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Once a fisher always a fisher? Maybe not....

Posted by Roxanna Samii Thursday, June 30, 2011 2 comments

WOW, I had one of the most productive days in a long time. It was a day with no meetings, no emails, no phone calls, no deadlines and no process work. Wondering why it was so productive?

Well, I had the privilege of spending an entire day meeting and listening to the stories of smallholder producers who benefitted from the IFAD-funded Participatory Artisanal Fisheries Development Support Programme, better known as PADPPA.

Ndaya Beltchika, was appointed as the country programme manager for Benin in 2010. In closing PADPPA she took the bold step of documenting the success and challenges of this programme so that others could avoid making the same mistakes and reinventing the wheel.

Kudos to Beltchika, as she is a true knowledge worker and one of the few people I’ve worked with who fully appreciates the power and potential of learning both from successes and failures.

I think it is fair to say that PADPPA has both impressive achievements and faced massive challenges.

It was approved in 2003 and has a 50-50 cofinancing arrangement with African Development Fund (AfDF).

It took over two years before it started its operations in 2005. For the first four years it only disbursed 10.13%, which classifies it as a poor-performing project.

“One of the major challenges of PADPPA was the 50-50 cofinancing arrangements between AfDF and IFAD”, says Gerard Gnakadja, the National Coordinator. “If I had to redo the project, I would strongly recommend against such an arrangement and would have each donor fully finance a component thus making implementation more efficient and effective.”

The turning point was in 2009, when IFAD started supervising its own projects and providing direct implementation support. As a result, literally overnight there was a boast in the project activities and in just a little more than two years the disbursement rate increased from 20.47% to 50.53%.

The programme is coming to and end. Over the last eight years, it has focused on strengthening the fisheries sector in Benin by:

  • rehabilitating wetlands and lakes to increase fishing opportunities
  • strengthening fisher’s community and building their capacity to better manage the fisheries resources and other natural resources
  • encouraging fishers to take up alternative income generating activities

My productive day started with meeting three extraordinary smallholder producers who had given up fishing for other types of income generating activities.

Agriculture is cool: Meet Paul Allognon, the fisher who became a farmer

Paul Allognon, once a fisher, today thanks to the programme is a successful smallholder farmer. He is one of the 200 fishers who received training on agriculture-related activities offered by the Vice-President of the Agricultural Chamber, Adjehoda Amoussou, and his colleagues.

“Usually these training sessions last between 15 to 30 days and afterwords, the project provides extension services and monitors the farmers to make sure they apply what they learnt”, explains Amoussou. “However, the PADPPA trainees benefitted from an abridged version of the training and from what I understand not all of them received the post training backstopping”.

Although Allognon did not benefit from the full training programme, however, he learnt the basic agricultural practices such as rotating crops, when to plant what, when and how to use fertilizer, when to harvest and how and where to market and sell his produce. Understanding the importance of a good irrigation system, he installed a water pump and has a CFA350,0001 irrigation system on his land.

As a result, Allognon is now cultivating onions, tomatoes, pepper, parsley and cucumber.

“The village ladies visited me a couple of weeks ago and asked for onions. This is why we’re planting them now”, explains Allognon. “I plant based on needs, this way, I hardly ever have any surplus.”

On this farm, Allognon has a number of coconut palm trees which are another source of income. “I sell the coconut oil for CFA500 per litre. Every three months on average I manage to produced 120 litres of oil”, mentions Allognon.

“I dry the shell which is then used as firewood. The shell is also on high demand by the ladies who are in fish smoking business and also as animal feed”, says Allognon with a smile.

By embracing agriculture, Allognon has managed to triple his income. He is now able to offer employment to six other people and can afford paying them CFA15,000 per month.

“I would never go back to fishing. Believe me, fishing is not worthwhile. You go out to the sea at crack of dawn, stay out 3-5 days or if you make day trips, you come back at dusk and with what? What a basket full of small fish”, remarks Allognon.

Thanks to a steady income, Allognon is able to send all his 9 and 4 year old children to school. He has managed to buy an 2000 m2land, and is in the process of building a house for his family.

Reflecting on PADPPA’s achievements, Olivier Vigan, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries observed: “Only if we could have changed the mindset of many more fishers, that would have made this programme a success”. “In retrospect, we should have had many more awareness building programmes and prepared the fishers psychologically to convert from fishing to other acitivities”.

