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Las rutas de aprendizaje permiten a las mujeres latinoamericanas conocer otras formas (exitosas) de administrar lo público


“Conociendo lo que otras compañeras políticas están haciendo aprendí que las mujeres podemos hacer de lo público un espacio más justo y eficaz”. Rebeca Rojas, regidora del municipio peruano de Tarma, visitó en 2008 experiencias exitosas de gestión local con perspectiva de género en Bolivia y Ecuador, en el marco de una Ruta de Aprendizaje organizada por INSTRAW y PROCASUR.


Tras una semana de viaje, visitas, conversaciones —y confesiones— en las salas de aeropuertos, Rebeca volvió a Tarma renovada, en el más literal sentido de la palabra: volvía con mucho entusiasmo y muchas ideas para ejercer su rol de administradora local. “Aprendimos a reconocer nuestro modos diferente de hacer política”, asegura.

Uno de los principales resultados de su paso por la Ruta fue la elaboración de un Plan de Igualdad para el municipio. Para ello realizó un diagnóstico sobre los problemas y necesidades específicas de las mujeres en Tarme y, posteriormente, buscó alianzas para lograr un amplio apoyo entre sus compañeros de gestión.

La unión hace la fuerza. Esta fue una de las certezas que Rebeca se trajo de la Ruta, tras conocer la labor de las Asociaciones de Mujeres Municipalistas de AMUME, AMJUPRE y ACOBOL en Bolivia, y las políticas locales de equidad e integración social de los Municipios de
Cuenca y Nabón en Ecuador. Por eso, uno de los ejes principales de su Plan fue la promoción del asociacionismo femenino. Así nacieron la Mesa de Diálogo de la Mujer, a nivel municipal en 2008; la Asociación de Mujeres Políticas de la Provincia de Tarma, en 2008; la Red de Mujeres Autoridades de la Región de Junín en 2009, y la asociación de estas instancias con la Red Nacional de Mujeres Autoridades (RENAMA). En el total de estas asociaciones participan cerca de 1500 mujeres.

Otro de los cambios que Rebeca trajo a su gestión fue el de la capacitación de las mujeres: “necesitamos capacitar a las mujeres –explica–, darles conocimientos y herramientas para que sean capaces de expresar lo que piensan, para que conquisten los espacios que les correspondan y no sean meros instrumentos electorales en manos de los hombres”. Rebeca ha organizado desde entonces seminarios locales, regionales y nacionales, dirigido a las mujeres autoridades de Tarma, Junín y Perú, así como seminarios sobre sensibilización e información sobre derechos ciudadanos.

La incorporación de las mujeres a la esfera productiva, es otra de las áreas que Rebeca está incentivando mediante la formación de asociaciones para la producción y la comercialización. Queda mucho por recorrer, asegura Rebeca, pero esta historia demuestra el poder catalizador de herramientas de intercambio como las Rutas de Aprendizaje.

Enlaces Útiles

Fortaleciendo la Transversalización del Género en la gestión del Municipio de Belén – Heredia, Costa Rica

Ana Betty Valenciano, Regidora del Municipio de Belén, Provincia de Heredia, en Costa Rica participó en el 2008 de la Ruta de Aprendizaje “Fortalecimiento de la gobernabilidad, género y participación política de las mujeres en el ámbito local” (Región Centroamérica) organizada por Procasur y UN-INSTRAW.

En esta Ruta pudo conocer experiencias de transversalización de la equidad de género en la gestión municipal, siendo especialmente importantes los casos de asociatividad entre municipios así como la relevancia de las instancias más locales, como espacios de innovación e impulso de políticas de equidad.

A partir de estos aprendizajes, Ana Betty retorno a su labor dentro del Municipio de Belén, que ya contaba con un Plan de Igualdad de Genero en el Gobierno Municipal. A partir de sus experiencias en la Ruta se enfatizó la necesidad de llevar adelante un proceso de sensibilización dentro del Municipio, así como la relevancia de fortalecer la voluntad política para llevar adelante los planes de equidad. Para ello, se desarrollo una serie de acciones con las diferentes reparticiones municipales, para problematizar e incluir el enfoque de género de forma integral en las acciones del municipio y las prácticas de sus funcionarios. Destacan por ejemplo las iniciativas de incluir la mirada de genero en los proyectos de obras publicas (caminos, puentes, etc., ), en las gestiones y tramites municipales, a través de espacios de cuidado infantil abiertos a las usuarias del municipio, y en los planes de desarrollo económico local, donde muchas mujeres están siendo beneficiadas con capacitación y fondos para emprendimientos productivos.

