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©IFAD/Gerard Planchenault
Did you know that at the time of the Aztec empire cocoa beans were used as a form of currency? 
Today cocoa beans are more than just  a form of currency to the world’s six million smallholder farmers  who operate in developing countries. For them, the cultivation of cocoa beans is a concrete option to move from mere  subsistence farming to  farm enterprises which are viable, sustainable and integrated into national and global markets.

EUROCHOCOLATE international summit

On Wednesday 22 October, the international summit on “Development Cooperation in Cocoa-Producing Countries: best practices and perspectives" organized by  EUROCHOCOLATE, provided a great opportunity for the public at large to learn how investing in sustainable projects can transform the livelihoods of smallholder cocoa producers.

The summit, moderated by Piersandro Cocconcelli, (Director ExpoLAB – Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore) benefitted from the insights  of Luca Maestripieri (General Direction for Development Cooperation, Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs) , José Luis Rhi-Sausi, (Istituto Italo Latino Americano - IILA), Juliàn Isaìas Rodrìguez Diaz, (Ambassador of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to Italy), Paolo Pastore (Fairtrade Italia), Miguel Ruiz,( Federación Nacional de Cacaoteros - Fedecacao Colombia), Andrea Serpagli, (International Fund for Agricultural Development - IFAD) Corrado Scropetta  (CEFA - Ecuador)  and  Giampaolo Silvestri (AVSI).

The pathway to transform the livelihoods of smallholder cocoa producers

Empowering smallholder cocoa producers
Panellists agreed that the cocoa sector has a huge potential. The challenge however,  is to empower smallholder cocoa producers by transferring the technical knowledge to improve their  farming practices and  post-harvest activities.

Improving  the quality of the cocoa beans

Panellists agreed that investments in traditional agricultural value chains  such as cocoa through the use of organic and Fairtrade certification enables smallholder producers to  overcome insurmountable constraints such as lack of access to inputs, equipment, credit and to remunerative markets.  In other words, compliance with certification standards improves the quality of the final product  thus opening up the possibility to access niche  and more remunerative  markets.  
Building inclusive partnerships from production to market

All of this said, smallholder farmers know that high quality may be not enough to have a profitable business. But  high quality coupled with strong partnership with buyers, makes  access to niche markets possible. Panellists agreed that smallholders farmers need brokers who can facilitate forging long-term partnership with local governments and, private sector to develop  the cocoa value chain from production to market. 

@IFAD/Daniela Cuneo
IFAD’s experience in Sao Tome and Principe proves that! European niche markets, such as organic and fair-trade, are no longer an unattainable dream for smallholder farmers in developing countries and smallholder farmers can double their income!" said Serpagli. Before the IFAD-funded project activities began in 2003, about 700 smallholder farmers were producing and trading only at local level.  Owing to the partnerships that were developed, nearly 2,200 farmers are now growing cocoa certified as organic or Fairtrade for the international chocolate industry, and due to the average increase in annual income, farmers who were living at 25 per cent below the poverty line are now living at 8 per cent above the poverty line.

And the good news is that confectionery market leaders  like Ferrero, as mentioned by Fair Trade Italia during the summit,  are interested in buying certified cocoa produced by smallholder producers. 
Sustainable and certified cocoa production bears many fruits - it is good for the environment, it provides opportunities for national economic growth, it builds strong partnerships and it is good for consumers health. As Piersandro Cocconcelli pointed out, at the summit, chocolate is good for the heart, and no wonder why  EUROCHOCOLATE, takes place in Perugia, the "heart of chocolate”.

UN Agencies – IFAD, FAO and WFP, led by the UN Women and with the support of the African Union (AU), last week (October 15 – 17, 2014) co-hosted a Sharefair for Rural Women’s Technologies in Nairobi, Kenya, the first of its kind in Eastern and Southern Africa.    The objective of the Sharefair was to showcase agricultural innovations that enhance women’s access to labour-saving technologies, as the main players in ensuring family nutrition and household food security.  The event was organized to coincide with the International Day of Rural Women marked yearly on 15 October, with this year’s theme, Rural Women and Agriculture; and World Food Day, on 16 October on the theme of Gender, Food and Nutrition Security.

