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The best part of my job is when I get to visit the countries and the people who we work with and serve. This time round, I was fortunate enough to visit my first upper-middle-income country: Azerbaijan.

The World Bank estimates that 86 middle-income countries in the world account for just under half of the world’s population. and they are home to one-third of poor people in the world.

As an upper-middle-income country, Azerbaijan boosts excellent infrastructure, which made my 270 kilometre travel to the IFAD-funded Integrated Rural Development Project in Yevlakh a pleasant “stroll”.

Mehbara Davudova attending to her crop
Photo credit: IFAD/R.Samii
IFAD-funded interventions in Azerbaijan which are closely aligned to the country’s agriculture and rural development strategies have helped develop the agriculture sector as a dominant force in the rural economy and improve food security by providing rural communities with access to assets and services for the sustainable management of natural resources, including improved irrigation and rangeland management. This has resulted in improved living conditions of disadvantaged rural communities.

The Integrated Rural Development Project is assisting rural people to use available natural resources effectively and efficiently allowing them to increase crop and livestock productivity.  Furthermore, it is providing smallholder farmers access to credit so that they can improve the existing irrigation infrastructure.

Before heading off to visit the project site, Samir Nabiyer, the regional coordinator told me that “working together with the Government the project is rehabilitating and reconstructing  irrigation canals covering 70,000 hectares.”

“Our goal is for the smallholder farmers to rehabilitate all the irrigation infrastructure, own their equipment, establish water-user associations and embrace good husbandry practices”.

As part of its agriculture and rural development strategy, the government has put in place measures to improve the living conditions of rural people. One of these, was the rehabilitation of the green houses which is a reminiscence from the Soviet era.

Mehbara Davudova, a well-established smallholder lady farmer, is running a thriving farming business on her 0.15 hectare land thanks to an initial credit of 4000 manat (US$5000).

“Thanks to the loan which I was able to repay in two years, I was able to setup five green-houses, where i plant vegetables 12 months a year”, says Davudova.

Davudova’s farming business provides her a secure income of approximately 1500 manat per month. This has allowed her to rehabilitate two irrigation systems on the farm, build a house and send her 16 year daughter and 8 year old son to school.

“I am hoping that with the profit of the next harvest season, I’ll be able to build another house”, says Davudova with a smile.

 In the neighbouring farm, Sultekin and Arastun Mammadov are also running a flourishing farming business and are engaged in husbandry and livestock.

Visiting their greenhouse, the Mammadovs told me “In winter, just to make sure that cold weather does not damage the crop, we use heaters”.

When I asked them if they had any fire safety and security  measures in place, they did not seem too impressed by my question…..

They were however, intrigued by the proposition of exploiting their livestock further and putting in place biogas digesters to heat the greenhouse. I committed to put the various parties in touch with our colleagues working on the portable biogas project in Kenya.

Who knows, maybe if I get lucky again and have the fortune of visiting them, they will be running highly efficient biogas digesters, providing not only heating for the greenhouse, but also electricity and gas for the kitchen!
Mahir Aliyeb
Photo credit: IFAD/R.Samii

Building the livestock sector
Before heading back to Baku, we visited Mahir Aliyeb, a herder. Aliyeb was able to buy 40 heads of livestock thanks to a loan of 10,000 manat. He probably is a precursor to the future project beneficiaries of IFAD-funded activities.

Aliyeb renting the land neighbouring his property for grazing purposes. “I pay 2 manat per hectare every year for this grazing land, allowing the cattle to graze on alfa-alfa”, explains Aliyeb.

As an acute businessman, Aliyeb has diversified his source of income. He is making good profit with his daily 25 litres of milk and gets additional income by selling sheep wool and animals to the local abattoirs.

“I know that the people I sell the milk to, make motar cheese and they sell it for 10 manat”, says Aliyeb. “I want to learn how to do this myself, so that I can set up a local business and no longer go through the middleman.”

