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Written by Maria Hartl, Senior Technical Specialist, Gender and Social Equity


In September, IFAD hosted an Expert Group Meeting convened by UN-Women to discuss “Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls”. The meeting was held in collaboration with the Rome-based agencies to prepare for the priority theme of the 62nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in 2018.

While IFAD and the RBAs always contribute actively to the annual sessions of the CSW,  they are particularly engaged in preparation for the 2018 priority theme of rural women. Collaboration with UN Women on the organization of the Expert Group Meeting and hosting it was a good opportunity to bring the UN and the global debates to IFAD HQ and to enable many colleagues inside and outside IFAD to be part of the discussions.

Photo: Beatrice Gerli, IFAD Rome 2017

With the overall objective of accelerating the realization of gender equality and the empowerment of all rural women and girls, the EGM assessed three broad, interlinked areas that are critical for rural women’s and girls’ livelihoods, wellbeing, and climate resilience in the context of rural transformation:
• Rights to an adequate standard of living and ensuring income security and social protection
• Rights to food and ensuring food security and nutrition
• Rights to land and productive resources and ensuring land tenure security

A total of 22 experts participated with a wide diversity of profiles: researchers, feminists, international NGOs workers, private sector workers and representatives of farmer organizations (see full list of experts here). The meeting included many partners and collaborators of IFAD, with whom we have worked on many topics.


Ruth Meinzen-Dick from the  International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) is an important long-term partner of IFAD who has taken the lead on the ground-breaking Women Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI).  

Reema Nanavaty of the Self Employed Women's Association (India) and Esther Penunia of the Asian Farmers’ Association who are active members and leaders of IFAD’s Farmers’ Forum and have inspired our work in IFAD with  so many innovations over the years.

Barbara Van Koppen from the International Water Management Institute presented a summary of substantive work on women and water. Her expert knowledge on  Water,  Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)  and Multiple Use (Water) Services (MUS) has played a vital role in keeping the IFAD approach on water and gender up to date.

Marc Wegerif from Oxfam International was also able to catch up on the gender and lang rights with colleagues in ILC and PTA, who work closely with him.

Amon Chinyophiro of Meramo Consulting, one of the champions of the Gender Action Learning System and the Household Methodologies came from  Malawi to talk about food and nutrition security. He has seen huge successes in addressing farmers' economic and gender challenges since the National Smallholder Farmers' Association of Malawi started promoting the GALS in 2013. This motivated him to pilot GALS in expanding the adoption of good agricultural practices in the groundnut value chain to increase farmers' incomes.
“It was a big opportunity to be the man among women. I learnt how such “women-only-gatherings” provide the rare opportunity for them to effectively communicate their concerns with minimal interruption. I appreciated the goodwill that the female experts have towards rural women. The rural woman has always operated in a world that is unfair for her meaningful survival; now is the time to address all injustices in her life.”  
Mame Khary Diene, founder and CEO of Bioessence Laboraties, Senegal, represented the private sector and the importance of market-oriented and value chain approaches to empower rural women. Mame is a business partner of women producers in IFAD-supported projects in Senegal, supporting them in standardization, processing and packing of their products and receiving certification. She came with a vision of a profitable business and suggested that we change our perception and representation of agriculture:
“I am the only one coming from the private sector here. Moving from agriculture to agri-business will change things in favour of rural women and youth. Our image of the private sector is always linked to multinationals, while there is plenty of private sector at national or regional level. We must not be afraid of talking about money, this is how agriculture will attract young people. We need to revamp and re-skin agriculture and leave that image of a very poor agriculture that cannot even feed its own people.”

Jane Meriwas, Executive Director, Samburu Women Trust could not reach Rome but participated online with her team as representatives of indigenous people, women and girls. Jane had also attended the Indigenous People’s Forum organized by IFAD.  She shared the challenges of rural indigenous women and girls in the drylands of Kenya and ways to support their livelihoods.

The expert group included Christian Mendoza, a young female expert from the Instituto de Liderazgo Simone de Beauvoir, Mexico who shared at the end of the meeting:

“It´s been an honour for me to attend this meeting with such an important group of experienced women in this topic. I was able to learn about their research and careers and I feel grateful about it. As a young feminist, I think we need to be more informed and connected with rural women regarding their important role in the subsistence of life and natural resources.” 

Last not least, we welcomed our former colleague Clare Bishop in her new role as independent expert presenting the main findings from an FAO online discussion on “Rural women: striving for gender transformative impacts”.


As host, IFAD, together with the RBAs, UN Women, OECD, UNIDO, UNESCO, WHO and ILO were given the opportunity to attend as observers. It was a great occasion to learn from the experts and we were able to contribute our experiences. Without doubt the focus on rural women and girls will be crucial to achieving the 2030 Agenda and the global challenges of zero hunger.

We thank everyone who participated in the Exert Group Meeting – particularly those of you we haven’t been able to mention by name – and our colleagues in UN Women, FAO and WFP for the collaboration. We are looking forward to continuing to work with them in the lead up to the CSW 2018.

Read more and find the various papers from the experts here  http://www.unwomen.org/en/csw/csw62-2018/preparations/expert-group-meeting 





By Christopher Neglia

At a standing room only event held on Wednesday morning at the Committee on World Food Security (CFS44), speakers and audience members were asked how their respective organizations could ‘Walk the Talk’ in the fight against climate change (some on the panel joked that in the UN we are more adept at the latter). This entreaty arose from a set of recommendations issued in 2012 by the High-Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE), which had called for more integration of climate change concerns in policies and programmes that addressed food security and national agricultural sectors.