I wish, the programme would have used people like Paul Allognon as mentors to show the benefits of embracing agriculture and engaging in agriculture-related projects. And yes, more awareness building and proactive actions to change the fisher’s mindset would have definitely resulted in many more fishers converting to agriculture, rabbit farming or other income generating activities.

Rabbit farming: a viable alternative to fishing

On this very special day, after meeting Paul Allognon, I met Rose Mensah and Kuassi Oke, two former fishers who are now fully emerged and engaged with rabbit farming.

Mensah lives by Aeheme lake where she used to be a fish wholesaler. However, the lake’s fish stock has depleted significantly, thus making fishing a risky business. Mensah was lucky to benefit from PADPPA’s rabbit farming activities. In 2007, PADPPA gave her three female and 1 male rabbit.

In a month’s time she had 18 rabbits and ever since then, it has been a growing business. Today she has over 200 rabbits and can count on a steady flow of 30 rabbits per month.

Thanks to her new activity, she has 20 fixed clients - among which some hotels in Cotonou. On average she makes CFA100,000 a month.

“I sell the rabbits for CFA3000. Thanks to the money I make from my rabbit farm, not only I am able to feed the family, send the children to school, but I am also able to put aside at least CFA10,000 a month”, explains Mensah.

Mensah’s vision is to be able to build another big rabbit pen. “But to do that I need one million CFA and I need to able to get a loan. And that is not an easy thing to do.”

Kuassi Oke, a 55 year old rabbit farmer, has an equally thriving farm as Mensah’s. He too in 2007 received 3 females and 1 male and ever since then, he’s gone from success to success.

Oke is a real businessman. To ensure that he has a steady stock, he has put in a place a bullet proof reproduction scheme. “I have 25 females. Each month I have half of them reproduce. This way, the females get a rest every other month and on average I have 115 new rabbits.”

He manages to sell 50 rabbits a month to clients in major cities, hotel owners and in to people in his village. As a true businessman, he has fixed price - CFA3000 per rabbit - and does not provide any preferential treatment to his fellow villagers!

Thanks to his new activity, he is able to provide a good life to his 19 children, three wives and has a monthly saving of CFA40,000. Realizing that not everyone has been lucky as him, to help others, he has created a village saving scheme where on a monthly basis he deposits some of his savings which is used to assist villagers in moments of dire need.

Initially the villagers were a bit intrigued and suspicious of his activity. But, today, thanks to his flourishing business, he has earned a social status. He is now providing rabbit farming training to interested villagers and is the adviser to the village chief.

He has put in place a succession plan by training two of his sons which will take over from him, when and if he decides to retire!

Oke has expanded his business to poultry and is looking forward to be able to buy himself a motorcycle.

New frontiers for rabbit farming: Processing and packaging

One would hope that sooner rather than later Mensah and Oke will learn how to add value to their rabbit farming business by embracing some processing activities. Hopefully, they will be able to access credit, challenging as it may be, so that they can acquire the necessary skills and set up the infrastructure needed for processing, packing and selling rabbit meat.

It would have been nice if PADPPA had seized this opportunity and offered these sterling entrepreneurs the opportunity to add value to their rabbit farm by exposing them to the processing and packaging world.

Keeping close to “Centre de miracle”

As we were driving back, I thought to myself, WOW, what a great day. Would it be possible to replicate this miracle every day? I guess if I keep close to this “Centre de miracle”, I will have a good chance of experiencing it over and over again.

I wonder what will my boss think, if I call or send an email telling her that I have found a new vocation and do not want to leave?

I’ll be covering the story of fishers on the next series of PADPPA blogposts. So, keep on eye on this space. More to come. For now, goodbye and good night.


Gender Equality and Rural Empowerment

Posted by Greg Benchwick Monday, June 27, 2011 0 comments

Exchanging experiences in El Salvador and Guatemala

In an effort to create better opportunities for rural women in Latin America – and across the globe – the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) have combined forces to create a grant programme focused on sharing experiences in gender equality and rural empowerment. One key element of the programme was to bring rural men and women together with experts on gender equity, value chains and rural development to share experiences. With this in mind, the program hosted study tours in Guatemala and El Salvador that brought various actors together to find new ways to weave social inclusion into the very fabric of society. This is their story.

Beer-wine assist: An innovative way of sharing knowledge

Posted by Roxanna Samii Wednesday, June 22, 2011 0 comments

Last night at the East and Southern Africa knowledge management workshop, Peter Ballantyne introduced an innovative way to share knowledge - a beer-wine assist!!!

