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Voices from Baku

Posted by David Paqui Tuesday, June 29, 2010 2 comments

“Only when we join hands, we can build a better future for poor rural women and men and end poverty and hunger”

President Nwanze concluded his brief statement at the plenary session of the 35th Annual Meeting of the Governors of the Islamic Development Bank with the above quote. During the entire trip in Azerbaijan, together with his other colleagues, the President shared IFAD’s vision that agriculture is the main employer and job creator for the women and men who we serve. Our goal is to achieve food security and sustainable economic development by investing in agriculture and rural development. To do so we need to create vibrant rural economies and build the right business environment based on partnership between the public and private sector, while keeping people at the centre. He continuously underscored that IFAD’s goal is to transform subsistence smallholder farmers into small entrepreneurs. All along he conveyed messages of hope and prosperity for the rural poor people.

Upon his arrival at Baku airport late at night, the President was greeted by the Dr Ahmad Mohamed Ali, President of the Islamic Development Bank and Mr Bahram Aliyev, Vice-minister of Agriculture of Azerbaijan. Leaving the VIP room heading to their respective cars, the two international financial institutions chiefs walked out hand in hand engrossed in conversation.

What were they saying to each other? The entourage speculated that they were discussing how to stage a ‘coup d’état’ to end rural poverty.

On 22 June the President met Ismat Abasov, Azerbaijan’s Minister of Agriculture. Their discussion focused on agricultural related issues and more specifically on role of agriculture to ensure food security and a catalyst to generate income in rural areas in Azerbaijan.

“I am pleased that Azerbaijan, is placing so much emphasis and priority to agriculture”, said Nwanze.

Nwanze and Abasov held a joint press conference which was attended by 7 public and private TVs, 9 news agencies and newspapers journalists.

In the afternoon, the President paid a courtesy visit to Prime Minister Artur Rasizada. During this meeting, the Prime Minister and President talked about the new project which IsDB and IFAD are jointly designing.

Prime Minister Rasizada expressed his satisfaction regarding IFAD’s operations in Azerbaijan and showed interest in the new project to the extent that he committed to do his utmost to make sure the project can be presented to the December session of IFAD’s Executive Board.

With his tight schedule in Baku, Dr Nwanze managed to also give two interviews one to CNBC TV and another to Reuters.

Dr Nwanze’s second day in Baku was dedicated to the Islamic Development Bank 35th Annual Meeting of the Board of the Governors.

Early in the morning, he delivered a brief statement to the Plenary session which was attended by 56 Ministers of finance, many of them also IFAD Governors and over 600 delegates from governments, international, regional financing and research institutions.

The President made a strong case for IFAD, stressing the need for Arab OPEC countries to re-engage with IFAD. He also talked about re-energizing IFAD’s partnerships with Arab Gulf states multilateral and bilateral financing institutions. His passionate intervention was much appreciated by the audience and the Senior Management of IsDB.

As some of you will remember, once a Japanese journalist who was interviewing the President in Japan described him as “the loudest shouter for the poor”. During his Azerbaijan trip and especially in his keynote address at the IsDB meeting, he continued to advocate in the most passionate way for the poor rural women and men that IFAD serves.

As someone who has the privilege of traveling with the President, what I’ve observed is that his “shouting” and advocating for the poor rural people is not falling on deaf years.

On this trip, the President had just finished delivering his brief statement to the plenary session and was on his way to get something to eat when we received a call from President Ilham Aliyev’s office. We were told, the Head of State was waiting for Dr Nwanze in the next 15 minutes.

Dr Nwanze saw this as another opportunity to advocate for the Azeri rural poor people, this time with the highest policy maker level of the country. Nwanze jumped in the car accompanied by Nadim Khouri, Director of Near East and North Africa Division and Abdelkarim Sma, the Country Programme Manager for Azerbaijan.

The audience given to IFAD President reaffirmed the Azeri leader’s support to agricultural development in rural areas and the key role played by IFAD in that regard. The two leaders discussed issues related to agricultural development in rural area and food security.