Recalling the recommendations adopted at CFS39, the Chair of the HLPE Steering Committee, M.Patrick Caron noted that demonstrable progress has been made in the last five years. Under the auspices of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) we now have the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). We also have the Paris Agreement, and its financial mechanism, the Green Climate Fund (GCF). We are starting to see climate change concerns integrated in food security policies at the national level, explicitly supporting the resilience of vulnerable groups and food systems.

Delphine Borione ©FAO/Riccardo De Luca
First to speak on the panel, French Ambassador Mrs. Delphine Borione underlined the potential of France’s four per 1000 Initiative, whose basic tenet is that by increasing by four percent the carbon storage in the world’s soils we can greatly offset the annual increase of CO2 into the atmosphere. She also pointed to efforts to reduce carbon emissions in France’s livestock sector by 15 per cent.

‘We’re combining conditions under climate change with food systems…we need innovation and a transition to organizing new models of land use for growth and employment,’ French Ambassador Mrs. Borione said.

Hassan Abouyoub ©FAO/Riccardo De Luca
Similarly, the Ambassador of Morocco, M. Hassan Abouyoub, described his country’s efforts to reorganize society due to chronic water scarcity, pointing out that agriculture consumes about three quarters of water resources. He emphasized the role education plays in influencing policy outcomes.

‘We can’t implement policies rationally and efficiently if we don’t teach this in our educational system and have sound evidence present in our decision-making,’ Ambassador of Morocco M. Abouyoub said.

Faris Ahmed ©FAO/Riccardo De Luca
At the international level, M. Faris Ahmed of USC Canada, representing the Civil Society Mechanism (CSM) of the CFS, recognized the inherent difficulties of addressing climate change through agriculture, forestry and fishery sectors.

‘Our sectors are so diverse that it’s hard to bring them together,’ Ahmed proffered.

These constituencies tend to be the most affected by climate change, while they are also the least consulted. In this context, M. Ahmed underlined the strong human rights foundation of the CFS; an orientation that he said should be applied when engaging stakeholders in climate change action.

Martin Frick ©FAO/Riccardo De Luca
Picking up on this point, FAO’s Director of the Climate and Environment Division, M. Martin Frick, advocated for greater land rights for women, both as a matter of social and economic justice, and as a means of improving agricultural production without increasing the environmental footprint of small farming systems.

On the state of the CFS, M. Martin Frick struck a note of optimism, saying that after 21 years of UNFCCC negotiations, member states had finally accepted that agriculture had a role in climate change debates. M. Frick called for research programmes led by the Rome-based Agencies of the UN to project climate change impacts on agriculture in a much more granular way, primarily as a means of better serving member states.

For those of us who work with these issues every day, reflecting on where the CFS was five years ago provided a useful contrast to the complex policy architecture that has evolved in the intervening years. This bolsters the prospect that climate action will accelerate further as we approach 2020, when the Paris agreement comes into force.

Margarita Astralaga ©FAO/Riccardo De Luca
IFAD's Director of the Climate and Environment Division, Mrs. Margarita Astralaga, who moderated the event, explained that there are still major logistical challenges that relate to monitoring policy outcomes, which is necessary to better understand the role of agriculture in fighting climate change.

'For developing countries, measuring policies and programmes will require a massive effort as they must account for actions detailed in their NDCs as part of the global stocktake exercise, a key element of the Paris Agreement,' explained Astralaga.

Amassador Abouyoub agreed that monitoring is an essential component that feeds into the Paris Agreement’s ambition mechanism, and he called for more capacity-building in this area that would support generating better data on the feasibility of climate risk management.

Nevertheless, in this event the CFS demonstrated its relevance as a forum that reinforces integration of food security and climate change issues, making good on demands by member states for support as they deal with a complex and interrelated set of challenges.

Tracking results to transform reality

Posted by RachaelKenny Thursday, October 12, 2017 0 comments


By Laura Carnevali, Anna Pierobon, Raniya Sayed Khan and Lisandro Martin

Big goals and big gaps

In the global efforts towards achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the development community and governments have agreed on over 230 indicators to track progress. Tracking is needed for informed decision making. First, robust tracking is essential in finding solutions to challenges that are dynamic, such as those caused by climate change; for example, climate resilient agriculture is a moving target as climate patterns continue to mutate.  Second, tracking is essential in adapting global solutions to specific contexts, addressing root causes of fragility has for example cultural elements.  Thirdly, without robust data, governments and development partners cannot assess the trade-offs of pursuing multiple goals: more aggressive growth requires more energy and water, and can endanger forests.
So when development agencies talk about building capacity to monitor the SDGs, they are in fact implying much more than bean-counting.  It is about instilling a culture of results that enables governments and development partners to learn from project implementation, to make timely mid-course corrections, and to refine the propose solutions regularly, moving away from rigid blueprints.  It is ultimately about connecting measurement with management to do development differently.  This is one of the pillars of the proposed new business model for IFAD.
Given these global partnerships, doing development differently requires that adequate capacity to track results is built for all stakeholders.  At the base of the pyramid are Governments, the foundation of the global data architecture to manage towards the SDG targets. In the middle layer, development partners must be able to consume country-level data to fine-tune their services and provide more effective solutions; and to be accountable to beneficiaries and taxpayers for their own contributions. At the top, global leaders must inform policy and multi-stakeholder dialogues with evidence.  Unfortunately this pyramid is shaky. We all recognize that efforts must be made to improve data at their source through direct support to governments to build M&E capacities. This is where the Program in Rural M&E (PRiME) comes into play.
Transforming reality
IFAD’s Results Management Framework (RMF) includes 21 indicators directly linked to seven SDGs. Data sources for these measures are both UN and IFAD databases, which draw data from IFAD’s projects.

