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Policies and Partnerships for Nutritious Food Systems in Fiji

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Literacy – a building block for real change in rural areas

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

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

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

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

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

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

Literacy classes can be a stepping stone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was just a “wow” experience with a lot of “aha” moments as we spent nine days in Denmark as UNLEASH participants from IFAD. The UNLEASH Innovation Lab 2017 (hereinafter referred to as UNLEASH) is a non-profit initiative developed and funded predominantly by companies and foundations, such as Bestseller, Microsoft, Dalberg, Carlsberg Foundation and the Confederation of Danish Industry. The idea behind UNLEASH is to identify and gather one thousand young entrepreneurs, academics, professionals, etc. from over 120 countries and bring them together to elaborate disruptive, yet implementable solutions and build lasting global networks around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). IFAD was invited to nominate multiple youth delegates composed of Davinia Hoggarth (Global Engagement Unit), Fatima-Zohra Yaagoub (Partnership and Resource Mobilization Office), Thokozile Newman (West and Central Africa Division), Elena Pietschmann (East and Southern Africa Division), Valeria Smarrini (Quality Assurance Group), Maria Luisa Saponaro (Latin America and the Caribbean Division) and Anja Rabezanahary (Policy and Technical Advisory Division).

SDG 2/Food track at the Folk High School of Ry. Credit to Astrid Maria Rasmussen

Thinking out of the box and framing the problem first

The nine days took us all out of our comfort zones and pushed us to think out of the box. It all started with mingling informally, attending inspirational presentations, working together to solve business cases and joining an SDG Roadmap to visit companies that are starting to look beyond corporate social responsibility and try to integrate the SDGs more prominently in their for-profit models.
Then we were taken to different locations and hosted in different Folk High Schools throughout the country. This offered a deep dive into the Danish culture and the Danish way of living while enjoying a wonderful and conducive environment for creativity. Each day started and ended with a singing session and an inspirational moment. We were divided into teams focussing on specific challenges, and tasked to think, think and think about the problems we were to tackle and come out with concrete solutions which included a business model. This part was truly enriching because we were working with people from different professional and educational backgrounds: academia (32%), entrepreneurs (28%), tech experts (23%), and intrapreneurs (17%). So we had to leave the “IFAD world” and work with new angles and perspectives.

Team working and inspirations for disruptive and collective action

A big take away from the UNLEASH experience is how working with different people from different horizons is hard and yet very rewarding when you achieve to find a common solution. Team work is bringing out the best of us…and also the worst! We were all part of a big social experiment. This is why UNLEASH gave an award to the best team work and our colleague Elena Pietschmann was part of it. Besides, talents had the opportunity to attend speeches, interviews and panel discussions with Princess Mary of Denmark, former Prime Minister of Denmark  Lars Løkke Rasmussen, actor and philanthropist Ashton Kutcher, Denmark Minister of Development Ulla Tornaes, “Starchitect” Bjarke Ingels, and much more.

Receiving an Award for the Best Team Work. Credit to Alex Luka Ladime

Competing for the best solution for SDG 2 Zero Hunger…and winning!

One of the seven winning solutions (out of a total of 199!) was Doti Gold, designed by a team of six that included our colleague Anja Rabezanahary. Doti Gold is a social enterprise that will turn trash to gold, transforming organic waste into proteins and fertilizers through a biotechnology. Doti Gold will connect the needs of people living in urban areas to the needs of people living in rural areas. The first ones will contribute to a better waste management and the second ones will benefit from accessible and affordable agricultural inputs to increase their production and productivity. In return, the farmers will provide organic fish, chicken, pork and crop products to the markets. The social enterprise will also create jobs for people living in extreme poverty through the waste collection system. These people will receive income and training that will support them move out of poverty in a sustainable way. In addition, bigger industries/companies will contribute to develop smallholder farming and organic farming and become partners for the SDGs (see below). In sum, the model is creating a virtuous cycle between urban and rural areas for safe and nutritious food for all and will directly contribute to achieving nine SDGs (1, 2, 5, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13 and 17).

