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New photo-film: mapping soil diversity in Tanzania

Posted by Ricci Symons Friday, April 24, 2015 0 comments

The second ''photo-film'' of a  two-part series, "The Ground Beneath Your Feet," launched this week during Global Soil Week, where the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in partnership with the International Fund for Agricultural Development's (IFAD) is highlighting the importance of soil, whilst debating the latest science and technology as well as methods for preserving this vital natural resource. 

In Lushoto, Tanzania, a cluster of ''climate-smart villages'' supported by  Climate Change and Food Security's (CCAFS) nestle in the stunning Eastern Arc Mountains, stretching between Tanzania and Kenya. The richly diverse landscape is a biodiversity hotspot with its sloping hillsides supporting a wide range of agricultural produce - from vegetables, beans, sugarcane and cassava to agroforestry.

But this diversity of crops takes a toll on the soils in which they are grown. Sloping land is becoming exposed to increasing rainfall, which is washing precious top soil away. Without replacing nutrients in the soil, or better management of the  soils on the steep slopes, Lushoto’s diversity will likely disappear.

Soil health is measured through indicators such as organic carbon. In Lushoto, carbon per kilogram of soil can vary massively between 15 and 150 grams within 10 kilometers. Designed originally by the 
World Agroforestry Centre, the Land Degradation Surveillance Framework has been updated and implemented globally by CIAT and regional partners, such as IFAD's Adaption for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP), to map the landscape and show variability in dynamic soil properties.
Using this framework, a biophysical baseline of key soil and land health information across the landscape can be mapped. It can show what crops can grow, where, and how well. By pinpointing what soil type farmers have on their farms, researchers can then advise farmers on inputs and management strategies to improve soil health and overall agricultural productivity.

Scientists are now linking soil health data with household survey data on cropping diversity, perceptions of climate change, and gender. Together with socio-economic data, it allows them to better understand and address farming system constraints. Lab tests help further identify soil nutrient quantities such as nitrogen content, building up a rich map of the soil. 

Ilaria Firmian Interview on Djibouti project PRAREV

Posted by Ricci Symons Thursday, April 23, 2015 0 comments

Climate change is increasingly effecting agricultural and fishing communities in Djibouti. The Programme to Reduce Vulnerability to Climate Change and Poverty of Coastal Rural Communities (PRAREV), supported by IFAD’s Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP) is working within the fishing industry of Djibouti, helping rural fisherman combat the effects of climate change, and adapt to a changing environment.

IFAD’s Ilaria Firmian recently returned from a work trip to Djibouti. She has worked for seven years in IFAD as an Environment and Climate Knowledge Officer and previously  as a Technical Adviser on Environment and Natural Resources Management, supporting the mainstreaming of environmental and social issues at policy, programme and project levels.

©IFAD/Ilaria Firmian
You've just returned from Djibouti, what was it you went there for?

I was there for the launch of the IFAD programme PRAREV providing support to the technical session on climate change, as the project has a large co-financing from ASAPIt's in fact a blending of loan and climate funds, which has been instrumental to really tackle the problems of the Country and therefore provide services to the clients. Many partners were involved including the Red Cross Climate Centre that facilitated the use of climate games . The games were a very useful tool to show how decision making in relation to climate change is quite a difficult task and how this pays out in the fisheries sector, which is the main focus of the project.

Were there any other agencies working with IFAD on this project?

This project has many partnerships. With WFP (World FoodProgramme)-to deliver ‘food for work’ for local communities engaged in the rehabilitation of mangroves. With the Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches Djiboutien (CERD) – which is a National Research Centre. Also with Direction de l’Aménagement du Territoire et de l’Environnement (DATE) within the Ministry of Environment. Finally we are also working with FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation) - for the national fisheries plan.

What are the main problems people are facing, and how is IFAD combatting them?

There are a lot of climate change related problems in Djibouti, with drought issues being prevalent. There have been increases in storms and floods, yet drought is still the main problem. Drought affects the traditional Djibouti livelihood, pastoralism, which is becoming less viable as climate change worsens. The project looks at improving  and making fisheries more climate-resilient, which represents an alternative livelihood. Promoting this existing but relatively small and undeveloped sector is important as it is less susceptible to drought.
©IFAD/Ilaria Firmian

How did IFAD decide where needed its help the most?

During design, in order to target the most vulnerable areas, IFAD used the ''Coastal Hazard Wheel Methodology'' which identified large stretches of the coastline facing ecosystem disruption and others exposed to gradual inundation, salt water intrusion and erosion of the coast. Based on these results, the project is mainly taking actions to restore ecosystems e.g. coral reefs and mangrove areas. Mangroves are very important as they provide protection from storms and floods and, just like coral reefs,  they are also vital for fish stocks.

