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A keen look at the COSOP results framework

11 – 12 December 2014, Ethiopia held a one and a half days Country Strategic Opportunities Paper (COSOP) review and M&E workshop focused on how to conduct self-evaluations and measure impact.  The IFAD Ethiopia country programme is undergoing an evaluation by the Independent Office of Evaluation (IOE) to review the current COSOP (2007 – 2014). The results of the annual COSOP reviews and the IOE evaluation will inform the design of a new COSOP in 2015 .

The workshop offered a platform for project managers, coordinators, and M&E officers to discuss how best to conduct effective self-evaluations, and how to establish improved M&E systems. Haingo Rakotondratsima, the Country Programme Officer for Madagascar, shared experiences from the CAPFIDA integrated knowledge management system which establishes linkages between field level and strategic portfolio priorities at national level. He further emphasized the importance of regular data collection from the field, and having a person in charge of the central data repository, for more systematic analysis. 
Discussing the results framework

Self-evaluation is a continuous process through which projects keenly look at what works well, what does not, and how to improve.

In the IFAD context, the COSOP is a strategic document, formulated in partnership with key partners and stakeholders (especially government and farmer organisations) to effectively invest in rural smallholder agriculture and bring the farmers out of poverty.

The current country programme evaluation will focus on relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, impact, sustainability, gender equality, innovation and scaling up of different aspects of the country loan and grant portfolio. Other aspects such as knowledge management, partnership building, and policy dialogue, will be evaluated.

Self-evaluation by projects follows the same methodology as the overall country programme evaluation with the core elements of the assessment centering on relevance, effectiveness, and other aspects as described in the IOE evaluation manual.

Why Self-evaluation?
A practical self-assessment exercise was conducted. Projects split into three groups and did a self-assessment of project performance (relevance, effectiveness, and efficiency), project impact, and project sustainability, innovation and scaling up. The presentations sparked informative discussions on such aspects as impact indicators, criteria of evaluations, and how to use evaluation results to inform policy dialogue and future development initiatives. The discussions brought participants to a positive conclusion: the purpose of the self-evaluation is primarily for learning and improvement through lessons learnt. Self-evaluations are not to find fault but to identify what can be done differently for improved performance of the project.

                                                                 
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Bidding Haingo Farewell
After the workshop, the ICO held a simple ceremony to appreciate Haingo's support to the country programme during his brief placement in Ethiopia. The innovative idea by IFAD HR of staff rotation seems to have worked well in this case. The exchange has served as a channel of learning between Madagascar and Ethiopia.
Getting ready to share a farewell cake with Haingo

By Michael Hamp

Andean tribal people who participate in the Financial Graduation Programme by PLAN Peru in Cusco. Peru is a world leader in mobile phone and agent banking. Photo Credit: Michael Hamp/IFAD
Andean tribal people who participate in the Financial Graduation Programme by PLAN Peru in Cusco. Peru is a world leader in mobile phone and agent banking. Photo Credit: Michael Hamp/IFAD

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is pleased to accept an invitation to join the Better than Cash Alliance (BTCA) in our shared commitment to bringing financial access to rural communities through digital payments. We welcome this membership because we know the tremendous impact that digital payments can have on the national economies of our developing partner countries, allowing millions of rural people to gain access to the formal financial sector.
As a specialized agency of the United Nations, IFAD works to enable rural poor people to improve their food and nutrition security, increase their incomes and strengthen their resilience. BTCA is a perfect fit for us because we are one of the world’s largest lenders supporting rural finance for poverty reduction, promoting access to a range of financial services, including savings, payments, remittances and insurance, to meet the needs of poor people, and we recognize the critical role of electronic payment systems in accessing all of these tools.

In 2013, there were 2.5 million active borrowers from IFAD-assisted microfinance institutions, 74 percent of which were women, as well as 5.5 million voluntary savers, 71 percent of which were women.

