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How can the impact of climate change on arid lands and on the poor people living in such areas be minimized and their sustainable livelihoods protected?

This was the subject of a UNFCCC COP15 side event organized by IFAD on 11 December, within the framework of the IIED Development and Climate Days.

The Dr Byen University setting, only two metro stops from the Bella centre where the Copenhagen Climate Change negotiations were taking place, provided a perfect setting for bringing together a large number of participants, observers from the negotiations and academicians from the University, and foster a constructive discussion on the implications of climate change in arid lands.

The panel consisted of members from International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Global Mechanism (GM). The session was chaired by Rodney Cooke, Director of IFAD's Technical Advisory Division.

The event provided a unique opportunity to share IFAD’s own experience in integrating climate change issues in project portfolio through Country Strategic Opportunities Papers (COSOPs) such as that in Viet Nam and Chad as well as environmental screening of IFAD projects and the development of IFAD’s corporate strategy towards the mainstreaming of the climate change dimension in its project activities. The event also highlighted the relevance of drylands ecosystems with regards to rural development, and addressed the specific impact of climate change on these particularly fragile environments. Panelists discussed how climate change resilience can be promoted in arid lands ecosystems, through investments or otherwise.

Atiqur Rahman, Policy Coordinator, opened the session by providing a detailed overview of the magnitude of the problem, and addressed the adverse impact of climate change on the more than one billion people whose livelihoods largely or totally depend on arid lands ecosystems. He outlined four sets of issues which were then discussed in details by the other four panelists.

Peter Holmgren, Director, Environment Climate Change and Bioenergy Division , FAO, discussed the potential for mitigation in arid areas, notably through sustainable land management, afforestation, and agroforestry.

Ced Hesse, Principal Researcher, Climate Change, IIED, gave a vivid account of the crucial social and economic role played by pastoralists in Africa’s drylands. He emphasized their importance in ensuring economic development, sustainable land management and peace in a changing, increasingly unstable and variable environment.

Nadim Khouri, Director of IFAD’s Near East and North Africa Division, emphasized the need to build on vulnerable people’s own livelihoods strategies to devise efficient investments under harsh climatic conditions. He stressed the urgent need for better models to be developed in order to be able to predict the impact of climate change, specifically for arid areas, and for countries and rural communities to internalize such models in their development strategies.

In the concluding intervention, Alejandro Kilpatrick, GM’s Programme Coordinator for Latin America and for the Climate Change Programme, highlighted the value of drylands, to be seen in its economic, social , and financial dimensions. He gave a detailed overview of the current and anticipated sources of funding available to arid land ecosystems, and their relevance in addressing the adverse impact of climate change in these areas.

The presentations were followed by an interesting discussion with members of the audience. Issues were raised on the possibility of using local and indigenous knowledge and whether large scale investments could crowd out local initiatives which provided the backbone of autonomous adaptation for centuries, the need to adjust to increasing variability of climate both in terms of institutional development as well as using flexible project designs, the use of land rights and access to resources in innovative ways to overcome the ‘tragedy of the commons’, the developing early warning systems, and the reuse of wastes through anaerobic systems.

Most of the populations living in drylands are, in fact, amongst the poorest of the poor: investing in drylands is therefore crucial, and so is the recognition of the value of drylands ecosystems and traditional activities such as pastoralism.

The chairman concluded the session pointing out towards the opportunities to harness financing for climate change in support to drylands, both from the carbon market and from the funding for adaptation to climate change, but there is a need to better position the issues at stake into the development agendas of donors and governments. The UNFCCC COP might identify more opportunities that are emerging, such as REDD, REDD+ and adaptation funding.

Atiqur Rahman

COP15 film festival

Posted by Roxanna Samii Monday, December 14, 2009 0 comments

It’s not often that I get a chance to sit in a theatre with an audience while they’re watching one of the documentaries I produce at IFAD. On Friday 12 December, during COP15 in Copenhagen, I had that chance.

“The President’s Dilemma” – a television documentary we originally created for BBC World News in September – was screened at a film festival organized by International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) as part of it’s “Development and Climate Days” side event.

The President’s Dilemma tells the story of Anote Tong, the President of Kiribati – a nation made up of 33 low-lying atoll islands in the middle of the Pacific Oceans. Climate scientists predict that much of Kiribati could be under water in as little as 30 years due to rising sea levels caused by climate change. Tong’s “dilemma” is to decide what to do with the country’s 108,000 residents and how quickly to act. He resists the idea of mass migration which he says would turn his people into “climate change refugees” but, at the same time, he realizes time is not on his side and that he needs to address immediate problems, like growing poverty and shrinking food supplies, as evironmental conditions worsen.

Programmed during a session that featured five films exploring the impact of rising sea levels on island states, my role was to introduce the film and then answer questions from the audience. The film was the last one in the session, following stories from Samoa and Tuvalu. The reaction was extremely positive and gratifying with more requests for DVD copies of the longer version of the film (the screening was of a shorten 10 minute version) than I had anticipated. The audience was made up of development practitioners, NGO and UN staff so the questions and discussion that followed was well informed and largely focused on issues around adaptation. In the case of Kiribati, that means introducing crops that can tolerate temperature increases and salt water intrusion, which is part of the work of an IFAD-supported agricultural research centre on the island Tarawa mentioned in the film.

The film festival runs over four days and provides delegates and media with respite from the chaos and crowds at the Bella Centre, the main COP15 venue a short metro ride away. For me personally, it was a great opportunity to get some feedback on IFAD films as well as to see first hand how powerful they can be in sharing experiences from remote regions, shaping ideas and provoking good discussion.

James Heer

Impact of climate change on Eritrean agriculture sector

Posted by Roxanna Samii Friday, December 11, 2009 3 comments

As world leaders gather in Copenhagen to seal the deal on climate change, while collecting testimonials for a series of human stories, I saw, first hand, the devastating consequences of climate change on Eritrea’s agriculture and livestock sector.