What sort of work is IFAD engaging in to combat these issues?

The project is working to build climate-resilient infrastructures and provide renewable energy equipment, ice plants, coolers/insulated containers etc. to the fishing communities.

PRAREV looks at the entire fisheries value chain; from the production (protection of ecosystems that are breeding grounds for fish) through to credit provision for boats and other equipment.- The project is also partnering and strengthening the capacity of existing micro finance in Djibouti (CPEC Caisse d’épargne et de crédit) to better serve the target group and help establish a national viable and sustainable microfinance system in the long term.

The project also plans to build  small infrastructure at harbours, this would include landing piers/jetties, cold rooms and market halls, which would help the fishermen with docking and transport of goods. Djibouti's main fish market is in Djibouti town but the project will also intervene in smaller villages along the coast, to improve local markets. The programme will also fund an ice factory and tricycles for fish distribution within the peri-urban areas to strengthen women retailers’ associations.

A project component is related to capacity building, both at the community and government level. The idea is that through this project IFAD will influence the national policies and strategies, basically forcing more attention to the potential of fisheries in terms of  adaptation to climate change and exploring other avenues of income generation.

Could you please tell us more about these other avenues?

Some alternative industries such as algae production will be piloted as well. There are species of indigenous algae that can be used for livestock feeding or cosmetics. With fisheries  not being a traditional sector in Djibouti, the fishing industry is still very under-developed. For instance, they are not used to drying and salting fish, a classical way of fish preservation. So there will be actions to see if there is a market for such things as salted fish.
What's next for the project in Djibouti?

The project is very interesting  but also very new to the country. It is just starting up and so the next step is just to take the design and make it work, taking into account new challenges such as the flow of refugees from Yemen that unfortunately, goes beyond the PRAREV's control and may negatively impact on the project performance.

Written by Francesco Farnè

Si sente parlare in maniera sempre più crescente di cibo, anche grazie alla grandissima copertura mediatica che questo argomento ha trovato in tutto il mondo. Basta pensare ai numerosi programmi di cucina che hanno contribuito a rendere gli chef, una volta relegati nel buio delle cucine, vere e proprie star. Per non parlare di vocaboli come “foodie” o “gourmet” che sono entrati prepotentemente nel nostro vocabolario.

Quello di cui si sente parlare di meno, soprattutto in Italia, nonostante l’incombenza di Expo 2015, è il cambiamento climatico, che, per quanto sia in apparenza un concetto astratto e che tendiamo a collegare a catastrofi che avvengono in luoghi remoti, ci riguarda in realtà più di quanto crediamo.
Vi starete forse chiedendo come questo si colleghi al cibo e agli chef. La risposta si può trovare risalendo la catena del cibo dalle nostre tavole fino ai piccoli agricoltori che producono circa due terzi del cibo che consumiamo a livello globale. Essi vivono principalmente nei paesi in via di sviluppo e il cambiamento climatico è una seria minaccia per loro.

Tavola rotonda dell'IFAD durante l'intervento di Jacopo Monzini
©IFAD/Francesco Farnè
Sabato scorso ho avuto l’opportunità di recarmi a Perugia con il team del Fondo Internazionale per lo Sviluppo Agricolo (IFAD) delle Nazioni Unite in occasione del Festival Internazionale del Giornalismo. L’IFAD ha organizzato “Ricette per il cambiamento: storie inedite di cibo e cambiamenti climatici”, una tavola rotonda che ha affrontato l’argomento. L’incontro ha riunito un esponente del mondo del giornalismo scientifico come Marco Cattaneo, National Geographic Italia, lo chef Lars Charas dell’Associazione Mondiale Cuochi, e Jacopo Monzini, Specialista Senior, Clima e Ambiente dell’IFAD. Mauro Buonocore del Centro Euro-Mediterraneo sui Cambiamenti Climatici (CMCC) ha moderato l’evento.

Gli speaker sono stati capaci fin da subito di sviluppare un dialogo coinvolgente, in grado di valorizzare e congiungere esperienze tanto diverse. Questo sottolinea quanto i loro campi professionali siano strettamente interconnessi. E come tutto questo abbia un impatto sulla nostra vita di tutti i giorni – dopotutto consumiamo tre pasti al giorno.