The President Aliyev highlighted the importance of agriculture, a relatively labour-intensive sector as opposed to the capital-intensive oil sector dominating the economy of Azerbaijan. He spoke about the opportunity that Azerbaijan’s climate diversity offers to agriculture of his country and the issue of irrigated farmland.

Dr Nwanze expressed commended Azerbaijan’s leadership on their socio-economic achievements. During their conversation, Dr Nwanze briefed President Aliyev onIFAD’s operations and activities in the country.

Back from the meeting with the Azeri President, the President delivered a keynote address at the Ministerial Symposium on food security.

In his statement, he shared with the audience IFAD’s experience in the field of agriculture and its on-going contributions against food insecurity. The keynote address was followed by a panel discussion which was moderated by Sami Zeidan, senior anchorperson of Aljazeera news network.

Nwanze in answering the questions posed by governors and delegates continuously made a strong case for smallholder farmers.

At the conclusion of the symposium, in true spirit of partnership and cooperation, in the presence of IsDB governors and participants, the IsDB and IFAD President together with Yemeni Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Alkarim Al-Arhabi signed a memorandum of understanding whereby IsDB andIFAD will co-finance Yemen-Economic Opportunities Programme.

We ended our day with the President giving a one-on-one interview to the Azeri Trend News Agency and Nadim Khouri was interviewed by CNBC TV Arabic.

The President’s visit to Baku presented a unique opportunity for IFAD to pursue its advocacy efforts with key Arab OPEC delegations. The visit also raised awareness about IFAD’s work and contribution to the global efforts to eradicate rural poverty. The visit strengthened IFAD’s relations with the Government of Azerbaijan and raised our profile among IsDB and Arab OPEC constituencies.

I must say, that the visit to Baku was not only successful but it was an amazing one.

by Harold Liversage

The current controversy about large scale land acquisitions by foreign investors has put land rights issues and responsible agricultural investment more visibly back on the global development agenda. It has also raised questions regarding the world’s future development trajectory. In both respects, it has opened up important international space for discussion on how to improve land administration systems and investment in agriculture so that the land rights and livelihoods of smallholder farmers, pastoralists and other vulnerable groups are strengthened.

Land grabbing, however, is an issue of concern that is broader than foreign land acquisitions. While, it is important to focus on the potential threats that foreign land acquisitions pose to the land rights and livelihoods of smallholder farmers, pastoralists, indigenous communities and other vulnerable groups, it should not divert attention from the role being played by domestic elites and weaknesses in national land administration systems. Nor should it preclude the possibility that foreign investors could play a constructive role in supporting smallholder farmers.

This article aims to contribute to the current debate by reflecting on the challenges being faced and some of the possible responses. In particular, the article will focus on the recent development of a set of principles on responsible investment in agriculture being facilitated by the Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and the World Bank.

The nature and scale of the concern – there’s no smoke without fire
Global estimates of the amounts of land in which a foreign interest in acquisition has been expressed in recent years range from 15 to 20 million hectares, although some observers believe the figure is a lot higher. Most of the land being considered is in Africa and Latin America and parts of Asia. Most of this land is already owned de facto by rural communities under a range of diverse tenure systems, although in many cases these rights are not registered. In many cases, national states consider under-used land as being available for disposal to outside investors. This perception is starting to change in many developing countries. It is increasingly recognised that while some land may be under-used, very little is not owned, vacant or unused.

Although research is being done and the picture is becoming clearer, we still do not have a good sense of the nature and scale of the demand for land and the actual number of acquisitions or long-term leases realised. It seems that many reported land deals have not materialised and of those that have, in many cases only a small portion of the land acquired (sometimes less than 10 per cent) is actually being exploited. At the same time, some deals appear to have gone through with very little public attention. Much of the research that has been done focuses on acquisitions greater than 1000ha or even 5000ha, thereby ignoring a large number of ongoing smaller acquisitions. Research has also tended to focus on acquisitions by foreigners although there is increasing recognition that in some countries (for example, India, Indonesia and Brazil) acquisitions by domestic investors contribute significantly more to a process of land concentration and growing inequalities.