The beer-wine assist was a peer assist in the form of an open space. Now, that is real innovation. Combining two knowledge sharing methods into one!!! And we covered the following topics:

  • learning more about linking local learners
  • how to document and package success stories
  • learning routes
  • communication and knowledge management strategies
This morning when the group shared their discussions in the openspace, it was heart warming to see how much they had learnt and internalized in just 60 minutes. And this evening when we did the after action review, participants indicated that they found the openspace very useful. 

So, the peer-assist innovation turned out to be a smashing success. Must have been a combination of great participants and the beer and wine!!

This morning we had a great conversation on how a good meeting culture is essential for creating a conducive environment for learning and sharing. To instill a better meeting etiquette and to ensure that everyone gets the most of any meeting, the group talked about the importance of:

  • preparing for the meeting
  • sticking to schedule
  • staying focused
  • holding meetings only when there is a real need to do so
  • inviting the right people
  • distributing background documents before the meeting
  • having a facilitator
  • involving all the participants in the conversation
  • having concrete action points and follow-up mechanism
  • debriefing after the meeting, asking ourselves what worked and what could have gone better

There was a lengthy debate on the role of facilitator versus a chairperson. I am not sure we reached any agreement on this issue. Suffice to say that tomorrow, we'll be dedicating some more time on talking about how to conduct meetings in an appreciative manner and unpacking further the roles of facilitator and chairperson.

During the course of the workshop, the country teams discussed the challenges and opportunities of mainstreaming knowledge management within their projects, at government level and at grassroot and farmer level. As the day came to a close, they shared their draft action plans for the next 12 months.

Here are some of the challenges they committed to address and overcome:
  • identify a  KM champion at leadership/government level
  • develop an integrated knowledge management and learning strategy
  • capture information in a meaningful manner
  • institutionalize knowledge management and learning in a sustainable manner
  • create a culture of learning and sharing
  • develop capacity for knowledge management and learning in a sustainable manner
  • convince projects and government of the importance of knowledge management and learning
  • identify the structure and institutional arrangement required in the project to make KM work
  • promote exchange visits as their are valuable learning and sharing mechanism

I felt privileged to have participated in this workshop, and I learnt a lot from the wide range of experience of our colleagues in the field. 

I sat in awe when I heard the insightful comments of participants such as: "KM and learning is not a project", "We cannot do is not an option", "we need to consider feedback as a gift", and "KM is not about creating a website, but it is about transforming and changing the way we do business".

This group has come a long way. I guess their next frontier would be to expand their partnerships and networks so that they can benefit from a much wider knowledgebase, and to share their knowledge, experience and achievements with others.

I am sure sooner rather later we'll be ableto instill a culture of learning sharing not only in IFAD-funded projects, but also at grassroot, government level and beyond. And when that happens we can pat ourselves on the back and be proud of our work. For sure, that day is in the very near future!

The third IFADAfrica knowledge management learning workshop kicked off on 20 June 2011 in a sunny and relatively chilly Lusaka.

The event brings together 60 participants from Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia.

I had had the privilege and honour of attending the startup workshop of IFADAfrica two years ago and I must say, I was delighted to see the progress made by my East and Southern Africa colleagues in mainstreaming knowledge management (KM) in their activities.

What struck me most, was the fact that some countries had managed to work with ministries, to build KM capacity at ministerial level. s a result, today government representatives were in a better position to understand and appreciate the value of knowledge management. This has resulted in reducing redundancies, improving the flow of information and increasing efficiencies.

As a KM practitioner, I get excited when I see how KM activities have led to influencing policy. This morning, listening to my Zambian colleagues how thanks to their KM efforts, they had managed to influence the development of the national rural finance, put a smile on my lips. They had done a knowledge audit and used the results to inform government which then developed the national rural finance strategy.

During the last two days, participants shared how they had mainstreamed KM in their activities. There was general consensus that when knowledge management is embedded within the project, that is when it has the biggest impact.

It was refreshing to hear that there was a general understanding on the importance of KM being a common thread throughout the entire project cycle: starting with project design, through out project implementation to instill a culture of knowledge sharing and learning, to continuously and systematically capture and share the learning and lessons.

This is why, East and Southern Africa colleagues are now increasingly including knowledge management in the design of new projects and programmes. I guess we can call these projects rural development 2.0 projects!