“I also want to learn how to better take care of my animals, so that they do not get sick and they stay strong. This will allow me to sell not only the animals at higher price, but also to make better and varied dairy products.”

Mahir Aliyeb's cattle heading off to the grazing area
Photo credit: IFAD/R.Samii
The future holds bright prospects for Aliyeb and his fellow herders, as the next generation of IFAD-funded programmes and projects in Azerbaijan will focus on developing and strengthening value chains with a focus on the livestock sector and more specifically on improving traditional husbandry practices,  putting in place traceability mechanism, as well as enhancing quality and hygiene standards while helping to access new markets.

Hopefully soon, Aliyeb will be able to package his dairy products and not only sell them in supermarkets in Baku and other cities in Azerbaijan, but also start exporting them to neighbouring countries.

Written by Harold Liversage, Senior Technical Specialist: Land Tenure, IFAD, and Francesca Carpano, Land Tenure Consultant, Policy and Technical Advisory Division, IFAD

On 13th October 2014 IFAD's East and Southern Africa Division and Policy and Technical Advisory Division organised a seminar on "Indigenous plant products industry in Africa – the experience of PhytoTrade Africa", which  was attended by many colleagues from various divisions. The event was webcast and followed by around 30 participants. The seminar provided PhytoTrade Africa – IFAD grant recipient – the possibility to share with us its experience and explore options for further collaboration.

PhytoTrade Africa 

Phytotrade Africa is a non-profit, membership-based trade association established in 2001 for the indigenous plant products industry in Africa, with a current focus on southern Africa. It represents private-sector, NGOs and individuals working in Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It has about 70 members and a core staff of about 15. Its purpose is to alleviate poverty and protect biodiversity by developing an industry that is economically successful, ethical and sustainable. It aims to generate additional sources of cash income for poor rural households mainly living in less accessible semi-arid and arid areas, through the commercialization of the natural resources to which they have preferential access.

Over the past 14 years Phytotrade Africa  has made great strides in sustainably developing and marketing indigenous plant products to the pharmaceutical, cosmetic and food industries. Currently it supports at least 14,300 harvesters, of which about 9,500 (66%) are women. Gross annual revenues are about USD2.3 million with the cash income for primary producers/harvesters being about USD940,000 p.a. Phytotrade Africa  members have added about USD1.47 million of value to the raw materials bought from primary producers/harvesters.

Phytotrade Africa developed a Charter that binds members to sustainable use, equitable benefit sharing, compliance to national and international legislation, fair trade, free, prior and informed consent and respect of existing land and natural resource tenure. It has adopted the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization (ABS) to the Convention on Biological Diversity which was adopted in 2010 in Nagoya, Japan and is a supplementary international agreement to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

Since 2010 it has focused more on business and financial aspects and on broadening market access, adopting a strategy based on the provision of services to members. Through this strategy it intends to broaden the distribution network and localize quality control for the cosmetic ingredients to gain more control and value addition over product positioning, pricing and sales. It is targeting the development of key species that will generate large demand volumes; it aims to increase the inclusion of new harvesters into the supply chain and to focus on the financial capacity and structure of its members to grow to the market demand.

Following requests from SMEs and other stakeholders in the sector, PhytoTrade Africa is preparing to extend this approach to other African countries, such as Madagascar, Kenya, Tanzania, Cameroun and Senegal.

PhytoTrade Africa and its partnership with IFAD

IFAD has been a key partner from the outset and has provided almost USD5.4 million to Phytotrade Africa since 2001 through 6 grants. Currently IFAD is providing a large grant of USD1.5 million for the “Programme for Alleviating Poverty and Protecting Biodiversity through BioTrade” which is co-financed by AFD and FFEM. The programme is expected to run for three years from 2012 – 15 and is comprised of five main components: (i) supply chain development; (ii) community biodiversity training; (iii) development of the mafura sector in Mozambique; (iv) market expansion; and (v) increased access to financing. By the end of 2015, it is expected that the programme will: increase sales of members from USD1.34 million to more than USD10 million; increase the number of rural harvesters from 10,700 to 26,500; and increase incomes of participating rural harvesters from US$0.58 million to more than US$2 million .

