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Written by Anna Spiteri

Wednesday's keynote continued to enlighten us on what is happening out there in the real world of entrepreneurship. Mark Davies talk was direct and dynamic and for me he certainly did “Demystify public-private partnership” with his honest approach! His description of the whole journey ...from geeks, suits and angels to sex and marriage...gave a concise view how the whole field evolved over the years. And by the time he set up his company esoke in Ghana, and 16 other countries in Africa since, he poured not just his energy and time , but a lifetime of experience into it as well, to make it the success it is today. Times have changes, he said, it is no longer the crazy expectation, that if you build something, demand will follow. His team, that grew from 2 to 30, all young local whizz kids are learning to respond to the field as there is constant change, which he admitted, it s exciting but also confusing. Amongst his successes he counts that he was the first to publish a commodities price index in Ghana, which puts a context into his trade. His business is to send farmers commodity prices through smses, which is a trend that is empowering the farmers as it enables them to negotiate with the traders. And thus marriages are saved as no longer the wife or husband quarrel whether the selling price should have been higher! Farmers say they have made 40% increase in savings, across the board, but esoke is only made up of hundreds of farmers, not the required hundreds of thousands to make the business viable.

He openly advocated that “we need to experiment and make mistakes”, but we need also to go out there, meet the farmers face to face, and ask them what they want, and start building a farmer profile, very much the same what Su was saying the day before with icow! It is a fact that technologies are emerging in Africa, and there is growing interest from operaters such as airtel, orangel and Vodafone as cities are saturated and the potential growth is in rural areas.
For the entrepreneurs he advises that it takes time to develop markets and takes money to incubate projects, and advocacy to attract innovators, and not forgetting experience! For the public sector he mentioned credibility, evaluation and of course the money! And for both...public and private he said the partnership will not work unless there is a clear and articulated institutional strategy with a legal and operational framework that binds them together.

His clear message was that angels are very important too as investment funds will launch the business, and large organisations should put aside 5% of their budgets for private partnerships .

Written by Rima Alcadi

Armine Tukhikyan, from the Urban Foundation for Sustainable Development (UFSD), tells us that Armenia is a very beautiful country – in terms of its natural, cultural and historical heritage. However, the country has a big problem and it’s that it is littered with plastic bags. She tells us of two projects that are geared towards addressing this major issue.

The first project is about recycling plastic bottles. The separation of plastic from solid household waste is quite recent - not only in Armenia, but also in most of the post – Soviet countries. This issue is especially acute in small towns and rural areas. In Armenia, the UFSD was the first organization to use special bins for collecting plastic bottles. Of course, as pioneers, they had no idea whether people would use these bins or not! So they first piloted the idea in a small town of 20,000 people.

It worked! The municipality and the private sector are also involved in the project, denoting a great example of Public-Private partnership. The plastic bottles are collected by the companies, that turn the plastic bottles into flakes and then sell these flakes to other private sector entities, as secondary material. Currently, the plastic bottles are not sold to the companies collecting them: it is not yet economically remunerative because the volume is not sufficient to cover for the transport. The municipality is being encouraged to buy a machine to flake and press the PET into bales, so that the material can be sold. In addition, it is expected that rural communities will benefit from savings in garbage collection fees. Considering that in Armenia, plastic bottles make up for 31% of the total volume of household waste, these savings could be considerable.

Encouraged by the success of the first project, an ambitious attempt was made to reduce usage of plastic shopping bags. UFSD is promoting the use of reusable shopping bags. They analysed the various possible materials that could be used – they wanted something durable and that also looks good. They came up with 2 different models, sold for Euros 1.5/1.7 depending on the quality of the bag. This bag is currently being sold in a supermarket chain. Following their corporate social responsibility policy, the management of the supermarket chain bought several thousand bags, with a first batch distributed for free to their clients to educate them on the usefulness of the reusable bags. They then started to sell these bags. But the bad news is that ownership of the supermarket chain has recently changed and we are left hoping that the new owners will want to subscribe to this environmentally friendly initiative as well ….

How are these two projects related? Well, they both address the issue of the reducing the use of plastic bags. The first project, whereby plastic bottles are recycled, should reduce the use of plastic bags by 31%, since, as stated above, that is the proportion of household waste that is constituted by the plastic bottle. In the second case, the idea is to eliminate the use of the plastic bag altogether, by replacing it with the reusable shopping bag. These projects reminded me of a mantra all environmentally-conscious consumers should bear in mind: Reduce, reuse and recycle.

UFSD works a lot to educate children as well. They believe it is essential to build environmental awareness at an early age, to ensure a greener future as well as to hold their families accountable for a greener present. They tell children that plastic is made out of oil, which is a non-renewable resource that is not biodegradable and that contaminates our soils and water. They reward schools for adopting environmentally friendly behaviour – they give a medal to schools with the title of “green school” when they recycle, plant trees, reuse shopping bags etc. UFSD also involves the media a lot and they advertise and promote the “green schools” as role models.
For more information, contact Armine Tukhikyan (atukhikyan@aua.am) and visit the UFSD website

Written by Jeff Brez

Yesterday we had an intense and lively discussion on “What is climate smart agriculture” using the “fish bowl” knowledge sharing method. Fish bowl means that there is a core group of speakers while the rest of the room, arranged in circles around them, listens in. The fun part is that the core group evolves as audience members join the “inner circle” one at a time, and the original speakers leave, one at a time, so that the discussion is enriched by lots of different perspectives.

Our core group consisted of Elwyn Granger-Jones (IFAD), Carlo Scaramella (WFP), Marja-Liisa Tapio-Biström (FAO) and Cristina Grandi (IFOAM). Our audience was not shy, and everyone had experience and specific knowledge to contribute. More than half of the 30 participants entered the “fish bowl” during the course of the session.
There was no consensus on exactly what climate smart agriculture is or should be. But – there are boundaries that seem to be forming. For example, most agreed that perhaps 80% of CSA is made up of what we already know how to do and are trying to do (sustainable agriculture approaches such as integrated pest management, organic and conservation agriculture). However, there is a tricky and evasive 20% of CSA that is new, linked to emerging challenges that climate change brings about, and riddled with uncertainty.

There was also consensus that the concept is strongly influencing the planning and thinking of the ARD development community, and that it presents an opportunity to catalyze the move towards an integrated, cross-sectoral approach to agriculture and food security linking it with other challenges to sustainable development and poverty reduction. Yes, mindsets are being changed already, but what is missing is a global vision for agriculture, including the role of smallholders, that climate smart practices would fit into. We need this!
Speakers also agreed that in order to make the transition to climate-smart agriculture happen, more needs to be done: to better assess the vulnerability of farmers, including smallholder farmers; to create policy environments that incentivize and reward climate smart practices; to connect smallholder farmers to seasonal climate predictions and trends through sms and other ICT solutions for short and long term planning; to support education and extensions services; to facilitate access to new technologies like drought resistant seeds; and, to mainstream CSA into agricultural and rural development policies, because in spite of new climate funds, that is where the bulk of the money will remain.

