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For the past 7 years the IFAD country team in Philippines conducts annual Country Program Reviews named ACPOR. These meetings bring together loans and grants and help to synergise the various initiatives and strengthen their impact. Quaterly meetings are then monitoring the progress of the action plan.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development-Philippines (IFAD-PH) is currently conducting its 7th Annual Country Programme Review (ACPoR) hosted by the Integrated Natural Resources and Environmental Management Project (INREMP) at Bohol Plaza Resort, Tagbilaran City, Bohol, Philippines. The activity involves six (6) grant, three (3) loan andtwo (2) upcoming Projects/Programmes (Converge and Fishcoral) in the Philippines. The session will last from 20 to 23 January 2015 with the theme “Leveraging and Scaling Up for Strategic Rural Transformation.”

The activity aims to report on the achievement of the Philippines Country Programme in 2014 and the result of the 2014 Philippines-Country Strategic Operations Programme (PH-COSOP) review, and the performance of both loan and grant projects in the country; assess how the Country Programme grant and loan Projects have contributed to the achievement of the strategic objectives of the PH-COSOP and to the sectoral outcomes of the Philippines Development Plan (PDP); identify the distinct/comparative advantage of the IFAD Country Programme and Project for leveraging and for scaling up; identify the challenges, gaps and practical solutions in implementing the Country programme activities and projects of both ongoing and upcoming projects; and, prepare an action plan both for country programme and projects for implementation in 2015.

In his remarks, Mr. Benoit Thierry, the new Country Programme Manager of the Philippines, congratulated teams for their dynamism and challenged the various programmes and projects to go beyond their borders in contributing to IFAD’s mandate of supporting government policies for poverty alleviation, and revive the active yet decreasing Philippines portfolio. Impact on poverty which remain an issue in rural areas of the country and focus on smallholders will remain the key drivers of IFAD country program.

The first day highlighted the comparative advantages of IFAD which the projects and programmes appreciated. Among which were IFAD’s flexibility in terms of programing, co-financing with other financing institution, strong knowledge management and knowledge sharing, indulgence in providing capacity building and technical backstopping, and its multi-dimensional partnerships.

Likewise, Mr. Thierry further emphasized the need for clear achievable objectives for 2015 and stressed that IFAD is very interested on how the projects made an impact to the rural families and contribute to the PH-COSOP. On top of the two (2) new projects, already designed and to be negotiated before end march for IFAD approval, a new project and a new cosop will be conceptualised and designed end 2015.

From Missouri to Rome – Learning about the UN

Posted by Francesco Farnè Thursday, January 22, 2015 0 comments

Written by Francesco Farnè

IFAD hosted a group of students from the University of Missouri, USA, last Thursday for a visit to IFAD headquarters. As an Intern in the Communications division, I had the opportunity to support David Paqui, Regional Communication Officer for East and Southern Africa (ESA) and West and Central Africa, Communication Division, IFAD, in organising this event.

©IFAD/D. Paqui

The group of students, led by professor William H. Meyers, Director, College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) International Programs, University of Missouri, was composed of young undergraduates in varied fields of studies: Agriculture and Food Security; Natural Science; Journalism and Communications. 
 ©IFAD/D. Paqui

The briefing session consisted in a series of presentations on IFAD's background, mission and operations. All presentations were characterised by participation and interactivity, thanks both to the competence and interest of the students, who raised several clever questions, and to the capacity of the speakers to tell their experiences in a involving way.  

Mr. Paqui gave a general overview on IFAD, its history, goal and mandate, as well as the organizational structure. The students were not aware of many of these aspects and were immediately engrossed in the presentation. 

Mattia Prayer Galletti, Lead Technical Specialist, Policy and Technical Advisory Division, IFAD, shared his long-time experience in IFAD, with thrilling and stimulating stories from the field, with a particular focus on India and Vietnam. 
©IFAD/D. Paqui

Marian Odenigbo, Special Advisor on Nutrition ESA, IFAD, gave a presentation on Nutrition. She was able to highlight the interconnections between a financial institution such as IFAD and the issue of nutrition. Improper diets, often due to lack of knowledge, are a major threat to smallholders’ health and consequently to agricultural development. 