By joining BTCA, we commit to expanding these numbers by promoting electronic payments, which are a gateway to accessing other financial products like loans and savings accounts. Central to our partnerships with developing countries are IFAD’s results-based country strategic opportunities programmes (COSOP), which provide a framework for IFAD operations in a country, ensuring that they produce a positive impact on poverty. A COSOP also highlights the innovation that IFAD intends to promote in the country and how we will bring a tested innovation to scale – this is where electronic payments come in. As a BTCA member, we will encourage the use of affordable and accessible electronic payment and collection methods for low-income communities in all future rural finance projects and project components and assist partner governments to develop the infrastructure and market to support them.

We will help communicate to our partner countries the benefits of a cash-less system, including cost savings, economic development, as well as increased transparency, security and financial inclusion for more citizens who can in turn access critical financial tools. But of course, the benefits of electronic payments do not stop there.

IFAD also joins BTCA serving as implementing partners of the G20 Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion under the Sub-group on Markets and Payments Systems. Here, we’re working to leverage the impact of remittances for development – particularly in rural areas – in order to promote digital financial inclusion.

At a time when global efforts are in place to maximize the development impact of remittances, it is strongly believed that digitalization of flows, combined with financial intermediation, will pave the way to an expanded remittance market and reduced transaction costs. We have seen the cost of sending money drop from 12 percent to around 8 percent over the last decade – currently at US$37 billion – due to increased competition, enhanced regulatory reform and stronger advocacy at international and national levels. Digitalization of flows, which facilitates the expansion of remittance services, particularly in rural areas, is one of the strongest enabling factors of this downward trend.
These trends, as well as commitments from our developing country partners to implement electronic payment systems, will be instrumental in reaching the post-2015 sustainable development goals on financial inclusion. By partnering with BTCA, we hope to share our experience with a global network of partners working at the frontier of innovation, and continue to grow in our mission to bring financial inclusion to rural poor communities.

As appeared on Better Than Cash Alliance (BTCA)

 by Custodio Mucavel

“The fish recognise me when I approach the ponds to feed them. They swim towards me because they aren't afraid. They know I'm their best friend", explained Tome Zacarias, a farmer in Chiongo, (about 40 kms from the town of Gondola), whose farm US Ambassador Lane visited on 10 December 2014.

Tome has been nurturing his passion for fish farming since 2003 when he first started with three small ponds. He farms tilapia and currently has five fish ponds of different sizes. They form part of his integrated farming business which includes maize, vegetables, fruits and farm animals.
During the one and a half hour visit with Ambassador Lane and his delegation which included journalists from six countries and representatives of the three UN Rome-based agencies, Tome talked about what had brought him to become passionate about fish farming, including how he had sourced his first fingerlings.

He also described how he selects the site where he digs his ponds, including the farming techniques he uses to assess the soil water holding capacity. He showed how he makes the fish feed from scraps from his farm produce – pumpkin, cassava and sweat potato leaves – supplemented by corn bran provided by the extension officers from the Mozambique National Institute for Aquaculture Development (INAQUA).

 ©PROAQUA
Since 2012, Tome has received support from a local INAQUA extension officer who has provided technical advice on the production cycle, timing and feeding, how to select where to locate the ponds and how to calculate the quantity of fish in each.

Tome is one of the beneficiaries from PROAQUA – a US$ 3,4 million regional project. Limited to a designated area of four neighbouring districts – Mossurize, Sussundenga, Gondola and Gorongosa – the project zone has abundant water resources with many rivers providing considerable potential for aquaculture.

Access to markets is good, with the project districts flanking either side of the Beira Corridor. The project responds to a request from the Government Of Mozambique (GoM) for support in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Financed by the European Union as part of the GoM's "Accelerating progress towards MDG1c in Mozambique" initiative, the programme was jointly implemented in 2013 by IFAD, FAO and WFP and will conclude in 2018.

The rationale for the project is based on the following:
(i) A high priority in the GoM's development strategy, the support for aquaculture is in line with the GoM's and IFAD’s policies particularly as there has been very limited investment in the sector, specifically in Manica and Sofala;
(ii) Aquaculture represents a major and relatively untapped potential for meeting the growing demand for fish in the country;
(iii) Aquaculture also represents an important means of diversifying the farming system that can enable farmers to spread risk; and
(iv) Given that most fish farmers are poor but able to invest in fish farming at minimal cost and with limited risk, thus improving the nutritional status of poor households, is further justification for investment.

