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By Nerina Muzurovic 



Britain’s Prince of Wales visited the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on 5 April 2017.

As part of the British Royal’s visit, the Permanent Representation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the United Nations invited Dr Khalida Bouzar, IFAD Director for the Near East, North Africa and Europe Division, to introduce the work of IFAD in Somalia.

“We have been investing in rural people for the last four decades – targeting the poorest and most vulnerable communities in the most remote areas,” Dr Bouzar said, after greeting His Royal Highness. “IFAD’s investments have so far reached about 464 million people.”

Almost half of IFAD’s ongoing operations are in fragile and conflict-affected countries like Somalia, she added, where IFAD has supported 9 programmes since the 1980s for a total cost of US$140 million and an outreach of 1.8 million people.

In places like Somalia, IFAD’s work is more important than ever, she said. “Many activities designed and financed by IFAD in such areas have proved to be resilient to conflict and still continue.”

Noting that the United Kingdom has demonstrated active leadership in raising awareness of the current food crisis in Somalia, she added, “Our experience shows that even in the most challenging circumstances, investment can bring about positive change in the lives of poor people.”

One good example of positive change brought about under challenging circumstances is the IFAD-financed North-Western Integrated Community Development Programme (Phase II), which ran despite a devastating drought and ongoing conflict in Somalia from 2010 to 2015. The programme reached 1.4 million beneficiaries, of whom 40 per cent were women. Working with 124 communities in 9 districts, this programme focused on improving farming in areas where water is scarce.

Among other measures, the programme helped introduce 15 sand storage dams to hold and absorb floodwater. These dams replenished water sources and allowed people to farm profitably in a community where, previously, water scarcity caused frequent disputes. The Prince of Wales noted that he was familiar with sand storage dams, having seen them in India.

In addition to empowering communities, the sand dams had a markedly positive impact on local women’s lives. “With this project, we see how resilience, security and gender empowerment go hand in hand,” noted Dr Bouzar. “In the village of Aada, for example, a woman herder told us, ‘we used to walk long distances, sometimes the whole day to get water. Now fetching water is easy; in just a few minutes we have water for washing, cooking and cleaning. And a lot of women have become interested in farming.’”
Speaking before the British Royal, Dr Bouzar also introduced two new IFAD projects in Somalia. The first, co-financed by the Italian Development Cooperation, is aimed at irrigation needs in Somalia’s Lower Shebelle region. The second, funded by a regional grant covering Djibouti and Somalia, will provide technology for enhanced farming, rangelands, and watershed management.

Famine begins and ends in rural areas, which is why measures like resilience building, strengthening livelihoods, and keeping animals alive are key. With an eye to the future, IFAD is currently also using climate modelling to carry out climate change vulnerability mapping, along with the World Food Programme (WFP), to assess effects on smallholder agriculture in Somalia.

“Sustainable rural development can be a potent stabilizing force—which is why we have established “FARMS, ”the Facility for Refugees, Migrants, Forced Displacement and Rural Stability,” Dr Bouzar concluded. “We believe tools like FARMS are powerful means of change in places like Somalia, where there are currently 1.1 million internally displaced people.” Giving people the ability to feed their children today is crucial, but it is also of paramount importance that we help the rural poor to secure sustenance for future generations. To accomplish this, IFAD plays a pivotal role in bridging the gap between humanitarian assistance and long-term development.

Despite ongoing conflict in the region, where security remains a problem, IFAD’s work in Somalia will not slacken, she said. At present, new collaboration is being planned with the Italian Development Cooperation to address food insecurity in the country’s Puntland area.

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