This thesis was supported by the projection of a video called “India – Millet madness”. Supporting millet production in India, IFAD encourage smallholders families to have more nutrient-rich diets. As a consequence, they have more energy and less health problems, thereby more productive in their work. 

©IFAD/D. Paqui

In conclusion, Richard Aiello, Manager Staff Development Unit, HRD, gave a brief overview on job opportunities and the internship programme in IFAD. As a current intern, I introduced myself to the students and shared my experience working in COM, with them. I encouraged them to apply for the programme as soon as they will be eligible.

This has been, without a doubt a successful event and a unique opportunity for both IFAD and the MU students. For IFAD, because it was an   opportunity  to introduce our agency to  young and proactive students. And for the students, as they had a  chance to interact with eminent experts in their field of studies.

©IFAD/D. Paqui

Written by Karan Sehgal 

A new scientific paper in Elsevier magazine has been published investigating biogas operations run by IFAD in partnership with Biogas International (BI) in Kenya and Rwanda.  Since 2011, IFAD and BI have collaborated to test and pilot portable, low-cost biogas systems for smallholder farmers, named  the Flexi Biogas© (FBS).

Similar to an open-ended pillow case, the FBS consists of a plastic digester envelope housed in a greenhouse tunnel. The tunnel acts like an insulated jacket, trapping heat and keeping the temperature between 25 and 36 degrees Celsius. The combination of the tunnel and the plastic bag reduces the retention time - the time it takes for the biodegradable material to ferment - and so increases the volume and rate of gas production[i]

The study highlights how FBS devices have the potential to address important and pressing issues in sub-Saharan Africa and in Asia and the Pacific. Issues such as agricultural and energy difficulties related to cooking and lighting needs, climate change and household income.

The paper constructs a thorough study of these FBS units through analysis of peer-reviewed papers, project documents and research interviews. It has been found that this technology can reduce energy instability[ii], reduce time spent collecting firewood and contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (especially methane which is 22 times more damaging to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide).

Flexi biogas system installed in Kenya 


The project, funded by IFAD, remains in its pilot phases. However  there is a large amount of data available so some conclusions can be made. The overriding benefit is that FBS units synergise solutions to three major concerns within Kenya's rural population.
Time collecting firewood, mostly performed by women, takes from 3-5 hours daily. This time can now be allocated to income generation opportunities and spending time with children (imparting knowledge and education).

The use of biogas digesters produce a by-product which is a high nutrient quality organic fertilizer. This helps agricultural and food security needs but also income savings from the reduced purchase of chemical fertilizers. The use of it in Kenya has shown increased production yields and also a higher quality of vegetables.

Due to promising results in Kenya, the project (and technology) has been replicated within an on-going IFAD project in Rwanda. Here we are implementing the Flexi Biogas systems in conjunction with small-scale drying machines (powered by biogas) for maize/bean farmers to dry their produce and therefore reduce post-harvest losses.

Positive feedback has lead the Government of Rwanda to install 100 additional systems and mainstreamed the technology within their national programs (i.e. The Girinka or 'One Cow per Every Poor Family' programme). The Government of Rwanda intends to support the installation of another 200 Flexi biogas systems after this larger pilot phase.

The paper concludes that because these units show such promising results, continued effort needs to be made to communicate the benefits of these systems to the target audience and support continued assistance to the purchase and use FBS. Actions such as well-targeted subsidies on renewable energy sources and the removal of subsidies for fossil-fuel based sources such as firewood, charcoal and kerosene will be powerful incentives for people to take an interest in biogas.

There is also a YouTube video available to watch on the operations.

[i] Taken from an IFAD Flyer on the operations.
[ii] Rural households in Kenya/Rwanda spend about US$10-15 per month on low quality traditional biomass resources such as firewood and charcoal

Written by: Larissa Setaro

Conservation Agriculture (CA) is increasingly referred to as a climate-smart technology based on the three principles of minimum soil disturbance, permanent organic soil cover and crop rotation. Yet there are still unanswered questions about its double role in sustainable agricultural intensification and climate change adaptation.