Crop cultivation and animal husbandry account for 60 per cent of rural incomes in Eritrea. Recent models and estimates show that the effects of climate change will have an adverse impact on the country’s agriculture and livestock sector. Decreases in rainfall and a rise in temperature has resulted in increased dry spells and decreased soil moisture.

Water scarcity is one of the many challenges that farmers and pastoralist s face in Eritrea. The country has two perennial river systems, the Setit River, which forms the country’s border with Ethiopia and drains into the Nile basin, and the Gash Barka system, which collects the run-off water from the highlands. All other rivers in the country are seasonal and carry water only after rainfall, which means that they are dry most of the year. The country has limited sources of fresh surface water, and although groundwater can be tapped, quantity and quality may be poor.

Official estimates show average annual rainfall at 400-500mm. However, for the last two years, rainfall has been erratic and less than above average.

Investing in blue gold improves livelihoods of smallholder farmers

To counter the devastating impact of climate change and to ensure food security for its people, the government of Eritrea is investing in the agriculture sector by:
  • creating small-scale irrigation schemes
  • building ponds, reservoirs and dams
  • installing solar panels for water pumps
  • installing drip, pump and sprinkler irrigation systems

For example in Zoba Debub the livelihoods of 82% of the 750,000 people living in this zoba depend on agriculture and related activities. Farmers in Debub and in Ma’ekel and other areas of Eritrea plant cereals such as wheat, barley, sorghum, taf, millet, maize and also vegetables – tomato, onion, carrot, potato, cabbage, lettuce and pepper.

In drought-prone Eritrea, livestock are a farmer’s most valuable asset. Animal husbandry is not only one of the main sources of livelihood for farmers, but it is also a form of insurance that enables poor rural people to cope with drought and other disasters.

One of the many challenges facing Eritrean farmers and pastoralists is to find grazing land and water for their livestock. The reservoirs and the surroundings provide an invaluable source of water and grazing land for livestock.

If you’ve ever visited Eritrea, you will be familiar with its arid landscape. You can imagine my surprise when driving through Zoba Ma’ekel and - Zoba Debub, against an arid and dry landscape, literally out of the blue I saw a beautiful body of water surrounded by hectares of emerald green and lush vegetation. These mini-oas e s which are the result of Eritrean government’s investment in agriculture are THE source of livelihoods and food security for poor rural Eritreans.

The reservoirs can hold anywhere between 50,000 to 350,000 m3 of water and serve 200 to 350 poor rural households who are now able to irrigate a total of 35 hectares of agricultural land. Furthermore, the reservoirs and dams provide a secure source of grazing and water for livestock and also source of water for domestic/washing purposes.

These secure source of blue gold allow farmers to complement their rain-fed crops - cereals, sorghum and barely - with vegetables such as tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, carrots, onions and pepper.

Eritrean farmers use a variety of irrigation methods ranging from drip to pipe and sprinkler and religiously adhere to the agreed irrigation schedule. Thanks to a favourable government policy, they have the luxury of not paying for water for the time being. However, they pay an average of 10,000-15,000 nakfa for a pump and those who have a fuel-run pump benefit from subsidized fuel.

The farmers are cognizant that their livelihoods depends not only on water, high yielding seeds and high-value crops but also on making sure that their pumps are well maintained. To this end they’ve established a revolving fund which is used exclusively for this purpose.

“Thanks to the reservoir now I have a secure source of water and can irrigate my 0.25 hectare”, says Woldo a farmer living in the Shmangus-laalay village. “Now I have three crops instead of one.” Woldo uses a combination of sprinkler and water pump. “When my crop was germinating, I used water pump, because sprinklers can damage the crop”, says Woldo. Woldo’s water pump is run by electricity for which he pays 24 nakfa per hour.

The 350 households living in the vicinity of this reservoir use this body of water not only to irrigate their plots, but also for their livestock and for domestic purposes such as for washing.

Before the reservoir was built, Elsa a mother of three, used to wake up at crack of dawn to go fetch water for washing purposes. Today, in tow with her donkey and her youngest son, she goes to the lake to collect water. While the water collecting technique may be rudimentary, it has saved Elsa hours of walking, allowing her to spend more time at home and to get involved in agricultural activities.

In the nearby village of Tesazege village, Athaneta and her brother are cultivating 0.5 hectare of land using the nearby reservoir. “I practice crop rotation and for this crop cycle I’ve replaced barley with tomatoes, because I have a secure source of water”, says Athaneta with a smile. “I’ve already harvested 100kg and expect to harvest another 200kg which I sell for 2 nakfa per kilo”.

“Thanks to this secure source of water, my brother and I can be sure to have one cereal crop and two vegetable crops”, says Athaneta.

Habtemariam is a model farmer who has fully taken advantage of the nearby reservoir and exploited the potential of his 0.75 hectare land, managing to secure himself and his family a total 5,000 nakfa by planting cabbage, lettuce and carrot.

Eritrea has the potential of having many more lush, green-emerald mini-oasis allowing more farmers to systematically cultivate agricultural land, ensure their food security and earn a secure income.

The government of Eritrea and IFAD are currently designing a national agricultural water management framework to allow for sustainable and reliable accesss to water especially in times of drought which unfortunately due to climate change will be affecting the country more frequently in the future. This framework will ensure that many Eritrean farmers will have a better crop to harvest,thus ensuring their food security.

Hopefully the world leaders gathered in Copenhagen will seal the climate change deal, so that Eritrean women, children, men, farmers and pastoralists can have a bright future and never again suffer from famine.

On his first visit to Tokyo since taking office, the President met key policy-makers at Foreign Affairs, Finance and Agriculture within the new administration, as well as a high profile politician and senior officials from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Nwanze is not an unknown figure in Japan, having visited and negotiated at high levels in his previous capacities. NERICA is still widely discussed in the development circles in Tokyo.

The President’s visit to the capital falls between the recent World Summit on Food Security in Rome and the upcoming Copenhagen COP 15 meeting. The delegation comprised Munehiko Joya and ourselves.

