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Addressing malnutrition among smallholder farming communities

Posted by Roxanna Samii Tuesday, July 28, 2015 0 comments

Photo by Marian Amaka Odenigbo
By  Marian Amaka Odenigbo

On 22 July 2015, IFAD-funded Smallholder Agribusiness Promotion Programme (SAPP) in Zambia embarked on a food survey. This is the first food survey in an IFAD-supported programme and it aims to assess the food consumption pattern and the underlying factors necessary to ensure adequate food intake.

You may ask why is IFAD engaging on food survey?

In the blogpost entitled ‘Building strong partnerships for nutrition and agricultural development’, IFAD President reminds us that "Every night, 842 million women, children and men go to bed hungry. And every day 8,000 children die needlessly from conditions linked to under-nutrition." He proceeds to say: "Under-nutrition could not be solved by a simple equation: increase agricultural production and incomes, and better nutrition would automatically follow."

Repeatedly, we hear about alarming  under-nutrition and micronutrient deficiency rates in many rural regions and among smallholder farming communities. And we keep asking ourselves why do smallholder farmers still go hungry and are persistently malnourished in spite of the agricultural and rural development interventions which have contributed to improving food and nutrition status and increase income?

In an effort to address the issue of persistent malnutrition, Abla Benhammouche, IFAD Representative and Country Director is championing mainstreaming nutrition-related issues in the Zambia portfolio. Her work led to conducting a food survey to better understand the underlying factors contributing to malnutrition.

Herds of sheep in Bakasa community, Siavonga district,
Photo by 
Marian Amaka Odenigbo
I travelled with the survey team to Siavonga, one of the districts in Zambia where SAPP is being implemented.  In paying a courtesy call to Dr Kunda Ndashe, the Siavogan Acting District Agriculture Coordinator, I was pleased when he said “I was very happy when I heard that IFAD is planning to mainstream nutrition in its programme. As you go into the community tomorrow for data collection, you will see lots of malnourished children despite the abundance goats, sheep, cattle, fish in these communities.”

This statement and the fact that about 45% of Zambian children are stunted increased my curiosity to probe for the underlying factors and barriers that are hindering good nutrition in this district.

As we drove through the community for the focused group discussion (FGD) and household data collection, I saw lots of livestock roaming around in almost all the neighborhoods. These scenes made me reflect on how can a farmer in this remote rural setting keep abundant cattle, goats, sheep, chicken while the children are malnourished?

Focused group discussion in Bakasa community
Photo by Marian Amaka Odenigbo
We engaged in an interactive conversation with men and women farmers, representatives of farmers groups and leaders to find out about their regular and traditional food production, processing methods, storage and consumption pattern.

The participants told us  that sorghum, finger millet, cucumber, fish, goat, sheep, cattle, local chickens were among the staple foods in the communities.

As we probed further to understand why these available and common food items were not translating into good nutrition, the following emerged:

Livestock – a status symbol
The community members unanimously gave the following reasons for rearing cattle:
  • means of transportation 
  • for sale to generate income
  • for milk production
  • symbol of pride 
In the rural communities, your status and stature is based on the number of livestock you own. It is for this reason that unfortunately, livestock heads are rarely slaughtered for consumption at household level with the exception of customary festivity period and/or for funerals.

Nsimbi Godfrey, one of the community members, told us “if you eat your livestock you will have problems paying the school fees for your children.”

The Chalokwa community consume chicken every three months and the eggs are off-limits, because they are used for hatching to increase the numbers of chickens.

Kabyobyo cooperative in Masau community located in Siavonga district acknowledged receiving support from SAPP for fish cage farming and marketing. However, when members of this cooperative were posed with the question on fish consumption at household, Simalarali Salai told us “we don’t even taste the fish, the produce is only for the market. For you to taste a fish, you have to buy it’’.