Mauro Buonocore (destra) e Jacopo Monzini (sinistra)
  ascoltano le domande dal pubbico
©IFAD/Francesco Farnè
Sotto questa luce è molto facile evidenziare responsabilità dirette per ognuno di noi. Come ha sottolineato Jacopo Monzini, non possiamo considerare il cambiamento climatico come un’entità esterna, che gli scienziati devono risolvere. Questo è piuttosto la conseguenza diretta delle nostre piccole azioni quotidiane. Siamo responsabili quando scegliamo i prodotti alimentari che acquistiamo per le nostre diete, quando sprechiamo energia, quando lasciamo le finestre aperte col riscaldamento accesso. Le risorse naturali sono come un conto in banca, non possiamo permetterci di trascurarle.

Qui entrano in gioco i giornalisti, ma anche gli chef, in quanto opinion leader in grado di influenzare le scelte dei consumatori e le loro diete, così connettendoli al mondo della produzione di cibo e quindi ai piccoli produttori. Un esempio molto pratico lo ha fornito Lars Charas, che ha condiviso la sua esperienza in Corea, dove a causa dell’abbondanza di meduse, conseguenza della pesca intensiva dei loro predatori naturali, ha spinto gli chef a introdurle nelle loro cucine, con ottimi risultati sulla sostenibilità e adattamento delle diete.

Il compito dei giornalisti, come ha ampiamente evidenziato Marco Cattaneo durante il suo intervento, è quello di informare per rendere consapevoli i consumatori. Per far questo è necessario, soprattutto in Italia, andare verso una specializzazione dei giornalisti che si occupano di tematiche scientifiche come il cambiamento climatico, attraverso un alta formazione tecnica, ma anche deontologica. È necessario, inoltre, superare le divisioni politiche che caratterizzano il dibattito pubblico nel nostro paese così da potersi concentrare maggiormente sui contenuti.

Pubblico durante il dibattito
©IFAD/Francesco Farnè
Infine resta da affrontare la questione di come raccontare al grande pubblico questa tematica. La foto di un orso polare rimasto bloccato su una lastra di ghiaccio, come hanno concordato gli speaker, è stata utile per veicolare il messaggio, ma ha d’altra parte contribuito a far sentire il pubblico “dispiaciuto, ma non responsabile”. Si sente quindi il bisogno di nuove storie.

In questo senso un’organizzazione come l’IFAD, attraverso la sua missione globale e la sua esperienza con i piccoli agricoltori, può contribuire positivamente alla diffusione di questo messaggio, dando anche un volto umano alle conseguenze del cambiamento climatico.

Come ha concluso Monzini, c’è un collegamento anche fra i piccoli agricoltori e una delle tematiche più dibattute in Italia, la migrazione. Bisogna considerare che molti dei migranti che si trovano a dover lasciare le loro terre sono spesso piccoli agricoltori colpiti anche dal cambiamento climatico. Questo è solo uno dei tanti spunti e stimoli che sono emersi durante l’incontro che senza dubbio ha contribuito a portare alla luce ed aprire un dibattito pubblico su tematiche troppo spesso trascurate, ma che in tantissimi modi hanno impatti su ognuno noi.

Written by Rakesh Jha 

Indigenous people with traditional musical instruments at arts and culture festival in Taksera, Nepal. ©Budha Lojin 
Last year, an IFAD team visited Nepal's Rukum District to monitor the work of the IFAD-supported Western Uplands Poverty Alleviation Project (WUPAP). The mission included a workshop led by Antonella Cordone, IFAD's Senior Technical Specialist on Indigenous Peoples and Tribal Issues, which provided opportunities for interaction with local indigenous leaders. The team subsequently recommended that WUPAP design special activities in Rukum to help improve indigenous peoples ' livelihoods through promotion of their unique culture and traditions.

Indigenous women wearing traditional attire at the
festival in Taskera. ©WUPAP
Last week, that recommendation became a reality in the form of an indigenous peoples' arts and culture festival in Taksera, initiated by WUPAP and made possible with the strong support from Local Development Officer Bharat Sarma and the hard work of the indigenous community. The Prime Minister of Nepal, Sushil Koirala, inaugurated the festival on the auspicious occasion of New Year's Day 2072 under the Nepali calendar. It ran for five days, from 14 to 18 April.

The festival's objective was to highlight indigenous peoples' traditional dance, food, dress and identity. It also aimed to expand domestic and international tourism, with an emphasis on rural tourism. In addition, the event was designed to build awareness about sustainable biodiversity and environmental conservation. For tourists, the organizers offered information about the most significant places to visit in the surrounding area.

