immediate needs, IFAD’s experience shows that rural families would seize opportunities to save and invest, even small amounts, if they had better options.

While remittances should and can be leveraged to bring about impressive results in poverty reduction, let us not forget that there is an underlying issue that needs to be addressed. Young people, the leaders and farmers of tomorrow, are leaving their rural communities behind in search of better opportunities. We need to turn rural areas into vibrant and economically stable communities that provide opportunities for young people to earn a living, build their capacities, and start a family.

We should not ignore the enormous development potential of remittances to rural areas. Let us empower families to use their hard-earned money in ways that will help to make migration a matter of choice, not a necessity for the generations to come.

Originally posted on Project Syndicate

Experts declare war on cassava viruses in Africa

Posted by Beate Stalsett Friday, May 17, 2013 0 comments

©IFAD/Susan Beccio 
Wafaa El-Khoury, Senior Technical Advisor on Agronomy at International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) just returned from the Strategic Meeting of The Global Cassava Partnership for the 21st Century. This year’s theme was “Declaring War on Cassava Viruses in Africa”, an important topic since cassava experts are reporting new outbreaks and an increased spread of Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD). According to experts the rapidly multiplying plant virus could cause a 50 per cent drop in production of a crop that provides a substantial source of food and income for 300 million Africans. El-Khoury highlights that close cooperation between the research, development and donor communities is needed to keep the disease under control in the already affected areas of East Africa while ensuring the prevention of its entry into West Africa. Here are her takeaways from the meeting, and recommendations for the future.

Q: How is the topic you discussed at the conference relevant to IFAD and its operations?

Cassava is among the most important crop for the livelihoods of IFAD’s beneficiaries mainly in Africa, but also in Asia and in Latin America. IFAD loans and grants portfolio includes substantial investments in the development of the cassava value chains as well as in ensuring food security for the most vulnerable people, especially in regions with difficult environmental conditions and in areas at risk of effects to climate change. As you may know cassava has been seen as a stable and resilient crop in the face of effects of climate change. The occurrence of a virus disease would directly affect IFAD’s operations in these countries reducing the chances of success in value chain enhancement activities, and also impact food security and nutrition related activities. Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) is a virus disease (2 active viruses) severely infecting all cassava varieties that have been newly developed resistant to the Cassava mosaic disease (CMD), another disease that has been devastating East and Central Africa for over a decade. CBSD is transmitted through the whitefly vector and through cuttings used for vegetative propagation. The cassava experts are reporting new outbreaks, and an increased spread of the CBSD epidemic in East Africa is worrying and the concern would increase substantially if the virus spreads to West Africa and even other continents. IFAD should play an active role together with the international research and development community to resolve the problem as soon as possible, and I will give a more detailed perspective in the text below.

Q: What do you think has changed for the farmers who have been dealing with such threats over the years?

©IFAD/Gerard Planchenault
It is true that farmers have had to deal with biotic and abiotic threats throughout history, and farmers have dealt with them in various ways, mainly through the selection and multiplication of best landraces that could survive these threats. Traditionally farmers have selected crop populations with the most stable yield and not necessarily the crop with the highest yield. Today farmers are under pressure to increase productivity and production for food security and income generation. This is achieved mainly through crop intensification with changes in cultural practices and cropping patterns, often with a reduction of genetic diversity across landscapes, but also with the cultivation of new crops in areas previously considered not adapted to their growth. These developments have been accompanied by an increase in the movement of human beings and genetic material across countries and continents, and by a changing climate affecting the populations of pests, diseases and their interaction with host plants. All these factors are resulting in an increasing global incidence of emerging infectious diseases. Studies have shown that these are mainly the result of pathogen introductions into new areas (56% of cases), weather related (25% of cases), changes in farming techniques and systems (9% of cases), changes in vector populations (7% of cases ) or genetic recombination of the pathogen or habitat disturbances (Anderson et al 2004).

Around 50% of these emerging infectious diseases are viruses and they can quickly get established and spread to epidemic levels. Research has shown that emerging infectious viruses developing into disease epidemics are consistently linked to human-induced changes in agricultural production systems.

African farmers have in the past decades witnessed a series of epidemics that have devastated their staple crops. Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) is presently still restricted to East Africa but the research and development community have serious concerns that it will soon move to Central and West Africa devastating the main cassava-producing areas. The problem is further complicated through the emergence of new populations of the whitefly vector that are highly prolific with very high multiplication rates, resulting in high disease transmission rates and causing severe crop damage through their direct feeding on the plant. The increased vector populations are expected to be favoured through the effect of climate change in Africa. CBSD is a disease that produces limited leaf symptoms which makes it difficult to spot and eliminate infected plants early in the growing season, but at harvest time, severe root symptoms are observed (necrosis, browning of the roots such that they are not fit for processing or eating).