More than 400 policymakers, academics, food producers, investors, rural women, representatives of UN agencies and non-governmental organizations, including 155 exhibitors of technologies took part in the event. 

African can feed itself
Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, the AU Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, officially opened the Sharefair on the first day, urging Africans to harness the continents’ full agricultural potential in order to achieve food security. Christine Musisi, the Regional Director, UN Women, ESA stated, "When women lose, we all lose,” adding “women are the heart and soul of agriculture in the developing world.”  Other guests present at the opening ceremony were the UN Office in Nairobi Director General Sahle-Work Zewde, and Government of Kenya Principal Secretary, Ministry of Devolution and Planning, Eng. Peter Mangiti.

IFAD’s Senior Technical Adviser, Gender, Empowerment and Social Inclusion Claire Bishop-Sambrook delivered the key note address during the first Round Table Dialogue (RTD) on Women’s access to technologies: where are we and what are the opportunities for agricultural growth?  Some issues raised by Bishop and other panelists were: the need for involving community leaders and other decision makers as an enabling factor for enhancing women's access to labour-saving technologies; supporting women to share on the challenges facing them and provide solutions; involvement of the private sector in supporting technologies that enhance rural women’s productivity; and ensuring mechanization is done at all levels of the farm labour profile, and not just during land preparation.  A repeated call throughout the Sharefair was ‘The Hoe Must Go!”, a call to modernize agriculture with affordable, labour and time saving technologies that support women and that attract the youth to agriculture.

Women’s voices must be heard
Dr. Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg, Director African Women in Agriculture Research and Development (AWARD) presented the Key Note address during the second RTD on Looking to a food secure and prosperous Africa: what will it take? Dr. Wanjiru’s address focused on the role of women in decision making and getting their voices heard in matters nutrition, mechanization and access to finance.  “Women must take center stage in agriculture conversations…all of us need to build the pipeline of young women who sit at the decision-making table,” she urged.  The second speaker, FAO Country Representative in Kenya Luca Alinovi, emphasized the role of family farming and the importance of investing in youth as agents of change in agricultural development, and poverty alleviation in general. 

Other panelists in this session were Julianne Friedrich (IFAD PTA - Nutrition), and Mubarak Mabuya and Jasper Mwesigwa of IGAD who highlighted IGAD’s efforts to address women’s vulnerabilities to shocks and support for community-based climate services to achieve food security and build resilience in the Horn of Africa. 
Put farmers first in research
The last RTD dwelt on farmer-research linkages with an appeal to researchers to involve smallholder women farmers in research processes as the chief custodians of indigenous knowledge.
Besides, the policy-level round tables, the Sharefair also organized parallel technical sessions such as: Knowledge management and networking in the innovation cycles by IFAD’s Silvia Sperandini, Intellectual Property as an assest in the business and Innovative Practices: Women’s Voice from Community to Policy and Back, among others. 
Recognizing youth potential in agriculture
Kenya Gospel Music Rapper Juliani performing at the Young Innovators Award ceremony on October 16.  Juliani is the Amiran Poverty Eradication Ambassador and has been leading a campaign to spark a youth driven agribusiness revolution in Kenya 