In general, we still have insufficient information on the impacts that realised land deals have had on the livelihoods of rural communities in the affected countries – either negative or positive. Many deals contain promises of financial investment, employment, technology transfers and income generation, but despite their possible positive benefits, the evidence is scant as to whether these have been fulfilled. One challenge in assessing the impacts is that large-scale foreign deals are often part of a wider package of proposed bi-lateral development assistance that could include, for example, investment in large-scale infrastructure, such as ports or hydro-electric schemes. Any assessment of impacts needs to consider, therefore, the wider and longer term impacts on the countries concerned. Nevertheless, research seems to suggest that at least some large-scale acquisitions have not met expectations and, instead, have had a negative impact. At the same time, there is also evidence that some foreign investment in agriculture (typically being smaller deals and not necessarily including land acquisition by the investor) are having a positive impact. More well-documented research on impacts, both positive and negative, is needed.

One area of debate has centred on the legitimacy of foreign land deals – are they illegal and dubious land grabs or legitimate acquisitions? Some critics consider all foreign acquisitions as illegal land grabs per se. Given that many large-scale land acquisitions occur in countries where land governance is weak and corruption is high, their legitimacy can be questioned. Even in countries where legal frameworks and land governance institutions are perhaps stronger, it appears that certain deals have not been done transparently. But at least in some cases, it seems that due process has been followed in negotiating the investment. In these instances, proper consultations seem to have been done with legitimate community leaders and real efforts have been made to ensure that the deal does benefit the communities concerned.

An important aspect related to the above is that land grabbing does not only involve foreign deals. Indeed, illegitimate foreign land deals may only be a small part of the land grabbing occurring in many countries. More significant, at least in some countries, are land grabs done by national and local elites, competing land users (for example, pastoralists and crop farmers), and land grabs within families, typically men from women and, where the incidence of HIV/AIDS is high, from widows and orphans. Focusing only on large-scale land acquisitions by foreigners can divert attention from more serious land grabbing in some societies. So, the response to land grabbing has to look more broadly at strengthening transparent, accountable and accessible land administration institutions that protect the rights of vulnerable people against all land grabs.

Furthermore, the current wave of land acquisitions has to be placed in an historical context of land dispossession, ongoing competition for land by a range of stakeholders, and anticipated trends. While there is renewed concern about land grabbing, the trend is not new. Land dispossession of small-holder farmers, pastoralists, indigenous peoples and other rural communities has been a continuous process over centuries of foreign and internal colonisation, as well as post-independence land grabbing. In analysing the recent increase in demand, some researchers focus on the last five years, others the last 10 – 15 years, but generally it is important to look much further back. Looking to the future, the recent increase in competition for land is linked to a rapid increase in global population growth and associated shrinking of the planet’s natural resource base. The world’s population is expected to increase by almost 50 per cent in the next 30 years – from about 6.5 billion to 9.2 billion people. The demand for land, therefore, is unlikely to diminish in the future.

A range of stakeholders from civil society, governments of both investing and recipient countries, and inter-governmental organisations have expressed their concerns about the possible negative impact which the increased demand and competition for land and water is having on the land rights and food security of rural people in developing countries. This demand has sometimes resulted in a range of land grabs at the expense of smallholder farmers, pastoralists and indigenous peoples. All land grabs need to be vigorously opposed, in particular those involving very large land acquisitions and that are dispossessing entire communities and peoples. Nevertheless, it is important to recognise that not all investments in agriculture by outsiders are illegitimate. Some have followed due process and can provide positive benefits for rural communities.

Towards more responsible investment in agriculture
Rapid population growth, changing consumer patterns, climate change, a shrinking natural resource base and continued extreme poverty and vulnerability in rural societies, especially in the developing world, require a major shift in the approach to development. There is a need for increased investment in agriculture in the developing world, focusing on promoting and supporting smallholder farmers, pastoralists and artisanal fishers.

The main investors in land and agriculture in the developing world are the approximately 500 million smallholder farming households. They support a third of the global population (more than two billion people) and produce up to 80 per cent of the food consumed in the developing world. These farmers are typically amongst the poorest and most neglected in development support and investment terms, yet they play a key role in achieving poverty reduction and food security. Enabling poor rural people to be part of the solution for global food security must be a priority for governments, the international development community and any other investors. Women play a critical role in agricultural production in developing countries where, in most cases, they make up a substantial majority of the agricultural workforce. Hence, their economic and social empowerment is also essential. The main assets which smallholder farmers and pastoralists typically have are land, labour and their creativity. Often what they need is secure land, water and other natural resource rights, capital investment, expertise, appropriate technology and access to markets.