Q: What should we in IFAD be doing differently to equip our beneficiaries to better deal with the threats of cassava viruses? 

Through its loan and grants IFAD has been extremely active in the past decades in the promotion of cassava productivity in Africa. Not only did it promote the introduction of new highly productive varieties adapted to the needs of the farmer and markets, it has supported farmers and women in postharvest cassava transformation and value additions. Through its grants system, IFAD’s support was crucial to the pan-African control of the devastating cassava mealy bug pest through the environmentally and eco-system friendly method of biological control.

However, with the continuous changes in agricultural production systems, natural landscapes and global climate, the risk of pandemics is expected to increase. Development interventions, including IFAD’s interventions should accordingly ensure the resilience of farming systems ahead of the emergence of the problem. The response at the onset of the epidemic should be holistic, based on multiple interventions with considerations at landscape levels beyond the farm level. Considerations should also be given to awareness raising and policy interventions at the national level and beyond. The disease control should never rely on one single solution such as only the introduction of resistant varieties but should include various disease management options and major elements of capacity building to ensure sustainability of interventions and capacity of farmers and national institutions to respond to similar future shocks. Among possible IFAD interventions that go beyond research is through its rural finance activities and its linkage to the private sector to support farmers in accessing virus free clean planting material, often a limiting factor for farmers while it is one of the most critical disease management practices. Capacity building of farmers and farmer organization in identifying the disease and establishing community-based phyto-sanitation, which has proven effective in disease management could also be part of IFAD’s interventions. IFAD could also play a critical role in institutional capacity development and support in national coordination for contingency planning and response to similar emergencies. IFAD could also fund research on multiple management solutions to CBSD as well as on understanding the future risks and mitigation strategies for the emergence of pests and diseases of food security crucial crops as cassava.

Q: What are your three most important takeaways that you would like to share with colleagues/partners? 
  1. Emerging trans boundary epidemics affecting staple crops can only be managed through international cooperation involving the research, development and donor communities. They would require also political will for action and hence a lot of advocacy and awareness raising with the national, sub-regional and regional levels that would influence relevant policy and decision-making bodies.
  2. Pandemics –whether affecting humans, animals or crops, are becoming more frequent and more devastating. Learning from previous epidemics is critical to assess the potential risks, and enhance preparedness and effective response at the national, regional or global levels. Critical elements to achieve such response is the preparation of contingency plans for quick and effective interventions, vigilant surveillance systems, functional seed systems and proper support to farmers and their organizations for efficient field level response. Awareness and policy support are pre-requisites for the success of any intervention. There was a general agreement at the meeting that CBSD elimination is not possible, especially where it is now endemic in East Africa. In this case management is critical, especially through the control of the vector and through use of clean propagative material. It is however important to try to prevent the entry of CBSD into West Africa and the other continents through vigilant and systematic surveillance, which allows for early detection and eradication upon its entry to new areas and before it grows to epidemics.
  3. There is still a lot of missing scientific information about CBSD and other potentially devastating cassava virus diseases to be able to manage them properly in the field. More research is still needed on topics covering the resistance and tolerance of cassava improved varieties and landraces to CBSD, its distribution within the plant, transmission through whiteflies and through propagative material, and the effect of plant nutrition on disease expression and severity. In all cases, the disease management strategies should depend on combined interventions through the use of virus-free planting material, elimination of infected material from the field, sanitation and other cultural practices, host plant resistance (to virus or whitefly vector), and very importantly the integrated management of the whitefly vector (integrated pest management, IPM).

Watch video on CBSD from CIAT

Small farmers are always linked to the local private sector, at the time when they buy input and tools from suppliers and when they sell their produce to traders and sellers. But often these linkage are not strong enough to secure high quality input and the necessary technical knowledge, hindering small farmers to increase their productivity and diversify into higher value agriculture production meeting the market demand.

The IFAD-supported Market Infrastructure Development Project inCharland Regions (MIDPCR) addressed this by systematically building linkages among the different actors of one value chain. The project’s Rural Enterprise Component (RED), implemented by the international NGO iDE, aimed at identifying and linking small-scale producers to lucrative market opportunities and adopting a systematic approach to develop sustainable value chains in the project area, one of the most remote and poor areas of Bangladesh.