The project aims to increase consumption and sales of fish by promoting small-scale fish farming in the project districts. PROAQUA tackles two key themes: food security and commercialization. The strategy recognizes the importance of current fish ponds to household food security and nutrition.
While there is considerable potential to increase the productivity of ponds, thereby generating income for households through sale of fish, it is recognized that the level of poverty of many households in the project zone means that addressing risk aversion is a key priority. This is reflected in the approach adopted by the project.

 ©PROAQUA

PROAQUA came into force in April 2014. The field visit to Tome's fish farm offered an opportunity to assess not only the current stage of aquaculture development in the country but the potential and the challenges that will be addressed by PROAQUA. These are mainly in the areas of (i) construction of new and better quality ponds; (ii) promotion of increased productivity of fish ponds by introducing improved pond management using predominantly on-farm  resources and minimizing purchased inputs for fish feed, in addition to an initial injection of quality fingerlings to maximize production potential; (iii) adoption of a household methodology approach – which will be linked to household mentoring – in order to maximize the participation of both women and men in the project; and (iv) use of a performance-based strategy linked to providing incentives in the contracts and involvement of extension staff.

Before visiting Tome's farm, Ambassador Lane met with the Gondola District Administrator, who presented a comprehensive overview of the district’s social and economic development, the ongoing food security and nutrition projects and programmes supported by the three UN Rome-based agencies as well as priority areas for consideration, should resources be made available in the future.
As part of the local tradition, Tome and his family offered Ambassador Lane and his entire delegation lunch prepared from their own produce including bananas and mangoes grown on the farm.

Ambassador Lane was visibly happy with the visit. He encouraged the PROAQUA managers, government representatives and extension officers to provide continued support to enterprising farmers like Tome and assist them in building capacity beyond subsistence to commercial production.
For Tome, who is considered a model farmer in the Chiongo region, hiring the labour to dig the ponds and feed the fish is one of the main challenges he faces.


by Marian Amaka Odenigbo

You will all agree that it still unacceptable that  today one in eight women and men still go to bed hungry and 8,000 children die daily from under nutrition despite the growing attention on gender and nutrition related issues in the agricultural development agenda.  As development practitioners we seek to address issues such as:

  • How do gender dynamics and decision-making relate to nutrition-sensitive behavior and outcomes in agricultural development programmes? 
  • What is the impact of empowerment on nutrition sensitive agriculture programmes? 
  • Does  Decision Making  always leads to Empowerment? and 
  • How can we continuously and systematically track impact of gender participation in agricultural development on nutrition? 

 What is paradoxical is that we actually know that gender dynamics often are closely linked to nutrition, but we  don’t necessarily always know how!

These concerns were the focus of a two and half day training workshop on gender and nutrition organized by the CGIAR cross-cutting research program (CRP) on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH). The event took place at Bioversity headquarters in Rome, Italy  on  2-4 December 2014. Participants from different sectors shared experiences on designing, implementing, and evaluating gender research analyzing how development activities have contributed to improved nutritional outcomes. I was happy to be invited in the capacity of one of the key partners who is working on implementing nutrition-sensitive agricultural projects.

Women's empowerment
Women's empowerment has been portrayed as a driver in agricultural development and innovation especially in poor rural setting. This is reflected in IFAD’s core business of investing in rural poor with an estimate of approximately 50 per cent of women targeted in our operations.

Empowering women involves multiple aspects such as decision-making power related to income, time, labor, assets, and knowledge or preferences of female community members. This implies women taking control over their lives, setting their agenda, gaining skills, self-confidence, self-reliance.

Hazel Malapit, the coordinator of A4NH gender strategy in IFPRI, gave an overview of the Women's Empowerment in the Agriculture Index (WEAI). WEAI is an index dedicated to measuring women’s empowerment in the agricultural sector. Laurie Starr (TANGO International) and Ana Paula de la O Campos (FAO) shared experiences in using and adapting WEAI were shared in project contexts. Beatrice Gerli, a member of IFAD gender team also added that IFAD has developed an adaption of the WEAI in its work and piloted it in Guatemala.