Another component of the Sharefair was the Young Innovators Award which sought to recognize promising students who are designing technologies that take into consideration the unique gender dimensions of rural agriculture, food security and nutrition. The award targeted students from agricultural learning institutions, social science, and IT departments within universities and polytechnics in the Eastern and Southern Africa region. The categories that won awards were: -
  • Innovations and technologies benefiting women smallholder farmers – The winner in this category was Wacoco, Paul and Ocheng, Matthew from Makerere University, Uganda for the Portable Electro-Chemical Aflatoxin Testing Kit.  The second prize was awarded to Pauline Wanjuki Njeru from Egerton University, Kenya, for the innovative mushroom growing using affordable, readily available materials. 
  • Communication technologies which promote the dissemination of agricultural innovations – Gladys Mwanga, a student at Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology, Tanzania took the award for the Mobile Application for Livestock Production
  • Technologies developed in research and/or learning institutions – The winners were Rose P Funja, Grace S Makanyaga, Dickson Msack, and Deogratius Mushi, all students at the University of Bagamoyo, Tanzania.  Their technology was the Farmland Ownership Mapping Software. 
The Portable Electro-Chemical Aflatoxin Testing Kit helps in the  analysis of aflatoxin contamination in cassava and facilitate demonstration of compliance to trade and regulatory requirements of safety, thus enabling women in Uganda to access markets.  
In concluding the
Sharefair, the main messages in moving forward the agenda for rural women technologies were: -
  • The need for upscaling of existing technologies so that they are accessible (& affordable) by the rural women
  • The need to look across the labour demands across the whole livelihoods system at household level, including at the domestic sphere
  • Recognizing that farmers are part and parcel of research – putting farmers first in research
  • Efforts to have women’s voices heard at all levels (at the household level, communities including farmer organizations, boardrooms, national mechanisms)
  • Need for a Transformative Agenda in order to break down the gender division of labour in farming and household tasks as a critical first step towards improving agricultural productivity
  • Taking advantage of policy environment such as the Declaration by African Union of the Year of Women’s Empowerment - 2015

More about Sharefair 2014:

Sharefair on Social media: http://bit.ly/1wmDGiL
Sharefair Photos: http://bit.ly/1wjEFRx
Sharefair videos: http://www.agtube.org

Farmer organizations implementing the Medium Term Cooperation Program Phase Two (MTCP2) in Asia and the Pacific gather at the Saigon Hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam on October 20-22 to celebrate gains in the first year of implementation of a trailblazing program to strengthen their capacities to engage in policy dialogues and deliver services to their members, discuss some issues and prepare future plans of action.