Perhaps the strongest point of consensus was that farmers are natural adapters. Climate change is happening too fast and creating too much unpredictability for them, though. So there is no time to waste in helping the poorest to adapt. In addition – let’s not forget that the majority of the best examples of adaptive systems are traditional practices that have been with us for centuries. Case in point is the oases of the Maghreb. In these systems, water is used efficiently and livestock needs are integrated into cropping systems, for example. Let’s not waste time or money to reinvent the wheel.

Written by Elaine Reinke (IFAD, NEN division)

How do we sustain our networks?

Networks and CoPs spring up like mushrooms these days, many of which are initiated and funded by external donors like IFAD. Everyone seems to agree that the glue is the commitment and ownership of its members. But how can we turn donor driven and funded initiatives into self-sustained CoPs that survive and have an impact beyond the funding period of say IFAD?

The chat show with representatives of the IFAD-supported networks KariaNet II and MENARID in the Near East and North Africa region, implemented by IDRC and ICARDA respectively, assembled a pretty full house of experienced “networkers” who entered into a rich discussion:

  • We must consider the obstacles generated by formalizing networks…
  • What do we really want to sustain – the network or the KM culture among network members? How successful can a network that combines different knowledge sharing cultures be?
  • We must be careful about addressing a sensitive issue like financial sustainability too early in the process of building a CoP…
  • Aren’t donors such as IFAD supposed to fund networks if they commit to investing in KM and benefit from their investments?
  • Apart from the facilitation of a network – a job for “social artists”, as Etienne Wenger calls them – the quality of products and services are key assets – but can also slow things down…
  • Networks should be aware of and build on the strategic asset of networks of and within networks…
  • How should networks behave in an environment where individuals are being protective of their knowledge?

A number of assets, challenges and opportunities emerged from the debate … which is to be continued – by creating a CoP on the sustainability of networks, deepening the discussion with interested networkers and social artists via a blog or mailing list? Nice idea!

Drop an email to info@karianet.org and you’re in!

Written by Yamba Mbizule

Tigran Khanikyan (CEO) of The Fund for Rural Economic Development in Armenia (FREDA) introduced the project to a host of participants and proceeded to touch on the key activities and highlighting key lessons learned.

Discussions began, sketching out the scape of Armenia’s business sectors, with particular detail to small-medium SMEs. Highlighted were: 1) The lack of Equity Funds in Armenia, 2) The need for capital investment in businesses, and 3) Organisational change – making business more professional.

Founded with seed capital from IFAD in 2009, the fund has been operational for a year and a half now and has since invested in 7 companies spanning 4 key target sectors, mainly: dairy, fish breeding, winery and canning – with another 10 investment opportunities in the pipeline.
The fund is run by 5 individuals including Mr Khanikyan and is moderated by a board of trustees which includes the Armenian Prime Minister, as well as two external moderators nominated for a year at a time. After receiving proposals and conducting feasibility studies, FREDA not only invests in the various sectors but also in the human capital of each business. FREDA sits on the boards of the companies they invest in and employ a hands-on approach to business, which includes a great deal of corporate restructuring in order to increase the business’ professional and functional standard and thus gear the companies towards expansion.

Lessons Learned:
1. The interest from privately owned companies in small-medium SME investment has been boosted.
2. The size of the company is not important when it comes to investment, what is important is the human capital. The people and the culture in the company are more important than the figures.
3. The long term goal is expansion, but the immediate and pressing issue is that of self-sufficiency. A company must be able to support itself, financially and strategically.
4. The results are not immediate, it may take 1, 2, or even 3 years before the benefits are fully reaped.
5. The real development of financial markets can be seen in the pledge value. If for every $1 put into the business, $1 is reaped, then the growth can be measured as such.
6. A full rehabilitation of a company is required, a hands on approach to this type of poverty reduction is necessary.
7. Keeping private funds out of the initial investment allows for the companies to structure as appropriate to them and not to be usurped by the heavy corporate mode of business until the professional standard of business and the standard of living has been raised.

Peer Assist Delight #sfrome

Posted by Beate Stalsett 0 comments

Written by Yamba Mbizule

This is a recipe for a Peer Assist – A knowledge-sharing exercise that is simple to process and garners extremely useful information in order to plan steps forward.

1 x Peer Assistee
1 x Facilitator
1 x Key Challenge
1 x Flip Chart
8-10 x Peers with Similar or Homologous Challenges


(10-15 min the day before the Peer Assist)
1. Before the peer assist process, take one Peer Assistee and one facilitator and allow them to brainstorm around a key challenge. The Peer Assistee together with the facilitator should make sure that they are able to explain the problem clearly and fully within 5 minutes.

(30-45 min in the Peer Assist)
2. Gather the Peer Assistee, the facilitator and the 8-10 peers with similar or homologous challenges and put them in a space where they can sit comfortably.
3. Have the facilitator welcome the peers and introduce the Peer Assist topic and the Peer Assistee. Allow the Peer Assistee to address the challenge(5 mins).
4. The facilitator should then open the floor to suggestions and input from the peers and document all feedback on the flip chart.
5. The Peer Assistee should make sure not to get too defensive about his project and be open to any and all suggestions.

(5-10 min)
6. The facilitator then draws the session to an end and thanks all for attending and participating
7. The facilitator then hands over to the Peer Assistee for a final address of comments.
8. The Peer Assistee addresses comments and thanks all for participating and contributing. He also gives feedback regarding how he plans to use the knowledge shared in moving forward.
9. Contact details are exchange.
Serve Immediately.

Written by Yamba Mbizule


“Want to know how you ensure food security, an increase in agricultural production and a rehabilitation of the environment in rural communities in light of poor annual rainfalls of between 100mm – 300mm?”

The Butana province-based project turned to the improvement of traditional agricultural apparatus and methods. The intervention answered directly to the frustrations of the communities and built on the successes and failures of projects conducted in the Kordofan Region of Sudan. The adoption rates experienced are simply phenomenal when you couple good innovative approaches with a community-driven field days in which farmers exchange success stories, ideas and best practices.

Terrace Systems have been used as a method of water collection and management but have been relatively efficient. The BIRDP introduced innovations to improve the water-holding potential of the soil by emphasising and improvement in the catchment areas of traditional terrace systems in an integrated approach. Facets of the project included: improving environmental conditions, capacity building, institutional and technical improvements, tentative steps to improving access to markets, and improving the community’s structural capacities. The project recognised that an improvement in one aspect of agriculture was not enough to alleviate the problems faced but that an approach that contributed to complementary processes was a solid step in the right direction.

Through these approaches, the project has been able to increase production from approx. 2 sacks/ feddan to between 10 and 12 sacks per feddan per household in its 3yrs of operation.
The major successes of the BIRDP included: A keen focus on the influencing of interest groups, a bottom up approach, the establishment and maintenance of grassroots-led communities of practice in which a common mode of communication was possible, and the involvement of local government in strategic decision-making processes.