To understand the intricacy of women's empowerment Peter Davis, a specialist in qualitative and mixed-methods research delivered a presentation on empowerment ‘as a complex topic’.

Pathways to Nutrition
Further in this workshop, we discussed the “7 key pathways” through which agriculture is thought to influence nutrition.

These pathways were grouped into three key routes: 1) Food pro¬duction; which affects food availability, access and consumption of diverse foods and food consumption at household level; 2) Agricultural income; which influences expenditure on food, healthcare and non-food items; and 3) Women’s empowerment; which influences decision making power, caring capacity and practices, control of income and female energy expenditure.

Although these pathways are not always linear but they have become important guides for designing research and nutrition-sensitive agriculture projects. The last 3 pathways (5, 6 & 7) explicitly deal with women, but the gender role is important in each of the pathways outlined below:

As a matter of fact, empirical evidence suggests that empowering women improves nutrition for mothers, their children, and other household members and there is a close linkage between child stunting and maternal nutrition.

From a nutrition perceptive, the decision making process was viewed not just an outcome but rather underscoring the importance of joint-decision making between women and men.

Participants engaged in a brainstorming session on coming up with decision-making indicators to enhance their understanding of gender dynamic roles in agricultural interventions for nutrition and health.

Jessica Raneri, a nutrition specialist in Bioversity   talked about  adapting existing methodologies with a nutrition lens, thus ensuring nutrition-sensitive interventions. She proposed that  we reformulate existing questions and/or integrate additional questions on nutrition from a gender perspective to address gap in current methodology.

Gender norms integration (pink) into a vegetable and fruit project (green) in Zambia
 presented by Mwansa’s (Nutrition officer) and Steve (Gender officer)
Jody Harris, a Senior research analyst/nutritionist on A4NH in IFPRI, discussed the context specific linkages between agriculture and nutrition. She went further by stating that "quality of food and diet are key for measuring outcomes of agriculture for nutrition and health’. She also emphasised on the need for ‘do no harm’ indicator to measure the expected change in projects particularly on women’s time, care giving, programme participation.

It was quite interesting to see how gender mainstreaming can improve nutritional outcomes in Ag4NH programmes. While  at the same  time implementing agricultural development projects through a nutrition lens maximizes the gender norms.

This was reinforced  by an exclamation made by Mwansa at the end of an interactive brainstorming exercise – please see  the figure above:
          “Wow! Now it’s all making a whole lot of sense, Steve!!!

To wrap up the workshop, participants were tasked to identify available and missing resources to improve work on nutrition and gender. One of the challenges identified was creating a space to continue networking opportunities to link up gender and nutrition.  As a way forward, participants suggested to build a community of practice on gender and nutrition in order to continue the conversation.

This training workshop actually confirmed that integrating gender norms through a  nutrition lens will increase development impact and nutritional outcomes of programmes. It was an opportunity  to further our understanding of influential gender dynamics in nutrition sensitive agriculture interventions particularly for partners like IFAD where gender and nutrition are among our thematic corporate priorities.

Interested in  IFAD’s commitment to making its country programmes and projects nutrition- sensitive? Read our blogpost on Optimizing farmer’s contribution through better health and nutrition.


The 2014 Gender Awards and learning event

Posted by S.Sperandini Wednesday, December 17, 2014 0 comments

By Lorina Sthapit, Gender and M&E Junior Consultant, Nepal and PTA Gender Desk




The 2014 Gender Awards Ceremony was organized at IFAD Headquarters in Rome on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The Awards, initiated in 2013, spotlight one programme or project per region that has used innovative approaches to address gender inequalities and empower women.