Listening to this comment made me think, are these farmers only interested on increasing their income and are oblivious to the importance of nutritional values of their food intake? But there is always more than what meets the eye……

Traditional norms 
When community members were asked about intra-household food distribution, the men emphatically mentioned that the two delicious parts of chicken – namely the gizzard and the back -  were meant and  reserved for the head of the family which typically is the husband or the father.
Both men and women within the community did not consider this as a gender bias, rather for them it is normal practice to reserve the best and last portion of meat for the man of the house.

Regular diet intake
Woman grinding Sorghum for Nshima or porridge (Left);
Woman preparing rape –the steamed green leafy vegetable in the pot (right) 

Photo by Marian Amaka Odenigbo
Another reason why the communities suffer from malnutrition is because their monotonous daily meals consist of three key staples: Nshima (made of sorghum or maize), Okra and sorghum porridge. Although on occasional basis, Nshima may be eaten with fish and sorghum porridge with sour milk but the common pattern is to eat Nshima with steamed rape leaves; okra with addition of only of salt-potash) or sorghum porridge cooked with baobab fruit or sugar/salt.

Through this food survey, we managed to identify the regular dietary pattern of the communities and identify what is preventing them from benefitting from nutritious diet.

As a result of the food survey, we will now embark on a nutrition education and behavioral change to raise awareness about the importance of protein intake and a diverse diet.

By Marieclaire Colaiacomo, Programme Officer ESA

©IFAD/David Alan Harvey
Today, the first ever Legal Guide on Contract Farming is being launched by IFAD, UNIDROIT and FAO.

The guide provides the framework within which smallholder farmers can participate in modern value chains, ensuring both sides to the contract, the producer and the buyer, operate in a fair and transparent manner.

The guide provides advice and guidance on the entire legal relationship, from negotiation to conclusion. Its aim is to promote more stable and balanced relationships and to assist parties in designing and implementing sound contracts.

IFAD designs many of its projects to include a value chain component. Access to markets means our target beneficiaries, rural smallholders, will be able to reach markets they could not access before. Most importantly, smallholders should be able to sell their produce at a good price.

Storage facilities, transportation, infrastructure, financing and information, or being part of an effective farmer organisation are all vital to smallholder participation in modern value chains. However,  we rarely speak about the most important instrument that can ensure all the above: the contract. Whether it is a simple oral promise or a written document.

Developing the guide

Developing the guide has been an intensive process bringing many different stakeholders to the table.
Over the past four years a group of internationally renowned experts, international financial institutions (IFIs) , civil organisations and private sector players have captured the essence of what an agricultural production contract should look like.

The working group received valuable input during public consultations held in Rome, Bangkok, Addis Ababa and Buenos Aires in 2014,  as well as through an online public consultation process.

Future implementation
I had the privilege of being a member of the working group that developed the guide.
This year I have worked on an implementation strategy that will turn the guide into simple, affordable and publicly available tools.

As part of my approach, I analysed hundreds of contracts, some available on the FAO Contract Farming Resource website, which show just how strong the imbalance of power can be between buyers and producers.

So I decided what was needed was a good deal of courage and yes, 4Ps (patience, perseverance, passion and a big push) and designed a grant that would address this imbalance.
IFAD will be financing a transformation of the Legal Guide addressed to policy and lawmakers, into contract templates, interactive tools and practical advice that can benefit millions of farmers around the world.

There is an enormous need out there on every level for legal tools which can demystify the legal process for the rural poor. 
Access to practical and useful tools will enable rural smallholders to negotiate on a level-playing field, establish long term arrangements and favourable pricing mechanism for their produce.

Download your copy of the Legal Guide on Contract Farming here.

For the past ten years, the Pastoral Community Development Programme (PCDP), jointly funded by IFAD and the World Bank, has worked to increase the resilience of Ethiopian pastoralist communities in the regions of Oromia, Afar, Somali and SNNPR. To that end, it has supported a number of public services investments, particularly in terms of water and sanitation, and has introduced an early warning system to better manage and respond to potential food-related disasters. The third phase of the programme became effective in 2014.