One key challenge that remains is that of mono-cropping.

by Johannes Schunter

When walking through the IFAD corridors this warm Italian September week one cannot help but be amazed by the buzzing, vibrant energy that is felt in every part of the building. People chat in corners, engage in up to 15 parallel group sessions, share their thoughts with someone with a video camera or sit in the hallway with their laptop on their lap, communicating one of their many impressions through email, Twitter or a blog. Over 600 participants, 160 projects, 200+ scheduled group or plenary sessions, and one is left with an immediate question: How on earth did they pull this off? After all, there is no professional event management company involved here that pulls the strings. This event is done by the sponsoring organizations themselves, with a surprisingly low budget and mostly with staff who – if they are not helping plan and implement knowledge fairs – have other jobs to do.

I talked to some of the organizers to get a small glimpse of the machinery that made this event happen behind the scenes. Planning for this ShareFair started already in January 2011, with a one-day facilitated brainstorming workshop where the Rome-based stakeholders ( Bioversity International, CGIAR ICT-KM programme, FAO, IFAD and WFP) got together to determine the general direction and approach they wanted to take with this event, building on the first event that took place at FAO in 2009. After that a Steering Committee was established in February to plan the event.

As there is no general existing budget for Rome ShareFairs, the team members from the different host organizations had to raise funds for the significant logistical and programmatic requirements (which include necessities such as security, ambulance, infrastructure and communication expenses) as well as to fund travel expenses for proposals from participants who otherwise could not come to the fair and share their learnings. Yet, I was surprised to learn that this entire event is realized with notably less than $200,000 (actual and in-kind) accumulated resources overall.

Talking about proposals: roughly 300 proposals were submitted after the Steering Committee publicly announced the ShareFair through their website in May 2011. The submissions were reviewed and filtered down to about 160, the maximum capacity of content sessions that the IFAD building can accommodate during the three main days of the fair with up to 15 parallel sessions at a given time slot.

These sessions, however, are rarely self runners. If the thematic expert is not by chance also a communication professional, a facilitator is needed to help the presenter avoiding tiring PowerPoint slides and instead turn the presentation into an engaging, participatory learning session using knowledge sharing approaches. But where to get those versed facilitators from? Luckily, Knowledge Management staff in Rome are well connected with the Knowledge Management for Development Network (KM4Dev), a community of KM practitioners working in development. Additionally, a call was placed also within each of the participating organizations for facilitators. By calling on about 50+ volunteer facilitators, the ShareFair organizers were able to provide professional facilitation for almost all project presentations, drawing on a range of creative and participatory facilitation methodologies which were introduced in a pre-conference training day for participants interested in these tools.

The training sessions of this so-called “Training and Learning Day” included not only facilitation techniques, but also introductory sessions into a range of social media tools for knowledge exchange and communication, such as Twitter, Facebook, Photos, Blogs or Podcasts. That those sessions were not just theoretical exercises was demonstrated during the entire week by the social reporting team, a group of about 30+ social media enthusiasts who committed to report live from event sessions and interactions in between sessions through the full range of social media tools. This way, the immediate audience of a few hundred on-site participants could be extended to many thousands of interested practitioners that followed the event online, by reading blogs, viewing video interviews or responding to tweets posted during the event.

Finally, as a participant of the Fair, besides noticing some of the more visible faces of the fair that give announcements and introduce sessions, you will most likely run into one of the many volunteers who are supporting the logistics behind the scene at any given moment: as registration desk volunteers, as information focal points and helpful guides on each floor, behind the technology that provides meeting room infrastructure, WLAN access and live webcast, or as runners who help fixing the many little and bigger emergencies that we mostly don’t even notice as participants.

So again, what does it take to make such a ShareFair happen? It takes all those people, seen and unseen, and I think they deserve a collective tipping of hats for the astounding work they do. Or you just walk up to the next one you see and give that person a ‘thank you’. And if you bring them a cup of coffee they might even reward you with more interesting details on life behind the scenes of the ShareFair!

Have you ever participated in a drama during a share fair?

Participants in this group had the opportunity to do so.The chill out corner in IFAD has become a little stage setting the scene to present the M-Kulima project in Kenya showing how mobile telephone technology can convince farmers to adopt alternative crops to ensure food security.

Damas Oduor Ogwe from the Seeds of Peace Africa (SOPA) International in Kenya has shown us how sms messages with useful information can help farmers change their behaviours in terms of cultivation of more resistant crops and influencing people's eating behaviour.

Examples from Costa Rica and Nicaragua have emphasised that community facilitators are very important to act as reporters to transmit knowledge to farmers and the people in the villages. Young people are key players since ICT technology is more easily adopted by them. They can become actors of change.

Thank you Damas for sharing your experiences with us.

Christiane Kuhn, IFAD

GENESYS at #sfrome (71)

Posted by Roxanna Samii 1 comments

by Silvia Lambiase 
On Tuesday 27 September, for the second day of this fantastic Share Fair, Adriana Alercia, Jessica Raneri and Ana Laura Cerutti, from Bioversity International (also on behalf of Michael Mackay who unfortunately couldnít attend the meeting) gave us a great and interesting presentation on GENESYS Gateway to Genetic Resources.

There couldn't be a better start to show efficiently what this incredible tool is: a video which stressed the importance and value of recording data and sharing it as a benefit for the whole world.

Genesys, with the financial support of the Global Crop Diversity Trust and through strong partnerships with the CGIR centres and the International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources, aims (and succeeds) at serve as a better tool for plant genetic resources (PGR), climate change and food security experts and breeders, with its 24 million records of crops and their respective characterization, evaluation and environmental data.

At the moment, Genesys includes detailed information on 22 crops belonging to the Annex 1 of the International Treaty, but very soon Adriana &co. will provide us with data on crops of Neglected and Underutilised Species (NUS)!

Bioversity Standards, which were developed together with FAO and EURISCO, are becoming more and more important worldwide, to the point that theyíre now considered the international standards.
We've seen the value of recording data said Adriana, but how can we make sure that all people all over the world can store all the information in one place? Are the characteristics contained in GENESYS important for breeders and PGR users to improve varieties to face climate change?

She said the quality of information is obviously very important. There is a number of portals where you can find characteristics and passport data, but GENESYS is unique because it contains all the information breeders are looking for to face climate change: it contains passport data from 500 countries all over the world, besides environmental data so that users can find and locate the specific crop they are looking for, for example that is particularly resistant to a specific pest or disease.

As the video showed, it is also crucial for breeders in Africa (and anywhere else in the World) who are concerned about the uncertainty of rainfall and are struggling to feed their family: GENESYS is unbelievably useful since it allows them to find crops that are particularly suitable to the environment they live in! It tries to provide quick solutions for these people facing climate change.

Jessica Raneri gave us a very efficient explanation on how user-friendly this portal is, and gave us great examples on how simple it is to use it. Users can make specific trait queries and even narrow their search, for example by typing annual precipitation, average temperature and protein content. Breeders can even have, if they wish, a sample deliverd by genebanks. A GIS map is also available and you can download the information into google earth in order to better locate the crops, download the whole crop information into a pdf file which will immediately be saved on your computer, summarising all the crop's characteristics, besides the country/institute which holds it and number of accessions.