El liderazgo personal de Ana Betty también se ha visto fortalecido en este proceso: actualmente es la presidenta del Consejo Municipal, el que está siendo recientemente renovado con una abrumadora mayoría de representantes mujeres entre el total de regidores/as (4 de 5).

Otro ámbito de innovación ha sido la apertura al intercambio de experiencias y a la autoevaluación constante del proceso llevado adelante por el Municipio de Belén. Como parte de los Planes de Innovación apoyados por la Ruta se propició un intercambio y asesoría para la elaboración de una política municipal para la equidad de género en el hermano Municipio de Talamanca – Costa Rica, el que actualmente ya cuenta con un Plan de Equidad y esta implementando sus primeras acciones. El Municipio de Belén ha sido convocado a mostrar sus experiencias a nivel nacional e internacional, siendo reconocido por sus buenas prácticas como un modelo a replicar. Esto se demuestra también en su participación como experiencia exitosa en otra Ruta de Aprendizaje organizada en conjunto por Procasur y UN-INSTRAW en abril de 2010.


Enlaces Útiles

We Heart Learning Routes - The Peru-Vietnam Connection

Posted by Greg Benchwick Thursday, July 21, 2011 0 comments



Tune in to change with this fun video on the recent Learning Route in Peru. Along the way, you'll see how innovations in competitive resource allocation can be applied across the South and how similarities in Vietnam and Peru can create new synergies in rural poverty reduction.

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What do numbers tell us?

Posted by daniela cuneo Monday, July 18, 2011 0 comments


Training and skills development play a key role in many sectors but when it comes to the difference that capacity-building, agricultural education, vocational training and skills development can make in offering a route out of poverty to rural poor people the debate becomes more serious. Why? “Today, about 34 per cent of the total rural population of developing countries is classified as extremely poor…” and agricultural education is 1 of the 6 policy and institutional measures “ that governments can take to provide an enabling framework for sustainable agricultural intensification “ …… agricultural education is “fundamental to enable women, men, young people and children to develop the skills they need to take advantage of new economic opportunities (source IFAD RPR 2011)” . In this context, it is extremely important for IFAD to assess the role and scope of capacity building, training and skills development in IFAD portfolio. The 2 days international consultation "Skills development for poverty alleviation: sharing IFAD experiences in technical and vocational skills development”that took place in IFAD on 22 and 23 June was an opportunity to:


  • understand the potential of training in IFAD supported projects
  • discuss the results achieved in the framework of the Initiative to Mainstream Initiative (IMI - a DFID supported initiative to promote innovations
  • identify successful and innovative training approaches in IFAD supported projects (six field studies conducted in on-going IFAD projects in Bangladesh, Colombia, Ghana, Madagascar, Rwanda and Sudan were presented), and
  • pave the way to strengthen the impact of training on poor rural communities in order to give the rural poor the individual and collective capabilities to overcome poverty.


In terms of numbers, results are impressive! Since 2005, more than 4.3 million people have been trained (40% on agricultural technologies and production and 23% on enterprise development and employment) through IFAD programmes. But numbers, as rightly pointed out by panellists at the international consultation, need to be interrogated to give a sense of the impact of the 4.3 million trainings delivered on the lives of those people in terms of empowerment. Unfortunately data is not collected systematically and consistently; participants agreed that more efforts should be made to improve the quality of the data collected in order to answer crucial questions such as: Who are the people trained; are they men, youths or women? and most importantly are they the rural poor we need to reach? What is the use of these trainings? Did the trainings make any difference to the quality of life of the trainees?

Definitively, this is the experience of the women trained in the context of Gash Sustainable Livelihoods Regeneration Project (GSLRP) in Sudan . For them “the training on nutrition, food processing and home economics was the first opportunity to socialize and acquire new skills, said Aisha Sheik GSLRP Programme Officers in Sudan.

Kudos to GSLRP project for:


  • campaigning for women’s participation in training
  • influencing men and having men support the participation of women in training (it wasn’t easy…it took 2 years but they did it!!)
  • overcoming barriers like the lack of venues where women could be trained
  • optimizing the techniques acquired by those who benefitted from the project training on brick making and having them build the training venues with green bricks
  • sharing with us during the conference the thoughts and the feedback of the beneficiaries of the training. Their words:
"Before the training, we were just sitting in the house, meetings have broadened our thinking."