Among the VIPs at the festival – besides the Prime Minister – were five members of Parliament, local leaders, the chairs of the Janjati Federation and Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal, the Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation, and representatives of district line agencies. The WUPAP Project Coordinator and Senior District Coordinator participated as well.

Nepal's Prime Minister Sushil Koirala opens the festival in Rukum District. ©Budha Lojin
More than 25,000 visitors attended the festival's opening. They saw performances of traditional music and dance, and browsed stalls of herbal medicines, aromatic products, foods, clothing and much more. WUPAP provided about one-fifth of direct funding for the festival, with the rest provided by government, business and development partners, as well as indigenous peoples' communities themselves.

Women in stall selling traditional wares at the Taskera arts and culture festival. ©WUPAP

It’s not always headline news that our climate is changing – but it should be.

Marco Cattaneo, editor of Le Scienze, knows that it’s hard to sell stories about long-term processes. “But we need to help everyone know what’s happening, what’s at stake,” he said. “If we’re going to feed 9 billion people by 2050, we’re going to have to revise our diet and how we produce our food.”

Cattaneo was a member of Recipes for Change: Untold stories of food and climate adaptation, the IFAD-organized panel at the 2015 International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy. He joined Jacopo Monzini, senior technical specialist in IFAD’s Environment and Climate Division, and Lars Charas, programme manager at Worldchefs, in a discussion moderated by Mauro Buonocore, Communication Officer at the Euro Mediterranean Centre on Climate Change.
IFAD-organized panel at the International Journalism Festival. From left: Mauro Buonocore, Jacopo Monzini, Marco Cattaneo and Lars Charas. ©IFAD/Adam Vincent
The panel’s goal was to share stories that the media are not telling when it comes to climate change. Its members spoke as international aid workers, journalists, scientists and chefs – but they all wanted to change the way we think about (and thus respond to) climate change.

More than polar bears
First, Monzini said, it’s important to properly understand the issue. “Climate change is not something physically material that we can attack and destroy,” he explained. “It is the result of a whole series of tiny little actions that each of us is responsible for.”

Instead of viewing climate change as something apart from us, we need to view it as something that affects us and that we, in turn, can influence by our choices, Monzini added.

The media, however, do not usually present this vision of climate change. Instead, Cattaneo pointed out, they focus on images like a lone polar bear adrift on floating ice. It’s an effective way to grab attention but ultimately fails to achieve any real change. “For half an hour, people feel sorry for the polar bear,” Cattaneo said, “but then everything goes back to how it was before.”

Since we’re all responsible for climate change, Monzini said, “we’re all responsible for mitigating the effects.” One way for journalists to contribute is to help the public realize the true causes of climate change and the best ways to change them.

Making stakes real
Climate change is well documented, but it’s easy to ignore when it only seems to affect people on the other side of the world. As a result, there is great potential for stories that show communities in the developed world how climate change affects them.

“You have to find issues that are close to consumers, make the issue practical,” said Charas. For example, he warned that climate change may put traditional Mexican food culture at risk, as neither beans nor corn is climate-resilient. Monzini added that climate change might seem much more relevant for Italians this year, after low rainfall contributed to an uncharacteristically small olive harvest.

Too often, Cattaneo said, it’s difficult to find space to address climate change. But the public is concerned with what is local – which journalists should use to their advantage.

Radical solutions
Audience at the panel in Perugia. ©IFAD/Jessica Thomas
The panel agreed on one force that could discourage the behaviors contributing to climate change: the market, which stories can play a pivotal role in shaping. Consumers make up the market, and informed consumers can make a difference.

The problem, Monzini said, is that food consumers are often lazy. They limit their range of ingredients, which encourages monoculture and consequently hurts genetic diversity and resilience in the agriculture sector. Even if farmers grow traditional, organic crops, he pointed out, they are going to stop if no one buys them.

Stories have the potential to change this behavior. By describing underutilized crops from around the globe, journalists can help create new markets for the food we need to nourish our growing world.

Charas said he seeks to connect chefs with diverse ingredients. One potential market? Jellyfish. Overfishing has led to a proliferation of jellyfish, whose populations were once kept in check by the fish now on our plates, Charas explained. People already eat jellyfish in Korea, he noted. Adapting to new ideas and getting chefs to incorporate them could help us establish more sustainable sources of food. 

But even if jellyfish does not take off, the panel’s point remains valid: to feed a growing world population, we’re going to have to rethink how we produce and consume food. We all play a role in ameliorating and adapting to climate change, but journalists are especially important. Our climate is changing, and journalists can make that news. 