The long term support provided by IFAD raised the issue of how better document and share the impacts that the grants provided to PhytoTrade Africa have produced over the years on the Fund's target group. In the discussions held during and after the seminar, it was also highlighted the need to better and further link PhytoTrade interventions with IFAD programmes and projects in the field (e.g. on pastoralism or financing mechanisms) and concrete options were explored, as a possible participation of PhytoTrade in the next project design in Cameroon.  Some challenges were posed in relation to, for example, the measurement of impact and the anecdotal evidence of such impact (e.g. the impact on the local baobab market in Malawi), the possible tensions between private sector and communities, the endorsement by the states and the implementation of the existing safeguards to avoid abuses and the protection of intellectual property (e.g. the Nagoya Protocol).

These discussions need to linked to a broader reflection that the Fund should have on how IFAD would deal with ethical biotrade and what should or could be its contributions to the development of this sector that, in many cases, is an additional source of income for the poor rural people, with a potential specific role as adaptation measure.  PhytoTrade area of interventions has also a strong gender component, demonstrated by the fact that 66% of its harvesters are women and that some activities (e.g. shea butter) are a specific women domain, which may be of relevance for IFAD's interventions in this field.

For further information:

Presentation by Mr Arthur Stevens, IFAD Project Manager and PhytoTrade Supply Chain Manager

Presentation by Ms Audrey Rousson, AFD/FFEM and PhytoTrade Project Manager

[1] In addition to the support being provided by IFAD, AFD and FFEM, Phytotrade Africa has over the years been supported financially or worked with: the Centre for Development of Enterprise (CDE), Comic Relief, Doen Foundation, Ford Foundation, GIZ, HIVOS, ICRAF, IFC, IUCN, MCA, Swiss Economic Cooperation and Development (SECO), UNCTAD and USAID. SECO is presently the largest funder, with IFAD being the second largest and providing about 25% of all funding

By: Elisa Distefano

Photo 1: Programme areas

A recently completed GEF project, “Integrated Ecological Planning and Sustainable Land Management in Coastal Ecosystems in the Comoros” supported  long-term ecological restoration through the development and implementation of Integrated Ecosystem Management (IEM) plans in the three islands of Gran Comore, Anjouan and Moheli.
The grant was fully integrated into the IFAD National Sustainable Human Development Programme  (PNDHD), and has contributed to  reducing current  land degradation trends by putting 1,052 ha of land under sustainable land management practices, replanting 384 ha of degraded forest and 4.5 ha of mangroves in coastal areas.
”Both the environmental awareness raising and the implementation of 6 IEM plans, which included 43 villages, are in the  national interest and have had positive environmental and socio-economic impacts. Without the GEF intervention and the restoration of ecosystem services, the IFAD loan objectives would have been less sustainable,” said Mr Anllaouddine Abou Houmadi, GEF project Coordinator.
The GEF grant was also instrumental in commissioning a series of cartographic and feasibility studies for the creation of protected areas, to name a few:
The “Feasibility study for starting a locally managed marine Area (Anjouan)” provides a detailed ecological, socio-economic characterization of the  Sima/Bimbini peninsula, the identification of conservation targets and the delineation of  areas with potential alternative land use  options . The study also presents the benefits  and challenges  of  locally managing protected areas.  Key  recommendations include creating a legal framework that would  allow villages to act as managers of protected areas, along with  reinforcing  local organizations’ competencies. This exercise  was complemented by the “Ecological and Cartographic Study for the protection of the Bimbini peninsula” which not only proposes the  legislation and regulation of protected areas, but also presents a detailed environmental health and biodiversity status of the barrier reef, mangroves and sea grasses.