On 13 and 14 January, IFAD hosted a learning event on CA, with the aim of addressing the existing challenges to adoption and scaling-up, and to learn from experience. IFAD has a large portfolio of programmes implementing CA with the support of research centres such as the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) and Agricultural Research for Development (CIRAD), and NGOs such as Total Land Care (TLC). The event brought together CA experts from the different research centres and NGOs, who engaged in the debate from different angles, reporting on their expertise on the subject matter and their experience from the field.

CA plots from CIMMYT field experiments. ©CIMMYT/ Christian Thierfelder

CA plots from CIMMYT field experiments. ©CIMMYT/ Christian Thierfelder

CA plots from CIMMYT field experiments. ©CIMMYT/ Christian Thierfelder

Targeting of CA interventions: Need for flexibility

The discussions held over the two days stressed the need to clarify that CA is within the bigger box of good agricultural practices (GAPs), rather than something separate. Starting from this conceptual definition, the field experiences reported in the seminar reflected the need for well targeted CA interventions if we want to obtain higher adoption and scaling-up rates. In the design phase, different factors must be taken into account to shape the appropriate CA option:

  • Farming systems, which are intimately linked to the specific agro-ecology (e.g. rainfall distribution, soil type, temperature) and in which the CA option should fit 
  • Farmers and their livelihoods (e.g. farm size, income, resource endowment) – the CA option should suit the adopter of the technology
  • Entry points at the farm and community level (e.g. farm labour, water scarcity, erosion) on which the programme should have an impact
  • Contextual factors (e.g. policy, extension services, markets) in which the whole intervention is embedded. 

Building upon these factors, interventions must not be seen as a fixed package composed of the three principles of CA noted above. Rather, these principles should provide guidance, but may be combined, modified and adapted within the context of the good agricultural practices, in order to optimize the CA option in the targeted areas. This approach calls for greater flexibility and creativity during the design of CA interventions. In addition, it requires capacity building for extension services and farmers.

CA is no silver bullet solution, as many speakers at the learning event said, and with the knowledge we have, we are able to black out areas in which CA must not be recommended, or at least be carefully reflected as an option – specifically, areas with high rainfall and heavy clay soils.

CA field of maize-cowpea relay.
© TLC/Trent Bunderson

CA field of maize integrated with Faidherbia trees.
©TLC/Trent Bunderson

Immediate and delayed impacts

When adopting CA, farmers immediately perceive a reduction of labour requirements because certain agricultural operations, such as land preparation, are eliminated. This has a potential impact on women's workload, giving them the opportunity to dedicate more time to diversifying their income activities. However, as Claire Bishop (Gender and social inclusion specialist, IFAD) explained, workload and gender issues must be further investigated to understand how labour peaks change and which member of the household will be affected.

The result of soil cover is observed from day one in increased soil moisture and water infiltration, which is crucial in areas of low rainfall. Yet yield impacts are inconsistent among field experiments. Different claims are made on how long a farmer should wait to see yield benefits, from one year to more than ten years, so land tenure issues must be carefully taken into consideration. However, we must define what we are expecting from CA: increased yields or stable yields? Evidence shows that in dry spells CA can deliver a yield, unlike conventional agriculture, which can experience an entire seasonal failure.
A woman with her children in a CA field©CIMMYT/ Christian Thierfelder


Same field: on the top, runoff and  standing water under conventional ridge tillage; below, excellent infiltration with no sign of runoff or loss of top under CA. ©TLC/ Trent Bunderson

Herbicide and mechanization: Can farmers afford CA?

CA has proved effective in high input systems. However, can smallholder farmers do the same? Yes, but not under the same conditions (e.g. high rate of fertilizer and expensive machinery cannot be proposed to smallholder farmers that farm on 0.1 ha land and live on less than 1 $ per day). Here again, flexibility and adaptability are required for the options proposed to smallholder farmers.  Opportunities for small mechanization in CA systems exist, and depend on the creation of  profitable systems such as a multi-purpose mechanisation (e.g., for transport, shelling operations and water pumping), supported by suited input/output business models. In addition, in the discussion was mentioned that in areas where farmers are already selling their services to others using animal traction, and it becomes easier for them to shift into mechanization business. In sub-Saharan Africa, CA systems are easier and more profitable when herbicide is used. However, unless this is provided or subsidized, farmers often cannot afford herbicide, and weed incidence increases, requiring more labour. In these cases, alternative affordable options should be considered for farmers.