Governments in developing countries have a principal responsibility for fostering the development of smallholder farmers and pastoralists through comprehensive agricultural development programmes. Yet, in general, they lack sufficient finances and/or their policies and investment tend to favour large-scale farmers. Globally it is estimated that there is a short-fall of at least US$14 billion per annum of investment in agriculture by the international development community and governments in the developing world. This is a critical shortfall for both food security and poverty alleviation. While every effort needs to be made to increase government spending in agriculture, private sector investment can also play a key role in meeting this short-fall.

There is often a negative perception regarding private sector investors, especially amongst representative organisations of small-holder farmers and indigenous communities. This is not without reason. Some outside investors have not engaged sufficiently with communities in which they are investing, and some communities have generally seen little or no benefits from such investments. Many of the investments that can be considered more exploitative may not involve any land acquisition. Instead, they may involve, for example, illegal logging and fishing or monopolistic control over agricultural inputs or markets. However, outside private investors come in all shapes and sizes. Some may be blatantly exploitative profiteers, others might be innovative entrepreneurs and some are driven by a strong sense of social responsibility.
Socially responsible private sector investors can play a significant role in providing much needed capital for appropriate technologies and access to export and domestic markets. Often these investors are relatively small-scale and tend not to be considered as seriously by governments as large-scale investors. Also, government focus is often on investment that promotes export markets. While these markets can offer opportunities, local and national markets are generally more important for poverty reduction, food security and economic growth.

One approach to increasing sustainable private sector investment in agriculture is to promote mutually beneficial partnerships between smallholder farmers and private sector investors, preferably partnerships that do not require large-scale land acquisitions. Such partnerships typically can take the form of out-grower schemes, contract farming or joint share equity schemes, with outside investors focusing mainly on providing expertise and other support in agro-processing or improved access to markets. The success of such partnerships and the real benefits to smallholder farmers and rural communities more generally, depends on the level of ownership, voice (governance), risk sharing and benefit sharing between partners.

It seems that at least some serious investors in agriculture increasingly look for mutually beneficial and sustainable partnerships (it makes good business sense). And, in at least some cases, smallholder farmers are prepared to negotiate if they see a real benefit, are properly consulted and well informed of the implications and potential risks. Any land relinquished in such deals should be done preferably on a temporary basis (for example, through a lease agreement) and should not be on the scale being seen at the moment.

Establishing mutually beneficial partnerships require sustained support by a range of service providers (government, civil society and private sector). Particular attention needs to be given to empowering small-holder farmers and rural communities to be able to engage on equal terms with outside investors. There is also a need to monitor the implementation of agreements so as to ensure that the anticipated benefits are realised. Mutually beneficial partnerships are possible but they require effort and time.

Actions for opposing land grabbing and promoting more responsible investment in agriculture
Much can and is being done by various stakeholders to promote responsible investment in agriculture and to oppose land grabbing. Governments have a key role to play in promoting responsible agricultural investment and in developing transparent, accountable and accessible land administration institutions that can recognise and defend the rights of rural communities and especially of the most vulnerable households. Social mobilisation by community leaders and civil society organisations to oppose land grabbing in general and by outside investors in particular, is essential. Land grabs (not only those by foreigners) and their negative impacts need to be documented and disseminated by researchers and the media - as do good examples of sustainable and mutually beneficial partnerships between outside investors and rural communities. Civil society and private sector service providers can play a key role in empowering rural communities and in strengthening good land governance. Socially responsible investors have a role to play in influencing both governments and other investors. One area of social mobilisation that is often neglected but could be highly effective in shaping investment is mobilising consumer sentiment in developed countries in support of socially responsible investment. Inter-governmental, multi-lateral and bi-lateral organisations have a role to play in supporting the above.