East and Southern Africa knowledge management evolving framework

One of the objectives of the KM activities in East and Southern Africa is to make sure that government and project staff, stakeholders and partners understand and appreciate what is a knowledge management and learning system. This has lead to an interesting evolving KM framework, which at its heart focuses on learning and adapting to continuously improve and increase the impact of IFAD-funded projects and programmes.
What this framework does, is to link and create cross linkages between learning adaptation, information management, communication and innovation.

This is why they’re putting in place sound information management mechanisms to capture, document and store information. They’re adopting learning oriented monitoring and evaluation and as a result they should be able to continuously analyze information, assess progress and adapt.

Another key component of the framework is communication, which ranges from systematic sharing of information, communication within and among teams, instilling a culture of giving and receiving feedback, to communicating with stakeholders, packaging content in a compelling manner for advocacy purposes and increasing IFAD visibility.

One of the objectives of KM is to innovate, scale-up and bring about change and transformation. Thus, the need to instill a culture of appreciation for new ideas, culture of sourcing new ideas and creating the right environment to experiment with new ideas.

The ESA KM framework has adopted simple principles such as building capacity of project staff, instilling a learning and sharing culture, continuously improving processes, promoting south-south/exchange visits. To the maximum extent possible they are trying to use existing structure and avoid reinventing the wheel. And in the words of Dick Siame, IFAD country presence officer, “making sure government warms up and buys in to the KM agenda”.

As I am writing this blogpost colleagues are discussing the importance of collaboration, breaking the silos, and linkages between knowledge management and monitoring and evaluation.

We’re reporting live from the workshop on Twitter. Follow #esakm. Have look at the pictures from the event on Facebook and please share your comments and views on this blog, on Facebook and on Twitter. For IFAD colleagues at HQ, post your comments and feedback on Yammer.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

On 1 June 2011, IFAD launched its Environment and Natural Resource Management (ENRM) policy with a webcast discussion on “How to scale up investments in sustainable intensification of agriculture.” We decided to do a social media campaign to market the event, create awareness around the issue, and showcase our policy and case studies. The response was amazing!

We managed to create a lively discussion at IFAD HQ with UN agencies, NGOs, Civil Society, Private Sector, Media, and Academia colleagues and interested people from all over the world. These virtual participants were far from passive viewers. They engaged in the conversation by posting comments on our website and sending their questions via Twitter and Facebook.
Why use social media?
From the beginning we asked ourselves: How can we spread the word about ENRM issues? How can we engage others outside of IFAD in the discussion? How can we make people aware of the conclusions of the policy?

ENRM’s depth and breadth is immense and it is a topic that is of interest not only to experts but also to many others. So the challenge was how can we make sure to get everyone on board? How can we discuss the issues in an inclusive manner without excluding anyone?

We decided that using social media as a channel would enable us to interact with people in a dynamic way. Our decision was based on the fact that effective communications is not a one-way avenue, but rather it’s about the dialogue and interaction. And social media gives everyone with internet and/or cell phone access a voice and opportunity to contribute and join the conversation.

How did we create the social media campaign?
We started working on the campaign 4 weeks before the event. We created a landing page on the IFAD website. This page included information on the policy, on the event, and on the webcast and the social media activities that would take place. We included pictures, videos, and case studies of IFAD’s work in ENRM.

Then we formulated our main messages in tweets (max 140 characters). This is the tricky part. How can we capture the essence of a policy of 30 pages, to a tweet-friendly message in 140 characters? Well, the good thing is that you don’t need to limit yourself to one tweet. We created a number of tweets, some contained information about the event and webcast, some contained statistics from the policy, and others contained questions to the audience to get their feedback on how to scale up.

We sent out the first tweet 10 days before the event, and in the following days we continued sending tweets to spread information and encourage action and feedback. Our UN social media partners engaged and sent out our tweets, spreading the word to all their followers. The Environment and Climate Division informed their networks, and encouraged them to contribute to the discussion. Then on the big day of the launch, during the webcast, we could pose the comments and questions live to the discussants in the room. We connected ideas, and added new voices to a conversation that otherwise would have been limited to the IFAD HQ.