During the event, the representatives from the winning projects in Ecuador, Pakistan, Rwanda and Yemen discussed their achievements and the challenges they faced in promoting gender equality and empowering women. The award for Sierra Leone was accepted by the Deputy Minister of Agriculture Ms. Marie Jolloh. For further details about the winning projects, click here Brochure.
The occasion was also an opportunity to learn about household methodologies, an innovative set of approaches piloted by IFAD and partners. With the support of supplementary funds from the Government of Japan, IFAD has worked with field practitioners to consolidate experiences on household methodologies across sub-Saharan Africa into an Household Methodologies Toolkit.


The event concluded with a statement by the Vice President about the relevance of ending violence against women for food security, poverty reduction and rural development.
Here are the links to Storify, Photos and Video recording from the Awards Ceremony.
Click here for more information on IFAD Gender Awards 2014.
Representatives from the winning projects

A learning event in the afternoon provided an opportunity for the project representatives to exchange their invaluable experiences and ideas among like-minded practitioners.
The representatives from the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (implementing partner)- Mr. Isa Qazi Azmat, ChiefExecutive Officer; Ms. Samia Liaquat, Group Head for Compliance and Quality Assurance; and Mr. Yasir Ashfaq, Group Head for Financial Services - highlighted the importance of developing project activities and products specifically suited to the needs of the rural poor women and ultra-poor households.
PRISM is one of the flag bearers for investing in women’s access to microfinance and women-led value chains in the country. The project has supported almost 140,000 women borrowers for income generating enterprises. This is a significant achievement in a country where the number of women who benefit from microfinance loans is traditionally very low and where women-centric microfinance programmes are often questioned. PRISM has challenged those barriers and lived up to project values that “development is about changing the status quo”.
The success of any project, they emphasized, lies in “starting small, committing to bring social transformation, learning from failures and rekindling the motivation of all staff”. Learning from one of their initial shortfalls during the baseline survey, they included several gender-related indicators in the impact survey to capture improvements in gender equality and women’s empowerment. They recognised, while challenging, it is important to do more to be able to tell women’s stories.
Mr. Abdulla Salem Al-Dogail, Project Director and Ms. Fatima Al-Lahabi, Gender and Microfinance Specialist felt immense pride as well as a sense of responsibility when the project beneficiaries said, “you are the first ones to come to us”. Being the first to intervene in Al-Dhala, one of the poorest and most remote governorates in Yemen. They credited their dynamic and motivated team that, despite the physical and social complexity of Al-Dhala, were able to successfully implement project activities. The team conducted situational analyses and initiated various activities targeting women. They addressed women’s basic needs first by freeing their time from collecting water and firewood. They progressed to literacy classes, health and nutrition training, kitchen gardening and other income generating activities. When required, the project team divided into women-only and men-only groups to address sensitive gender-specific issues, issues that would otherwise not surface in a mixed group. These initiatives have significantly contributed to women's inclusion and the empowerment agenda in the communities.
Another major factor contributing to their project success was using an effective communication strategy which was implemented by local women who were able to build trust with other women in the villages. Action plans were developed together with women and men from the community using participatory processes. In addition, separate training sessions for women were led by female facilitators because this gave rural women the confidence to participate more actively and to voice their concerns more comfortably.
Mr. Janvier Gasasira, Single Project Implementation Unit (SPIU) Coordinator, and Mr. Raymond Kamwe, M&E specialist and gender focal person explained the role of community innovation centres (CIC) in devising strategies to communicate and reach out to rural women. The work of these CICs does not stop at providing technical and organizational support to small farmers, they also conduct awareness raising programmes on gender-based violence.
KWAMP through their CICs, came up with an ingenious idea of the 'women's evenings'. It is a forum where village women meet on a regular basis to talk about any violence and other social issues that require peer counselling and/or help. Men are invited to attend. The forum has encouraged many local women to discuss and report cases of violence. A gender desk has been established at the local police station so that women who have been abused can talk to policewomen.
Mr. Luis Heredia, Project Coordinator and Ms. Consuelo Aguinaga, Gender specialist emphasised that the success of any project lies in ensuring equal and democratic participation of women in all project activities and decision-making processes. Often it is only at the implementation stage that women’s participation is taken into consideration but to ensure that the project is inclusive of women’s special needs, it is essential to assure women’s meaningful participation from the planning stage.
In addition, the importance of allocating sufficient resources for gender-related activities during Annual Work Plan and Budget was highlighted. This is often overlooked but project gender strategies should be reflected in the budget, reserving resources to support gender mainstreaming and women’s empowerment.
Mr. Hubert Boirard, former country programme manager in Sierra Leone, talked about the origins of a successful project. While a sound design lays the foundation, most of a project’s success can be attributed to implementation. Flexibility at the mid-term review is crucial. For example, the Gender Action Learning System (GALS) was added by project staff during implementation because they were convinced of the positive impact it had on gender relations at the household level.