Among the actions that can be taken particularly by inter-governmental organisations is the development of guidelines or principles, for good land governance and responsible investment in agriculture. There are several initiatives underway in this regard but two that have gained more attention recently are:
  • the process of developing “Voluntary Guidelines for Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land and Other Natural Resources”, which is being facilitated by the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), with the support of a wide range of stakeholders, including IFAD; and
  • the process for developing “Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment”, which is being facilitated by the FAO, IFAD, UNCTAD and the World Bank.

The “Voluntary Guidelines” are an outcome, in part, of the 2006 International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development. They aim to strengthen land governance by providing guidelines to governments, international development organisations and other concerned stakeholders. To some extent they build on and, hopefully, will reinforce the African Land Policy Framework and Guidelines initiative, being led by the African Union Commission, the UN Economic Commission for Africa and African Development Bank, and endorsed by a Summit of African Heads of State in June 2009. The Voluntary Guidelines process is relatively advanced with various ongoing regional and special interest consultations taking place. It is expected that the Voluntary Guidelines will be endorsed by government representatives in 2011.

The “Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment” follows a more iterative process in the sense that it is a platform for dialogue and consultation rather than a set of hard and fast “rules” to be followed. A draft set of principles have been proposed as a “discussion note to contribute to an ongoing global dialogue” and consultations are ongoing. As they stand, the principles proposed are:

  • existing rights to land and associated natural resources are recognized and respected;
  • investments do not jeopardize food security but rather strengthen it;
  • processes for accessing land and making associated investments are transparent, monitored, and ensure accountability by all stakeholders, thereby improving the business, legal, and regulatory environment;
  • all those materially affected are consulted and agreements from consultations are recorded and enforced;
  • projects are economically viable, respect the rule of law, reflect industry best practice, and result in durable shared value;
  • investments generate desirable social and distributional impacts and do not increase vulnerability;
  • environmental impacts are quantified and measures are taken to encourage sustainable resource use while minimizing and mitigating negative impacts.

As with the “Voluntary Guidelines”, the “Principles” aim to give guidance and a framework for discussion for governments, inter-governmental organisations and civil society organisations. They could become a common reference framework but there are no plans at this stage for submitting them to any formal approval by governments or other bodies.

Although different in nature, both initiatives have grappled with the purpose and nature of the outcomes they are trying to realise. Experience has shown that mandatory regulations or other similar documents requiring obligatory compliance are more difficult to negotiate, take longer to agree, are sometimes diluted as a result and are often more difficult to enforce. Hence, the respective facilitators believe that voluntary guidelines / principles would be more appropriate as they could be developed with greater multi-stakeholder engagement in a relatively short space of time and, hopefully, with stronger statements. While it is recognised that neither Voluntary Guidelines nor Principles are enforceable in themselves, they can mobilise support against bad practices and for good practices. They can also draw on or refer to existing mandatory treaties, laws and codes, etc for enforcement.

In both processes, the respective facilitators have been concerned that the focus should not only be on the issue of large scale foreign land acquisition. As suggested above, good land governance needs to protect the rights of rural communities, especially vulnerable people against all land grabbing as well dealing with issues of corruption, transparency, accountability, affordability, etc. And responsible investment in agriculture is preferably not about large scale foreign land acquisitions. Instead it is about promoting sustainable agriculture, reducing poverty and meeting the world’s food needs, especially the food needs of the rural poor in developing countries.

Land grabbing is an issue of concern broader than foreign land acquisitions. A range of actions are therefore required to address the threats and challenges we face. Governments in developing countries have a key role to play in fostering the development of smallholder farmers and in ensuring responsible investment in agriculture, with the support of international development partners and civil society organisations. Private sector investors - whether small or large, domestic or foreign - can play a positive role too. Social mobilisation is essential, but so is responsible governance in land administration. Guidelines and principles alone will not address the challenges being faced. Engagement in the process of defining them, combined with social mobilisation and some considered tactical alliances could, however, meaningfully maximise the opportunity which the concern about land grabbing has created for those concerned with the prosperity of smallholder farmers in the developing world.