What did we achieve?
  • Reached over 50 000 people with over 300 tweets
  • People engaged interactively by re-tweeting our messages, and also by sending us comments and questions. We got approximately 100 new followers on Twitter during the campaign, and we were pleased to see that the private sector was engaged in the debate.
  • The ENRM site had 1300 unique visitors during the campaign, peeking to about 600 visitors on the day of the event
Our lessons learnt
For a social media campaign to be successful you need to:
  • Plan and prepare
  • Be clear about: what you want to say, who you want to reach, what you want as an outcome
Most importantly, to be successful on social media, you need to:
  • Provide good content that engages people
  • Respond to the questions and feedback
Our colleagues at the Environment and Climate Division did an excellent job in engaging with the audience. They asked follow-up questions, and replied to the technical questions. They created a dialogue.

If you missed the event (and even if you participated in the event), make sure you:

A #HighFive to Jeff Brez and his team, the Communications team, the excellent moderator Kevin Cleaver, IFAD Associate Vice-President of Programmes as well as all the people out there who followed us and engaged in the conversation. We all look forward to the next IFAD webcast and social media chatter. Until then, make sure you keep in touch with us via our Twitter, Facebook, Blog, YouTube, Blip.TV and Slideshare channels.

By Jesús Quintana, ECD/LAC

Venezuela, badly hit by climate change and environmental hazards

Between 2009 and 2010, Venezuela suffered one of its worst droughts ever recorded, affecting vital activities, especially agriculture and energy. The Guri dam, one of the biggest in Latin America, which supplies half of Venezuela’s energy, had to reduce electricity generation drastically. Agriculture production also fell between 10 and 30 per cent, depending on crops.

Rains returned to Venezuela in late 2010, only to flood the country. Torrential storms drove more than 130,000 Venezuelans from their homes and deepened a housing shortage. This year, Venezuela is facing renewed downpours during the rainy season, unleashing more mudslides and floods. Seven states (including Falcon, where IFAD is implementing the Sustainable Rural Development Project for the Semi-Arid Zones of Falcon and Lara States project - PROSALAFA II) and parts of Caracas are under a state of emergency.

Venezuela’s answer to these challenges combines several actions, including better preparedness and prevention, hydrological works, and better management of watersheds, with an emphasis on reforestation.

IFAD on call – providing useful tools with multiple benefits

IFAD has been supporting the second phase of PROSALAFA II since 2002. The project is working in the semi-arid zones of Falcon and Lara states, home to some of the country’s poorest communities, strengthening the capacity of rural organizations, and promoting conservation of the natural resource base, with a special focus on soil and water conservation, through the micro-watershed as planning and action unit.

IFAD has proposed to expand this partnership, including new institutions that could focus better on the environmental and climate change challenges faced by the country. In collaboration with the Global Environment Facility (GEF), IFAD and the Ministry of Environment of Venezuela (MPPA) are preparing an innovative project to foster afforestation and reforestation of degraded semi-arid watersheds of Lara and Falcón, improving the management of natural resources, especially soil and water. This will result in multiple benefits, social (living conditions), economic (water provision and increased production) and environmental ones, complementing other national initiatives, such as Misión Árbol and Mesas Técnicas del Agua.

Last week, I attended the start-up workshop for the design of this innovative project - Promotion of Sustainable and Climate-compatible Rural Development in Lara and Falcón States - which will contribute directly to climate change mitigation, sequestering carbon and avoiding GHG emissions - the first of its type in Venezuela. The meeting, held 7 and 8 of June in Cabudare (Lara State, west of the country), reunited MPPA, local authorities and IFAD, and was chaired by Rodolfo Roa, Director General, DGCH, MPPA.

This proposal, to be submitted to the GEF for financing (US$ 3.7 m) in December, will focus on innovative activities with strong demonstration potential for better planning and management of land uses – showing that they can effectively contribute to global goals, reducing carbon emissions and facilitating more resilient livelihoods, an approach that IFAD applies to its programs, and, together with other organizations, defends in international fora.

En Venezuela, entre sequías e inundaciones, se propone una nueva colaboración para combatir el cambio climático

Por Jesús Quintana, ECD/LAC

Venezuela, muy afectada por el cambio climático y los fenómenos ambientales

Entre 2009 y 2010, Venezuela sufrió una de las peores sequías jamás registradas, afectando sobre todo actividades vitales, como agricultura o energía. El embalse de Guri, uno de los mayores de América Latina y que produce la mitad de la energía de Venezuela, tuvo que reducir su generación drásticamente por falta de agua. La producción agrícola cayó entre un 10 y un 30 %, dependiendo de los cultivos.