"We learned how to speak Arabic and how to pray and cite the Koran"

"Before the training, our meals were sorghum porridge or Kasha, now we cook vegetables and meat; prepare special meals for children and pregnant women."

“Before we did not care when the vaccination team came for our children, now we all go out and know how important it is”
  • and for awarding certificates at the end of the training. Trainees value certificate!!!

Certificates are building blocks for further training, for social recognition and self- esteem of the trainees and Sudan is not the only example: the Rural Enterprises Projects in Ghana did the same! . But training programmes are not always successful, the field study in Bangladesh shows that skills development and acquisition of new technologies does not happen only through formal training!! This was the interesting finding of the Bangladesh field study.

The experience of the Micro-Finance and Technical Support Project (MFTSP), shows that 16 trained women operators out of 32 trained operators have never operated Mini-Hatcheries. An other 16 MH operators successfully operate MH but did not receive formal training: they “learned by doing” thanks to hands-on training delivered by Livestock Technical Assistants! According to the experience in Bangladesh , formal training can be less effective than a practical approach, as the time required to attend the formal training may be a serious constraint for many women: 30 days away from their daily duties is a significant amount of time and the women that could benefit from the training could not afford it! . So definitively duration of trainings should consider the needs of the target group but this is not the only element that contributes to designing effective training.


To be effective, training sessions must take into account a number of factors among which: the cultural strengths and weaknesses of the trainees, the ability of the trainers, the suitability of the training, the market demand and the national challenges .For examples, Madagascar and Colombia have different challenges, while Madagascar has 70% of its population in rural areas, Colombia is extremely urbanized. Moreover Madagascar has a population growing rate in terms of youth while the population in Colombia is stabilized. So, the challenge consists in mainstreaming projects into the national plans and managing project sustainability, but how do we measure the impact of IFAD project assisted trainings in the context of enabling a national framework for sustainable agriculture intensification?

Are IFAD project assisted training initiatives sustainable? will the government support them once the project is completed? Participants confronted their experiences and challenged the theories of their colleagues. Academics highlighted the need for linking projects to a wider context and challenged IFAD projects. But IFAD projects are not in a vacuum; they are discussed and approved by the Government. Dialogue among different stakeholders is key to working out balanced national strategies, and IFAD experience in Madagascar shows how, by working together, different stakeholders namely the Ministry for Agriculture, Ministry of Education and Research with IFAD advising on implementing a not too theoretical approach, can lead to balanced and concrete strategies.


The format of trainings varies and has to adapt to the national peculiarities. Apprenticeship on sewing, carpentry, welding, reparations, basketry, hairdressing and shoemaking worked perfectly in Rwanda for the Enterprise Promotion Project (PPMER II) . 51% of the apprentices managed to run their own business and 33% did get a job ! Home-based apprenticeship offers a number of advantages among which: ability to reach a critical mass of vulnerable youth , ability to transfer skills in a limited time, making rural life more attractive, mitigation of the risk of migration from rural areas and high impact with limited resources. No doubt rural poverty can be overcome if the rural poor are empowered and given the capacity to generate their incomes. Transfer of capacity and skills can happen in different shapes and formats, through apprenticeship, hands-on training , learning by doing formal trainings and skills development definitively can contribute to empowering the rural poor. However, more needs to be done to:


  • be more effective during the design and implementation phase
  • boost project impact
  • link private and public policies
  • link the training to the market to create concrete job opportunities
  • share experiences and have strong networks
  • keep good records and statistics to assess results
  • define the skills to be a good skills developer
  • link training, policy and research- too little attention is paid to research , but research is a way to produce knowledge
These were the challenges and the opportunities that inspired the discussion. The consultation was quite intensive, it was an opportunity to understand where we are, what needs to be done and to put on the table concrete proposal to reach the rural poor, to give them the tools to get out of poverty. How can we do better? Some concrete suggestions:
  • map skill requirements during the design phase of the project
  • change mind-set and develop an entrepreneurial mentality
  • mini-surveys to get evidence of good results, KAP survey presented in the Bangladesh field study could be a useful tool. Not familiar with KAP?