Read article as published by Transnational Institute

Harold Liversage is a Land Tenure Adviser for the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), an international financial institution and a specialized United Nations agency dedicated to eradicating poverty and hunger in rural areas of developing countries.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The designations employed and the presentation of material in this article do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of IFAD concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. The designations “developed” and “developing” countries are intended for statistical convenience and do not necessarily express a judgement about the stage reached by a particular country or area in the development process.


IFAD, ILC and CTA learning event on participatory mapping

Posted by Roxanna Samii Wednesday, June 16, 2010 1 comments

Over 50 rural development practitioners from all over the world and a multitude of organization gathered at IFAD this morning for the learning event on participatory mapping.

The event was jointly organized by International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), International Land Coalition (ILC) and Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA).

We kicked off the morning session with a presentation by Giacomo Rambaldi who gave an overview of the opportunities and challenges of participatory mapping. In his presentation Giacomo pointed out that:

  • participatory mapping is based on spatial local knowledge

  • participatory mapping is good for awareness building, cross generational transfer of knowledge + good governance

  • spatial knowledge cannot be captured by satellite

  • recently smart phones are used to support participatory mapping

  • importance of understanding who is in control of the process? who has visual access? what's left with those who supported the mapping?

Giacomo informed the participants that shortly IFAD and CTA will be releasing the "Training kit on participatory spatial information management and communication".

We then watched an inspiring video entitled " mapping our culture, mapping our future". The video showed how communities use participatory mapping to have their voices heard. It was a great example of cross culture and cross continent knowledge sharing. We watch African communities exchanging their experience with their Latin American brothers and sisters. It was an inspiration piece of exchange between different cultures and ethnicities.

For me, the take home messages from video were:

  • that fact that the final step of participatory mapping is to look into the future
  • participatory mapping gives indigenous groups sense of community and ownership of the future
  • participatory mapping empowers local communities to negotiate at peer 2 peer level and gives the voiceless a voice

As I am writing this blogpost, the participants are busy doing a map. I must say, there is a certain buzz in the room. Great conversation, laughter, but also at times some tension. The group is realizing the challenges of engaging in participatory mapping and at the same time are seeing the value of this tool.

This afternoon, we'll have a speed geeking exercise and a chat show. Stay tuned on the blog and follow us on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/ifadnews or follow hastag #pmapping

How can innovative products with rural benefits be brought to the markets and thus impact the daily lives of the rural poor? How can the gap between rural innovators and entrepreneurs be bridged?

The Office of the Chief Development Strategist invited Mr. Rathin Roy, a consultant who has often collaborated with IFAD, to present the experience of VillGro, an India-based NGO that aims at taking rural innovations to the market.

VillGro has endeavoured to find and support the home-grown geniuses who, when confronted to the problems faced by small-scale farmers on a daily basis, have come up with simple but useful solutions, be it a fuel-efficient stove, a coconut dehusking machine, or an insect-trap.

Over its ten years of existence, VillGro has known failures and success stories, and it has built on this experience to develop a unique model of “incubating” innovations, a process through which an innovation is tested, improved, marketed, and progressively connected to entrepreneurs and investors through the design of a business plan and VillGro’s extensive networks. If this experience is of any value, we should admit that “Innovators are not Entrepreneurs !” said Rathin Roy.

Of course, not all innovations, useful though they might be, can pass the test of the market, and VillGro therefore applies a rigorous screening process that allows a mere two percent of all submitted applications to reach the incubation stage. In spite of this screening process the failure rate remains close to 50%, making innovations incubation a “Risky business” as Rathin described it. The test of the market remains the only and main guarantee of sustainability of an idea or solution. Hence the importance of creating what Rathin calls an “innovation incubation ecosystem” that consist of a number of support services around the incubation function that help increase the likeliness of success. Investors are critical to bringing ideas to scale. Venture capital tend however to exit too quickly as compared to what rural innovations would require and there might be a role for agencies like IFAD in providing what Acumen Fund calls “patient capital” while ensuring that we do not bypass the market test.