Beside the physical investments, one of the most important achievements under the PCDP programme was the demand driven nature of the project through the application of the Community Driven Development (CDD) approach. Such an approach has helped the communities identify their needs from within and has ensured participation of all communities’ members, including women and youth. In addition, it has provided local institutions with a methodology to replicate elsewhere. Over the time span of the programme's second phase, a total of 2.85 million pastoralists and agro-pastoralists (of which 41 percent female and 19 percent youth) were mobilized, sensitized and consulted. Given its positive impact in the planning process of development, the institutionalisation of the approach has been included in the third phase of the programme.

RBA gender teams lead the field in peer review

Posted by S.Sperandini Friday, July 24, 2015 0 comments

Written by Clare Bishop-Sambrook, Lead Technical Adviser, IFAD; Regina Laub, Senior Technical Officer, FAO and Patrick Teixeira, Programme Adviser, WFP 

The Rome-based agencies’ gender teams are recognized as leaders in the field of peer review – particularly when sharing experiences in implementing the UN system-wide action plan on gender equality and women’s empowerment (UN-SWAP). The UN-SWAP is in its third year of implementation. Almost 70 UN agencies now report on their progress with 15 indicators of gender mainstreaming.

Nicaragua: women engaged in economic activities.
©IFAD/Carla Francescutti
Members of the UN-SWAP teams from FAO, IFAD and WFP met this week to share the results of their 2014 submissions. This practice of peer review is rare among the UN agencies, so it is interesting to reflect on why it works so well in Rome.

It is relatively easy for the RBAs to come together in this way. The gender teams meet on a fairly regular basis throughout the year to organise shared events such as International Women’s Day – so it’s a collegial relationship. In addition, although the agencies work at different points along the continuum from humanitarian assistance through recovery to development, we share a common interest in agriculture and rural development, food security and nutrition – so we speak a common language. And finally we share many of the same members on our executive boards – so it is imperative that we are all familiar with the good practices of each agency.

The trick to making the peer review work effectively has been to keep the process simple and flexible to accommodate the different needs of the RBAs. Before the annual review meeting, we record our results for the 15 indicators in one matrix, noting the levels of achievement, ranging from missing to approaching, meeting or exceeding requirements. There’s a colour code to indicate whether an agency has made progress on a specific indicator, remained unchanged from the previous year, or their position has deteriorated.

During the meeting, experiences on each performance indicator are shared, focusing mainly on “changes”, as follows:

  • When progress has been made (i.e. moving one level/two levels up) - What are the major reasons for the change, and what was the driving force for the improvement? 
  • When there was no change in the performance rating and/or the agency stays at the “approaches requirement” level – What is the reason and what should be done to move up to a higher rating? Any possibilities for support from other RBAs?
  • When an agency downgraded a performance rating – What are the reasons for this change and what needs to be done to move up again? 

We conduct the meeting in an informal way to encourage free and open discussion, building on past peer review experience and relying on mutual trust and interest for enhanced collaboration. We follow up by sharing specific documents and other materials, identifying areas for further collaboration and making recommendations. UN-SWAP At this year’s peer review meeting, we were particularly interested in sharing experiences on WFP’s and IFAD’s use of gender markers to track resource allocation to gender-related activities and expenditures at the project level, FAO’s experiences of carrying out a gender audit and their assessment of and strategy for developing staff capacity. Innovative outreach activities such as IFAD’s monthly ‘gender breakfasts’ (with IFAD gender mugs), FAO and WFP’s inclusion of gender issues in media training, and WFP’s ‘lunch and learn’ events also attracted attention.

The three agencies also discussed the ‘bigger picture’ of the UN-SWAP. How can we support each other in meeting or exceeding specific indicators that are proving more challenging? How can we make sure we maintain high standards? And what will happen beyond 2017 when all UN agencies are expected to have met or exceeded the 15 UN-SWAP indicators?

Read more: UN-SWAP: A plan to improve gender equality and the empowerment of women across the UN system

By Andrea Luciani and Wanessa Marques Silva, Office of the President and Vice-President
A recent meeting of IFAD’s Thematic Group on Gender addressed a very pertinent issue for UN workers, especially women: how can IFAD achieve a gender-balanced management structure?

