IFAD President meets India project directors

The first day of the visit to India by IFAD President began with a meeting with India project directors in New Delhi. It was a precious opportunity for the President to receive a full briefing on the portfolio and to hear first-hand accounts of the progress made and the challenges they face in their work. Shaheel Rafique, Implementation Support Specialist, shared his impressions from the livelihoods improvement project in the Himalayas. “The common hope of people is to do something together, to mobilise their social capital to generate economic capital” he said.

The importance of IFAD’s work in improving livelihoods was picked up by Dr S. Swarna, the director of the livelihoods project in post-Tsunami areas, where those agencies who came for emergency relief have all left, but long term issues still remain.

“We focus on risk mitigation more, because most of the marginalised peoples, such as those from the tribes, live in risky locations and need support to gear up activities toward weather risk mitigation. We organize training sessions and strengthen smallholder groups, through a participatory method, involving the people from the design stage of the project. The government can build roads and create infrastructure, but what is most important is to respond to the peoples’ needs and that is what IFAD does’’ she said.

Another pillar of IFAD’s work in India s social empowerment, and this has been particularly successful in Maharashtra. A decision-making platform – supported by the Government’s Social Security Schemes - has been established for smallholder groups to discuss and decide on issues of common concern. “Savings have increased, and with that peoples lives have improved. The literacy rate has also increased, leading to people better understanding their rights” said Judith D'Souza,Implementation Support Specialist.

There have been big steps forward in promoting the empowerment of women too, she said, giving an example which from outside might seem small, but is huge in a context where women own so little.

“Women have gained the right to own the utensils they use to work. They used to receive for their dowry utensils engraved with their husband’s name - therefore were not the owners of the utensils – now they have their name engraved on them” she said.

IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze told the India IFAD project directors that their enthusiasm and dedication were impressive. “The excitement in your voices, despite the frustrations, is encouraging” he said. He pointed out that while India with its successful projects and programmes can be a model for our work worldwide,there is a need for greater visibility within the country.

“We were challenged by India’s Secretary of Finance during the World Bank meetings in Istanbul, that we are not sufficiently visible. Our work has to be visibile, by how we transform the lives of the people we work with and for, by how we impact. We have to be innovative, creative, delegate, decentralise, breed individuals we can rely on”.

Day One concluded with a reception hosted by in-country partners the World Food Programme (WFP), where the President met Agatha Sangma, India’s Minister for Rural Development, presenting her with a compilation volume on the 30 years of IFAD’s work in India.

Sangma, who is the world’s youngest minister, welcomed the President’s visit to India and IFAD’s collaboration with WFP, at a critical moment when the country has been hard hit by climate change and is experiencing severe droughts.

She underlined that IFAD has a role in ensuring that people in rural areas get attention. Coming herself from Garo hills, the Minister noted that rural development needs to be community-based. She recognized that this is IFAD’s approach and the way forward.

The President said she represents the future of India and the hope of leadership by younger people in both developed and developing countries.

The President went on to emphasize the strong collaboration with WFP and with FAO and the many successes in India, one of the first countriesto be given a loan by IFAD, thirty years ago.

Vartika Jaini, assistant programme manager at the Sir Ratan Tata, told the President that partnership with IFAD is all about sharing knowledge, helping scale up our programmes and developing partnerships for rural poverty reduction.

“Our own Rajasthan intiatives on microfinance are now being used as examples to be replicated in the IFAD empowerment project in Western Rajasthan” she said.

Mattia Prayer Galetti and Farhana Haque-Rahman with the President in India