Photos 2,3: Current Marine reserve zoning and proposed PA zoning 

The “Delimitation, zoning and ecological characterization of the Kathala Forest (Grande Comore)” study presents a description of the floristic richness of the area, the altitudinal succession of plant associations, an ethnobotanic investigation, as well as an inventory of the most exploited species. The study concludes with a demarcation of  potential conservation zones, according to the IUCN protected area  categories.


Photos 4,5: Changes in forest cover across 1969-2010   Distribution of some endemic plants in the proposed PA

Similarly, the Ecological and Cartographic Study for the protection of the forest of La Grille (Gran Comore)” has carried out a socio-economic survey of neighboring villages, investigated the abundance and distribution of the most exploited tree species, and the taxonomic fauna and floristic richness. It is a useful tool to refine a protected area co-management plan for the area.

Photo 6: PA zoning
These studies will help UNDP to continue this important work in protected area development through the implementation of a new GEF project currently being launched[1].

[1] Development of a National Network of Terrestrial and Marine Protected Areas Representative of the Comoros Unique Natural Heritage and Co-managed with Local Village Communities

Audrey Nepveu and Alain Vidal
In May 2012, IFAD awarded the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF) a two-year grant to contribute to improving the food security and livelihoods of poor rural communities. The IFAD grant was an opportunity to test out CPWF’s emerging technical and institutional innovations. CPWF would influence and collaborate with key change agents—including IFAD field staff—in order to scale up a number of its research innovations and findings.

From 28-29 October members of the CPWF team will gather at IFAD headquarters to share the results and findings of their work, including tools and approaches for improving the food security and livelihoods of poor rural communities. Ahead of the event, we sat down with IFAD technical advisor Audrey Nepveu (ANV) and former CPWF Director Alain Vidal (AV) to chat about challenges and opportunities for the research and development nexus.

Tell us a little about the grant as it was originally conceived. In your view, what was the goal of giving this grant to CPWF?

ANV: The idea of the grant came about when the last reform of the CGIAR system was launched, because it signaled that the third phase of the CGIAR Challenge Programs was not likely to happen. The Challenge Programs were structured around three phases: the first one of creativity (2003-2008), the second one focusing (2009-2013) and the third one capitalizing (2014-2018). What was then at stake was to capitalize the results achieved by CPWF, one of the successful Challenge Programs, within the compressed timeframe of the second, and now, final, phase.

In those days, it was the beginning of the second phase of CPWF. Hence, the idea of the grant was to work on the existing, validated results generated by the first phase of CPWF, and capitalize them for development practitioners to use.

AV: The words you have used for the three phases of CPWF are interesting from a development institution’s perspective. I am not sure I would qualify the third phase as capitalizing: we always saw it as a phase where development partners would test, adapt and scale up our institutional and technical innovations. It would have been more a ‘handing over’ phase. But whatsoever you are perfectly right that because that phase became embedded in the next round of CGIAR reform, the CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs), we needed a mechanism to engage with IFAD early enough to ensure those innovations would not remain on a shelf.

ANV: Yes, and CPWF had also demonstrated its capacity to bring different people together to develop successful and practical innovations. So another dimension of the grant to CPWF was to create the space to explore what it takes for developers and researchers to work together.

In what capacity was IFAD working with CPWF, and research institutions in general, at the time?

ANV: Since 2005, IFAD had worked with CPWF as a donor – even if a minor one in financial terms. However, beginning with the preparation of phase 2, I believe IFAD and CPWF became real partners in the water sector, focusing efforts on the issues that will hit practitioners in the near future; on food security at global, basin and local levels, on the consequences for the rural poor…

AV: What facilitated this engagement were our shared common values of focusing on people, contributing to alleviating poverty and diverse partnerships. We already possessed a common language and approach to rural poverty that could help us pass the usual barriers that partners from different horizons face when engaging with each other.

The actual implementation of the grant varied quite a bit from what was first envisioned. Can you talk about what changed and why?