K for Knowledge……, did the student understand what was explained?
A for attitude… was it useful?
P for practice……..did the student adopt it?? if not go back to attitude!!!!
  • produce learning notes on training
  • simplify the message….if we want to reach our beneficiaries let’s simplify the language of publications and articles they may be interested in!!
  • and use more powerful tools....... what about the radio???

Greetings from Foz do Iguaçu – the town of Iguassu Falls – where we are wrapping up our intense workshop. We began the day with presentations and discussions – including an eye-opener from the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA): the cost of environmental degradation in Africa ranges from 4% to 12% of GDP! Enormous.




Then we visited the Itaipu Dam, the operators of which provide payments to municipalities along the reservoir lake to provide the environmental service of implementing no-till agriculture to reduce siltation at the dam. The dam provides 25% of Brazil’s energy.

So how to adapt and adopt the Brazilian experience to the African reality? AGRA’s Rebbie Harawa called on all workshop participants to be "torchbearers" in their respective countries, to promote and support conservation agriculture practices and reverse the trend of degradation. The teams spent the afternoon and evening working with IAPAR, FEBRAPDP, FEPAGRO and CIRAD coaches preparing ideas to present to the group tomorrow - the last day of the workshop - on how what they have learned and observed can be applied in sub-saharan Africa. We will post all presentations early next week in a wrap up blog.

So that's it from Brazil - but we will be back with another post from IFAD HQ in Rome on Monday.

This blog prepared by Jeff Brez and Waltteri Katajamaki.

Day 5 – Is Conservation Agriculture Better for Women?

Posted by Jeffrey A Brez Friday, July 15, 2011 2 comments

Sorry about being late with Day 5 post - we were just too tired after arriving late last night. Today we will share with you reflections on the Day 5 activities, and below that (scroll down!) analyse the question:



Does conservation agriculture increase or reduce labour for women?

After waking up on Day 5 in Santa Helena, we started with a very enlightening visit to a research centre CAP (Centro Avancada de Pesquisa) in Missal, which aims at searching for solutions for family farmers of the south-western Paraná region. Traditionally, smallholder farmers have used high levels of pesticides in maize, bean and soy production, and in 2003 the CAP was formed to search for ways to diversify production and make it environmentally sustainable as well as economically profitable for farmers. The CAP concentrates on capacity building of farmers, and on validating results through demonstration of innovative cropping systems, including mixed crop-livestock systems, and agro-processing. This local adaptive research is especially relevant for the area such as south-west Paraná, where temperatures vary between 0 and 45 degrees Celsius. The CAP research centre includes a 7-hectare area for demonstrations of sustainable and diversified farming, including intercropping, use of cover crops, production of seeds and seedlings, and processing of for example various fruits.

Another interesting aspect of the CAP is the way it works with public and private entities, including the second largest dam in the world, the Itaipú Dam. The electricity company provides financial assistance to the CAP as a form of payment for environmental services, because keeping erosion under control reduces operating costs of the dam. The smallholders farmers, the municipality of Missal, and the wider environment all benefit.

As examples of diversified production systems that CAP promotes, we also visited two family farms in the Missal area. The first farm, managed by Luis and Terezinha Trevisan, is dedicated to dairy production. With the help of the PRONAF loans that we also mentioned in Day 4's entry (2% interest per year over 8 years with 2-year grace period) and EMATER technical assistance they have been able to diversify their production to pasteurized milk and cheese on their farm. Daily they produce and process about 200 litres of milk from their 20 heads of cattle.

Finally we had an opportunity to visit a smallholder association market. The Bauernhouse market, located in town, sells the products of over 80 family farmers from the municipality of Missal, and also sells to governmental programmes such as school feeding. This market is a great example on how organized smallholders can sell their outputs effectively in the local market. Farmers receive 79% of sales with 21% going to the association. They hope to upgrade to cooperative status so they can issue forward contracts and other services.

Conservation Agriculture and Women


Does CA increase women’s workload – for example by shifting labor from planting to weeding? And what about that troublesome transition period of 1 - 15 years? Today a group of participants discussed the issue. Marietha Owenya of SARI (Tanzania), Rebbie Harawa of AGRA (Kenya) and Phillis Mwansa, Ministry of Agriculture, (Zambia) share their insights and experiences here.

Not surprisingly it is difficult to make a blanket assessment, because agro-ecological, social, cultural and cropping systems (and enabling environments) vary so markedly from zone to zone, including within countries. Success depends largely on the ability to accumulate enough biomass for groundcover. Research indicates that weed control is a major labour constraint without the use of herbicides under most conditions (see slide 4 of Marc Corbeels’ ppt from Day 1 – and the paper referenced below). That said, participants feel that CA is a winner for women – including women headed households: here’s why.