Partnering for global solutions

UNLEASH aims to generate youth-led innovative, implementable and scalable solutions to the SDGs in partnership with leading companies, research institutions, foundations, non-profits, and investors. What we took home is that UNLEASH really had the potential to be life-changing on many levels for all participants: from meeting investors and possibly securing funding to receiving quality feedback on one's ideas and insights, to enhancing a whole set of soft skills. The idea is now to replicate UNLEASH and make it become a recurrent event.

Many of the teams – whether or not they have been awarded - have concrete plans for implementing the ideas they developed during UNLEASH. UNLEASH organizers promised to set up a global platform to support the implementation of the various solutions and continued network opportunities.
IFAD can play a role and be part of key partners – where the very definition of partnership can evolve when such diverse points of view are (ex)changed. UNLEASH definitely presents a new modality with which IFAD can collaborate with the private sector in a youth-inclusive manner, for example through our grant programme.

The full programme, winners of the seven SDG themes, and partners can be found here: https://unleash.org/program/, https://unleash.org/news/winners-seven-sdg-themes-found/, and https://unleash.org/partners/

Improving market access in South-West Bangladesh

Posted by Francesca Aloisio Tuesday, September 5, 2017 0 comments

By Christa Ketting

“Of course, we can build 197 markets – if we would start tomorrow, then we could be finished in a couple of months. But that is not the point.” says Luthfur Rahman, project director of the Coastal Climate Resilient Infrastructure Project –CCRIP- in Bangladesh. “We won’t have any development impact when we randomly construct markets without taking their location into account” he concludes.

CCRIP constructs climate-resilient road infrastructure and markets sheds in order to improve market access in south-west Bangladesh. The project is implemented in 32 upazilas (unions) in 12 districts in the south of Bangladesh. The 12 districts are known to be among the least developed of the country and vulnerable to natural disasters such as tidal surges, cyclones and floods. The goal of CCRIP is to improve the livelihoods (higher incomes and food security) for poor households. In order to do so, it upgrades markets in the selected areas and rehabilitates the access roads towards them.

For monitoring and evaluation purposes, the location of CCRIP markets and roads are uploaded in Google earth. As Google earth allows you to consult historical images, the project is able to track how CCRIP markets develop over the course of years. For example, the footage below is that of the “Post Office Bazar” located in the Babuganj upazila of the Barisal district, which has been established in 1988. In 2013, most of the market activities took place alongside the main road. 

Photo credits: maps prepared by CCRIP Project Monitoring Unit Bangladesh
In 2014 CCRIP started with the construction of retail market sheds and open platforms, as you can see in the picture below.

These markets are constructed on government donated land, called “Kash”. Besides market sheds, CCRIP also rehabilitated access roads and internal roads, as well as constructing toilet facilities around the “Post Office Bazar”. Moreover, the project replants trees along side roads in order to make up for the logged trees. To date, 7 kilometers of trees have been replanted.

The number of sales points considerably increased in the last two years, as shown on the picture below. In particular, in the area West of the market sheds, a livestock market now takes place every Wednesday and Sunday. 

This growth can not only be attributed to the markets and roads constructed by CCRIP. Yet, it seems increased connectivity and by offering smallholders a place to sell surplus production contributes to livelihood development in the project areas. The majority of CCRIP markets thus saw an increase in goods traded and the number of traders.

Moreover, site selection seems key in order to trigger growth, especially for the rural poor. Most of CCRIP activities take place in the most remote and poor Upazila’s of Bangladesh. Moreover, the project upgrades “small markets” with around 10-50 outlets that serves the rural population. This stands in sharp contrast to the rural growth centres like the Gosairhat Bazar (below) that are upgraded by other financial institutions in line with their respective mandates. 

Bangladesh, which is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, has a fast growing economy. Small scaled interventions like the CCRIP road construction and market upgrading allows the rural population to benefit from this growth. However, as implied by project director Luthfur Rahman, these intervention should be carefully planned and well implemented.