Until today, the RED activities have led to an increase in crop yield and additional income per farmer ranging from BDT3,000 (USD 40, fruit garden) to BDT21,000 (USD270, fish), strong linkages between different stakeholders of a value chain; sustainable input supply and technical assistance for farmers through to 52 private sector institutions, 4 public agencies and 2 research organisations; adaptation of more than 30 new technologies (such as pheromone traps, pond water and soil testing services, hybrid seeds, plastic crate for vegetable transport, early separation of chicks and inoculum, a bacteria that when mixed with seeds can increase production by 20% and significantly reduces the need for urea fertilizer once plant is grown). Within the two years of project implementation, successful interventions were scaled up throughout the area, increasing the outreach from 20,000 to 72,000 farmers.

Nurul Amin,
Project Manager at iDE
 Nurul Amin, Project Manager at iDE, explains the approach, success factors and lessons learned of MIDPCR’s RED activities:

How did the project strengthen the market linkage and value chains?
The activities, can basically be broken down in 3 steps: First, we identified the agricultural products with the highest commercial potential in the area through field work and studies. These products were chosen based on a number of criteria, such as the potential increase in overall productivity, number of farmers/households involved in the cultivation, geographic dispersion in the project area, potential to structure and strengthen the value chain, opportunities to introduce and access new technologies to improve quantity and quality of production and potential to link with MIDPCR markets. On this basis, we defined target interventions and cluster areas.

Following this, we started to build linkages among the relevant actors of the selected value chains. While local producers normally were only in touch with local traders/sellers when the production was concluded, RED activities brought relevant actors together before the actual production started, which allowed to identify market demand, input shortages and technical assistance needs. This was done through meetings and workshops, such as pre-season planning meetings on the village level, bringing together local suppliers, producers and traders to discuss product market demand, input supply, availability of services and a production plan for the coming season as well as linkage workshops on the Upazilla [sub district] level. These workshops brought together all actors along one specific value chain -the Market Management Committees, traders, suppliers, service providers, producers and relevant government officials – aiming at building relationships among farmers, input suppliers, service providers, traders/buyers; improving the capacity of farmers to seek services from other value chain stakeholders; and creating interest of input suppliers and buyers/traders to expand their business activities.

Poultry farming is particularly suited for 
women farmers as it can be done within 
the farm.  ©IFAD/G.M.B.Akash
Finally, we built the capacity of rural producers enabling them to increase their production and meet market demands by organizing technical assistance and introducing new technologies. In our trainings, we brought in the relevant actors along the value chain as experts and business service providers. In Marketing and Management Trainings, for example, farmers learned how to turn their farming into a commercial activity, about their target markets and how to develop entrepreneurial capacity. Further, together with the farmers, we identified technical issues that were hindering them from increasing their production or meet market quality standards. We then facilitated private sector led technology demonstration at local level and organized visits, for example to expert farmers who were already very successful in their production or utilized new technologies or to the main markets where one specific product is sold or to input suppliers that were known for good quality inputs. While this supported farmers to clarify specimen with main sellers, exporters and marketing managers, it also increased their market access and strengthened linkages with value chain partners.

Do you expect these linkages to be sustainable?
Yes. As those interventions created benefits for all actors along the value chain, it is to be expected, that the created links will be sustained and farmers can continue to grow their business. Also, we already see a spill-over effect: While under MIDPCR mainly farmers who were already farming a particular product, other farmers in the region, once they saw the difference in income made through a new variety or technology, adopted the approach as well.

What were critical factors leading to the success of the project?
The main success factors during the implementation of the RED component were
  • that we applied a market development approach to secure private sector actors’ participation – if there is a business opportunity, the project intervention will be sustainable and beneficial to all stakeholders involved;
  • that we followed a bottom up approach to ensure that activities were demand-driven and addressed the actual needs of farmers,  rather than imposing activities and products from the project; and
  • that the roads and markets constructed under MIDPCR’s infrastructure component ensured an enabling environment for farmers to access markets as well as for suppliers/traders to come to the farm gate.

RED activities have increased the income of fish farmers
by USD270. ©IFAD/G.M.B.Akash
What are the lessons that you take away from this project?
Looking back at the RED activities, there are a number of lessons that we have learned, such as
  • combining value chain development activities with access to finance (as applied in MIDPCR’s NGO activities) will help farmers to adopt new technologies/varieties;
  • both husband and wife should participate in activities as our experience shows that both are controlling different areas within the household, and both joining in the training enables them  to take a joint informed decision rather than one partner blocking it;
  • increasing farmers associations’ business management capacity can ensure sustainability of project interventions and increase benefits for farmers;
  • working with trader associations can potentially open up additional connections for farmers on quality inputs and selling channels;
  • competition is a key factor to ensure quality for the farmers;
  • the private sector should be involved from the design stage if a project is targeting increased private sector involvement.