Locally made tool-bar-based seeder.
©CIMMYT/ Fred Baudron

Spraying herbicide on a CA plot to control weeds.
©TLC/ Trent Bunderson

Learn from experience

The event aimed at drawing lessons from field experiences in order to address IFAD's next steps in  implementing CA. The points raised over the two days helped to clarify the path towards which IFAD should continue and key issues to keep in mind for CA interventions.

When it comes to CA, many factors will influence its adoption, and those factors are all interlinked. Field evidence has proven the impact of CA, but adaptive and participatory research is required. CA options proposed to farmers need to prove their feasibility, viability and profitability, besides minimising farmers' risk and assisting their adoption. For sure, IFAD must learn from the past in order to implement more carefully targeted interventions, which have higher adoptability potential. In addition, the scaling-up process needs to be facilitated by institutions and policies aligned towards the same objective, together with high-quality extension services and functioning markets.

Strong partnerships for improved food security in the Arab world

Posted by Beate Stalsett Thursday, January 15, 2015 0 comments

Written by: Khalida Bouzar, Director of the Near East, North Africa and Europe Division - IFAD

Partnership is crucial to the way we work, here at the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). To see this, one need look no further than IFAD’s founding at the World Food Conference in 1974. Troubled by the great droughts and famines that had struck Africa and Asia, members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), other developing countries, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) decided to create an institution that would tackle poverty and hunger in non-oil developing countries. Pooling resources from OPEC and OECD countries, this institution would work to counter poverty and hunger through investment in agricultural and rural development. Out of this partnership, IFAD was born.

Since then, an increasing number of developing and transition countries have been experiencing both rising levels of prosperity and economic opportunity. As a result, co-operations between the countries of the so-called South (South-South cooperation) have emerged as a complement to the traditional North-South cooperation. Between 2005 and 2012, GDP growth rate strengthened on average to 6.1% annually in developing countries as compared to 1.2% in developed countries. International finance and trade flows, which have historically been tilted toward developed countries, are steadily rebalancing in favor of the Global South. According to the UNCTAD 2014 World Investment Report, gross flows of foreign direct investment (FDI) to developing countries reached US$ 778 billion in 2013 (or 54% of the total), exceeding FDI to developed economies.

Today, we find ourselves at another historical crossroads, as we look toward the launch of the post-2015 development agenda. Improved food security in the Arab world is definitely high on this agenda, and regional cooperation will be essential to our collective success.

Despite their diversity, the countries of the Near East and North Africa region share many similar development challenges. These include: water scarcity, natural resource management, food and nutrition security, gender disparities and high youth unemployment. Reaching rates of 28 per cent in the Near East and 29.5 per cent in North Africa, youth unemployment in these regions is the highest in the world.

The Arab region is also characterized by its dependence on food imports. Coordinated investment in rural areas is also essential, as a reduced dependence on food imports can only be achieved by strengthening regional cooperation. The issue of rural poverty is at the core of IFAD’s mission. Globally, awareness is growing that rural and urban areas are interdependent: Rural farmers feed cities, and cities provide markets, money, and services. But it is a tragic irony that many of the people who grow the food that feeds the cities go hungry themselves. Indeed, although the rural areas of developing countries provide four-fifths of the food consumed in urban centers, these same rural areas are home to three quarters of the world’s hungriest and poorest people.

Unless the development community directs its attention – and investment - to rural areas, overall sustainable development cannot be fully achieved.

Another particular challenge faced by the Arab region is that it is one of the most under-researched regions in the field of economics from 1985-2005. Access to data is difficult, which makes evidence-based decision-making challenging. A lack of data also limits the monitoring and evaluation of projects.

Here, too, we believe that partnership is part of the solution: Greater regional cooperation will enhance institutional effectiveness and impact on the ground, including intergovernmental processes at both regional and global levels.

For this reason, the Arab Spatial knowledge platform emerged as part of the IFAD-IFPRI partnership to promote open-access data and M&E tools for the Arab World. With over 150 socio-economic and biophysical indicators, the platform allows users to download, map and chart layers of these indicators for research, policy analysis, and general information.