On his first day, IFAD President held a high-level meeting at JICA, with the Vice President, Ambassador Kenzo Oshima in a new building, hosting the new JICA that merged with JBIC. In the discussions, Ambassador Oshima commented on the CARD (Coalition for African Rice Development) exercise being on track and now the need for a major push for early results. IFAD's active involvement has been much appreciated in JICA.

CARD is a comprehensive initiative to support the efforts of African countries to double African rice production within ten years. It also forms a consultative group of donors, research institutions and other relevant organizations to work with rice producing African countries.

The President emphasized the relevance of the initiative, stating that the JICA approach fits very well with that of IFAD, aiming to increase food production for local consumption, access to markets, increased capacity, empowerment of women as fundamental elements for successful long-term rural and agricultural development.

The CARD initiative is the first step toward a broader partnership The President and Oshima agreed that the two task teams will work over the next months to identify 3 to 5 projects or programmes for collaboration including co-financing. On assessment of the outcomes, the two institutions will decide on the collaboration framework. He added that we don’t want partnership just for the sake of it but to bring real added value to the poor people we serve. South–South cooperation and JICA's experience with Brazil and Mozambique also featured in the discussions.

An extraordinary meeting took place between former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and IFAD President at the Diet (parliament) building. Fukuda oversaw the Hokkaido G8 Summit and hosted TICAD IV (Tokyo International Conference on African Development) during his time as Prime Minister. He remains an active voice in parliament and an influential member of the Liberal Democratic Party that held power for five decades. The President and Fukuda discussed aid trends, including the urgency of greater attention to climate issues that particularly affect smallholder farmers. He commended the President for taking up leadership of IFAD and highlighted the need to increase the fund's profile in Japan.

Fukuda chairs an advocacy group of parliamentarians with a strong commitment to development issues. He invited the President to the 2010 meeting of the Inter Action Council, which brings together a group of former heads of state or government from various parts of the world. Members include, among others, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Jean Chrétien.

Journalists from leading Japanese media - including, among others, Nikkei, Asahi Shimbun, Mainichi newspapers, Japan Times, Agricultural Development News and Jiji news agency - met with the President for a briefing. Most of them raised issues around the upcoming Climate Change conference in Copenhagen, the implications for agricultural development and how the smallholders would adapt. Questions revolved around land issues, food security and IFAD’s work. NHK Television conducted an exclusive interview with the President.

The Director General, International Cooperation Bureau in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Masato Kitera welcomed the President and assured him of the Ministry’s confidence in IFAD’s work. Despite the fiscal problems faced by the country, they would like to continue their support.

For the first time in several decades the country has faced a major political shift. Politicians are currently assessing and reviewing public expenditure including ODA. Kitera said he was confident that Japan would continue to play a major role in the international arena.

During the meeting, President thanked the Government of Japan for its leadership, citing the TICAD process as a fine example of the country's engagement in Africa's development. He gave an overview of his discussions with Ambassador Oshima and expressed optimism about showing concrete results through collaboration with JICA under CARD. The President shared his perspectives on food security and land issues.

In closing, Kitera pointed out that in the current financial situation yen loans would remain one of the major aid instruments which can be very attractive because of the low level of interest rates on the Japanese currency.

On the second day in Tokyo, a meeting held with the Vice Minister for International Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Shuji Yamada focused on land investments. Yamada said that the food crisis and persisting price volatility are fostering interest within the private sector and governments to secure food availability through land lease/acquisition. Japan is very keen to see the development of appropriate rules for dealing with this growing phenomenon.

The President recalled the current effort by IFAD, FAO and the World Bank to frame guidelines for responsible investments, in order to achieve win-win solutions. During the meeting, climate change implications for agriculture and trade-related issues were also discussed.

Nobumitsu Hayashi, Deputy Director General International Bureau, Ministry of Finance and IFAD Alternate Governor, expressed great appreciation for the work taken forward by the President since taking office and expressed confidence in his leadership. Hayashi enquired about the comparative advantage of IFAD within the international aid architecture. The President highlighted the IFAD specificities and briefed Hayashi on accountability. The result-based management system allows IFAD to clearly report to its members about the outcomes achieved through the use of financial resources paid in by taxpayers in donor countries.

Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, Shuji Kira stressed the confidence of his administration in IFAD and in the new leadership. Despite severe budgetary constraints, Japan decided to increase the pledge to the 8th replenishment by more than 80 per cent. The new administration is committed to food security and poverty reduction. The two men discussed in details the outcomes of the visit and about strengthening of the partnership with JICA. They agreed on the relevance for IFAD and Japan to further develop partnership through the APOs programme.

By Farhana Haque-Rahman and Gesolmina Vigliotti

Day two of the Western and Central Africa regional implementation workshop started with three parallel chat shows focusing on the following three themes:

  • Agricultural value chain development
  • Rural and agricultural finance and rural enterprises
  • Support to capacity building

During the chat show participants shared their insights, experience and knowledge about the various challenges and opportunities of the above themes. For many, this was the first time they had participated in a chat show and most of them thorougly enjoyed it.

At the end of chat show the hosts (Carlo Bravi and Chrisitiane, Perin Saint-Ange and Coumba Fall, Mohamed Manssouri and Stefania Dina) quickly formulated three questions based on the insight that emerged from the chat show. These questions were then addressed during the World Cafe.

Your reporter had the daunting task of acting as cafe host for all three parallel world cafes. I must admit this was quite challenging also because I had to set up the cafe tables for Carlo's group. Encouraged by the enthusiasm of the participants, I started with Carlo and Christiane's group outlining the process. 5 minutes later I went to Perin and Comba's group and did the same. I then rushed upstairs to Mohamed and Stefania's group.

Stefania and Mohamed were great cafe hosts and had explained the process to the participants. Drenched, I headed back to the secretariat for a sip of water.