This presentation of VillGro’s experience was particularly interesting from an IFAD standpoint, as the organization is now engaged in a process of boosting its innovation and knowledge management strategies, and is promoting the vision of small-scale farmers as business-persons. The ensuing debate emphasised the contribution that institutions such as IFAD can make by promoting innovations at a local level through an awards system, or by sponsoring innovations that are promising but would not be immediately profitable if marketed. IFAD could also make use of its extensive networks at country and regional levels to promote innovations in its projects and on the local markets. A number of challenges were identified on the road, such as the difficulty of working through public agencies to promote innovation. The presentation and debate also stressed the importance of experimenting with the incubation of innovations in order to progressively define the right set of tools and a flexible strategic framework and the need to innovate and sharpen our own instruments if we are to engage in this field more substantially.

On 7 June IFAD President, Dr Kanayo F. Nwanze and USAID Administrator, Dr Rajiv Shah met at IFAD headquarters. The two leaders recognized the strategic alignment between IFAD and USAID in the area of food security with a focus on smallholder agriculture. To achieve sustainable global food security, IFAD and USAID will look at specific areas and countries where they can further cooperate to scale-up existing initiatives and embark on new ones.

To commemorate World Environment Day, IFAD's Green Group launched " Back to the TAP (Traditional Acqua, Please) campaign".

Moses, Hazel, Dunia and other colleagues set up a stand outside of the cafeteria to raise awareness about the devastating environmental impact of our bottled water consumption. Did you know that:

  • on a daily basis the bar sells 300 small bottles
  • each day, cleaners collect on average 4 bags of plastic bottles. Only 10 of us recycle plastic bottle properly!!! REMEMBER the BLUE bag is for PLASTIC!
Leaving IFAD behind, on a global scale, did you know that:
  • Italians drink the most bottled water per person, at nearly 184 liters in 2004—more than two glasses a day and more than two times the consumption of Portugal. Mexico is second in world per person consumption of 168 litres and first in the American continent. Perhaps, Italy is still leading in the per person consumption of bottled water yet it has the world largest number of public fountains dating back to the Roman Empire.
  • In contrast to tap water, which is distributed through an energy-efficient infrastructure, transporting bottled water long distances involves burning massive quantities of fossil fuels. In 2004, for example, Nord Water of Finland bottled and shipped 1.4 million bottles of Finnish tap water 4,300 kilometers (2,700 miles) from its bottling plant in Helsinki to Saudi Arabia, implying a huge carbon footprint.
  • Fossil fuels are also used in the packaging of water. The most commonly used plastic for making water bottles is polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is derived from crude oil. For example, making bottles to meet Americans’ demand for bottled water requires more than 17 million barrels of oil annually, enough to fuel more than 1 million U.S. cars for a year.
  • Worldwide, some 2.4 million metric tons of plastic are used to bottle water each year.
  • But bottled water is not guaranteed to be any healthier than tap water. In fact, roughly 40 percent of bottled water begins as tap water; and the French Senate even advises people who drink bottled mineral water to change brands frequently because the added minerals are helpful in small amounts but may be dangerous in higher doses
  • The United Nations Millennium Development Goal for environmental sustainability calls for halving the proportion of people lacking sustainable access to safe drinking water by 2015. Meeting this goal would require doubling the $15 billion a year that the world currently spends on water supply and sanitation. While this amount may seem large, it pales in comparison to the estimated $100 billion spent each year on bottled water while more than 1 billion people around the globe still lacking access to a safe and reliable source of water.
So, after hearing these shocking facts, we are all looking forward to seeing water fountains installed in strategic corners of the building.... I think it is safe to say that we all subscribe to NO PLASTIC campaign. And let's not forget that water coolers or water fountains are great knowledge sharing venues, just like the shuttle bus has proven to be a fantastic knowledge sharing vehicle!!!

Read more:

When I read Sir Nicholas Stern’s commentary ‘A changed Africa still needs our help to grow’ published in the 31 May edition of the Financial Times, I was reminded of Nelson Mandela’s famous words:

"Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. And overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom."

Sir Nicholas points to the potential of the region if it receives the right kind of sustained support. But I would like to point out one aspect that is often overlooked – agriculture and rural areas. We urgently need to focus on three issues if the African continent is to stand on its own feet. Governments and development agencies must:
  • invest in agriculture
  • boost economic growth in rural areas
  • support young people

African governments must ramp up their investment in agriculture to meet the Maputo target of 10 per cent of national budget. Some countries have already reached this benchmark – and they should be loudly congratulated for doing so – but many are still falling far short and must make a special effort to boost their public spending on agriculture.

