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The world is fed on the backs of rural women

Posted by Roxanna Samii Friday, September 24, 2010 0 comments

By Kanayo F. Nwanze, IFAD President


When I am asked to describe a typical smallholder farmer my usual response is: she has a baby on her back, a hoe in her hand, and firewood balanced on her head. And yet, she continues to forge ahead to carve out a life for herself and her family. Not only are women farming, they are still carrying out their traditional chores of managing the home while also caring for the children, collecting fuel and water that can take hours every day.

In developing countries in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, women typically work 12-13 more hours per week than men. In Africa, women provide the bulk of the labour required to produce basic food crops. One half of all smallholder farmers are women and they need our support to feed the 2bn people who depend on the world’s 500m smallholder farms.

The advancement of women is an essential prerequisite to overall development. Yet, in spite of strong evidence showing the link between gender inequality and poverty, women throughout the world continue to have significantly less access to assets, services and decision-making than men. In many of the poorest countries, there is still an unacceptably wide gap between what women do and what they have. And if we do not close this gap, we risk keeping the more than 1bn hungry people – one out of every six people – struggling to feed themselves.

Feeding the world’s poor and hungry is the challenge of our time. During the multi-fold hike in food and fuel prices in late 2007, food prices spiked to levels not seen since the end of the second world war triggering riots in more than 40 countries. And all the signs are that another crisis could be round the corner as it is estimated that food prices are set to rise as much as 40 percent over the coming decade.

The causes of this lie in the shameful neglect of agriculture of the past two decades. Both developed and developing countries – caught up in rapid economic expansion and technological development – got distracted. They turned off the tap to agriculture.

At the International Fund for Agricultural Development, we never stopped and neither did smallholder farmers in developing countries – especially women small farmers who continue to innovate and seek out opportunities to create a better life for themselves.

Take, for example, Maimuna Omary Ikanga, a small farmer and entrepreneur in the Babati district of the United Republic of Tanzania, who learned through an IFAD-supported programme to increase her profits by selling her produce at peak market times. She then used that extra money to invest in a satellite dish, a television set and a generator to create a new business venture by charging fellow villagers to watch the football matches during the World Cup.

There are eight, time-bound Millennium Development Goals that aim at tackling poverty in its many dimensions. IFAD believes that the third goal – the one dealing specifically with supporting gender equality – can lead the way to accomplishing the other goals. If we can better support women farmers – that is every other person, or more specifically, half of the world’s smallholder farmers – food security can be within reach for the 2bn people who rely on them. But with only five years left, it would be an understatement to say that time is running out and challenges must be overcome.

An investment in rural women and young girls is an investment in the future of rural communities and any nation that doesn’t provide opportunities for them will not reach its full potential. Studies indicate that when women earn money, they are more likely than men to spend it on food for the family. In Côte d’Ivoire, for example, a $10 increase in women’s income was found to bring about the same level of improvement in child health and nutrition as a $110 increase in men’s income. And according to the World Bank, Indian states with the highest percentage of women in the labour force grew the fastest and had the largest reductions in poverty.

The barriers for rural women, however, are considerable. Access to land is a major impediment in many developing countries for women farmers. It is a critical asset, not only for production, but also as a means of securing access to credit and other resources. Women’s access to land continues to flow through their male relatives, irrespective of the formal legal framework. And while women provide much of the labour on crop production, they have limited access to resources that can help them improve their production, such as credit and agricultural training.

Women in Africa constitute the majority of farmers, yet they receive less than 10 percent of small farm credit and own only 1 percent of land. Additionally, the International Food Policy Research Institute has estimated that women can increase the yields of some crops by 22 percent if given the same levels of education and experience as men.

Without a significant investment in improving the livelihoods, assets and decision-making power of rural women, reduction in poverty and food insecurity are unlikely to be achieved. Donors, policymakers, development practitioners and agribusinesses must significantly shift their thinking about women, food security, agriculture and the global marketplace.

We must work together to improve women’s access to agricultural resources such as seeds, fertilizers, credit as well as access to agricultural information, services and training. In particular, significant progress must be made in Africa to advance both women’s empowerment and their status in society – particularly with regard to land and credit. In Benin, IFAD has seen success after introducing New Rice for Africa, or Nerica, which allows farmers to cultivate two or three crops a year with much higher yields. Women in Benin have used the money from their extra profits to build houses for themselves, which in turn has boosted their confidence and reputation in their communities.