The cafe host is also the time keeper. So 20 minutes into the first round of questions, I did my rounds to ask colleagues to move table and get on with their second question. I must admit that everyone collaborated and they moved orderly to the next table, trying their utmost to keep 5 to table.

Mohamed and Stefania had done their maths right and had managed to have 5 francophone and 5 anglophone tables!!! The participants in all three cafes were completely engaged. I heard comments such as: "This cafe thing is really good". Martin Raine said: "You know, I was a skeptic, but this structured chaos is really great!". Steven reflecting on the process said "I wish we had started by asking the participants to talk about their successes, because when we did that at the last round, the energy level changed." And Steven is right, the question is one the important ingredients of a world cafe, it can make it or break it.

I am currently immersed in a series appreciative leadership courses, so his comment resonated completely with my changed mindset. He was right on: we always need to start looking at strengths and build on these, rather than falling in the trap of looking at weakness.

After lunch, participants regrouped in their original table to do the summary of their discussions. These were then used for the speed geeking. An hour later, a total of 30 table hosts descended to the open area, carrying flipcharts or their flipchart papers. They created their stands waiting eagerly to present their table's work to other participants.

I think the speed geeking could have gone a bit better, if before the participants made their way downstairs, we would have reminded them what was expected from the table hosts and from the other participants. This said, the outputs were remarkable. I walked to three stands and must say I was quite impressed.
Kudos to the Western and Central Africa for having fully embracing using knowledge sharing methods at their events. This is now the second time. Early this year, they used the same knowledge sharing methods at their community-driven development workshop.

For your reporter, it was an absolutely rewarding day. I hope colleagues back home get a flavour of the richness of this day. Hope I've done justice to the great work that went on today.

Now, we are all getting ready for a well deserverd dinner somewhere near the beach. We'll talk tomorrow. If you feel inspired, please comment on these blogposts.

A domani.

ICRISAT – A Homecoming

Posted by Roxanna Samii 0 comments

We all knew it was going to be a big moment in the India mission. The President’s visit to ICRISAT at Pantacheru, near the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, was more than just a homecoming to a site where he had spent a decade of his professional career.

ICRISAT’s Director-General, William Dar, told him it was an honour and a pleasure to have a key player in agriculture and development – and a staunch supporter of ICRISAT and the whole CGIAR system – as chief guest at their Annual Day on December 1.

For the President, it was a precious opportunity for catching up with colleagues from his time as a scientist. As he toured the institute, various white-coated colleagues emerged from their labs to recall the working time together. When he arrived at the entomology lab, where he had worked, it was an emotional moment.

It was also the chance for a belated farewell party. When the President was called to take over his post as Director-General of the Africa Rice Centre (then WARDA), there was little time for all the farewells to be fitted in prior to his departure.

The President was keen to visit the large test plantations that surround the research site. And he identified a few plots that he had actually worked on himself, more than a decade ago. The expansion in test plots that has taken place in the meantime was significant.

The institute has dedicated to President, the Kanayo F Nwanze Crop Protection Laboratory and his visit was used to inaugurate the lab centre. Another facility was named after former chair of ICRISAT’s governing body, Dr Ragnhild Sohlberg from Norway.

The ICRISAT senior management met with the President where, among other issues, a grant proposal for research on understanding economic opportunities in semi-arid agriculture in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa was discussed.

The President pointed out that there had been excellent collaboration between ICRISAT and IFAD well before he took office and that this was the result of the high quality work that ICRISAT produces. He also told the Director-General that it was good to see them reaching out to the private sector for partnerships.

The President delivered the keynote address to the Annual Meeting on the role of agricultural research in the face of global challenges, including food security and climate change.

On the first day at Pantacheru an animated press conference was held attended by some 25 journalists.

“Agriculture, even smallholder agriculture in remote areas, must be treated as a business, that provides a livelihood and an income" , the President told the reporters, who were well-versed in agricultural and rural poverty issues.

“This business attitude is already happening in many parts of India” he said, noting that supporting smallholders with the right government policies was vital, policies that would link them to vibrant local competitive markets.

While in Hyderabad, the President also met the Chief Minister of Andra Pradesh, K. Rosaiah, who requested him on the possibility of IFAD supporting a major food security project covering seed development, mechanisation, farmer training and water conservation techniques. Media coverage in Hyderabad was extensive, as it was throughout the India visit.

By Farhana Haque-Rahman

Day one of the Western and Central Africa workshop is coming to a close. This morning we had the honor and privilege of having the Honorable minister of agriculture at the opening session of the workshop.

The minister reminded the gathering that the workshop coincides with the celebration of Farmers' Day which is an important day for Ghana, a day that the country honours farmers for their untiring and relentless efforts of feeding the nation.

"The food crisis experienced recently was a loud awakening to the world, particularly for those of us in developing countries as we now need to redouble our efforts and better plan for our nation's food security", said the minister.

In his speech, the minister reminded the audience that by 2050 world population would reach 9.1 billion, and that nearly half of the additional 2.3 billion people in the next 40 years will reside in developing countries.

The minister then proceeded to say: "Feeding these extra people is a challenge we need to recognize and plan for. The 'business as usual' approach will be catastrophic."

"The time is ripe for us to rethink our agricultural development efforts, recognizing that agriculture is no longer just a production tool for industry but a tool for satisfying objectives of growth, poverty reduction, food security and sustainable rural development in a complex setting influenced by globalization and climate change."

The minister shared Ghana's strategy for reviving and strengthening the agriculture sector. "I are planning to revolutionize agriculture. I have promised to double rice production in two years", pledged the minister.

He concluded by sharing the key principles behind Ghana's Food and Agriculture Development Policy:

  • value chain approach
  • focus on selected commodities for greater impact
  • diversification for income generation and stability
  • enhanced productivity
  • transforming smallholders through improved organization of farmer-based organizations
  • public-private partnership
  • improved coordination and harmonization in the agriculture sector

After the official opening, the minister and Mr Beavogui hosted a joint press briefing which lasted 40 minutes and attended by 40 journalists.