Such gains, reflected in project reports and noted by a supervisory mission in several countries, include greater involvement by farmers and farmer organizations at all levels in agricultural development programs by government and development agencies through expansion and more inclusiveness of farmers’ platforms established at national, regional and international levels.
The first Regional Steering Committee meeting of MTCP2 is being hosted by the Viet Nam Farmer Union (VNFU), which is also the program’s national implementing agency in the country.
Around 50 delegates from 12 out of 15 countries participating in MTCP2 are expected to arrive, including Indonesia, Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and China in Southeast and East Asia; India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in South Asia; and Fiji and Samoa in the Pacific.
MTCP2, which is being implemented in 2013-2018, as well as the first phase of MTCP that preceded it in 2009-2013, are among the concrete gains of the series of dialogue and sharing among FOs initiated by IFAD through the Global Farmer’s Forum since 2006 in Rome in recognition of the key role of farmers and farmer organizations in producing food for the world’s population.
MTCP2 involves 895 FOs in 15 countries with an estimated membership of 15 million individual farmers. It includes regional farmer organizations such as the Asian Farmers’ Association (AFA) and La Via Campesina, which have joined in a consortium to be the regional implementing agency of the program as well as sub-regional implementing agency in Southeast Asia; the All Nepal Peasant Federations Association (ANPFa) which is the sub-regional implementing agency in South Asia; and the Pacific Island Farmers Organization Network (PIFON), which is the sub-regional implementing agency in the Pacific.
Also coming to the meeting are international development agencies and partners such as the United Nation’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Agricord, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the European Union (EU).
“IFAD is pleased to see tremendous progress in FO strengthening during the first year of MTCP2 implementation. We are confident that family farming will continue developing in Asia and the Pacific and feeding the people and exporting good quality products. With IFAD investments, Swiss and European Union support, we hope new development partners will join this effort in favor of 300 million small farmers” said Thierry Benoit, IFAD Country Manager for Philippines and Cambodia and Task Manager for MTCP2.
The meeting of famer organizations in Hanoi comes at the heels of the 41st Committee on Food Security meeting of the UN on October 13-18 and the celebration of World Food Day on October 16. In both of these events, smallholder family farmers are recognized as playing key roles in ensuring food security and nutrition and poverty eradication in the world.
The meeting also comes a few weeks before the global closing of the 2014 International Year of Family Farming (IYFF) in November. The IYFF celebration this year aims to raise the profile of family farmers and lead to concrete gains in terms of favorable policies and programs from governments.
More than 80 per cent of the food produced in the Asia-Pacific region comes from smallholder and family farms. Ironically, they are also the poorest and most food insecure, as a result of centuries of neglect and lack of access to basic resources of production, support services and participation in decision making on agricultural policies affecting them.
The 2014 Food Insecurity Report of FAO places the number of hungry people in Southeast Asia and China at around 208.4 million or 8.7% to 21.8 % of the population. For South Asia, the number of hungry people is 225.7 million or 13% to 24 % of the population. And in the Pacific, the number of hungry is under 0.2 million people or under 12.5%.  
“In the face of growing threat from agribusiness companies espousing biotechnologies such as GMOs that lead to the vanishing of local seeds, as well as large scale commercial farming which is a huge contributor to climate change, there is a big challenge for FOs in MTCP2 to strengthen themselves and to struggle for peasant rights, food sovereignty and family-based agro-ecology that is both health and environment-friendly,” said Zainal Fuat, MTCP2 coordinator for La Via Campesina.
The meeting in Hanoi was preceded by a field visit to the tea cooperative in Bac Son commune and the organic vegetable cooperative in Thanh Xuan commune, Soc Son District.
The delegates also paid a courtesy visit to the Chairperson of VNFU, where the visiting farmer leaders had a chance to exchange views and share experiences with Vietnamese farmer leaders.
As an implementing agency of MTCP, based on the first phase of MTCP, VNFU has actively carried out activities in the second phase of MTCP to help farmers in production, market access and participation in policy formulation.
VNFU actively develops projects and programs to cooperate with government agencies, IFAD country program and FAO in realizing development programs in rural areas. 

Market Fair: presentations of farmers videos, newspaper, publications, ...Prize was a travel for 2 farmers representatives to visit one MTCP2 country and their farmers organisations. Laos won the prize with the backpack publications kit.

New website launched : http://www.mtcp2.com/

New name for the project adopted: by voting among 08 other proposals ; MTCP2/Asia Pacific Farmers Organisations Forum .

Press coverage: 

Written by: Clare Bishop-Sambrook, Lead Technical Specialist, Gender and Social Inclusion, Policy and Technical Advisory Division, IFAD, Rome

Labour-saving devices have been available for decades – so why are women still working 12 hours a week more than men? This topic formed the main theme for a keynote address by Clare Bishop-Sambrook at the InnovationSharefair in Nairobi on International Rural Women’s Day on 15 October.

The daily burden of rural living – particularly for women – is a major constraint to small farmers’ ability to increase agricultural productivity, achieve food security, and improve general well-being. The sheer hard labour will continue to drive young people away from agriculture and rural communities.

Ensuring rural women’s access to relevant and affordable technologies is central to the International Year of Family Farming and the African Union’s 2014 push for agricultural productivity and food security. This is coupled with addressing workload distribution at the household level.

This topic also resonates with one of the proposed targets for the Sustainable Development Goals. Under SDG5 on “Attaining gender equality, empower women and girls everywhere” one target states: by 2030 recognize, reduce and redistribute unpaid care and domestic work through shared responsibility by states, private sector, communities, families, men and women, within the family and the provision of appropriate public services.