Chitra Deshpande, a member of the 2014 Global Staff Survey Project Charter Team on "Leadership and People Management", set the scene: "IFAD is doing a good job in gender mainstreaming overall and compared to other UN-agencies. However, we still have work to do".
IFAD and UN: Percentage of women staff by level (Jan-Dec 2013)
Source: Annual Report on IFAD Policy on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (2014)
IFAD has been striving to achieve the target of 35 per cent of women at the Professional level 5 (P-5) and above  – yet only once reached above 30 per cent in 2013. The figure has persisted at around 29-30 per cent, and in the last quarter of 2014 it fell to its lowest point: 26 per cent.

Across the UN system the goal is even more challenging: gender parity (50 per cent) at P-4 and above. The current data show that women account for 37 per cent of P-4 and above positions in IFAD. 
Why is this so challenging in IFAD? Currently 99 of the over 500 IFAD staff members are in P-5 and above positions. Many are found in the Programme Management Department where over 60 staff members at P-5 and above, yet only 13 are women. This low number may partly be explained by the nature of the work of country programme managers, which requires regular travelling.
Why this continuing interest in meeting the target? The reason is simple: women in management make a difference. According to a study published in the 2012 Harvard Business Review, which interviewed over 16,000 male and female leaders, women are more effective than men in leadership positions (ranking 55 per cent versus 52 per cent of overall leadership effectiveness respectively). Furthermore, filling the gap with more women introduces different views and ways of management into an organization. The study also indicated that a higher presence of women at management level can establish a positive cycle of hiring more women and promoting women to higher positions.
Recently, IFAD has introduced a number of initiatives to overcome this challenge, including: setting gender and diversity quotas in the latter stages of the recruitment process; providing training in gender-sensitive interviewing techniques; and mainstreaming gender and diversity into human resources policies. In addition a Gender Action Plan for the IFAD Workplace is being drafted. The initiatives have already shown results: 38 per cent of D-1 posts are now held by women.

The participants in the meeting, over 40 people from different departments of IFAD, proposed other initiatives to address three main issues: internal promotion, the selection of candidates, and the expansion of the pool of candidates in order to attract more qualified female applicants.

For internal promotion, the proposal to enhance the skills of women working in P-1 to P-4 positions was very much supported. A detailed proposal for the creation of an IFAD mentoring programme was discussed, as well as the importance of providing internal candidates with feedback from the recruitment process. Another proposal was for IFAD to host the CGIAR Women’s Leadership programme in Rome. 
For the selection process, the increasing use of anonymous written tests for pre-screening candidates was supported. Another suggestion was to remove the age, name and sex from Personal History Forms when preparing a shortlist of candidates.
To expand the pool of female candidates, proposals included using search firms to identify qualified women, improving women’s work-life balance by promoting flexible working arrangements, and expanding the pool of development specialists through hiring senior female consultants.
Adolfo Brizzi, Director of IFAD’s Policy and Technical Advisory Division, reminded participants that generally for P-5 and above positions, women candidates make up less than 30 per cent of the applicants and this tends to be reflected throughout the entire selection process.
It was clear to the participants that achieving a gender-balanced management structure needs to be an IFAD priority and is essential to make significant strides in gender mainstreaming. The outcomes of the meeting provided a solid basis upon which to overcome the current gap in P-5 and above positions. Given the commitment and enthusiasm demonstrated at the meeting, we are already far ahead!

Investing in rural infrastructure, transforming rural areas

Posted by Roxanna Samii Tuesday, July 14, 2015 0 comments

By Line Kaspersen, Programme Analyst, Uganda Country Office

On 1 July 2015, the Community Agricultural Infrastructure Improvement Project in Uganda, also known as CAIIP, held its project completion workshop. We, at IFAD, consider CAIIP as a flagship project in the IFAD-funded Uganda portfolio. And this is because throughout its life cycle, the project was able to rehabilitate more than 5000 kilometres of District Feeder Roads and improve the quality of Community Access Roads (CARs).

Thanks to these achievements, in 2013, the project received the prestigious US Department of the Treasury award.