No nation, no society can progress by supporting only half of its population. If we live up to the commitments and declarations we have made, then we should see in the next decade that the typical smallholder farmer has her children in school and resources within reach to create a better life. This can only happen when these commitments and declarations are not left on paper, but backed up by collective action. Together we must lift the weight off the back of the woman smallholder farmer so that she can feed her family, her community and our world.

As published by This is Africa of Financial Time Limited



The African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF), held in Africa for the first time, brought together 800 delegates from around the world in the Ghanaian capital, Accra.

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan opened the event. The three day Forum included a combination of plenary sessions and smaller private meetings providing opportunities to make new, firm commitments to deliver a better food production system  and a better world for Africans.

The President of IFAD in his discussions with world leaders and delegates focused on need to see agriculture as a whole value chain not just farming and that atttractive opportunities for youth are often in villages, processing. Kofi Annan emphasized stable and predictable policies to attract investors.

Henock Kifle, IFAD's Chief Development Strategist,  highlighted the importance of good macroeconomic management in creating today's favorable investment climate in africa for all sectors but need to invest much more in infrastructure.

Mohamed Beavogui, Director of West and Central Africa, in discussing how to get more banks lending longer term to Africa described IFAD's support for innovative partnerships that connect smallholders to markets and banks and help to share risks in countries such as Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya .

Overall, strong consensus amongst political leaders, farmer orgaanizations, African companies and development institutions on need to focus on agriculture as a business, to look at full value chain, to invest in organization of smallholders, rural infrastructure and need to innovate access to finance.

A series of concrete outcomes of the AGRF, include:

  • empowerment of women throughout the agricultural chain by accelerating access to improved technology, finance and markets
  • backing for the Impact Investment Fund for African Agriculture to scale up access to finance by farmers and agri-businesses
  • investment for science, technology and research for food nutrition security
  •  accelerated access to improved seed by promoting the entire value chain, including support for plant breeding, seed companies and seed distribution systems
  • improved fertilizer supply systems and more efficient fertilizer value chains
  • more inclusive business models linking agri-business, commercial farms and smallholder farmers
  • better water management
  • mixed crop livestock systems


By Farhana Haque Rahman and Steven Schonberger

5 septiembre 2010. Kigali/Rwanda — Planificadores y responsables de proyectos de desarrollo rural de 14 países africanos y latinoamericanos se reunieron la semana pasada en Kigali, Ruanda, para identificar desafíos comunes y compartir experiencias exitosas en la promoción del desarrollo rural.

El taller ‘Aprendiendo del Sur Global: tejiendo redes de talentos locales en Africa y América Latina’ fue organizado por la Corporacion PROCASUR —una institución latinoamericana especializada en el diseño y prestación de serviciós técnicos para el desarrollo rural y la promoción de los conocimientos locales— con el apoyo del Fondo Internacional de Desarrollo Agrícola (FIDA), la Fundación Ford y la red regional de conocimiento Fidafrica.

Participaron en el evento más de 50 profesionales del desarrollo —entre ellos directores de proyectos de desarrollo rural en ambos continentes, oficiales del FIDA, gestores del sector privado, organizaciones de la sociedad civil y especialistas en gestión del conocimiento.

Desafíos comunes, aprendizajes compartidos

El principal objetivo del taller fue el de identificar áreas de interés común con el fin de establecer canales de colaboración e intercambio de conocimientos locales. Se presentaron además metodologías de capacitación como las Rutas de Aprendizaje que la Corporación PROCASUR organiza desde hace más de 15 años en la región latinoamericana con gran éxito y reconocimiento internacional.

Una ruta de aprendizaje es un proceso continuado de conocimiento sobre temas relativos a la planificación y gestión del desarrollo local que se desarrolla en el terreno a partir de visitas a experiencias seleccionadas, entrevistas con diferentes actores locales y ejercicios de reflexión colectiva e individual. Las Rutas de aprendizaje tienen como objetivo poner en valor, social y económicamente, el conocimiento generado por los ‘talentos locales’ en sus respectivos procesos de desarrollo.

Los participantes del taller, reunidos en grupos temáticos, identificaron seis áreas de interes común para las que se podrían organizar rutas de aprendizaje el año próximo, entre ellas: desarrollo económico en las zonas rurales; acesso y gestión de los recursos naturales; servicios financieros rurales; políticas públicas y asociaciones entre actores públicos y privados; planificación participativa y acceso competitivo a los recursos para el desarrollo rural, y acceso a los mercados e inserción en cadenas de valor para pequeños productores.