AgTalks: How fertilisers can improve smallholder farmers lives

Posted by Francesco Farnè Tuesday, December 16, 2014 0 comments

Written by Francesco Far


If you don’t know about AgTalks, you are missing a riveting new series of events organised by IFAD with the aim of presenting the human face of family farming by sharing the latest policy and innovation research findings, as well as different viewpoints on smallholder farming.

Through the series we are putting forward the latest thinking, trends and research on policies and innovations in small-scale family farming.

As you may know, the UN has declared 2015 the International Year of Soils. And earlier in the month, on the eve of the World Soil Day, we at IFAD had the honour and pleasure to host the launch of the Montpellier Panel report "No Ordinary Matter: conserving, restoring and enhancing Africa’s soils".

As the International Year of Family Farming comes to an end and we embark to celebrate the International Years of Soils, on 11 December, we hosted the second session of Agtalks which focused on the topic of soils, fertilisers and their relations with smallholder family farms.

 ©IFAD/Giulio Napolitano
This session brought together  three experts in field of fertilisers working with smallholder farmers:  Nicole M. Mason, Assistant Professor in the Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics at Michigan State University (MSU); Kari Niedfeldt-Thomas, Senior Manager, Social Responsibility, and Executive Director, The Mosaic Company Foundation at The Mosaic Company; and Pablo Tittonell, professor of the Farming Systems Ecology group at Wageningen University.

Dr Mason talked about the importance of fertilisers for Africa. She painted a vivid picture of two Zambian farmers, Bernard and Matimaba–one whose farm had government funded fertiliser subsidies and the other who did not. This was how she introduced the audience to the current African policies on fertilisers, underlining their weaknesses and contradictions and supporting her thesis through many other smallholder farmers’ stories from her personal experience in Africa. She talked about the importance of putting in place  efficient policies as the way to take smallholder families out of poverty and ensure food security.

©IFAD/Giulio Napolitano
Ms Niedfeldt-Thomas pointed out in her intervention that access to crop nutrients and training in their use have a tremendous potential for improvements in smallholders’ lives. Through examples from her experience in India, Guatemala and Africa she highlighted how agronomic knowledge can bring higher yields, which means higher income and steps towards food security.

Mr Tittonell focused his intervention on soil and its organic matter. Soil organic matter is only 5% of the soil, but it makes the difference between an arid sand desert and a fertile valley. To underline this, he showed the audience some soils samples, explaining the characteristics of a healthy soil. He also talked about why it is crucial to preserve organic matter through conservation practices in agriculture (e.g. avoiding soil tillage; preserving permanent soil cover; favouring crop diversification). Conservation agriculture plays an important role in preserving soil from degradation, but, even though some evidence shows that it can help, restoring soil organic matter in deteriorated lands remains an open question.

©IFAD/Giulio Napolitano
After their interventions, the three experts engaged in a panel discussion and answered questions from the floor. One of the points raised during the discussion was about the definition of fertilisers. Some of the audience was under the impression that the speakers neglected organic fertilisers, focusing only on industrial ones. All three speakers agreed that fertilisers are not only mineral, but also organic and their properties are the same. So, their integrated use is fundamental in addressing the issue of soil fertility.

The second session of AgTalks session raised issues such as the need for a holistic and long term approach. And it made a positive contribution to the debate on such issues, presenting  a unique opportunity to make the necessary linkages  between smallholder farmers and soil preservation.