The afternoon sessions were dedicated to country team meetings, where the participants reviewed the Douala action plan and reported on progress, opportunities and challenges.

We'll end the day with promises to be a fun evening of Ghanaian hospitality. I see the musicians setting up in the atrium. Make sure you tune in to learn about the Ghanaian hospitality.

With Copenhagen in mind, I am writing this post from a remote island in the Bay of Bengal, in the middle of the major cyclone corridor off southern Bangladesh. This is the extreme frontline in the battle Bangladesh faces against climate change. Islands (called "chars" in Bengali) such as these could be the first casualties from sea level rise. Some of these chars are already largely submerged at high tide. Others, as shown in this photo, are barely above sea level.

Who on earth would choose to live in a place like this? And yet, unbelievably, thousands of the poorest Bangladeshi's live on these coastal chars. Most have nowhere else to live. Many of their ramshackle homes get flooded on a daily basis. The number one cause of death of children in these areas is drowning. There is no government presence, no health care, no schools. The land is saline, so crops barely survive. People have no legal title to the land, and are prone to robbery and extortion by powerful gangs that control these areas. Women are particularly vulnerable and rape is common. Its really got to be the most challenging place I have worked in my 13 years at IFAD.

This desperate area is the location of IFAD's newest project in Bangladesh, a project that will be jointly funded by IFAD and the Netherlands. It will be the biggest ever IFAD initiated project in Bangladesh and has been a massive challenge to design. The Netherlands contributed USD 380,000 to the design process while IFAD contributed USD 100,000. This large design budget enabled complex engineering feasibility studies to be funded, as well as the usual formulation and appraisal missions. IFAD was given the responsibility to lead the entire design process and to identify and manage the design consultants.

So what is going to be funded? Firstly, large areas of land will be protected from sea level rise and flooding by high embankments. Cyclone shelters will be built to protect the local populations from extreme storm surges. The land will be surveyed and each landless settler household will be given secure land title to a 1.5 acre plot of land. Finally, to enable agriculture, salt will be removed from the soil by flushing, and adaptive research on salt tolerant varieties will be funded.
Tomorrow i'm off back to Dhaka to write the aide memoire for the wrap-up meeting next week. Then back to Rome on the 18th.
Nigel Brett, CPM Bangladesh.

There is quite a bit of frenzy in the atrium of the ORCHID Hospitality Management Services (Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons), Accra, Ghana where IFAD in conjunction with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture of Ghana, is holding a regional project implementation workshop for Western and Central Africa. These events present a wonderful opportunity for people to reconnect. You can see many smiling faces, people hugging and kissing and catching up with each other.

Adriana, Letizia, Christiane and others are helping with the registration. The last couple of days were quite hectic. Stefania and Martin, the two pillars of this workshop have diligently been organizing the minute details of the workshop. Yesterday we had a series of meeting to make sure that all the logistics was working like a swiss watch.

We spent all of yesterday setting up. Everyone, and I mean everyone, contributed to making sure we had everything. The gentlemen, Steven, Leo, Loko and others helped with assemblying the kits. David set up the exhibit and the publication desk. Stefania, Martin and I went were responsible for the signage and to make sure the breakout rooms were set up.

I am really excited, as tomorrow we'll be using a wide range of knowledge sharing methods. We'll start with three parallel chat shows, then we'll move to three parallel world cafes and we'll finish the day with a speed geeking session where colleagues will present their findings and learnings!

Kudos to all the colleagues in Western and Central Africa for embracing knowledge sharing methods. For sure, this workshop will be different and more engaging that previous editions!

This morning we'll have the honour and privilege of having His Excellency the Minister of Agriculture for the official opening. We'll then have a series presentation by the Director of Western and Central Africa and IFAD colleagues on the IFAD-funded project portfolio and the progress since the last implementation workshop.
So, let me sign-off at this point. More to come during the day. Internet access permitting we'll also be tweeting. So make sure you also check out the tweets both from @ifadnews and @rsamii.

On arrival in Chennai we were whisked straight to the home of Professor Swaminathan, where this 84 year old legend was awaiting us under the portico. Inside, his wife Meena, had prepared a meal for us. (The humility and simplicity of their welcome was disarming). The President and the Professor became swiftly engaged in deep discussions over the Green Revolution – that Professor Swaminathan helped father – and a much-needed new revolution to meet the challenges of food security and climate change.

We were later shown around the headquarters of the MRSSP Swaminathan Foundation. One of the most fascinating elements of their work is the gene bank houses collections of seeds of all varieties, some at risk of extinction, gathered from around India. The Foundation also has India’s largest collection of tubers and roots and vanishing crops – primarily medicinal plants .

The President delivered the keynote Millennium Lecture organised by the Hindu Resource Centre. He then went on to launch the Foundation’s climate risk managers programme, which provides communities with guidance on approaches to risk mitigation and managing climate change. These managers will be tasked with going out to the villages and supporting small farmers and poor rural people, so the solutions will have input from those most directly affected by climate change.

Professor Swaminathan emphasised the importance of strong links from lab to land and land to lab – so that scientific knowledge and traditional wisdom could be harnessed together. The President talked about food insecurity in rural areas, the importance of mapping potential rainfall patterns, tracking price volatility and identifying hotspots.

The day continued with video conference links to village knowledge centres operated by farmers groups, in IFAD-supported projects.

In the aftermath of the December 2004 tsunami, the Naga Pattinan coastal district saw its agriculture and fishing industries wiped out. Village resource or knowledge centres played a major role in relief efforts, and now ICT tools are being used to improve lives and businesses.

Ramesh, a fisherman, told us that through new technologies they have adopted more hygienic methods of handling the catch and more sustainable fishing practices. Incomes have gone up too, with fish prices increasing from 30 rupees per kilo to 110 rupees. Ramesh now trains other fishermen.

What do you do with your extra income, the President asked.
“My kids are at a private school, I have bought computer and GPS equipment for my business and paid off some of his debts,” Ramesh replied.