But is the data of the right quality, and is it used for the right purpose? To answer this question, IFAD conducted a survey among M&E officers working in IFAD-supported projects. Three main problems emerged:
• M&E data is not leveraged enough – Responses indicated that M&E data is not used for decision-making. Over 90 per cent of project officers use M&E data merely for generating monitoring reports for different stakeholders rather than providing substantive inputs into managerial decisions.
• Data collected is not helpful – Roughly 50 per cent believe that collected data are incorrect and that tracking is requested on too many indicators that do not support meaningful conclusions. Similar weaknesses emerge in their type and relevance: 60 per cent of respondents believe that projects do not always include “SMART” indicators and, if so, they are not appropriate to measure projects’ objectives.
• M&E staff is not making the difference – People performing M&E functions in rural development projects don’t feel that they have the right capacities, exposure or authority to be able to have an impact on how decisions are made within their projects.

Consequently, there is evidence that current efforts to track results must be stepped up. Numbers are being produced; transforming reality based on those numbers is a different matter.
A new mindset

IFAD has partnered with The Centres for Learning on Evaluation and Results (CLEAR) in creating PRiME to systematically train project staff to
instil a culture of results in project management units. Transforming resources into results is another key area of IFAD’s new business model.
To this end, this week, 50 individuals from 46 different countries performing a variety of roles (from M&E officers, to project directors and M&E assistants) gathered in Rome to take part in the first ever training on Fundamentals of M&E in rural development. The customized curriculum is an adaptation of a classroom-style training that incorporates peer-to-peer learning, experience sharing and learning theory through practice.
For more information visit the following links:

2016 IFAD Grant Awards

Posted by RimaAlcadi Wednesday, October 11, 2017 0 comments


By Ivan Cossio, Rima Alcadi, Julie Danskin

 

The notion of the IFAD Grant of the Year Awards was introduced as part of the 2015 IFAD Grant Policy, as a means by which IFAD intends to expand its knowledge and experience to enrich its lending operations, advisory services and knowledge products. The IFAD grant of the year award is awarded jointly to the IFAD grant sponsor and the grant recipient. IFAD has introduced 4 categories of Grant Awards: (a) Good Practice in Design; (b) Impact on Poverty Reduction; (c) Knowledge Sharing and (d) Innovation.

As the Grant Policy became effective in 2016, the 2016 IFAD Grant Awards were the first grant awards ever. The IFAD grants award committee was composed of 6 members: Sheila Mwanundu and Luisa Migliaccio from PMD, Torben Nilsson from SKD, Hazel Bedford from COM, Federica Cerulli from PRM and the Vice President, who was the Committee's Chair. QAG staff (Ivan Cossio, Rima Alcadi and Julie Danskin) acted as Secretary to the committee.

Those of you who assisted the Grants Award Ceremony yesterday know who the winning grants were. However, you may not know that very few grants were shortlisted - only between 3 and 5 for each award category. All grants shortlisted were impressive, in their own unique way, and choosing the one grant to award has not been an easy task. We tried to be as objective as possible in the selection process, basing ourselves on predefined criteria. It would be remiss of us not to pass on this information: in reality all grants shortlisted deserved an award.

Having said that, for those of you who were not at the ceremony, let us update you on the winning grants:

 

Good Practice in Design: this award went to the grant programme "Improve Dryland Livelihoods in Djibouti and Somalia through Productivity-enhancing Technologies," sponsored by Kaushik Barua. The proposal was developed by the consortium led by the private company Transtec with Vétérinaires Sans Frontières Suisse (VSF); and the School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences, of the Bern University of Applied Sciences (HAFL) - who were competitively selected. For the first time, specific annexes on financial governance and the selection process were added to the President's Report to reassure the EB: a best practice that is now being replicated for all private sector recipients. Co-financing of 100% was mobilized.

 

Impact on Poverty Reduction: this award went to the grant programme "Strengthening the Productive and Organizational Model of the Cooperativa Integral Agrícola Mujeres 4Pinos - Phase II", sponsored by Juan Diego Ruiz Cumplido. This small grant is making a big difference to the lives of indigenous women in Guatemala. In the past five years, the number of members has increased from 175 to 450 and 450 jobs have been created. Their production and sales figures have risen steadily: from US$770,000 in 2011 to over US$3.6 million in 2016. Without doubt, one of the transformative achievements of the cooperative is that, in less than three years, 70% of their members have increased their incomes to the extent that they are no longer living in poverty.

 

Knowledge Sharing: this award went to the PROCASUR grant "Strengthening Knowledge Sharing and Scaling up of Sustainable Innovation Using Learning Route Methodology - Phase II", sponsored by Benoit Thierry. The programme enhanced learning, sharing and innovation within the Asia and Pacific Region based on three core elements: 1) Mapping and packaging local solutions into live-field trainings, guided by farmers and government officials, 2) Building on the capacity of IFAD-supported projects and partner institutions to expand the use of the Learning Routes Methodology, 3) Enabling rural entrepreneurs/local champions to perform as peer to peer trainers and technical assistants, recognised by the government. Thanks to the engagement of provincial government decision makers and leaders from the Women´s and Farmers´ Unions, Innovation Plans were designed through Learning Routes benefitting over 47,000 rural people.