Adriana concluded her presentation by telling us what the lessons learnt from the GENESYS project are:

  • Researchers desperately want access to all available programme information
  • There is a huge demand for interoperability with other information systems, such as genetic and molecular data
  • There is a requirement for broader PGR and research communityís involvement in future development
Lastly, the lessons learnt from the Standards used in GENESYS are:
  • There is a huge demand of standards for additional crops and subjects
  • Researchers participate eagerly to their development
  • The global participation of researchers to standards development has granted the international status within the PGR community.
For sure, what we have learnt from this amazing and catchy presentation is that, since we all know and agree with Adriana when she says that because of climate change, we will have to do more with less, finally we have an incredibly useful tool that will help breeders find quicker solutions and cope with these threats!

After the presentation, Adriana, Jessica and Ana Laura answered to questions.

Question: Why can you only download 5 mega bytes?
Answer: Since it's not our information, we need to make sure that people can download all at once, and we havenít reached an agreement yet with who provides the information

Q: What's the total number of accessions and what percentage of that has latitude and longetude (location) information?
A: 2 million, and all of them have location information even though there could be some mistakes but GENESYS is trying to correct them. Adriana then pointed out that the information contained in GENESYS is equivaelent to 11 million of phenotype characteristic and that they have 24 million records on passport information.

Q: With regards to NUS (Neglected and Under-utilised species), how many of them can we access through Genesys?
A: That's our next step, this is what we've been requested to do: more crops in addition to the ones in annex 1. Our plan is also to develop pedigree data.

Q: Do you already use this portal?
A: The project is managed by Michael, so for this type of information you should ask him.

Q: Do u have any analisys on queries?
A: Yes, we have access to this information, for example from which countries users are logging in and what crop theyíre looking for, and we can keep a database on that. We warmly invite you to check out GENESYS on www.genesys-pgr.org! If you want to ask any questions or send your suggestions to the GENESYS team, you can contact GENESYS directly from the website (contact). If you wish to be a data provider you have to agree with a protocol. At the moment, until the 15th of November, you can complete a survey which is available on the website, to collect information and impressions, to address the process of improvement of GENESYS to meet the userís needs.

écrit par Ambrosio Barros

Entourée d’Ali Abdoulaye, Coordonnateur d’un projet au Niger et de Yannick De Mol, Expert en information et communication, Eliane Najros, Coordinatrice générale du Projet FAO-Dimitra - Genre, information et communication en milieu rural, a présenté hier matin l’une des initiatives phares mises en place par Dimitra dans ses zones d’interventions : les clubs d’écoute.

Il s’agit d’un « groupe de femmes et d’hommes engagés qui s’appuient sur l’écoute et la participation à des émissions radios pour s’impliquer dans la vie sociale et contribuer au développement local. Ces clubs sont des groupements citoyens permettant aux membres de partager leurs préoccupations, leurs besoins, d’obtenir certaines informations autrement inaccessibles et d’entreprendre des actions constructives ensemble. De manière générale, la création des clubs d’écoute communautaires vise l’autonomisation des populations rurales, en particulier des femmes, et le renforcement du leadership de ces dernières ». La présentation de ce matin a permis de mieux cerner ce concept et les activités connexes de ces clubs d’écoute (leurs membres bénéficient ainsi de formations et de cours d’alphabétisation).

A travers les premiers résultats et impacts obtenus, ces clubs contribuent aussi à la constitution d’un noyau de paix et d’un terrain d’entente qui s’adapte au contexte des communautés dans lesquelles ils sont mis en place. Ainsi, au Niger ou encore en RDC, dans la mesure où les femmes sont de plus en plus nombreuses dans les organisations paysannes, elles s’impliquent davantage dans les clubs d’écoute ; les hommes de leur côté monopolisent de moins en moins la parole, et les femmes voient leur influence s’accroître dans la prise de décision au sein des organisations paysannes. Se reposant sur la parole et les moyens de communication adéquats par rapport aux zones d’intervention tels que les radio et téléphones à batterie solaire, ce processus a l’ambition de s’étendre géographiquement.

Written by Rima Alcadi

Food security in the South is more than just cereals. Root and tuber crops (RTCs – including potatoes, cassava and sweet potatoes) rank among the seven most important food crops in developing countries. Asia-Pacific is home of the world’s RTCs – as the region with the highest production, consumption and utilization of these crops. Besides being staple food especially among indigenous peoples and poor households, RTCs are an affordable source of nutrition and offer income-generating opportunities through their versatile and multiple uses. The session was presented by Dindo Campilan, from the Centro Internacional de la Papa (CIP), a CGIAR centre.

The Root and Tuber Crops for Food Security in Asia-Pacific is a CIP project funded by IFAD, approved in December 2010. How did this project start? In 2008 during the rice crisis, IFAD sent a mission to Asia for verifying how to rapidly increase the production of rice. But once there, we found that the farmers were actually eating roots and tuber crops, so we decided to focus on these instead, for enhancing food security.

In Asia, although the primary focus is on rice for food security and self-sufficiency, there are many places where roots and tubers are staples. Even in the Indo-Gangetic plains, in which the rice-based food system prevails, sweet potatoes are grown in between the rice seasons.

In this session, we learnt about innovative products and uses of these underground treasures, which have been undervalued and neglected in agricultural research and development efforts. We were introduced to a lot of different products - from taro, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava, yam etc.

Of course, we were allowed to taste many of these products, including chips (salty as well as sweet), bread, purple yam jam and so on. We brought glass noodles made from sweet potatoes back home for tasting too!

We also shared our experience from our own countries, or from our work experience. Chiara Calvosa (IFAD) highlighted that during the war in certain areas in Africa, people used to eat cassava leaves, as “famine food “. So a major impediment in promoting the consumption of cassava leaves is the stigma attached to it - people do not want to be reminded of the bad times. Indeed, the need to overcome the fact that people associate these crops as “poor people’s foods” (as in the case of most neglected and underutilised crops – NUS) is a major challenge. Branding can play a very important role in this regard.

Another peculiar challenge faced with roots and tubers in Asia is that their health properties are not recognised. So although potatoes have almost 0 fat and are quite nutritious, people associate them to french-fries! The project is addressing such challenges– using several knowledge sharing tools involving the media, celebrities acting as champions, chefs, extensionists, Facebook, YouTube and so on. We thought it would be interesting for CIP to work more with schools as well – promoting school gardens, inter-generational exchange of knowledge and simple modules that could be easily adapted to the various disciplines, to students’ different age groups and to the teachers’ personalities. These ideas were based on IFAD-funded projects implemented by Bioversity International and Oxfam Italia.

Some interesting facts that we learnt?

Sweetpotatoes are not potatoes – they belong to the morning-glory family. Unlike the potato - which is a tuber, or stem - the sweetpotato is a root.

There are over 4,000 edible varieties of potato, mostly found in the Andes of South America.

The potato is the third most important food crop in the world in terms of human consumption. More than a billion people worldwide eat potato.

Do not peel your potatoes – you will lose the micronutrients!