In the Arab Region, we need to expand and scale up our efforts to build stronger partnerships in order to better the lives of all. With this newly launched Arab Food and Nutrition Security blog, it is my hope that IFAD will contribute to yet another valuable means to make our interventions on the ground more impactful in our pursuit of development effectiveness and poverty reduction.

New learning routes for Central and Eastern Europe

Posted by Eleonora Lago Wednesday, January 14, 2015 1 comments

By Eleonora Lago, IFAD

Viljandi, Estonia
From 17 to 21 November 2014, I had the pleasure to go on an interesting study tour which took place in Tallinn, Estonia. The focus of this learning journey was to explore how new technologies implemented in European Union countries can be shared and adapted in the Central and Eastern Europe countries (CEN). The project started with a contribution from the Ministry of Agriculture of Estonia to IFAD to support the former Soviet Union countries. Since 1993, IFAD has been working in CEN countries to meet an increased demand for innovative ways to address rural poverty. In concert with concerned governments, we've been replicating and scaling up best practices in a number of areas such as rural finance, creating employment opportunities and rural advisory services. The study tour organized by IFAD in collaboration with the Estonian Rural Development Foundation (RDF) brought together ten IFAD-funded project representatives from Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Moldova and Uzbekistan.

Estonia, is one of the Baltic states and regained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Apart from bordering with the Gulf of Finland and the Baltic Sea, it’s neighbors include Latvia and Russia. It is a mainly flat country with many lakes and islands and much of the land is farmed or forested. Estonia is a democratic parliamentary republic divided into fifteen counties, with its capital and largest city being Tallinn. With a population of 1.3 million, it is one of the least-populated EU member states. After its independence from Russia, the country faced development-related issues and challenges similar to the other former soviet union countries. The aim of the Estonian Study Tour was to exchange knowledge and best practices in rural finance with a view to applying them to IFAD-funded projects in other countries of the Former Soviet Union. Furthermore, the intention was to allow the participants to see first-hand how Estonia had managed to reinvigorate its agriculture sector.  

During the study tour we had the opportunity to meet with specialists from RDF and to learn about the strategies adopted to promote the agriculture sector in Estonia. RDF aims to expand the availability of financial resources, support development in rural areas, disseminate relevant information about agricultural practices to improve rural livelihoods, maintain cultural traditions, support vocational education, and build the image of agriculture and rural areas with a view to improve the business environment and create better living conditions. The activities of the Foundation include lending scheme, issuing credit and debt obligation guarantees. The study tour’s goal was to explore new approaches and technologies in the rural financial sector that can be applied in other CEN countries facing similar challenges, so that they can replicate Estonia's success and good practices. We visited a number of rural enterprises and had an opportunity to interact and learn from the very people who had benefitted from the successful interventions.
Dairy Farm - Vändra OÜ

In visiting rural enterprises were we saw successful implementation of different agricultural technologies, the most impressive finding was in the dairy farms, which had a completely robotized system capable of milking 250 animals and produce 9300 litres of milk on an annual basis per cow. What was also impressive was the fact that the plant was manned only by two people who worked the machines.  
I guess we all asked ourselves whether all or some specific aspects of this technologies implemented in EU-countries could be adopted in other CEN countries. 

To increase employment rates, a semi robotized system could be adopted in countries which are more populated and the unemployment rate is very high. The machines used in Estonia run from a range of completely automatized systems to semi automatized systems where a more human intervention is required. 

To improve health conditions and the wellbeing of the livestock, larger spaces could be utilized and farmers across the territory could engage and collaborate more closely on animal husbandry best practices.
With regards to the animal tagging system, the CEN countries need to improve this aspect to allow for traceability and better control of milk quality. This system in Estonia was initially implemented and financed by the government and now it is fully maintained by the smallholder producers.
Estonian Fishing Association - Estofish

Another interesting finding, which came out from the workshop, relates to the Estonian Fishing Association. This is a producer organization consisting of five companies operating in Estonian waters. The new refrigerating plant provides storage for up to 3200 tons of frozen fish and can freeze up to 200 tons of fish in a 24-hour period and relies on a completely automatic system. Whilst the above was already very impressive, what really caught the participants interest and my attention was the fact that before the cooperative was established, the different companies were not able to capitalize on their earnings. After finding a common agreement that allowed these different companies to collaborate with each other and to share revenues and losses, the cooperative was able to hold 48% of the historical sprat-fishing rights issued in Estonia and 43% of the Baltic herring-fishing rights. 