 

Innovation: this award went to the grant to Fundacion ACUA for the "Programme to Increase the Visibility and Strengthen the Entrepreneurship of Rural Afro-descendant Communities in Latin America," sponsored by Jesus Quintana. The aim of this regional grant was to overcome the social inequalities facing afro-descendants, who are among the most vulnerable populations in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. By the end of the grant, the income generated by the 44 afro-descendant entrepreneurs supported increased by nearly 50%, and 22 of their products have penetrated the national markets - for example a pesto made of aromatic herbs and a flour made of an indigenous vegetable. In collaboration with Slow Food organization, a tourist gastronomic route  has been established. Thanks to our collaboration with Fundación ACUA, IFAD is now one of the most prominent development agencies to support directly Afro-descendant communities.

 

As was stated by the Vice President in his introductory remarks, through this process, we gained a deeper appreciation for the results and impact that we are achieving through our grants portfolio. We also saw how much energy staff members are investing in managing these grants. Our deep appreciation goes to these committed IFAD staff members who are sponsoring these grants - going through a tough and rigorous screening and review process, reporting, supervising and sharing the resulting knowledge. Through this exercise, it was indeed evident that there are some very valuable jewels in our grants portfolio.

 

We already look forward to start working on the 2017 Grant Awards soon! Please do leave your comments on how you think this process can be improved.

Transparency is at the heart of what we do

Posted by RachaelKenny Wednesday, October 4, 2017 0 comments


By Manda. M. Sissoko*,  Lisandro Martin* and Natalia Toschi

Transparency implies pro-activity

Two words define transparency in the context of development: openness and sharing. Transparency is about creating access to timely, reliable, comprehensive and comparable data on development aid resource management. It should be clear how much aid is flowing into a country, where and how aid is spent, and what results are achieved.

However, openness is only one dimension of transparency.  The other is sharing lessons and knowledge about what works to support decision-making on the allocation and management of development aid resources.  While openness sets the stage, sharing determines the true dynamics of transparency. These words explain colloquially the core of the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) standard.

Becoming truly transparent is expensive: it requires investments in capacity and systems.  But the dividends are high, and in the long run, significantly outweigh costs. In this sense, the availability and ease of access to aid information are simply the means. Organizations are called on to adopt transparency standards into their operations and processes for the aim of achieving better development results.

Transparency is a transformational force

The main reason transparency matters is that it alters traditional accountability relations among development actors. With open and easily accessible information, citizens can actively participate in policy-making regarding their futures and gain ownership over their development aspirations. Informed citizens are conscious of their needs, they are empowered to hold their governments –and organizations like IFAD- accountable for their decisions, and can influence those decisions.  Likewise, timely and accessible information on future planning and flows of development financing helps donors and recipients to hold each other to account for mutual commitments. Transparency, therefore, enhances national awareness of the results achieved from aid resources and strengthens "Mutual Accountability." Finally, the comparability and comprehensiveness of information shared forms the basis for coordination and harmonization of country-level development partners' activities.

At IFAD

The IFAD11 business model recognizes that transparency is perhaps the most transformational of all the elements of a results culture.  The Fund has a long history of disclosure, and in 2010, adopted the principle of presumption of full disclosure policy. The latest business model, presented at IFAD11 Replenishment Consultation last June, proposed for IFAD11 (2019-2021) to increase the importance of transparency in all of IFAD's operations at a corporate and operational level. IFAD Management stated that "considerably more weight will be given, organization-wide, to transparency."  Transparency and Openness Action Plan is currently being developed for approval by the Executive Board in December 2017.  As part of this plan, phase I of IFAD's automatic publishing to IATI has concluded, a significant step in making the Fund fully compliant with the IATI standard.  Now, information about the Fund's approvals and disbursements is provided to IATI automatically and in real-time. A small but significant step to amplify IFAD's contributions to development results.


Increasing rural households’ access to rural services

Posted by RachaelKenny Monday, October 2, 2017 0 comments

By Robert Delve and Laura Sollazzo


Have you ever heard about PlantWise, Plant Clinics or Plant Doctors?

As you can guess, it’s about plants, it’s about wanting to have healthy plants and it’s about reducing crop losses but mostly, it’s about sharing knowledge. Plantwise is a global initiative led by CABI focused on increasing rural households’ access to rural services, in this case agricultural extension services. Farmers often have nowhere to go to get advice about pests or diseases affecting their crops, as they don’t have regular or easy access to extension services. Plantwise brings these services closer to farmers by setting-up a regular venue staffed by trained extension specialists (Plant doctors) where farmers can get advice on their plant problem and best control measure. Plant clinics are set-up in local meeting places like markets, village squares and human health clinics.

To understand more about the pests and diseases that farmers face, to be able to track pest and disease outbreaks and to check on the recommendations given by the plant doctors, data is collected and then stored in an open-access Knowledge Bank database that is shared with national plant health partners working in research, government, national service offices, academics, and NGOs. Results have shown that 80% of farmers have increased their yields by consulting plant clinics.

To date, the Plantwise network covers countries across Latin America, Africa and Asia, with 1800 clinics, 5000 trained plant doctors and has reached 4.5 million farmers.

            
What Plantwise offers to IFAD’s target groups 

In December 2016, at the end of the project implementation phase, the Policy & Technical Advisory Division of International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) conducted an After Action Review (AAR) on the performance of the IFAD’s support to CABI’s Plantwise programme and identified lessons and recommendations that can be used by the new CABI-led grant programme on “Integrating ICT Tools into Plantwise to Support More Effective Data Capture and Use” sponsored by the Research and Impact Assessment Division (RIA) of the IFAD's Strategy and Knowledge Department (SKD). Beyond the grant funding, PlantWise is complementing the investment projects in Uganda, Rwanda (specifically projects on water, rural income and agribusiness) and Mozambique to collect impact studies, expand plant clinic networks and support policy changes.