Más información sobre esta iniciativa de cooperación sus-sur pueden ponerse en contacto con la Corporación PROCASUR en el siguiente correo electrónico: procasur@procasur.org

Para conocer mejor la metodología de las Rutas de Aprendizaje pueden visitar el sitio web de la Corporación Procasur.

By Nuria FelipeSoria

IFAD and Ghana strengthen partnership

Posted by Roxanna Samii Thursday, September 2, 2010 0 comments


The Ghanaian Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Kwabena Duffuor, along with the Minister for Food and Agriculture, Kwesi Ahwoi, announced a US$ 400,000 pledge to IFAD's Ninth Replenishment. The announcement was made by the Government representatives just prior to the formal signing of the Host Country Agreement to facilitate IFAD's country presence - the first in West and Central Africa region.

The IFAD President thanked the Ministers and commended the transformation that has taken place in the country. Ghana is the first African country to achieve the MDG of halving the proportion of people living in poverty by 2015. Ghana is also one of the few countries in the region to have honoured the Maputo Declaration. Commenting on IFAD's 30 year partnership with Ghana, Nwanze emphazised that IFAD will push its development work to a new phase. The Government welcomed IFAD's  efforts to upscale the successful Rural Enterprises Project, currently operating in 65 districts, to cover the entire country.

Both, Duffuor and Ahoi, expressed their satisfaction on the supplementary grant of Euro 1 million from the EU food facility for the Roots and Tubers Marketing and Improvement Programme. Additional resouces to supplement IFAD's investment in the country are expected from the GEF and bilateral partners.

Nwanze and Ahwoi addressed a press conference attended by over 25 media representatives, following the signing of the Agreement. In response to journalists' questions, Nwanze emphazised the importance of wealth creation in the rural areas, to give opportunities to young people and recognize the key contribution of rural women to the country's economy. He urged the government to support the agricultural sector with resources from their expected oil revenues.

At a meeting later during the day, key development partners welcomed IFAD's new vision and expressed their interest to partner with the Fund in planning new investment opportunities.

by Farhana Haque Rahman and Ulaç Demirag

IFAD President, Kanayo Nwanze meets smallholder farmers in Ghana

Posted by Roxanna Samii Wednesday, September 1, 2010 0 comments



Accra – 31.08.10

On the second day of his visit to Ghana, the President of IFAD, Kanayo F. Nwanze visited rural communities to assess the impact of projects and programmes supported by IFAD.

During his visit to the West Akim District in the Eastern Region of Ghana, Nwanze first stopped at a cassava processing center, supported by the Roots and Tuber Improvement and Marketing Programme (RTIMP).

The center is currently linked to over 100 farmers who are organized in groups from 5 communities. Its products include gari, high quality cassava flour, and gari mix (gari fortified with soya beans). The center supplies a total volume of about 50 mt per month on demand to off-takers in the West African sub-region.

Nana Ayeh Sampson, the farmers’ spokesperson, informed the President of IFAD about his activities and highlighted the “improved living conditions” he and his family now enjoy as a result of the programme.

Nwanze visited a cassava ‘planting material multiplier’s field where the owner of a cassava plantation, Christopher Obeng thanked IFAD for the opportunity to “learn more about the potential of the improved varieties and their characteristics”. Since 2006, 40,000 small farmers in 85 districts have received improved planting material.

Later, Nwanze also visited the West Akim Rural Technology Facility at Asamankese, supported by the Rural Enterprises Project (REP). The facility consists of a technical metal working workshop to enhance technology for rural micro and small-scale enterprises. The facility also serves as a training center to enable beneficiaries of the programme to undertake the making of machinery and equipment, as well as repairs, at the local level. The center has provided assistance to over 200 master-craftspersons and apprentices.

Speaking at a ‘durbar’ meeting held in honour of the President of IFAD, the paramount chief of Asamankasi traditional area, thanked Nwanze for announcing the opening of the IFAD country office for Ghana and for undertaking to scaling up the Rural Enterprises Project to cover all the districts of the country.

Earlier in the morning, Ghana Television aired an interview with the President. Nwanze applauded the Government of Ghana for increased efforts to eradicate poverty and urged the rural youth to see agriculture as a viable business and a vehicle for rapid economic empowerment and development. He emphasized that agriculture is not only about production but also about processing, marketing and other related services. He commended Ghana for piloting a comprehensive value chain approach that integrates all the different components from the farm gate to the end consumers.

by Ulac Demirag; Farhana Haque Rahman