Las precipitaciones volvieron a Venezuela al final de 2010, sólo para inundar el país. Las lluvias torrenciales obligaron a más de 130,000 personas a dejar sus casas, empeorando el problema de falta de viviendas. Este año, al llegar la estación lluviosa, Venezuela ha empezado a sufrir de nuevo tormentas e inundaciones, de forma que siete Estados (incluyendo Falcón, donde IFAD está ejecutando el proyecto PROSALAFA II) y zonas de Caracas están bajo el estado de emergencia debido a las lluvias.

La respuesta de Venezuela a estos desafíos combina diferentes medidas, incluyendo mejor preparación y prevención, obras hidrológicas y de otro tipo, y mejor manejo de cuencas con énfasis en reforestación.

FIDA listo para actuar – proveyendo herramientas útiles con beneficios multiples

FIDA está apoyando la segunda fase del Proyecto de Desarrollo Rural Sostenible para las Zonas Semiáridas de los Estados de Falcón y Lara (PROSALAFA II) desde 2002. El proyecto trabaja en las zonas semi-áridas de Lara y Falcón, donde viven algunas de las comunidades más pobres del país, reforzando la capacidad de las organizaciones rurales, y apoyando la conservación de los recursos naturales, especialmente suelo y agua, usando la micro-cuenca como unidad de planificación y acción.

FIDA ha propuesto ampliar esta colaboración para incluir a nuevos socios y afrontar mejor los retos ambientales y climáticos del país. En coordinación con el Fondo para el Medio Ambiente Mundial (GEF), FIDA y el Ministerio del Ambiente de Venezuela (MPPA) están preparando un proyecto innovador que promoverá la reforestación de cuencas degradadas del semi-árido, mejorando la gestión de los recursos naturales (agua, suelos, bosques). Esta iniciativa conllevará beneficios múltiples, tanto sociales (mejores condiciones de vida), como económicos (provisión de agua y mejora de la producción) y ambientales, complementando otras iniciativas nacionales, como la Misión Árbol o las Mesas Técnicas del Agua.

La semana pasada asistí al taller de inicio del diseño de este proyecto innovador - el Proyecto de Desarrollo Social Integral y su Interrelación con el Cambio Climático en las Cuencas Hidrográficas de los
Estados de Lara y Falcón (Venezuela) (PDELAFA-FMAM) - que contribuirá directamente a la mitigación del cambio climático, secuestrando carbono y evitando emisiones – el primero de este tipo en Venezuela. La reunión del pasado 7 y 8 de junio en Cabudare (Estado de Lara, este del país), reunió al MPPA, autoridades locales y FIDA, presidido por Rodolfo Roa, Director General, DGCH, MPPA.

La propuesta, que se presentará al GEF para financiamiento (US$ 3.7 m) en diciembre próximo, promoverá actividades innovadores con fuerte potencial demostrativo, mostrando que el mejor uso y aprovechamiento territorial puede contribuir efectivamente a objetivos globales, reduciendo las emisiones de gases invernaderos y contribuyendo a reforzar las capacidades de agricultores y comunidades, un enfoque que FIDA aplica a sus programas y defiende en foros internacionales.

Entrevista con Noli Fernández, Directora Nacional de Salud Indígena en el Ministerio de Poder Popular para la Salud de Venezuela, hablando sobre un espacio productivo para ‘la construcción de políticas públicas con pertenencia cultural.’

Will security in Pakistan affect IFAD’ support to the country?

Posted by Matteo Marchisio Sunday, June 12, 2011 2 comments

Photo credit: Reuters
Recent events in Pakistan rightly rose concerns on the extent to which the current security situation in the country could affect the implementation of IFAD funded projects.
Obviously ‘security’ is a factor beyond the control of IFAD, and as such it represents one of the (exogenous) risks for working in Pakistan.
However, it should be noted that - with the exception of one project whose unexpected and exceptional increased insecurity in the project area prevented proper monitoring - IFAD has always been able to adequately supervise both physical progresses and fiduciary aspects of its funded projects in Pakistan.
This does not guarantee per se that the situation may not change in the future, but it highlights the fact that in principle the security situation in Pakistan should not significantly affect IFAD’s capacity to continue its support to this country.

Maps and graphics boost impact of environmental information

Posted by Jeffrey A Brez Thursday, June 9, 2011 0 comments

By Bjorn Alfthan and Riccardo Pravettoni, UNEP/GRID-Arendal

Bjorn, researcher: On Monday 6th June, we had the opportunity to visit IFAD and discuss our work. As a collaborating centre of UNEP, our mission is to “communicate environmental information to policy makers, and facilitate environmental decision-making for change”.