The AAR brought some recommendations and lessons that can be useful for the next IFAD team to consider developing with CABI during the implementation phase of the new grant programme. For one, increased reach can be achieved through innovations at clinic level such as mobile clinics to reach new areas, and plant nurses who allow more clients to be dealt with per session. The networks themselves can have growth opportunities through partnerships with government and NGOs who in becoming convinced of the approach, are willing to invest. Second, data management and use of ICT will enable plant doctors to enter the data directly into tablets to facilitate the timely sharing of information.

What are Plantwise results?

The main result in the three target countries of the first IFAD grant, exceeded the foreseen objectives in terms of numbers of plant doctors trained, plant clinics established and targeted farmers reached. For example, in Mozambique, 80 clinics were embedded in the IFAD investment projects which are many more than the planned nine clinics. Impact assessment have found that, PlantWise has created impact on yield increases, increased the use of non-chemical pesticides, increased household income after visiting a plant clinic and increased farmers linkages with private sector and farmers’ organizations. It was interesting to learn that the governments in Uganda and Rwanda have expanded the awareness of plant clinic through mass media. The Plantwise programme collaborated with the Platform for Agricultural Risk Management (PARM) housed in IFAD, to seek guidance for a timely response to pest management in Uganda and to carry-out a feasibility study on “Crop Pest and Disease Management in Uganda: Status and Investment needs”. The report was presented to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Industries (MAIF) and other stakeholders in a High level Workshop in Kampala on 29 November 2016 and has received support of Government officials and the interest of development partners. This report includes a technical and financial proposal to upgrade the plant health system in Uganda, and it includes several activities directly linked with PlantWise.

What happens now that the grant is completed?

For one, Plantwise would like to pursue its ambitions. The principle idea is to reach more farmers, expand its outreach in more countries and ensure food security through reduced crop losses to improve livelihoods. CABI is also thinking about reaching acceptable levels of sustainability by helping the participating countries take ownership of the programme themselves.

Lessons learned

One of the recommendations was to ensure that a better data collection method is put into place so that plant doctors can collect data electronically instead of filling in cumbersome forms which often take a long time to complete. In response to this gap, CABI informs that the next programme will explore the possibilities to develop a Data App to help improve data collection previously done manually. Similarly, information exchanges can be sent to plant doctors via tablets (see pilot experiences in Kenya) – an area the new grant promises to look into to evaluate the current ICT efficacies in each country for data collection and elaboration and learn from countries that are already using these technologies. Plant clinics should also include data and advisory services on post-harvest losses in addition to losses in its production stages.

The programme also highlights a few predominant pitfalls and challenges that might not be easy to adapt to, such as government requirements up-take of running costs for plant clinics, coping with institutional problems associated with high turn-over of extension and senior staff creating execution delays that could have been avoided if there would be more cooperation between different government departments. Also, clinic data can be viewed as trade-sensitive causing un-avoidable political pressures. It might be necessary to tailor to the country context explaining how the data is fed into the Knowledge Bank and how it is managed and used. The programme also identified the need for plant doctors to network with sources of diagnostic support as a first point of detection of new pests and pest outbreaks. The location of plant clinics might be another area to look into to include more strategic and remote areas such as outside the market place or in agricultural service hubs. Perhaps, in the next project, mitigation measures can be explored to overcome these pitfalls that the previous grant is now teaching us.

Plantwise in the News, something IFAD is proud of

Last month, CABI won two prestigious Awards: (1) the Bond Development Award for Innovation, which was granted for Plantwise’s initiative for implementing inventive approaches to adapt to complex and changing external environments and (2) the St. Andrew’s Prize for the Environment, which recognizes significant contributions to environmental conservation. The prize money will be used to scale up Plantwise digital tools and applications in order to make quicker and better diagnoses and recommendations by improving the speed of data collection and analysis.

IFAD is proud to be associated with the donor group supporting PlantWise and commends Plantwise for its work in improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers through development of sustainable agricultural practices on a global scale.

Contacts:

How did GIADP do on gender?

Posted by RachaelKenny 0 comments

By Nancy Kaawe, Philipp Baumgartner, Weijing Wang 

Quite well in our estimation, during the project completion review mission in May 2017. Targeting of beneficiaries in the project was highly gender sensitive, with women accounting for 53.1% of direct project participants and 47.6% of total beneficiaries. Gender targets were met, as the project began with a baseline of 46.6% of women in the population of target townships.
The portion of active participants among female beneficiaries was roughly 3% more than that of male participants.



While the high participation of women in the project can partly be attributed to the growing feminization of rural agriculture in China as a result of increasing migration of men to the cities, it was also noted that: (i) the project management displayed commitment to gender concerns and working closely with women's federations at all levels, with clear targets in the manuals from the PPMO; and (ii) project interventions prioritized women and also fit demands of women. The modular approach to project implementation made it possible for Village Implementation Groups (VIGs) to request specific modules of interest to their communities.
One of the many testaments to the latter was in Baishou Township, Yongfu County, where the mission met with the VIG members of Chao Yang village. The group was composed of 11 members (5 of which were women), who recounted having requested the rural environment component of the project, and among other benefits, reported that in 2016 they had gone from selling oranges at 10CYN/KG to 12CYN/KG (20% price increase) and were selling at higher prices as compared to other villages that did not receive this component. They attributed this to having a cleaner and more sanitary environment which attracted buyers and allowed them to sell at higher prices. The data snapshots (below) providing an overview of women outreach and participation by project modules; in fact show-among other things- participation of women in the rural environment component on the higher end.