ANV: I do not completely agree with this statement. What happened was that we achieved a great level of flexibility in implementation through close coordination, and activities were adapted to explore more ways for developers/implementers to interact with researchers and their results. And I think this was highly interesting, in particular what we found did not work. For example, the format of events for researchers did not work so well for developers, and efforts were undertaken to propose meetings and events with content of direct use for developers. In a similar way, developers also had to make efforts to slow down and listen to the new ideas and tools proposed by researchers.

AV: Yes, I think on both sides, the challenge was to bring both developers and researchers outside of their comfort zones, away from their normal technical solutions and science, so as to jointly start thinking ‘out of the box’ and figure out how innovations could make sense and be scaled up in a given—and often different—context.

ANV: Where CPWF really surprised me though was when they decided to modify their whole working modality to build on the learnings from this grant: for all CPWF activities, developers and politicians were included in the action-research process, thus speeding up and facilitating the uptake of the results generated!

AV: Indeed, but what also changed was our initial focus on CPWF Phase 1 results, as we progressively took on board the results from Phase 2. We have really learnt together what research-for-development means.

What do you see as the biggest takeaways from this collaborative effort?

ANV: The biggest takeaway I see is in the setup proposed by CPWF to undertake action research. This setup was demonstrated to be of interest to donors because it delivers practical results, useful tools and knowledge. It was a pleasure to attend CPWF fora organized every three years and have the opportunity to meet enthusiastic yet practical, committed researchers from a vast array of competencies. They were happy to work together and used their critical minds to push for optimum solutions. I would like this to be taken up by the latest CGIAR reform cycle with the CGIAR Research Programs.

AV: The three CPWF international fora on water and food also provided an opportunity for a broad ‘water and food’ research-for-development community—including not only researchers but also development practitioners, decision makers and politicians—to mingle, interact, and brainstorm ideas way beyond the classical format of a scientific conference. It also contributed to consolidating the institutional values CPWF aimed to develop within these communities, which are now incorporated in the principles that the CGIAR Consortium tries to apply to its strategic partnerships and capacity development.

ANV: Another takeaway that is not mentioned so much can be found in the ‘basin development challenges’. In each of the six basins where CPWF worked between 2009-2014, between one and two basin development challenges were identified through a six-month consultative processes. However, the funding that CPWF managed to raise in the wake of the 2008 food crisis was only sufficient to support work on one basin development challenge for each basin. There is still a second research question to tackle in each basin. That could be looked into as some of these development challenges may have become more critical in the last five years.

In what ways do you think IFAD’s programming can benefit from tapping into research? How would IFAD staff and research institutions have to change to strengthen the potential for future collaborations?

AV: I see a huge potential for IFAD and its programming to benefit from a better understanding of and engagement with CGIAR research-for-development in general, since IFAD and CGIAR share a lot of their values and objectives, and IFAD, unlike other lending or granting development agencies, still has a broad set of in-house technical skills. But instead of an ad hoc mechanism where CGIAR researchers or programs are brought on board a bit like consultants, we could probably try to develop a mechanism where the CGIAR pool of expertise could be brought in more systematically, especially in countries where both institutions are focusing their efforts. I think this is what this IFAD grant has also tried to explore, but there is still a long way to go.

ANV: Thanks to the grant to CPWF, we did explore what would work for IFAD to interact with the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems. The Lao experience will be presented during the event. However, it takes quite some time for IFAD and WLE to understand each other, and call on the other at the appropriate moment in the project lifetime. I think that there will be a need for more sharing events, and also for displaying the tools and approaches generated by action research.

Hear more about the approaches CPWF piloted for uniting research and development for poverty alleviation. Visit the event page and attend the event on 28-29 October.

In Hanoi, the steering committee of MTCP2, in support to farmers organisations of Asia and Pacific region, will triple the 2015 annual workplan and budget based on the good results of the Project Year1 and with the support of IFAD, Swiss Development Cooperation and European Commission.