Women’s need for access to technologies
Rural women desperately need the benefits of labour-saving technologies and practices to reduce their workload. This is essential to enable them to take advantage of opportunities for livelihoods development and improve their quality of life, including attending to their health needs and enjoying leisure time.

What is the evidence of women’s onerous workload? Data from a World Bank study[1] found that in Malawi, for example, in the busiest month of the year women worked for a total of 48 hours per week on productive and household duties, in comparison to men’s 36 hours (Figure 1).

Both sexes spent around 23-24 hours per week working in agriculture. Women spent a further 13 hours on cooking, washing, etc, six hours collecting water and another two hours collecting firewood.

These domestic tasks barely featured in men’s workload, accounting for just over 2 hours of their workload per week. Instead, men spent nine hours of non-agricultural time in income-generating activities.

Even in the quietest month of the year, women worked 39 hours per week and men only 27 hours. This pattern was repeated among girls (15 hours per week) and boys (11 hours) at the busiest time of the year. The data confirm that women are overburdened by many labour-intensive and repetitive tasks, which earn them no money, and have little seasonal variation.

There is also a marked division of labour between women and men within farming activities. For example, in a rainfed farming system in Zambia where the land is cultivated by hoe, men do the bulk of the digging, whereas women are busier with weeding, harvesting and post-harvest activities (Figure 2).

The question arises as to whether a typical smallholder farming family has sufficient labour to meet all the peak labour demands in a timely manner. The reality is, that with around 80 per cent of the cultivated land in sub-Saharan Africa prepared using a hand hoe, many smallholder families struggle to keep pace with the seasonal farming calendar. This results in reduced productivity and an inability to adopt improved farm inputs and practices which require additional inputs of farm power.
And the picture is exacerbated if family labour is withdrawn from agriculture – for example, if family members migrate, children attend school full-time or if women have to walk further in the dry season to collect water.

What are the opportunities for agricultural growth?
Labour-saving technologies and practices can ease the burden of work by making existing farming systems more efficient. The use of draught animals or tractors (two-wheel or four-wheel) can reduce the labour requirements for land preparation. But when this results in an expansion in the area under cultivation, this effectively shifts the labour burden from the man to the woman because she will now have a much larger area to weed and harvest, largely by hand.

New practices can change the labour requirements for crop production. For example, both men and women benefit from minimum tillage and the planting cover crops. Alternatively, services may be hired in – be it labour, draught animals or machines. But even here, women are disadvantaged. Recent work by the World Bank and others[2] found that the returns to hired labour are lower when the labourers are hired by women than when hired by men. Various reasons are cited: women may not be able to afford to pay as much as men  for effective farm workers; cultural norms may mean that labourers work harder for a male supervisor; and women may not have enough time to supervise their labourers well.

Gender transformative agenda
Because of the burden of domestic work, we can’t talk about improving agricultural productivity without reducing the domestic workload, especially if women are to realise their productive potential.

We need to bring reliable, safe water supplies closer to the home; we need energy-efficient cooking methods (fuel efficient stoves, woodlots and low-cost biogas systems); we need hand-operated or motorised food processing equipment; and we need affordable driers and storage systems to reduce post-harvest losses.

But many will observe, correctly, that these technologies have been available for at least a couple of decades. Efforts have been made to ensure that gender considerations have been mainstreamed into design and delivery: they are relevant to women, communicated to them through appropriate channels, available locally, affordable (with micro-finance, if necessary) and women are trained in their use.

So why we are still talking about the need for low-cost labour-saving technologies and practices for rural women in 21st century?

Because making machines available is like addressing the symptom, but not the cause. We need gender transformative approaches to tackle the underlying causes of gender inequalities. Gender mainstreaming is necessary, but not sufficient. We must address the cultural norms that restrict women’s access to technologies and strengthen women’s voice to influence household expenditure patterns to include technologies that would reduce their domestic workload.