On a more critical note, the data also indicates two areas that stand out with low figures in women's participation: (i) agricultural technical extension stations and (ii) project management. Low participation of women in township agricultural stations was explained by the project as a result of limited interest or attraction of women to work in this area. It was also reported that in many cases extension staff travel to villages unaccompanied, and quite often return to the townships late in the evening, making women less suitable for this work due to security concerns.  Project management however is key and cross-cutting, and further reflection and analysis of shortfalls in this area could present a learning opportunity for future projects in the country programme. Interestingly, the mission did not perceive any issues regarding the representation of women in project implementation and there is no allusion to any such issues in the documentation through the life of the project. But the numbers are what they are, and while VIGs were an overall success with good representation from women and supported collective and unanimous decisions by the villagers, the data suggests that there is still room for improvement in women's participation in project management (VIGs and PMO training).
There is a possibility that these figures may have been caused in part by the preferences of women farmers. Should we, (and if so how do we) factor such eventualities in our targets and reporting?

This remarkable lady in Pingle County made it known in no uncertain terms to the mission members that she had absolutely no interest in participating in most of the project activities, which she preferred to let her husband 'deal with'. It was quite clearly her choice.
She is a beneficiary of the community infrastructure and rural environment components in Xin Da Lang village, where they innovated the use of alternative waste (persimmon peels) to fuel biogas.


Another area of interest is the project support to farmers' cooperatives, which displays a great deal of potential for positive outcomes and impact. This area has been satisfactory where initial increases in women's participation and household incomes are concerned. In Leye County, women's participation in cooperatives reached 45.8%, while in Longzhou County; women's participation reached 48.1%. The overall average falls at around 50.3% women participants in cooperatives. A chicken cooperative in Longzhou County increased its membership from 16 to 67 in a span on 3 years of operation. While interviewing 3 women in the cooperative, economic empowerment showed through as members were able to sell around 5,000 to 6,000 chickens a year.
Cooperatives also have potential to provide opportunities for further employment to farmers/members in the processing part of the value chain, as seen in two cooperatives in Pingle County. One of the main challenges however, is in ensuring that poor smallholder farmers, especially women and minorities continue to be included in these cooperatives beyond the life of the project. The cooperatives module in GIADP involved concerted efforts between the implementing agencies, project management offices at provincial, county and township levels, to apply stipulations for household inclusion of productive poor smallholder farmers. These targeting efforts will need to be sustained by poverty alleviation programmes set by local governments.


This IFAD-supported sweet potato cooperative in Zhangjia Township, Pingle County is led by a woman, Ms. Li Zhen, who also employs mostly women farmers to work on sweet potato processing which is done by hand. This allows them to supplement their income with around CYN 60 per day, working close to their homes. The women interviewed told of having more decision power and reduced disputes in their homes because they also have an income.
Ms. Zhen, who is divorced with two children to support, recounted a story of 'very low production' and hardships before she began to benefit from the project's support to her cooperative. With increased production, her livelihood has significantly improved, and she encourages poor farmers to become commercial producers and join the cooperative. With pride, she informed the mission that last year (2016), she was selected as a people's representative for the county, and finally, she shared that being empowered and successful, she now has many suitors and can be more selective this time around!
  And in a photo that eerily echoed the mission's concerns about the sustained inclusion of IFAD's target group in cooperatives, a woman smallholder farmer (indicated by the arrow) in Leye County stood aside as the cooperative boss engaged with mission members.



This image was used in the mission's presentation during the wrap-up workshop to emphasize IFAD's recommendation for continued support to cooperatives to remain inclusive after the closing of the project.

In conclusion, the GIADP project performed well on gender, but was not without challenges. Clear successes, shortfalls and everything in between should provide for valuable lessons and further reflection for the country programme going forward. GIADP is one of the projects selected for an IFAD ex-post impact assessment, and no doubt the additional data will help us glean further insights and conclusions.
Until then,
Thanks for reading!

The Guangxi Integrated Agriculture Development Project (GIADP) in China became effective in 2012 and completed on 31 March 2017. Covering eight counties in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, the project aimed to improve livelihoods of over 933,000 rural women and men, through production support, enhanced service delivery in extension and market access and improved community infrastructure. The total costs of GIADP was about USD 96.86 million, financed by an IFAD loan of SDR 29.65 million (about USD 47 million) and counterpart contributions including government financing of USD 46.4 million and beneficiaries’ contributions of an estimated USD 3.44 million.
GIADP completed with 99.8% of project funds invested, reached most of its targets and overall achievements are high. In total, 355.181 households and over 1.3 million rural men and women (1,339,189) benefited from project interventions


Why invest in Rural Transformation?

Posted by Sarah Hessel Friday, September 29, 2017 0 comments

Rural areas are not only home to millions of people, they are full of opportunities and investing in them benefits everyone, as our infographic for Indonesia shows.



Policies and Partnerships for Nutritious Food Systems in Fiji

Posted by Francesca Aloisio Tuesday, September 12, 2017 0 comments

A Multi-sectoral, Gender-sensitive Approach is the Way Forward

By Judith Francis and Jana Dietershagen
Garlanding chief guests of the workshop: From left to right, Mr. Christoph Wagner, Howard Politini  and Sakiusa Tubuna
The Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and the Pacific Islands Private Sector Organization (PIPSO), in collaboration with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) held a national workshop in Suva Fiji on 28-29 June on 'Promoting Nutritious Food Systems in the Pacific Islands' within the framework of the ongoing CTA/IFAD/PIPSO project.