In the next video link, from Orissa, people from five villages involved in the IFAD-funded Tribal Empowerment Project told how the villages now have seed banks and farmers are aware of the quality of seeds required for these banks.

Some 85 per cent of those in the area are living below the poverty line, 55 per cent are tribal people and 60 per cent are illiterate, so forming the Self Help Groups was a major challenge. Once done though, they were away!. Now community-managed gene banks are holding some 500-1000 varieties of seed for next season.

Professor Swaminathan noted that IFAD was the first to start Self Help Groups, in Tamil Nadu, and this had since catalysed a movement across India, a transformation in sharing knowledge.

He said he was very grateful that he had provided support to the establishment of IFAD “In 1974, we thought we could make poverty history by 1984. That has not happened,” he said.

The two men addressed a well-attended press conference, where the President spoke about the need to find grass roots level solutions to climate change to – help mitigate as well as adapt.

“Thirty years ago when I met Professor Swaminathan I did not know that one day I would be standing here to deliver a Millennium Lecture,” said the President. “But what we did in research three decades ago is relevant today as we face down the challenges of climate change,” he added. “Ending hunger and poverty are possible, we need to remember that.”

By Farhana Haque Rahman and Mattia Prayer Galetti

IFAD President visits Uttarakhand

Posted by Roxanna Samii Monday, November 30, 2009 0 comments

The last key meeting for the President in the capital New Delhi, before heading to the field, was with the Finance Secretary Ashok Chowla. The confidence the Indian government has in IFAD’s work, supporting its own anti poverty strategies, was evident.

The President was then interviewed by Doordarshan, India's national prime TV channel, where a young journalist Mark Lynn sought his views on a wide range of issues including governance, corruption and how the Indian Government will be able to tackle poverty issues compounded by climate change.

The President pointed out that while there are some 250 million people living in poverty the government has undertaken several schemes and in partnership with other bodies, including IFAD is striving to tackle the root causes of poverty. He cited the example of the Indian Government upscaling the successful programme from the North East to other regions, with a proposed $160 million from the Government, $120 million from the World Bank and IFAD’s $20 million.

We then travelled to Uttarakhand, to see first hand how our work is changing people’s lives in the Himalayan region. The Chief Minister of the state of Uttarkhand, Ramesh Pokhriyal, welcomed us personally and asked if IFAD could adopt the Himalayas and provide a 100 per cent grant to transform the area. The livelihoods of millions of people in the Indo Gangetic Plain depend on those ecosystems which are also important for the entire world.

Uttarakhand is the only place in India where there is high-altitude farming and it is home to rare species of herbs and medicinal plants not available anywhere else in the world, such as the famous 'sanjivani' life-saving herb. Myth has it that when Laxman, the brother of the Hindu God Rama, was taken ill in Sri Lanka, the sanjivani herb was taken all the way from the Himalayas to nourish him back to health.

When the Chief Minister suggested that encouraging commercial production of these herbs could provide income for local communities, the President underlined the importance of creating value chains and linkages to local markets and of sustainable strategies for the future.

The challenges this might involve became crystal clear a few hours later when we were suspended in a German helicopter at 5000 feet above the Gharwali Himalayas range, with the snow-capped mountains of the Chow Khamba looming. Below us lay incredible terraced mountain slopes and pine forests, as we headed towards Chandra Badni where two rivers meet to form the mighty Ganges. The view was a stark reminder of how remote the Jogiyana village is and what infastucture and conncting roads would mean for the villagers.

We landed at Naikheri Khal and then drove, on what were often little more than tracks, to the village of Jogiyana, to see first hand how the IFAD-funded Livelihood Improvement Project in the Himalaya was impacting people’s lives.

The Gharwali community come from various backgrounds. We had been told that women had a particularly crucial role – traditionally and within the project - but were still slightly surprised to see that at the meeting the front seats were filled by women, with bright coloured headscarves and saris, with the menfolk at back. The President thanked them all, and remarked that in some societies it would often be the other way around.

He told them how deeply impressed he was with their determination and resilience. “The community group approach which underlies so much of IFAD’s work, and the empowering force of self help groups, has been at work here” he said.

Music is a powerful and constant presence in everyday life in Jogiyana, so the welcome event and the discussions with the Self Help Groups were all punctuated by music and local dancing.

But nothing could have prepared us for The Empowerment Song, a version of the civil rights hit “We Shall Overcome” sung in Hindi. The song asks the village to recognise women’s strengths, what they are capable of doing for the wellbeing of the community and their power to deliver social and economic change, with little daily changes leading gradually to a transformation in society.

We heard about these little changes from Khosa Bhat, the Federation President, filled us in on poultry raising and organic vegetable farming, where collection centres for vegetables production and direct marketing of produce has transformed incomes for the farmers. For example, for tomatoes, where they once received 5 rupees per kilo they now get 20 rupees, and the income from citrus fruits has increased fourfold, from 50 paisa each to 2 Rupees each.

“This federation, with 747 members, made 1.32 lakh - about US$3000 - in the last season from selling soya bean and organic seeds. With more market information and better packaging they will be able to improve further,” she said.

“I now produce soya beans and sell them direct to the market, cutting out the middleman”, said Mrs Thapliyar Pratabangar. “What we need next is a soya bean processing plant,” she added.

Despite severe water scarcity, Srimiaty Parmaswari, is now cultivating mushrooms. Popsing is raising chickens – running a mother unit – and rearing about 300 birds.

“It is important that these women are making money, with IFAD’s investment. Yet in this process of empowerment they have hung on tight to their culture and its spiritual value” the President noted.

The project has increased incomes by an average of 12 per cent through interventions in poultry, dairy off-season vegetables and off-farm businesses. The project has also helped reduce migration by 9 per cent, so young people are starting to realize there is a future here for them, that agriculture is business.