Men need to appreciate the extent of workload imbalance between household members and its adverse impact on household productivity. They need to commit to do something about it, and that includes taking on more responsibility for domestic tasks.

This topic needs more visibility in policy dialogue to promote public infrastructure investments that reduce rural workloads. We need to make greater use of proven methodologies that are available to create a supportive environment for positive behaviour change and equitable workload balance, such as community conversations, community listeners’ clubs and household methodologies.

In conclusion, there are two key messages for improving agricultural productivity on smallholder family farms.
  • First, we must address labour constraints across the whole livelihoods system at household level, including those in the domestic sphere, rather than just looking to reduce the agricultural workloads.
  • Second, we must break down the gender division of labour and achieve equitable workload balance in farming and household tasks. This means we need to go beyond gender mainstreaming and use gender transformative approaches to achieve sustainable changes at the household level for the benefit of all.

Read more about the Nairobi Share Fair 2014 on rural women's technologies:

[1] Blacken M and Wodon Q (Editors) (2006) Gender, Time Use, and Poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa, World Bank Working Paper no 73
[2] World Bank (2014) Levelling the Field, Improving opportunities for women farmers in Africa

Written by Jessica Morgan

Small farmers are often at the forefront of climate change impacts, since their means of production are provided largely by nature, such as healthy soils, adequate rainfall and many others. To combat  the degradation of agricultural lands and resources, they require 'accurate and consistent information' on the status of their environment. Earth Observation is a tool that organisations such as IFAD are adopting to  'support strategic planning and [to] deliver quality solutions' (Elwyn Grainger-Jones, Director, Environment and Climate Division, IFAD )

IFAD and the European Space Agency (ESA) have just launched a report discussing the use of Earth Observation technology (EO) facilitating project design and increased detail in mapping information to aid people experiencing climate challenges.

Earth Observation Support for the International Fund for Agricultural Development highlights the 'first results of the European Space Agency's funded pilot projects with IFAD, which demonstrate how Earth Observation (EO) technology can be put to use in the context of IFAD programmes and projects'.

Projects, Results and the Future

The report looks at five projects where this technology has been used and expounds on  the advantages of having specific detailed geospatial information for these IFAD project areas. Not only does it provide a simple picture from above, it also offers useful insights and specific information for IFAD's work with rural communities'.

IFAD's Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP), the largest climate change adaptation programme for smallholder farmers globally, has benefited considerably from the use of EO information. Especially when used as an input layer for further spatial analysis in a Geographic Information Systems (GIS). This information has helped IFAD 'better understand and monitor landscape use in a changing environment' which in turn informs IFAD's understanding of project design and analysis to create more suitable and sustainable initiatives.

The five projects have demonstrated how reliable EO used with GIS can augment IFAD activities, not just with more incisive programming but also within individual operating countries. It is part of a  system to train operatives locally so the information generated can be used to its greatest potential.
We look forward to a continued partnership with the ESA in developing usage of satellite technology 'across an increased number of IFAD projects to eradicate hunger and poverty in rural areas of developing countries', said Elwyn Grainger-Jones, Director, Environment and Climate Division, IFAD.

The best part of my job is when I get to visit the countries and the people who we work with and serve. This time round, I was fortunate enough to visit my first upper-middle-income country: Azerbaijan.

The World Bank estimates that 86 middle-income countries in the world account for just under half of the world’s population. and they are home to one-third of poor people in the world.

As an upper-middle-income country, Azerbaijan boosts excellent infrastructure, which made my 270 kilometre travel to the IFAD-funded Integrated Rural Development Project in Yevlakh a pleasant “stroll”.

Mehbara Davudova attending to her crop
Photo credit: IFAD/R.Samii
IFAD-funded interventions in Azerbaijan which are closely aligned to the country’s agriculture and rural development strategies have helped develop the agriculture sector as a dominant force in the rural economy and improve food security by providing rural communities with access to assets and services for the sustainable management of natural resources, including improved irrigation and rangeland management. This has resulted in improved living conditions of disadvantaged rural communities.