The aim was to present different viewpoints, exchange knowledge, and spark discussions around the multifaceted and multidimensional aspects of the agri-nutrition challenges in Fiji, which led to key recommendations that inform national policy and programmes. The event was attended by 63 participants (46% female), comprising representatives from public and private organisations. The workshop was officially opened by Christoph Wagner, Head of Cooperation of the European Delegation for the Pacific, Sakiusa Tubuna, Sub-Regional Coordinator of IFAD in the Pacific, and Howard Politini, Chair Board of Directors, PIPSO.

“Addressing agricultural challenges in an innovative way is what this workshop is about” – stated Wagner, adding that “The European Commission has a strong focus on public-private-partnerships.”

IFAD views the CTA/IFAD/PIPSO collaborative project as an opportunity for developing and piloting innovative approaches that strengthen the agriculture-nutrition nexus and increase people’s access to nutritious and healthy foods.

"This project is an opportunity to mainstream nutrition in agriculture. Therefore we need to pull together all the expertise", said Tubuna.
From left to right: Fantasha Lockington (CEO Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association), Emil Jejov and Judith Francis (CTA)
Judith Ann Francis, CTA’s Senior Programme Coordinator S&T Policy and leader of the CTA/IFAD/PIPSO project, presented an overview of the innovative tools and approaches that will be used for achieving the project goal, such as seed-funding; value chain coordinating/agricultural innovation (VCC/AI) multi-stakeholder platforms; and an innovation credit facility for small and medium enterprises (SME) development.

According to Francis, “through these innovative tools, the project will support communities to find solutions that build on traditional knowledge, agri-businesses to harness the social and intellectual capital and producers to engage in inclusive value chain development.” 
Participants discussing and suggesting strategies during roundtable exercises 
Dr. Jimaima Lako, a CTA consultant, presented her research findings from a rapid country scan on the Agriculture Nutrition Nexus in Fiji, which formed the basis of the highly interactive 2-day workshop. Key highlights include:
  • High prevalence of non-communicable diseases – (NCDs) (35.8%) and micronutrient deficiencies especially iron deficiency anaemia (32.4%) 
  • High dependence on imports and calorie intake from imported foods and processed foods that are generally cheaper and less nutritious, with negative impacts on health; 
  • Multiple policies and frameworks covering agriculture, health, women etc. that do not specifically address the nutrition challenges and in some cases are contradictory. 
  • 16 national policies and frameworks are in place across various line Ministries (Agriculture, Fisheries, Health, Education etc.) but these are not specific enough on addressing nutritional challenges.
  • Need for more research (including on the relationship between agri-nutrition outcomes by academia) to support the Ministries in their work, as well as private sector/businesses.
  • Major gaps in Agri-Nutrition nexus identified include Weak or absence of nutrition link in the National Development Plan and Policies in use by the various line ministries, Lack of commitment and poor coordination of the Fiji Plan of Action on Nutrition( FPAN) with multi-stakeholders and partners and Limited awareness and availability of nutrient dense local foods.
  • “Policies on agriculture, health, nutrition exist in Fiji but they are not aligned. Agriculture can change the nutrition paradigm of NCDs and anaemia.” Dr. Lako, explained. 
Other presentations and interventions on current issues in agricultural development, food security, crops and fisheries value chains and women’s empowerment by the diverse multi-sectoral panellists provided additional meaningful insights and sparked fruitful discussions during the round table group sessions. For example, Joann Young, Assistant Representative at FAO, triggered the reflections by questioning: “What is the cost of a nutritious diet?” Dr. Isimeli Tukana, Director Wellness in the Ministry of Health, advocated for agriculture as the solution to the nutrition challenges: “Fiji is going through nutrition transitions. Unless the laws change, nothing will happen. The solution for NCD’s is in agriculture.”

Women play a critical role in Fiji’s agricultural sector 
Female participants discussing during the group exercises
Cherie Moris, from Fiji Women in Fisheries Network, emphasised on the importance of women as custodians of knowledge in sectors such as fisheries; finding new markets and the cost and time of processing are just a few barriers they have to overcome. Other obstacles can be lack of access to expertise and difficulties complying with food safety standards.

Sian Rolls, from Femlink Pacific, further explained, “the biggest gender gap is in decision-making. Women feel frustrated because, despite the development changes, they have not been seeing improvements in their economic and nutrition status.”
Cherie Moris Fiji, Women in Fisheries Network
SMEs to accelerate value chain development

“SMEs create the most jobs in Fiji. They need support and capacity building,” emphasized Ravi Chand, CEO, National Centre for Small and Micro Enterprise Development.

Business in Fiji is not just about trading any more, but is gaining an inclusive community engagement role. Together the government and the private sector can contribute to sustainable economic development. 
Products of participating producers were displayed during the workshop
Save Waqainabete, Business Development Analyst at Joe’s Farm, explained: “Agri-businesses can play a vital role in addressing agri-nutrition”. Agribusinesses need to overcome financial and technical challenges while reducing costs so that fresh local produce and value added products can be affordable for local consumers. While subsistence farming is the main activity, there needs to be a shift to semi-commercial operations – this is one way to address supply issues to respond to market demand.

Workshop outcomes: Three strategies for national development consideration 
Participants presenting results from group discussion on women’s empowerment
An immediate reaction to the Fiji roundtable workshop was a request by a representative of the Ministry of Economy to submit three major strategies for their consideration in Fiji’s National Strategic Plan, which is currently being developed.
  1. Setting a high-level political agenda and urgent multi-sectoral approach to addressing agri-nutrition and tackling NCDs in Fiji. 
  2. Establishing stronger collaboration and relationship with academia and private sector for evidence based policy and strategic planning 
  3. Partnerships and collaboration between Government Ministries, communities, private sector, and academia, need to be strengthened and their ongoing activities aligned. Joint interventions could include media campaigns, agribusiness/farming communities’ initiatives with schools, promoting local produce and local cuisine, to name a few. 
Moving forward with the project

In the next few months, similar national policy roundtables are rolling out in the other project’s target countries: Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu. Priority value chains are analysed to launch the Value Chain Coordination/Agricultural Innovation platforms and to identify the challenges and opportunities for investing in weather risk insurance - another innovation that the project will explore in consultation with producer organisations and representatives of the public and private sector.