For more information, please contact Dr Dindo Campilan: d.campilan@cgiar.org

Written by Marta Millere

Today at 14:00 we were able to catch up with FAO consultant Sandro Dernini who presented his thoughts on art as a possible tool to transmit food culture.

His vision was one of an anthropological nature and he argued that food should not be seen solely as a container of nutrients but also as a means of expressing one’s (human) culture and heritage. We learned that the know-how of the people across the world is a form of biodiversity itself and must be protected, and a way to this could be through art.

Through art we can express our cultural identities but also embrace something that is almost a universal language. It is a communication tool that can be used to revitalize people’s interest on food and to make nutrition and biodiversity appealing and understandable to many, therefore possibly leading to a greater good: one of food and nutrition safety.

In this session we enjoyed hearing that through art peoples’ awareness of existent but most importantly - forgotten foods - can be brought back to “life”. Sandro also told us about successes of the FAO project on school-gardens in which he was involved, and how by growing their own food, schools in Bangladesh, Cuba and Rwanda were able to balance their own diets.

Sandro mentioned the global problem of youth slipping away from their heritage and eating foods that are not part of their culture, foods that are actually bad to them because they are poor in nutrients. The ever existing issue of people thinking that local and “ancient” foods are “food for the poor” and therefore not appealing to those who strive to be modern was also raised.

Sandro also introduced Brazilian artist Glaucia Coelho Demenjour who will be joining Amedeo Modigliani in what the artist herself called an “edible installation” in the light of the World Food week. This event will take place October 24th in FAO.

Photo by: Glaucia Coelho Demenjour

Written by Emily Coleman

Through two photos, Weijing Wang - Country Programme Officer for China, illustrated two important reasons why weather index-based insurance is being used as a viable alternative to traditional multi-peril crop insurance in China. The insurance agent in the field, who after every perceived yield loss, has to travel 24-7 to visit every smallholder farm and assess the actual damage caused. The farmer looking at his crops, who faces the dilemma of whether or not to invest extra money to improve production, for fear of losing his investment and more if bad weather strikes.

Weather index-insurance eliminates these two risks. It responds to an objective parameter, such as rainfall or temperature, at a defined weather station during an agreed period of time. The parameters of the insurance contract are set to correlate as closely as possible with the damages suffered by the farmer.

The insurance agent from the photo we saw doesn’t have to go around to each farm and assess the loss, as all farmers within a defined area receive pay-outs based on the same contract and measurement at the same station. This can reduce the transaction costs for the insurers and importantly the time it takes for the farmer to be compensated for their loss.

The Weather Risk Management Facility – a joint initiative of IFAD and WFP - carried out the first weather index-based insurance pilot in China from 2008 to 2010. A large element of this pilot was building the technical capacities of the local stakeholders in weather index-based insurance, particularly Guoyuan Insurance Company who learnt how to calculate indexes and design contracts for this new product.

A follow-up pilot was initiated by the Chinese government and Guoyuan Insurance Company. This time, building on what they had learnt from IFAD and WFP, they greatly expanded coverage – both in terms of number of people insured, and the geographical area.

During 2011, there was low temperature and drought, enough to trigger a payout. The payout was fast, and whilst farmers could tap into this amount to recover their production, they were still waiting for the compensation from the additional multi-peril crop insurance which relies on in-field assessments.

Responding to questions from the floor, Weijing explained that since that very first IFAD-WFP pilot, interest in weather index-based insurance in the country is growing. The government, insurance companies, and other donors are all seeing a future in weather index-based insurance for China. Most importantly, farmers are beginning to change their attitude too. They are now beginning to trust in this type of financial product more than we saw in the initial pilot, and interestingly, they are becoming more aware of the weather risk facing them and seeking out new online information channels on how to manage it.

Whilst not every area, country, or weather pattern may be suited to weather index-based insurance, the benefits are already evident in China, and the future looks sunny!

More information found here.

Thousands of neglected and underutilized species (NUS) of crops offer tremendous opportunities for food and nutritional security and have the potential to improve rural people’s livelihoods. When we refer to NUS, we are often told that if these species are underutilized, there must be a reason why. And indeed there is. The trouble is that the reasons are often not good ones: they are often based on misconceptions; production or marketing bottlenecks that can sometimes be easily surmounted; lack of information on the cultural, nutritional and environmental properties of these species etc.

This event was organized by 4 organizations, namely Bioversity International, the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (FAO), Oxfam Italia and the IFAD. We chose the TED talk format, with Stefano Padulosi from Bioversity International telling us stories from rural communities from all over the world to understand the importance of NUS. The main protagonist was a cake, made out of quinoa (an Andean grain) and sold in La Paz’s version of “Starbucks” – a place called Alexander Coffee. This very special cake is the result of a 10 year project funded by IFAD that involved hundreds of people from poor communities across Bolivia. Being able to enjoy this cake in Alexander Coffee means that we have been successful in conserving NUS and making them competitive on the market and attractive to all those who go to there.

Quinoa has been cultivated for centuries in the Andean region. It is very nutritious as an important source of protein and iron. the Incas considered it a sacred crop, and the emperor would traditionally sow the first seeds of the season using implements made of gold. But now it has become a NUS and is considered 'poor people's food'.

A fundamental problem with quinoa is that its preparation is painful. Quinoa seeds are coated with a layer of saponine, a bitter and toxic alkaloid. To get rid of this layer, women first toasted the seeds on a metal tray over a fire. Then the hot seeds are tipped into a stone basin and the women tread them with their bare feet, causing blisters and chronic lower back pain. Moreover, this process can take 6 hours to process 12 kg of quinoa. The project provided the target group with a machine to remove the saponine and what previously took hours now was done in just 7 minutes.

NUS are often also important as medicinal and aromatic plants – for example wild fennel. In the Errachidea province in Morocco, the value of this herb is currently neglected and consequently its exploitation is underutilized. New generations are slowly forgetting the knowledge and traditional use of these plants. However, these plants can be an important income opportunity for poor rural communities. In the case of wild fennel, its cultivation (instead of colleting it directly as spontaneous plant) in one year may improve the average household income by 75%. Thanks to a project by Oxfam Italy, 33 families in the villages of Sidi Boukil and Gourama are now learning how to promote these herbs in the markets thus improving their livelihoods.

Creating an enabling policy environment – both at national and international level – is necessary to deploy the economic potential of NUS for the poor. Thus, the role of the FAO International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture is pivotal for supporting NUS, in terms of more sustainable conservation and a wider use of agrobiodiversity. Several Grants have been awarded by the Treaty to organizations around the world, via its Benefit Sharing Fund. This is a great contribution towards the creation of a more secure food basket for the world. In sum, NUS have a great potential: they can increase incomes, enhance nutrition and preserve the culinary and cultural traditions of indigenous communities. Moreover, these crops are often better adapted to grow in marginal areas, with little need for irrigation, pesticides and fertilizers. In many instances these species are the only crops that can cope with harsh environments unfit for other crops. And they can also play an important role in boosting responsible and sustainable tourism.

by Anna Spiteri

Rob Burnet very aptly entertained the audience at the Fair Share this morning by weaving a well told story about the characters he helped create in the ever popular comic series in Kenya.