The experience allowed IFAD-funded project staff to learn more on innovative technologies from the Estonian experience and share knowledge that could considerably contribute to the economic development of the former soviet union countries. The participants had the opportunity to learn about the difficulties faced by their neighbours and to discuss together on how to better address these in their respective countries. Estonia is now a country able to share its achievements, also thanks to the collaboration and knowledge sharing with its neighbouring countries  and I think that this message was really taken on board by the participants and could be an important step towards a more effective and innovative future development plan for countries who share similar challenges and scenarios.

By: Perrihan Al-Riffai, Sr. Research Analyst – IFPRI and Nerina Muzurovic, Knowledge Management Officer - IFAD

©FAO/Alessia Pierdomenico

In a well-attended side event titled: Building Resilience to Crises in the Arab World at the 41st meeting of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) in Rome, October 17th, 2014, IFPRI in collaboration with its development partners, CGIAR’s Policies, Institutions and Markets Research Program, FAO’s Regional office for the Near East, IFAD/NEN and UN-ESCWA presented the results of recent studies on food security in the Arab Region and launched the Arab Food and Nutrition Security Blog.

In the Arab World, food insecurity is not only a consequence of conflict, it is also a major cause of civil conflict, more so in Arab countries than in the rest of the world. Recent events such as the food price riots in 2007-08 and the Arab uprisings in 2010-11 seem to confirm the role of food insecurity as a catalyst to political instability and civil conflict. In short, emphasized Mohamed AwDahir, the regional food systems economist at FAO’s Near East Region, “peace is fundamental to food security, and food security is fundamental for keeping peace.”

Policies, programs, and projects that build resilience and improve food and nutrition security are likely to also reduce conflict was one of the key messages Olivier Ecker, research fellow at IFPRI, had during the session. Resilience-building policies and programs should focus on increasing the opportunity costs of conflict participation (through e.g. rural development, employment and income generation, social safety nets, human capital formation) and programs and projects that adopt a participatory, demand-driven approach and support social inclusion and cohesion (e.g. IFAD’s projects in Dhamar and Al-Dahla, Yemen) tend to be more successful in building resilience for food and nutrition security and conflict prevention.

Improving policies and interventions will require more and better information, as well as monitoring and evaluation, highlighted Khalida Bouzar, IFAD’s Director of the Near East, North Africa and Europe Division who also chaired the side event. Data availability as well as access to existing data across the Arab World is difficult leading to a limited scope for improving evidence-based decision making as well as the monitoring and evaluation of projects.

Regional interagency collaboration is emerging as a powerful mechanism to enhance institutional effectiveness and impact on the ground, including intergovernmental processes at regional and global levels. In order to improve the knowledge base for the Arab World, IFPRI, under the leadership of Clemens Breisinger, senior research fellow at IFPRI, in collaboration with development partners, IFAD, UN-ESCWA and CGIAR-PIM, helped build a knowledge platform for the Arab World known as Arab Spatial. “Arab Spatial, is the first open access interactive atlas and data repository for the Arab World”, explained Perrihan Al-Riffai, senior research analyst at IFPRI. The Arab Food and Nutrition Security Blog, co-financed by the IFAD grant on “Decreasing Vulnerability to Conflict in MENA through Rural Development” and chaired by Nadim Khouri, Deputy Executive Secretary of the UN-ESCWA aims to further inform the food and nutrition security debate through expert opinions and provide a platform to address them across the Arab World.

More regional collaboration is needed for the Arab World to build its resilience to crises. Emerging challenges, include; addressing conflicts and their regional spillover effects, trade policies, transportation and infrastructure, water and energy, research and development, and sustainable flows of direct foreign investment need to be addressed at the regional level. “Building resilience means helping people, communities, countries, and global institutions prevent, anticipate, prepare for, cope with, and recover from shocks and not only bounce back to where they were before the shocks occurred, but become even better-off.”