According to Emil Jejov from CTA: “Index based insurance is suitable where many smallholder farmers operate. Insured farmers are able to save more and invest more in inputs and other production assets. Multi-stakeholder consultations are crucial in developing successful insurance products.”

Literacy – a building block for real change in rural areas

Posted by S.Sperandini Friday, September 8, 2017 0 comments

By Maria Hartl, Senior Technical Specialist – Gender and Social Equity
On 8 September, we celebrate International Literacy Day. But is there reason to celebrate when the number of illiterate people – the majority of whom are women – is not declining, and we are witnessing a donor fatigue in supporting literacy classes? 
Literacy is one of the benchmarks of the Education for All (EFA) Framework and is included in the 2030 Agenda (SDG 4.6). For more than 60 years, UNESCO has been leading global literacy efforts advancing the vision of a literate world for all. Yet in 2017, we are still far from achieving this goal. According to the UNESCO 2016 Global Education Monitoring Report, some 758 million adults worldwide, 63% of them women, have not attained even minimal literacy skills.  They live in rural areas in sub-Saharan Africa, the Arab States and in South and West Asia.
Illiteracy is a marker of deprivation. In some countries, including Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali and Nigeria, less than 10% of poor rural women can read; in Niger, the rate is only 2%. Large gaps in literacy rates between women and men also exist in Cameroon, Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Togo. In Latin America, illiteracy rates among indigenous women are often more than double those of non-indigenous women.  
Burundi: a literacy class for adults
Many illiterate people, especially among the older generations, have never been to school.  Others completed some years of primary schooling, but dropped out and are not using any literacy skills that they do have because they live in a non-literate environment. 

The persistence of such high numbers of people who cannot read and write, compounded by high levels of poverty, demographic pressure, and lack of schools and teachers , raise questions whether even with strong political will and injection of resources, the literacy goals will be achieved as envisaged. Children may be enrolled, but leave school with minimal levels of literacy – because they do not attend, or the teacher does not show up, or there are emergencies that result in the closure of classes or schools. Malnutrition also makes it more difficult for children to regularly attend school and to learn while they are there. Special efforts are required to meet the needs of drop-outs from formal schooling.

Many of those who are unable to read and write are rural poor people, the targeted participants of IFAD-supported projects. If literacy is a driver for sustainable development and greater participation in the labour market, if it improves child and family health and nutrition, reduces poverty and expands life opportunities, what can be can be done to reduce illiteracy? The challenge seems gigantic.

Capacity-building and training are major investment activities in most IFAD-supported projects, and adult literacy training is also undertaken in some cases as part of overall community development. When rural poor people are consulted in participatory community development efforts, the request for literacy training is very often among their top priorities. 

Over the last years, I have seen some projects where literacy is very much on the agenda. There I have met mostly women who were highly motivated, proud of attending and forever grateful to the project for teaching them how to read and write and bringing them to the same level as their children who attend school.

Literacy classes can be a stepping stone

Functional literacy programmes bring best results when they are linked to other project activities   and work as a stepping stone for further interventions.

In Burundi, the Value Chain Development Programme – Phase II makes it a precondition that participants attend literacy classes before joining local solidarity groups and cooperatives. The project uses the REFLECT methodology, an innovative approach to adult learning and social change developed by Action Aid in the 1990s. Over 500 organizations in 70 countries worldwide who use REFLECT as an approach to literacy and a people-centred development and advocacy method. 

When we visited a literacy class last year in Burundi, the topic was hygiene and nutrition. The teacher introduced words related to health and food, and then the class was built around these words.  This approach also prepares the participants for later activities in the project such as nutrition training for young mothers. The literacy classes enabled participants to acquire not only numeracy skills, but also basic knowledge about the functioning of savings and credit groups, which they subsequently joined. Using mobile phones, doing calculations and other practical operations such as storing phone numbers, are also practical skills taught in the literacy class. 

Madagascar: out-of-school-youth meeting after course
In Madagascar, the  Vocational Training and Agricultural Productivity Improvement Programme (FORMAPROD) targets and provides training – including functional literacy training – to young farmers, agricultural technicians and extension agents, and supports continuous vocational training in all 13 regions of the country. The project specifically focuses on uneducated youth and young women (18-25 years) who are heads of household. Special activities are provided for young people aged 14 – 18 years with little or no formal education to give them a second chance. UNESCO is a partner for the training of out-of-school-youth. The 1535 rural youth (including 453 young women) accomplished a 3-month residential course followed by artisan training and development of business plans. In the next step, the project is supported their professional start-up projects.

In Morocco, the Agricultural Value Chain Development Programme in the Mountain Zones of Taza Province enabled 1440 participants including 960 women to participate in functional literacy training in 2016. Once they have completed their literacy training, trainees will start income-generating activities.

Recently I received a beautiful letter from a group of women in Taza, whom I had met on a previous field visit.  They wrote:  "we were not able to attend school before, but thanks to the project we could realize our dreams and carry the torch of knowledge and learning into our daily family live and professional activities. The classes enabled us to participate in our personal and local development initiatives. Thank you!"




Read more:
For more information in English and French about PRODEFI, see also the IFAD website: Madagascar - Burundi