Searching for ideas in the media space amidst election tensions in the country, he realised that half of the Kenyan population of 39 million, were under 18 years old, and that nobody was reaching these youths. So the story of Boy or DJB evolved...a young man, clever, unemployed..without tertiary education..and living on the peripheral slums in Nairobi... Rob told us that ...DJB did not want to join his friends who left school and eventually turned into gangsters....because he had a secret...in his bedroom he had built an FM radio, called shu jazz. And every evening he broadcasted to other young listeners, all young, young girls and boys determined to make things better for themselves, rather than succumb to ganghood.

So together with DJB other characters were invented and a whole team came together to produce stories with a message in a comic format, 32 pages long on recycled paper...with excerpts appearing in the Daily Nation. The whole team of script writers and graphic artists are all young talented people from 18 to 23 years old, many of them coming from the slums..so they have first hand knowledge of the stories they portray. They also go and test their stories in the field..in spaces where the young people they are portraying actually live...The 10 million comics produced so far are very popular with young kids and are written in the new speak of the Kenyan youth....This success led to the setting up of a dynamic show ...where smses and phone ins and jokes are all part of the show with a record of 97 million contacts since last year and 45000 conversations a day. There are 20 FM stations every day reaching half of Kenya s youth with tens of thousands of sms messages streaming in .....creating this level of illusion in a cyber space where this young man and his friends live... a magical world...carried away with a good story..with a message...

Rob understood that young people are not interested in development talk..they are interested in having fun and making money.....as his encounters with groups of young people in rural spaces taught him...but he found a way...He showed excerpts from the comics where the story ends with a message inserted inside the story.....messages on planting seeds ; or how to vaccinate baby chicks against the Newcastle disease or how important it is to soak your seeds!

His final shot was a Chicken of Change...also a character in a comic ...giving the messge that more attention should be given to livestock..partly aimed at the government to do more about livestock. Rob messages were simple...but very important for anyone who wants to follow in his steps 1. It s not the what..it’s the how.....it s urgent and it needs to happen 2. Push does not work..it has to be Pull.. 3. Research must go all the way to the user 4. Need to communicate, it does not happen by accident...requires professional media people ; and money. One needs to invest to achieve impact.....

Share fair was a great experience for me, thought provoking, inspiring and stimulating. After the world café, I realised the importance of innovative platform to share innovative ideas. Experience sharing from across the globe, insights from the practical field, opportunity for networking and collaboration. The importance of local crops and participatory approach for food security and climate change was our topic for the world café.

Thanks to Christiane for the excellent facilitation. Various approaches and methodologies adopted by the various stakeholders were shared in the workshop. Colleagues from donor agencies, research institutes, NGOs, bilateral organisations and students shared their ideas. Experiences and cases from Peru, Syria, Cameroon, South American countries showcased and reiterated the importance of local crops for food security and climate change. The participants shared methodologies adopted in various countries to revive and propagate local crops.

Our discussions covered approaches, interventions and actions to be taken at national, regional and local levels and the importance of forging partnerships, networks and establishing collaborations.

Really, this was a great experience. Thanks to IFAD for giving an opportunity to participate in this great programme.

James T. J., Peermade Development Society, India
If you would like to learn more about the Network of Under-Utilised Crops, you can visit this site (http://www.fao.org/nr/water/aquacrop.html) or contact directly Mrs. Sue Walker (sue.walker@fao.org).

On the ICARDA website (http://www.icarda.org/farmersconference/), you can learn more about knowledge sharing through story telling.

Preparing for #sfrome: The story behind the session number

Posted by Beate Stalsett Sunday, September 25, 2011 0 comments

Browsing through the ShareFair programme you might have noticed that every session has a number, and you probably asked yourself: “what is the logic behind these numbers?” Someone asked me if it signified number of minutes of each session. Well, the answer is no, I believe that would have been very unfair to proposal number 1. It is actually a very simple logic behind the numbers.

As you all know by now, the ShareFair Steering Committee received 300+ proposals for this year’s event. 300+! We were thrilled by the number of proposals, and needed to have a solid system for keeping track of them during the thorough selection process. Patti (who I have voted to be the Steering Committee’s most structured person) suggested immediately to give the proposals fixed numbers, and so we did. The numbers are simply the unique identifier for the proposals, based on the first list we received. Nothing more, nothing less.

When I think back at the first version of the Excel list, I am very excited and happy to see how our graphics team has shaped it into this beautiful programme that you are holding in your hands today. All these numbers, names, links and comments have been turned into a colourful, easy to read overview of the event. It should be easy to find an select the sessions that interest you the most.

On a personal note, what I am looking forward to the most, is to finally meet the people behind the names and numbers in this list who have been our companion for the last couple of months. I am looking forward to finally attend their sessions, and to listen to their stories in person. Taking this event from paper to reality has been an intensive but fun journey, and I hope the coming days will reflect this.

By Gauri Salokhe

As you may already know, we are counting down days to the Second Global AgriKnowledge Share Fair which is scheduled to take place at IFAD from 26-29 September. This event, jointly organized by Bioversity International, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD), Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and World Food Programme (WFP) brings together colleagues from Rome-based agencies as well as partner organizations to share projects, lessons learned and emerging trends in the areas of food security, price volatility, climate change, ICT4D, social media and green innovations.

The Share Fair promises to deliver a wealth of knowledge featuring over 160 presenters from all over the world who will share their creative and innovative experiences and knowledge. Participants will have an opportunity to learn, share, connect and influence future direction.

Check out the programme highlights and webcasting schedule and make sure you take part in this unique event.

We encourage all participants to use social media channels and report live from the event. Here is how you can engage:
When tweeting, please use the following hashtags:
The organizational tags are:
The draft agenda for the event is available from: http://t.co/KYK73dqp

For more information, contact us at share-fair [at] cgiar.org.

Originally posted on http://gaurisalokhe.blogspot.com/2011/09/you-can-be-part-of-sfrome-social.html

New horizons for Latin America

Posted by Greg Benchwick Wednesday, September 21, 2011 0 comments

New edition of Rural Perspectives focuses in on sustainable approaches
By Josefina Stubbs

It’s been a wonderful year. And as we roll into the final quarter of 2011, it’s important to take stock of our successes over the year, and the challenges that we face ahead.

In this issue of Rural Perspectives, we look at a series of new poverty reduction projects in Bolivia, Ecuador and Mexico. These new projects were built from the ground up with sustainability, responsibility and lasting results in mind. And while the regional contexts vary greatly, the projects share some common themes, looking toward ever-green approaches and new technologies, market access, value-chain strengthening and participatory practices to increase incomes and build better lives for poor rural people living on the margins of society throughout Latin America.

There are important interviews from members of IFAD’s Evaluation Committee that highlight their reflections on their recent visit to the Dom Hélder Câmara Project in Brazil. We also highlight a new knowledge-management project in Brazil that will help replicate the lessons learned in Dom Helder and bring them to other poor parts of Brazil’s northeast. A new video gives us insight into how age-old traditions are blending with new techniques and technologies to help weavers in Guatemala make more money from their craft. We also take in-depth looks at our current funding in Haiti, IFAD’s new policy on environment and natural resource management and how its implementation will affect the Latin America region, and how competition is creating new possibilities for peace and prosperity in Colombia.