 Specific sub regional programs are being design to adapt to the dynamics of each region and participant countries. Three components are being implemented : 1/ strenghtening FOs capacities and networks, 2/ policy dialogue at national and regional level, 3/ increasing economic services to FO members.



Illegal logging in Peru

Posted by Beate Stalsett 0 comments

Written by Jess Morgan

Deaths of Campaigners brings illegal logging to light

A quadruple homicide in Peru’s Amazon Ucayali region has brought to light illegal logging activities and speculation regarding the safety of indigenous peoples.

Four Asheninka natives' bodies were found on 1st September while on their way to Apiwtxa, an Ashéninka community across the border in Brazil. They included a prominent anti-logging campaigner, Edwin Chota, who was the leader of Alto Tamaya-Saweto, a community near the Peruvian frontier with Brazil in the upper reaches of Alto Tamaya River. Chota had been leading campaigns for over 10 years striving to gain his people legal titles to their land and to expel illegal loggers from the area.

'Starting in 2002, he delivered over one hundred letters to as many governmental officials as he could demanding birth certificates, a better school, and adequate health facilities for his community. His life project encompassed every aspect needed to build thriving borderland communities'.

Chota's goal was to aid and better his community whilst conserving natural ecosystems and live sustainably. The Huffington Post wrote that 'Chota dreamed of a borderless Amazonian forest with indigenous peoples thriving alongside the region's biodiversity. He envisioned a new generation of indigenous families living in peace while teaching others how to protect and use the forest. In Chota's dream, Saweto would become a model indigenous community leading the way towards a more sustainable Amazon.'

However the land his community lives on is home to mahogany and cedar, both of which are in high demand globally. Insightcrime.org states that 80 percent of Peru's total timber exports are illegal and the money that can be earned is a tempting prospect for many: 'Traffickers can earn US$1,700 for every high-quality mahogany tree sold on the black market, and about US$1,000 for a cedar tree' . However as the illegal timber trade has flourished it has attracted smugglers of other illegal goods such as opium and coca paste.

A question of protection

“It was widely known that Edwin Chota and other leaders from the Alto Tamaya-Saweto community were asking for protection from the Peruvian authorities because they were receiving death threats from the illegal loggers operating in their area,” said Julia Urrunaga, director for the Environmental Investigation Agency in Peru, an international conservation group.

In an area where the law is an undefined grey area, the loggers ignore any rights the indigenous peoples may have, be it ownership or humanitarian and work to remove any opposition against their illegal operations.

Without legal protection people such as Chota are in a dangerous position which not only puts their lives, but their environment and communities' livelihoods at risk.

We must support indigenous peoples in gaining rights to their lands. By doing so, we will protect a large share of the world's most biodiverse areas and genetic resources which are found in areas where indigenous peoples live, and where they have been sustainably maintained for millennia. There is a strong need today for global recognition of the critical role that indigenous peoples play in conserving biodiversity.

We need to build and strengthen the capacities of indigenous peoples to protect their land and resource rights. Not only does this hinder illegal loggers, but also promotes food security and sustainable livelihoods. For information about sustainable timber production in South America and what IFAD is doing to help look here.

Farmers of Asia and Pacific are meeting in Vietnam (18-23 October)

Posted by Benoit THIERRY Monday, October 20, 2014 0 comments

This week end the annual regional steering committee of the Farmers Organisations MTCP2 program is starting in Hanoi, bringing together 50 participants from 15 countries of Asia Pacific Region (representing 900 FOs and 13 million farmers).
The event is divided in 4 phases: field visits with VNFU (Vietnam Farmers Federation Union (http://vnfu.vn/), conclusions of the Supervision and Implementation Support Mission and agreed actions, FOs and partners progress presentations on Tuesday and Steering Committee conclusions on Wednesday. We will bring you daily updates !
Follow us on MTCP2 facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MTCP2 .
Benoit THIERRY, MTCP2 manager, in Hanoi.