Written by Steve Twomlow, Lynn Kota and Norman Mavuso

The IFAD-supported Lower Usuthu Sustainable Land Management Project (LUSLM, also known as LUSIP-GEF) walked off with four awards at the Swaziland World Water Day Awards in March. LUSLM was showered with accolades, including first place for best photograph depicting water and sustainable development, and first place for sustainable practices.

Water is a fundamental resource, vital for human survival and ecological life,
thus it is a key element for sustainable development. This picture shows
a Ferro-cement rainwater harvester, it is 1,700 liters. The family is now getting
clean water within the yard instead of walking long distances to fetch water, giving the
girl child plenty time to do other beneficial activities, like doing school work.
©Norman Mavuso 

LUSLM did not stop there though, raking in two second-place awards. These awards recognized LUSM's community outreach and awareness creation on water and sustainable development. The project was awarded for showcasing activities on the water-harvesting techniques it promotes, including rooftop cement rainwater harvesting; infield ripper farrow and basin water harvesting; and water harvesting through land rehabilitation on degraded land and dongas.

LUSLM won the best photo award for an image of a family collecting water from their roof water harvester. For the sustainable practices award, the project was judged the best in the country in terms of community initiatives that have employed good water-management practices. These initiatives have sustained LUSLM's water-related projects, rendering them effectively operational for a long time.

National Project Manager Lynn Kota receiving one of the World Water Day
Awards on behalf of the LUSLM team. © Norman Mavuso 

For awareness creation, all organizations taking part in the World Water Day Awards were judged on how they raise awareness about the importance of proper water use and management – and the underlying issues which affect water availability and distribution. For community outreach, each project was judged for ''making a mark that can never be erased.'' LUSLM did this by uplifting and empowering communities with activities such as provision of water, sanitation and food-security measures for the rural poor.

The LUSLM Project team, in Swazi traditional attire, with the awards
at the project offices. © Norman Mavuso

Woman in the Philippines buys groceries with remittance money sent by
a sister working abroad. ©IFAD/Joanne Levitan
Written by Jessica Thomas

IFAD is dedicating a day to the millions of migrant workers who make a vital contribution to the well-being of their families and communities back home. On June 16, we will celebrate the first International Day of Family Remittances.

But why has IFAD, through its Financing Facility for Remittances (FFR), decided to commemorate this day? What is the day meant to achieve?

Worldwide, over 247 million people live outside the countries and communities they call home. They leave their countries to look for opportunities, for jobs, for education. To some it is simply a question of survival, and they are ready to take on whatever task, at whatever pay, as long as they can send money to the families and communities left behind. The funds they send home are known as remittances.

The individual stories of those who leave their towns and villages for foreign destinations are stories of incredible dedication and tremendous sacrifice. That is why IFAD has dedicated 16 June as a day of recognition for their commitment and sacrifice to family. It recognizes the years and decades spent in a foreign country, labouring so their children might be able to live and work in their country of origin – the heartache of living far away not only from family and friends, but from their land and their culture. To live like that is a kind of life away from life.

Remittances are an expression of fundamental family commitment. They constitute one of the world's most direct methods of poverty alleviation.

Plans for International Day of Family Remittances are announced at IFAD
Governing Council session, February 2015. ©IFAD/Flavio Ianniello
The launch of the International Day of Family Remittances will take place in Milan, Italy, during the Global Forum on Remittances and Development, in the context of Expo Milano 2015. It will be a high-level event with important dignitaries and speakers.

The United Nations General Assembly designates a number of international days to mark important aspects of human life and history. Specialized UN agencies can also proclaim these days. You may not be familiar with all the days. Some, like World Environment Day, World Water Day and International Women's Day, are better known than others. But each and every international day has been designated for a specific reason.

Inevitably, the International Day of Family Remittances will call to mind someone we either know well or have met briefly. It will always remind me of a friend I made a few years ago through one of the many FFR programmes. Her name is Minda, a 60-year-old powerhouse full of energy and initiative. She comes from the Philippines and is a domestic worker. When she came to Italy over 30 years ago, she was supporting 26 family members back home and working seven days a week. She sent so much of her hard -earned money home to the Philippines that, in the end, she had nothing left for herself.

Although Minda did not introduce me to the issue of migration and remittances, she brought it to another level, and the word ‘sacrifice’ took on a whole other meaning.

For IFAD, this day will represent an invaluable opportunity to recognize the efforts of migrants, strengthen current partnerships and create new synergies. For all of us, it is a way to say thank you.

Surely now, when you hear the date June 16, you will remember that it is not 'just another day.'