Thankfully, we were advised to keep the presentation short to leave room for discussion afterwards. And discuss we did! It was enlightening to discover some of the challenges IFAD has in terms of communications, both internally and externally.

Measuring the impact of communication products was one. This is also a theme that we regularly touch on in our organization. We hope to have demonstrated that some forms of communication can have direct impact. There is considerable evidence that our graphic-intensive Rapid Response Assessment series, for example, has successfully raised awareness and understanding of the issues each title addresses. Although evidence of policy impacts is harder to track, there are also some convincing cases from our work.

However, measuring and identifying impacts – rather than simply outputs - are generally quite hard to do - because of process time lags, the difficulty of tracking the absorption of specific information by diverse end users before they take decisions, and/or because decisions, especially those related to the environment, are rarely taken on the basis of single information sources.

Clearly, no way of communicating the environment offers a magic wand in having immediate impact (in the policy arena or elsewhere) – but our experience at UNEP/GRID-Arendal has shown that certain visual/graphic forms of communication do work better than others.

Riccardo, Environmental Cartographer: What is the best way of communicating environmental issues? What is the meaning and the role of a map? Where does art meet information

For me the importance of “form” on the impact of content on an audience must be stressed. As style characterizes the success of a written text (in science and in literature), a good and appealing visual representation - it could be a thematic map, a diagram, a chart or an info-graphic document in general - is a key factor in communicating complex issues in a limited amount of space and time.

A great lesson learned from the guru of data, Edward Tufte, shows how an ill-prepared visual representation of information can (inadvertently) hide key facts or trends. The example at left is believed to have contributed to the fatal explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger back in 1987. It didn't convey to the decisionmakers the high risk of failure of the "0-rings."

One way of presenting environmentally sensitive information is through the use of analytical maps and graphics that “compress” multilevel information into something concise and effective - and where all the elements have as a common goal the communication of an environmental message in the most efficient way possible.

The art is in layering and grouping data and information that then conveys a clear message: easier said than done! Incorporating communications / mapping efforts in any research or project team activities from the outset can be key to a high impact outcome.

Do know of any excellent examples of graphic environmental information with high impact? If so, thanks for sharing them with us here.

Brazil in focus

Posted by Greg Benchwick 1 comments

Interviews with IFAD Evaluation Committee members provide unique insight into poverty reduction, sustainability, South-South Cooperation and scaling-up


These are just a few of the superlative descriptors used by members of IFAD’s Evaluation Committee to describe their recent visit to Brazil. Concern over sustainability, replicability and scale also marked the cautiously optimistic feedback provided by the committee members.

On the week-long mission, committee members representing Burkina Faso, Canada, Holland, India, Indonesia, Mexico and Nigeria – IFAD’s board member from Sweden also came along for the ride – had the opportunity to meet with government representatives on the state and federal level, to interact with family farmers, to learn from project personnel and IFAD staff, and to actively engage in a well-rounded and well-informed dialogue on everything from knowledge management and South-South Cooperation, to the role IFAD should play in Middle Income Countries, environmental stewardship, and the importance of pro-poor policies and demand-driven development.

Rather than attempt to distil a week’s worth of work, conversation, sweat, debate, collaboration and learning into a thousand-word blog, we figured we’d go to the members of the Executive Committee themselves for their reflections on the IFAD-supported Dom Hélder Câmara Project, Brazil’s emergent policies for pro-poor growth, the role of BRIC’s in poverty reduction, sustainability, replicability, climate change and knowledge management. The informal interviews were undertaken in the field with our little flip-cam. And while the quality of the recordings doesn’t meet BBC standards, the candour and incisiveness of the reflections from the EC members representing Canada, India, Nigeria and Sweden are well worth the listen. Their responses provide unique insight into the synergies between Africa and Brazil, the relevance of IFAD in Latin America and the rest of the world, and the need to lay-out clear policies and platforms that will enable poor rural people to break the cycle of poverty.

Watch the videos
Amalia Garcia-Thärn – EC representative from Sweden

Iain MacGillivray – EC representative from Canada

Yaya Olaniran – EC representative from Nigeria

Shobhan Kumar Pattanayak – EC Chairman from India

Learn More
More information on the Dom Hélder Câmara Project

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