The Integrated Rural Development Project is assisting rural people to use available natural resources effectively and efficiently allowing them to increase crop and livestock productivity.  Furthermore, it is providing smallholder farmers access to credit so that they can improve the existing irrigation infrastructure.

Before heading off to visit the project site, Samir Nabiyer, the regional coordinator told me that “working together with the Government the project is rehabilitating and reconstructing  irrigation canals covering 70,000 hectares.”

“Our goal is for the smallholder farmers to rehabilitate all the irrigation infrastructure, own their equipment, establish water-user associations and embrace good husbandry practices”.

As part of its agriculture and rural development strategy, the government has put in place measures to improve the living conditions of rural people. One of these, was the rehabilitation of the green houses which is a reminiscence from the Soviet era.

Mehbara Davudova, a well-established smallholder lady farmer, is running a thriving farming business on her 0.15 hectare land thanks to an initial credit of 4000 manat (US$5000).

“Thanks to the loan which I was able to repay in two years, I was able to setup five green-houses, where i plant vegetables 12 months a year”, says Davudova.

Davudova’s farming business provides her a secure income of approximately 1500 manat per month. This has allowed her to rehabilitate two irrigation systems on the farm, build a house and send her 16 year daughter and 8 year old son to school.

“I am hoping that with the profit of the next harvest season, I’ll be able to build another house”, says Davudova with a smile.

 In the neighbouring farm, Sultekin and Arastun Mammadov are also running a flourishing farming business and are engaged in husbandry and livestock.

Visiting their greenhouse, the Mammadovs told me “In winter, just to make sure that cold weather does not damage the crop, we use heaters”.

When I asked them if they had any fire safety and security  measures in place, they did not seem too impressed by my question…..

They were however, intrigued by the proposition of exploiting their livestock further and putting in place biogas digesters to heat the greenhouse. I committed to put the various parties in touch with our colleagues working on the portable biogas project in Kenya.

Who knows, maybe if I get lucky again and have the fortune of visiting them, they will be running highly efficient biogas digesters, providing not only heating for the greenhouse, but also electricity and gas for the kitchen!
Mahir Aliyeb
Photo credit: IFAD/R.Samii

Building the livestock sector
Before heading back to Baku, we visited Mahir Aliyeb, a herder. Aliyeb was able to buy 40 heads of livestock thanks to a loan of 10,000 manat. He probably is a precursor to the future project beneficiaries of IFAD-funded activities.

Aliyeb is renting the land neighbouring his property for grazing purposes. “I pay 2 manat per hectare every year for this grazing land, allowing the cattle to graze on alfa-alfa”, explains Aliyeb.

As an acute businessman, Aliyeb has diversified his source of income. He is making good profit with his daily 25 litres of milk and gets additional income by selling sheep wool and animals to the local abattoirs.

“I know that the people I sell the milk to, make motar cheese and they sell it for 10 manat”, says Aliyeb. “I want to learn how to do this myself, so that I can set up a local business and no longer go through the middleman.”

“I also want to learn how to better take care of my animals, so that they do not get sick and they stay strong. This will allow me to sell not only the animals at higher price, but also to make better and varied dairy products.”

Mahir Aliyeb's cattle heading off to the grazing area
Photo credit: IFAD/R.Samii
The future holds bright prospects for Aliyeb and his fellow herders, as the next generation of IFAD-funded programmes and projects in Azerbaijan will focus on developing and strengthening value chains with a focus on the livestock sector and more specifically on improving traditional husbandry practices,  putting in place traceability mechanism, as well as enhancing quality and hygiene standards while helping to access new markets.

Hopefully soon, Aliyeb will be able to package his dairy products and not only sell them in supermarkets in Baku and other cities in Azerbaijan, but also start exporting them to neighbouring countries.