Economic growth in rural areas both fuels and - is fuelled by - growth in the agricultural sector. Both are underpinned by functional infrastructure – including roads, energy supplies and markets. A vibrant rural sector generates local demand for locally-produced products and services. In turn, this demand can spur sustainable off-farm employment growth in services, agro-processing and small-scale manufacturing. This growth is crucial for rural employment and it is crucial for feeding a growing urban population. Without local jobs, young people will be driven away from rural areas in search of work in the cities. And then who will feed the world in 2020 or in 2030?

Recognizing smallholder farms as businesses, irrespective of their size or scale, is an important first step towards making the rural sector a viable choice for Africa’s young people. Unfortunately, too many smallholders in Africa are trapped in a cycle of mere subsistence.

Governments, donors and the private sector need to act – individually and collectively – to take smallholder farms beyond subsistence, into viable businesses, particularly for women and young people, who shoulder the future of African smallholder farming. We need to turn smallholders into entrepreneurs, into the main engine of economic growth. We need to make agriculture a business opportunity for Africa’s young women and men. We need to make agriculture a pathway out of poverty.

Kanayo F. Nwanze
President, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)

This article is a contribution from Mr Lamin Fatajo, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer of the Rural Finance Project in The Gambia.

Finally after 4 days of interaction with eachother the group went out to the field and visited the villages of Sukuta and Brufut in western region. Prior to the field visit, roles of each actor were defined as well as the activities to be conducted. The objective of the field visit was to define the objective of Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation (PM&E) with the communities and identify the indicators they deem necessary to monitor for learning and value addition. The planning includes what will be done, how it will be done, the resources required and a timeline.
The PM&E Committees comprise of VISACA representatives, The Village Development Committee, a mentoring kafoo and 3 influential community members who were sensitized on PM&E in 2009.

After the fruitful field work, we all returned to Banjul to share the experiences gained from the field and also to determine the readiness of the trainees to conduct the step down training intended for the PM&E Committees at the village level.

The first step in the process was to explain the purpose of the visit, which includes an explanation of what PM&E is all about. Then the community defined their own objectives of the PM&E. This was centered on improving the performance of the VISACAs in both communities.

Objectives formulated with the population
- Increase advocacy for the VISACA System

- Improve linkages with other groups in the village to mobilize savings and membership

- Increase the number of savings and credit groups strengthen or formed.

The indicators to track the progress of achievement of these objectives were identified as change in membership, number of sensitization meetings conducted, change in group registration, change in the amount of deposits from groups and individual members of the groups, change in the number of groups formed/strengthen.
Some of the most valuable lessons learned during this exercise are:
- The exercise was highly participatory
- The purpose and objective of PME was well received and accepted by the communities
- The communities were able to identify their own priorities
- The PME committee can be used as an instrument for saving and membership mobilization
- There is hope that when project activities to be conducted are fully explained to the PME committees they can identify what they what from those activities and be able to monitor them
- Target setting is not fully embraced by the committee as show by only increase in the indicators without the magnitude of change expected.
- The trainees have handled the situation satisfactorily therefore, ready to conduct satisfactory PM&E training to the communities.
- Due to the dominance of the VISACA Management committees in the PME committees there is reason to believe that the purpose/objective of the PM&E was mainly for improvement of the VISACA system.

Innovations suggested by the committees during the exercise include:

- Targeting village based institutions such as schools and osusu groups (solidarity group financing)
- daily cash collection from market vendors

- operation of consumer cooperatives to fight inflation for VISACA members

On Saturday, the training workshop closed with the remarks of the acting project coordinator Mr. Sam Ali Ashcroft who thanked all the participants and WARF facilitators for a well attended workshop as well as recognizing the efforts of the WARF facilitator in ensuring that the workshop was a success. He also dilated on the useful role of the Multi-Disciplinary Facilitation Team (MDFT) members in the whole process particularly in ensuring the dentification of synergies that exist between different projects at the grass root level.