We watched a group of women making candles. They recounted how they had borrowed 20,000 rupees and put in 6,000 of their own. And they are making a success of it. At the last Divali – the Hindu festival of Light – they made 11000 rupees from candle sales.

They now want to expand into scented and decorative candles, but will need new moulds and are looking to target tourists at nearby Nainital.

One of the women - Durga Devi – has two boys and two girls – who are now all at school. Since the project began, she said, people are better nourished and families are ensuring their children attend school.

At the end of the visit to Jogiyana village, the President addressed a press briefing, along with Mattia and the project officers, giving their impressions of the project. Some 15 local media asked questions ranging from migration issues to the failure of poverty reduction schemes.

Several newspapers of the region highlighted the IFAD visit, as a sign of the state government’s appreciation that a UN agency head had decided to travel to remote local communities.

By Farhana Haque Rahman and Mattia Prayer Galetti

To mark the International Day to Eliminate Violence against Women on 25 November, IFAD’s Thematic Group on Gender, colleagues from the Communication Division and the United Nations Women’s Group (UNWG) joined hands to distribute white ribbons among male and female colleagues.

The White Ribbon Campaign is a global effort of men who are not afraid to speak out against men’s use of violence. Women have joined the White Ribbon Campaign to work with men as allies towards a world without violence for women, children and other men.

Jessie Mabutas, Assistant President and IFAD Focal Point for the UN Secretary-General’s Campaign “UNITE to end violence against women”, kicked off the event by handing out white
ribbons to male colleagues, from senior managers to interns.
About 275 colleagues, mostly men, signed the signature poster of the White Ribbon Campaign and took the white ribbon as a symbol. They pledged not to commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women and to influence other men and boys not to accept violence or justify violence.

This event showed how many IFAD colleagues are interested in stopping violence against women. It proved sceptics wrong who think gender based violence is not on the agenda of IFAD. It also helped us to question our attitudes and how each one of us is influenced by stereotypes. We demonize men as perpetrators of violence or argue whether women can also be violent. Instead, it would be much more helpful to support men who have the courage to speak out against sexual harassment and violence against women, and to encourage women to reach out to men and start a dialogue.

The white ribbon helps to create positive change by influencing men not to use violence and by nourishing greater respect among women and men. It is a symbol for change in gender relations.


A little slice of IFAD history

Posted by Roxanna Samii Wednesday, November 25, 2009 0 comments

When IFAD’s President learnt that Sartaj Aziz was also in New Delhi for high-level consultations he made it a point to pay a courtesy visit to one of the founding fathers of IFAD. Aziz – a well-known development thinker – is currently Vice-Chancellor of a national university in Pakistan.

It was touching and emotional for those who had known him – Mattia and myself – to see Aziz, in his mid-70s now, fit healthy and sharp as ever.

The two men bonded quickly with Sartaj Aziz sharing with the President some human details about the creation of IFAD, and the complexities and political undercurrents they had to handle to ensure that OECD countries, including the United States, and OPEC nations were all in sync.

Sarjat Aziz, a former finance minister and foreign minister of Pakistan, regaled the President with anecdotes of his encounters with Henry Kissinger, when at one point it seemed talks were near collapse because of disagreement on some issues.

“I still recall well the night of 13 June, 1977, at the plenipotentiary conference, where some of the creators had to thrash out an agreement late at night, bringing all member states to the table with a balanced foundation document for the institution…”

The President remarked that the creators of IFAD were geniuses.

He repeated something he shared in the last Town Hall meeting – that the agreement establishing IFAD covered everything, there was not one thing that could be added or without which IFAD could not proceed in its mission.

Sarjat Aziz congratulated the President on his election. “I am delighted that it is you who has taken on mantle of the organisation that has a noble mandate.

IFAD needs you now, just as it did then, the President told Sarjaz Aziz as he said goodbye.

Farhana Haque-Rahman and Mattia Prayer-Galetti

IFAD President in India – Day Two
At their meeting in New Delhi, IFAD’s President and Rajendra Kumar Pachauri, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), got straight down to business.

Along with other high-level personalities, Pachauri has been invited to take part in a Plenary Panel, to be moderated by CNN’s Jim Clancy, with the network’s agreement, at IFAD’s Governing Council (GC) in February. Pachauri, a 2007 Nobel Peace Prize winner on behalf of the IPCC, told the IFAD delegation that he was under pressure to fulfil a conflicting commitment. IFAD’s President, however, presented a compelling argument that Pachauri’s presence would add value to the GC and so draw greater attention to the issues facing poor rural people.

In their discussions, Pachauri credited Europe with taking the lead in international efforts to combat climate change by reducing emissions, with Japan also being ambitious and North America ‘still to come on board’ but noted it is a pity we are not making headway on this,” he said.

He recognised it was important that IFAD was focusing on these issues at a meeting which gathers 165 countries, because at least a dozen countries are on the brink of becoming failed states.

‘The implications of this are that there will be many more problems of governance and in some areas where governments will collapse there will be more illegal activity, more arms more drugs, more terrorists. These societies must be helped and not just with the eradication of poverty’ he said.

IFAD’s President noted that investment in rural communities is fundamental to shape societies and stem migration. He noted that from the Sahel to the mountains of Latin America climate change will exacerbate all the issues that Pachauri had raised, pointing to the Horn of Africa as evidence of how things can spiral out of control.

Pachauri proudly treated his guests to cups of special herbal tea with the support of TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute) of which he is Director-General.

“They have created over 3 hectares of farm where they are growing herbal plant seedlings, which are then given to farmers in Uttarkhand, along with training in organic cultivation using bio-fertilisers and post harvest processes” he said.

The President said he was keen for closer IFAD collaboration with TERI – on adaptation related to agriculture at community level and downscaling. “I shall be at your door step when ever you want. I have the highest regard for you and your organisation and what it is doing” was Pachauri’s reply.