What made CAIIP a success?
To start with, the project benefitted from a participatory design and involved communities in the oversight of project implementation. This process culminated with handing over certificates to the communities. The participatory approach was successful in terms of targeting the rural poor people and in ensuring roads were rehabilitated accordingly to industry standard.

The award also recognized the partnership and cofinancing with our sister organisation, the African Development Bank (AfDB). In 2012, the project also received an award at the East and Southern Africa regional implementation workshop for the quality of its financial management.

Within AfDB, the project is being used as a model for  future investments in agriculture in the region, focusing on infrastructural development. One of our success criteria is the fact that CAIIP was scaled up at national level, where phase 2 and 3 are currently being implemented, and phase 4 is in design. Furthermore, CAIIP has inspired other countries who are now looking into designing and implementing similar interventions.

Within IFAD, the construction approach of CARs was scaled up in the District Livelihoods Support Programme, a project under the implementation of  the Ministry of Local Government and the Project for Rehabilitation of Livelihoods in Northern Uganda, which is expected to start later in the year. Other IFAD-funded projects, such as the Vegetable Oil Development Project, have benefited from the engineering experience in developing farm and community roads.

Awards were given for best performing districts and for good planning and timely completion of works. For example, two neighbouring districts who planned to build a road close to each other, thus linking their respective communities, also received an award.

In providing rural infrastructure, CAIIP helped the communities to extend their access within the rural area, reduce transport costs for passenger and operating costs of vehicles by half. The implementation of rural roads has allowed farmers to increase by 13% the volume of marketed staples. CAIIP also addressed one of the challenges facing smallholder farmers – namely, reducing post-harvest loss – which led to a 30% increase in  income for farmers, earning as much as 200,000 Uganda shillings (USD 66) more per month.

Within IFAD, the project was selected as an IFAD10 impact evaluation and providing a sound basis for scaling up.

CAIIP is an excellent example highlighting the important role  roads and infrastructure have in transforming rural areas in the region.

Helping farmers adapt to the impacts of climate change can also significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions – which is good news for the planet and for future generations, says the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

Speaking at UNESCO’s Our Common Future Under Climate Change Science Conference in Paris, CCAFS and IFAD have released details of their latest research on what mitigation potential smallholder farming actually has. 

The study finds reducing emissions may not be as big a burden as some may believe. The Mitigation Advantage Report has found that mitigation could be another benefit of adaptation activities. The study, released today, examines IFAD’s portfolio of projects focused on making smallholder agriculture more resilient to climate change.

The Mitigation Advantage Report shows that thirteen IFAD-supported adaptation projects could reduce CO2e emissions by 30 million tons. This represents about 38 per cent of IFAD’s target to reduce 80 million tons of CO2e by 2020 under its Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP).

Whilst IFAD’s investments are focusing on the key priorities of rural poverty reduction, climate change adaptation and food security, the mitigation target set by the organisation shows how resilient, climate-smart agriculture can make a substantive contribution to the global fight to curb greenhouse gas emissions.   

“What this report shows is that smallholder farmers are a key part of the solution to the climate change challenge,” says IFAD’s Vice President Michel Mordasini. “With the right investments, smallholders can feed a growing planet while at the same time restoring degraded ecosystems and reducing agriculture's carbon footprint.”

IFAD’s climate change adaptation initiatives include improved agronomic practices, afforestation and rehabilitation of degraded lands. These practices help address farmers’ immediate needs, like dealing with unpredictable rains, and gradual shifts in crop suitability.

If smallholder adaptation can help reduce global emissions, there could be new opportunities, according to CCAFS Head of Research, Sonja Vermeulen.

“Currently over 90 per cent of public and private climate funds go to mitigation, not adaptation. For future food security it would be very helpful if the majority of the world’s farmers, who are smallholders, could access those funds,” she said.

IFAD is supporting projects in over 40 countries through its innovative climate financing mechanism, the Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP). Launched in 2012, ASAP has become the largest global financing source dedicated to supporting the adaptation of poor smallholder farmers to climate change.