This September, IFAD’s Executive Board approved new poverty reduction projects in Honduras, Ecuador and Argentina. These projects leverage co-financing from the Spanish Food Security Cofinancing Facility Trust Fund, the Central American Bank for Economic Integration, local governments and project beneficiaries, allowing us to scale-up the breadth, depth and effectiveness of IFAD’s poverty reduction efforts in the region.

It’s also a time to celebrate new publications and new milestones. We have a video interview with IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze, in which he reflects on his recent mission to Argentina. There’s also a new publication on The Issue of Land in Argentina, and a review from the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) and IFAD on Mexico’s emerging legal frameworks to address climate change. We look toward the successes of the Paraguay Rural Project at its mid-term review, and how Peru is leveraging information and communications technologies to build better opportunities for rural poor people.

The next several months will bring myriad and diverse challenges, along with new opportunities. By fostering a culture of collaboration and cooperation, we hope to continue our leading trend in creating innovative, sustainable and results-oriented projects across Latin America and the Caribbean. These projects are not only yielding tangible results in terms of poverty reduction, responsible natural resource management, policy dialogue and rural empowerment, but they are also essential in our efforts to safeguard peace, stability and progress across the region.


Josefina Stubbs
Director Latin America and the Caribbean Division

Learn More
Check out the latest edition of Rural Perspectives.

English | Spanish

New report frames the legal context for greening development initiatives

In the context of a changing climate, Mexico faces significant challenges to promote sustainable development. In this context, the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) have joined together to provide a comprehensive review of Mexico’s emerging legal frameworks to address climate change.
The resulting Legal Preparedness Assessment Report (LPAR), Preparación juridical para el cambio climático y el fomento al desarrollo rural en Mexico, documents the stories behind Mexico’s efforts as well as lessons learned at the national, subnational and rural levels.

“The impacts of climate change in Mexico are expected to affect key sectors that provide sustenance and a source of livelihood for the population. In particular, lower agricultural yields and insecure water supplies threaten the basic needs both of urban residents, and rural and indigenous communities,” said Enrique Murguia, IFAD Country Programme Manager in Mexico.

Faced with these challenges, Mexico has taken an international leadership role in addressing climate change with serious efforts for adaptation, participation in mitigation schemes and climate finance.

“Mexico’s national and subnational governments have begun a proactive process of formalizing their objectives in climate change strategies that focus on rural development, land use planning and natural resources management," said Marie-Claire Cordonier Segger, IDLO Manager, Sustainable Development Law Program. “Those strategies also seek to create an enabling legal and institutional framework that responds to the complexity of climate change in order to safeguard equitable and secure developments.”

Despite the progress made in institutional and public policy at the federal level in Mexico, the legislative sector has not developed as quickly. Mexico still lacks federal legislation on climate change even though there are currently three bills being debated in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

According to the report, "the National Water Act, the Federal Law, the Law of Sustainable Rural Development, the Land Law and the General Law on Sustainable Rural Development are the main laws on rural development that should be reformed to include criteria for adaptation and mitigation on climate change."

The LPAR is the first phase in a larger IDLO initiative on Legal Preparedness for Climate Change in Latin America, which will lend capacity building support for further planning and implementation of legal and institutional reforms in the coming years.

“A second phase is already being initiated to look more deeply into the challenges and opportunities in several key Mexican States”, said Cordonier Segger. “Moreover, similar Legal Preparedness Assessment Reports will soon be extended to other Latin American countries, such as Colombia and Ecuador.”

Read More

Reporte | Resumen

Map It!
Protected area vs. CO2 emmissions per capita

Nine months ago, on a chilly January morning, the share fair steering committee and a group of other colleagues, met for a visioning session. At that meeting, we discussed the event's format, themes, audiences and agreed that we would organize an "out-of-the-box" event.

We did our best to live up to this commitment. And hopefully this is reflected in the share fair provisional programme.

Considering that the inaugural session is on the second day, the cocktail is on the third day and it finishes on a Thursday, I guess we can consider the second edition of the share fair an  "out-of-the-box" event!

But all kidding aside, as the saying goes, "the proof is in the pudding", and in 8 days time, we'll see whether we managed to live up to our vision. Rest assured that we put all our energy and passion into it.

Acting on learning and knowledge
In preparing for this event, we took stock of the learnings and experience of the First Global AgriKnowledge Share Fair and the various regional ones. So hopefully, we've built on their strengths and addressed some of the challenges.

One of the lessons learnt from the first edition was that we had to put in place a sound screening process to review the over 250 proposals that we received.

We divided up this task amongst the steering committee. We met regularly over the course of a month to review and discuss the proposals making sure that we were doing the selection in a fair and transparent manner. So kudos to the 160 proposals selected. You guys for sure went through the wringer!

Putting all our learning into action, we agreed that we would not have poster sessions nor booths. For this edition, we've introduced a tent which will have a chill-out corner and the speaker's corner. And we hope that many participants will use the speaker's corner to share their conversational or mainstream ideas, views and aspirations

We're looking forward for the chill-out corner to serve as a fertile ground for networking and connecting people.

This edition of the share fair has the luxury of having four keynote speakers. Etienne Wenger, Rob Burnet and Mark Davies will be at the share fair. Michele Payn-Knopfer due to competing commitments will not be able to be with us in person, but will do her session via skype.

Every day from 15:30-16:30 you can meet the keynote speaker of the day at  the chill-out corner.

Taking cue from the Addis share fair market place, we've introduced the show and tell session which will take place on 27 September from 17:00-18:00. This session will give participants an opportunity to showcase special activities and initiatives. If you are interested in this session, make sure you sign-up to secure yourself a slot.

This share fair like all the others, will also have a knowledge tree. You will have an opportunity to adorn the baobab knowledge tree with your pearls of wisdom, ideas, learnings and thoughts. We particularly ask you to share with us what do you think are the value and impact of events such as the share fair.

Share fairs are no powerpoint zone
We love the law or even better the edict of no powerpoints. Share fairs are no powerpoint zones. So, if you are one of the few presenters who are planning to come with your 50 slide shows, better change your plans and adopt a knowledge sharing method or TedTalk/AgTalk format for your session. Discuss this with the facilitator assigned to your session. If you are "self-facilitating" your session and need help, give us a shout and we'll dispatch th rescue team!

What does it take to organize a share fair?
The short answer is commitment, passion, dedication, cooperation, collaboration, coordination, teamwork, preparation, attention to details, empathy, believing in and practicing "the art of possibility"  and no prima-donnas.

And we had them all or almost all.

We were also blessed to have had the endorsement of IFAD management and the full support of our Chief Development Strategist who is also the KM champion.

What has struck me most in this adventure, is what I call the process of natural selection. That is to say, we acknowledged and respected each other's strengths and weaknesses. As a result we ended up taking on tasks that we were good at. And believe me this happened in the most seamless manner without anyone realizing that it was happening. Almost a miracle.