The two development leaders also shared views on research related to rural poverty. Pachauri suggested that what was needed was more effective research to reach the doors of the poor and noted that the CGIAR system should embrace this further.
Regarding Maharashtra - the location of the most recent IFAD-funded project - and an area heavily dependent on rain fed agriculture, Pachauri noted that downscaling was needed, communities must be involved.

Pachauri has asked oil rich countries to convert oil wealth to soil wealth and Nwanze said, as a scientist himself he relates to soil health improvement vis a vis investment in healthy soils.

The President drew Pachauri’s attention to the work of the Global Environment and Climate Change unit of IFAD, (GECC) saying we would like to learn and work together on climate change-related issues. Pachauri warned that whatever happens in Copenhagen, international organisations must move on.

Meetings with ministers

India’s Minister of Agriculture Sharad Pawar, impressed on the President that it was important that farmers’ incomes be increased – particularly in the current scenario which saw them grappling with climate change. He noted that IFAD’s biggest strength is innovative financing but also raised the need for greater investment to grow the dairy sector, saying he would like to see IFAD stepping in where interests converge.

The Minister encouraged IFAD to coordinate ongoing and future work also through NABARD – the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development – on the following sectors: fisheries, dairy and animal husbandry.

Thomas Elhaut, Director of the Asia and Pacific Division, pointed out that IFAD is already focusing much more on these sectors given increased incomes and consumption and the President pointed out that IFAD’s India portfolio for the period 2010-2012 will increase to $140 million.

Referring to IFAD’s highly successful project in the North East project – which is to be scaled up by the Government with support from the World Bank - the Agriculture Minister praised IFAD for the emphasis it places on institution-building to ensure the sustainability of its programmes and projects.

In his call on Krishna Tirath, Minister of Women’s and Child Development, the President drew her attention to the emphasis IFAD places on women and youth, and his desire to increase collaboration on the empowerment of landless and tribal peoples.

“Our experience shows that women-headed households are four times more productive and communities with women headed households advance faster because they invest in women and kids – they invest in the future” he told her.

The President also noted that is India is an example of best practice from a performance point of view. A round table in New Delhi bringing together project managers and partners to help formulate strategies that will be presented to IFAD’s Executive Board to set a Road Map for investment in India over the next 5 years.

Empowerment of women is a priority of the Indian Government and the President was told that a new directorate is being set up under the Prime Minister’s office. The President noted ‘we are looking to new era of dynamic partnership with an increased portfolio in the country’.

Farhana Haque-Rahman and Mattia Prayer-Galetti with the President.

IFAD President meets India project directors

Posted by Roxanna Samii Monday, November 23, 2009 0 comments

The first day of the visit to India by IFAD President began with a meeting with India project directors in New Delhi. It was a precious opportunity for the President to receive a full briefing on the portfolio and to hear first-hand accounts of the progress made and the challenges they face in their work. Shaheel Rafique, Implementation Support Specialist, shared his impressions from the livelihoods improvement project in the Himalayas. “The common hope of people is to do something together, to mobilise their social capital to generate economic capital” he said.

The importance of IFAD’s work in improving livelihoods was picked up by Dr S. Swarna, the director of the livelihoods project in post-Tsunami areas, where those agencies who came for emergency relief have all left, but long term issues still remain.

“We focus on risk mitigation more, because most of the marginalised peoples, such as those from the tribes, live in risky locations and need support to gear up activities toward weather risk mitigation. We organize training sessions and strengthen smallholder groups, through a participatory method, involving the people from the design stage of the project. The government can build roads and create infrastructure, but what is most important is to respond to the peoples’ needs and that is what IFAD does’’ she said.

Another pillar of IFAD’s work in India s social empowerment, and this has been particularly successful in Maharashtra. A decision-making platform – supported by the Government’s Social Security Schemes - has been established for smallholder groups to discuss and decide on issues of common concern. “Savings have increased, and with that peoples lives have improved. The literacy rate has also increased, leading to people better understanding their rights” said Judith D'Souza,Implementation Support Specialist.

There have been big steps forward in promoting the empowerment of women too, she said, giving an example which from outside might seem small, but is huge in a context where women own so little.

“Women have gained the right to own the utensils they use to work. They used to receive for their dowry utensils engraved with their husband’s name - therefore were not the owners of the utensils – now they have their name engraved on them” she said.

IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze told the India IFAD project directors that their enthusiasm and dedication were impressive. “The excitement in your voices, despite the frustrations, is encouraging” he said. He pointed out that while India with its successful projects and programmes can be a model for our work worldwide,there is a need for greater visibility within the country.

“We were challenged by India’s Secretary of Finance during the World Bank meetings in Istanbul, that we are not sufficiently visible. Our work has to be visibile, by how we transform the lives of the people we work with and for, by how we impact. We have to be innovative, creative, delegate, decentralise, breed individuals we can rely on”.

Day One concluded with a reception hosted by in-country partners the World Food Programme (WFP), where the President met Agatha Sangma, India’s Minister for Rural Development, presenting her with a compilation volume on the 30 years of IFAD’s work in India.

Sangma, who is the world’s youngest minister, welcomed the President’s visit to India and IFAD’s collaboration with WFP, at a critical moment when the country has been hard hit by climate change and is experiencing severe droughts.

She underlined that IFAD has a role in ensuring that people in rural areas get attention. Coming herself from Garo hills, the Minister noted that rural development needs to be community-based. She recognized that this is IFAD’s approach and the way forward.

The President said she represents the future of India and the hope of leadership by younger people in both developed and developing countries.

The President went on to emphasize the strong collaboration with WFP and with FAO and the many successes in India, one of the first countriesto be given a loan by IFAD, thirty years ago.

Vartika Jaini, assistant programme manager at the Sir Ratan Tata, told the President that partnership with IFAD is all about sharing knowledge, helping scale up our programmes and developing partnerships for rural poverty reduction.

“Our own Rajasthan intiatives on microfinance are now being used as examples to be replicated in the IFAD empowerment project in Western Rajasthan” she said.

Mattia Prayer Galetti and Farhana Haque-Rahman with the President in India