Next time you have to plan and organize a similar event, let the people on the team take on tasks and activities that they are good at. Do not force people to do things they are not good at - that is recipe for failure.

Share fair's web and social media presence
One of the trademarks of the share fair brand is social reporting. The share fair will have a contingent of social reporters who will use social media (Twitter, blog, Facebook, Flickr, Blip.TV, YouTube, podcasting) to report live from the various sessions. The facilitators will be sharing the highlights of their respective sessions via a blogpost. We'll be using #sfrome.

Thanks to social reporting methodology, we  engage with those who are not in the room and are able to share their thoughts, inputs and ideas with those "in the room".

We will be webcasting all the plenary sessions, keynote addresses and all the sessions held in the Italian Conference Room and the Oval room. We've integrated our webcasting with Twitter and Facebook - very much a la LiveStream - or dare I say even better!

An event about YOU and for YOU
Over the course of months we put the logistic machinery in motion. Colleagues have been diligently processing visa requests and we hope that the approved visa requests will get then on time to attend the event.

The last couple of weeks we've had meetings with the session presenters and facilitators, volunteers, administration, ICT and security colleagues. And we've learnt so much in this process. Now we know that for an event of this size, to ensure safety and security of participants and to make sure everything goes smoothly, we need to have extra guards, extra movers, have medical staff on the premises. This is why Willem was asked to "order an ambulance"!

While we've tried to cover all grounds, for sure there will be things that we may have forgotten and there may be some glitches. When you encounter a challenge, please put on your creative thinking hat on, smile and find a way to overcome the challenge.

We look forward to welcoming the participants from more that 70 countries to IFAD headquarters. Please remember registration starts at 8:00am on Monday 26 September and do not forget your identity card and/or passport. See you next week.

Whither M &E in IFAD projects? – A Modest Proposal

Posted by Roxanna Samii Tuesday, September 13, 2011 3 comments

By Steven Schonberger

Where I come from, in Oakland, California in the US, if you want to raise the temperature in a room you just have to mention the “immaculate reception”; the moment in 1972 when the Pittsburgh Steelers football team scored a winning touchdown against the Oakland Raiders in what we Raiders fans are sure was an illegal play which eliminated them from the playoffs and a potential Super Bowl victory (similar to Diego Maradona’s “mano de Dios” against the English in the 1986 World Cup quarterfinals).  In IFAD, I have noticed that a similar catalyst of passions is the mention amongst CPMs of the Results Indicators Management System, or RIMS which can turn any meeting into an exchange of frustrations and complaints.  My sense, however, is that this is not necessarily a response to RIMS, per se, but rather to the difficulties of implementing M&E systems in general in donor financed projects.  In this case, IFAD’s RIMS is perhaps “the best of the bad”.  Fortunately, in M&E, as in the case of football, there are always more games to play and opportunities to do better if we can improve our game.  Following are a few ideas of how we might do that.

In July, we benefitted from a visit by  Rachel Glennerster, the Executive Director of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology which has gained international renown for implementing and advocating the use of Randomized Control Trials (RCTs) to assess the impact of development activities ranging from the use and willingness to pay for improved mosquito nets to incentives to keep girls in school to the household impacts of access to microfinance.  Drawing on this experience, Rachel emphasized some key points of importance to IFAD, including:

·         The trend is that RCTs are becoming more common as the methodological standard expected by funding agencies;
·         The good news is that improved approaches to establish control groups are broadening the situations where RCT can be applied;
·         The bad news is that some funders are insisting on more use of RCTs than is either useful or feasible;
·         The challenge is to know when it makes sense to use rigorous, RCT-type approaches and what other types of approaches should be used based on what information is needed and what information can be realistically generated.

A key outcome of the subsequent discussion was that donors, including IFAD, invest a good deal of funding and effort in what are called ‘impact evaluations’ (RIMS level 3)  but which do not provide credible assessments of impacts.  At the same time, there is a great deal more that can be done to strengthen the basic output reporting and more qualitative assessments of how outputs are delivered and how the recipients respond to this. 

Regarding the first point on impact evaluation, the consensus in the room was moving towards what Chris Blattman, a Professor at Yale University advocates:  ‘Do R&D, not M&E’.  Essentially the idea is that impact assessment (level 3) should be focused on broader learning to determine what approaches generally work and under what conditions.  This requires a focused research program which develops carefully defined initiatives and employs rigorous, RCT-type evaluations of these initiatives conducted under different conditions in different regions (but not all projects!).  This  also requires an open attitude which does not focus on success or failure but rather on learning from the results whether they are what was expected or not (in fact, most of the great scientific advances in history were the unexpected, not predicted, results of experiments, but that is grist for another blog…) The objective is to generate something approaching generalizable conclusions regarding questions such as ‘ what is the best way to encourage increased use of fertilizer by smallholders to improve yields?’, or ‘what types of institutional conditions result in sustained empowerment of women in local, rural governance?’.   The result of this effort is an enhanced toolkit of ‘tested’ approaches and the conditions under which they should work which we can apply with some confidence of success.

The second point, regarding reporting, is that we need to focus more on monitoring to ensure that projects are doing the basics of transforming IFAD funding into goods and services for smallholder farmers, and, perhaps even more importantly, ensuring that these are of the right quality and delivered in a manner which meets the real needs of the target group.  Geoffrey Livingston, Sara Delaney and I wrote a paper about this for IFAD’s Smallholder Agriculture Conference in February of this year where we argued for much more attention to the challenges of spatial and temporal coordination of development activities, or more colloquially what we called ‘Right place, right time development’.  

So now for the modest proposal:  Let’s reorient our project M&E to  levels 1 and 2 where we can make a difference and use the information – specifically in monitoring the timely conversion of funding into goods and services for the target group through normal project reporting and due diligence.  Let’s then ensure that local universities or NGOs are hired to do annual ‘client satisfaction’ surveys regarding farmer’s views regarding the timeliness and quality of what they receive as well as how they are using the assistance provided.  As Geoffrey, Sara and I argued, simply addressing this part of the log frame or results chain would already likely lead to much better outcomes.

And what about impact studies?  Let’s ask those RCT-oriented members of the Board (and perhaps some interested foundations) to finance an internal IFAD fund for carrying out RCT and similar, high quality research on key issues for IFAD programs.  The IFAD fund could plan to provide finance and direct technical support for 2 to 4 RCT evaluations per year per Region which respond to priority issues for IFAD as a whole.  We can then share these results with partners, such as J-PAL, IFPRI, FAO, the World Bank and others in building up the collective rural development tool kit which program design could draw upon.  Of course we will continue to innovate and experiment beyond what is in the toolkit, but with more attention to designing these innovations in ways that facilitates evaluating if they work, and under what circumstances, we can strengthen the basis for the type of scaling up which is emphasized under IFAD 9.

And what will be the indicator for monitoring and evaluating this new M&E approach?  Simple - unlike Oakland Raider fans, we will ‘get over’ our frustrations with M&E and focus that energy on something more useful, like how we get effective agricultural finance working…. What do you think?