Conventional versus Conservation Agriculture: Division of Labor

Field preparation – less labour for both women and men with CA: In conventional systems with no machinery or animal traction available, women prepare fields/their farms using hand hoes. Men will prepare the land if machinery or animal traction is available regardless of the crop. CA reduces the time necessary to perform this task in either case because ploughing is discarded in favour of: 1) digging basins (this is labour intensive initially but the labour can be spread over months, and give women more flexibility in time use, and lessens over the years). Men also may participate in digging basins, 2) ripping into the ground cover, which is quicker than ploughing a whole plot/field and requires less energy from animals. Also, the conservation agriculture tools are lighter and more easy to use.





demonstration video: knife roller

Planting/Seeding/Sowing – less labour for women with CA: In conventional systems both women and men are involved, with women planting beans and other crops by themselves and women and men planting maize and cash crops together. The man will plant generally when animal traction or machinery is available, opening the furrow, with the woman following immediately behind (often with a baby on her back) to plant the seed. Women plant legumes, including beans, by themselves. If a “planting stick” / “dibbler” is in use, the man will make the holes and the woman, again, will follow behind to seed. In any case, the woman is always involved and almost always linked directly to the man. With conservation agriculture, women will use the jab planter or hand/hoe seed by themselves – and the jab planter does 4 things at once: opens the hole, plants the seed, fertilizes, covers the seed. The jab planter saves women time and renders them more autonomous in managing their time. Where animal traction (or machinery) is available their labour is freed as men use the CA seed planters, which both seed and fertilizer.




demonstration video: manual jab seeder



demonstration video: animal traction seeder

Weeding – less labour for women with CA with caveats: Weeding will tend to fall to women in either conventional or conservation agriculture systems, except, at times, in the case of crops that men consider particularly important such as maize or cash crops. Ploughing has the advantage of clearing the field of weeds for up to a few weeks while the newly planted crop grows, with weeding coming later to differing degrees depending on crop type and climatic conditions. Under conservation agriculture if herbicide is used (glyphosate has been promoted as part and parcel of transitioning to CA systems in Africa) labour is greatly reduced for women initially. As the main crop grows, weeding can become more complex depending on the cover crop in use and the herbicide and tools/instruments available, and can be very time consuming, substantially increasing labour for women. If the household owns a backpack herbicide sprayer or a sprayer implement (see demonstration video Day 2) then the man will tend to do the pre-emergence “weeding,” significantly reducing labour for the woman. Post-emergence weeding is more expensive (additional herbicide, implements and necessary know-how costs) and tends to fall to women in the absence of extra herbicide or tools. Women will either hoe-scratch the weeds for minimal soil disturbance or manually uproot. The better the soil cover the shorter the transition period to significantly reduced weeding.




demonstration video: manual sprayer

Harvesting – no difference in labour for women: In systems where the family harvests its own outputs, there is no difference in division of labour. Certain changes will, however occur under CA, including increased yields which increase labour / time spent on harvesting, However it is more efficient harvesting because the same field is producing more. The participants have observed that families tend to plant the same crops under CA, although proportions of crops may change due to the crop rotation requirement.

Increased Productivity - benefits to women: Marietha (participant from SARI, Tanzania) tells the story of Maria Erro, a widow with six children in Karatu, Arusha, Tanzania who, four years after adopting conservation agriculture on her 1.5 hectares of land was able to upgrade her home from thatched to corrugated iron.
In general: Increased productivity of main crop and introduction of legume cover crop (lablab, pigeon peas) outputs bring food security and extra protein for the family. The woman can invest her time saved in her children and preparing better meals – “food brings harmony to the couple / household.” Diversified production on the field spreads risk of the family and may result in extra outputs or cash with which the woman can procure food to improve the nutrition of the children. Extra income that comes from surplus can be invested (usually by the man) in inputs for the farm, health care and/or education of children, and improvement of the family dwelling.

Nota bene!! Decreases in yield
during transition periods of up to 10 - 15 years are observed (refer paper by Rusinamhodzi, Corbeels, van Wijk, Rufino, Nyamangara & Giller: A meta-analysis of long-term effects of conservation agriculture on maize grain yield under rain-fed conditions). Households need support from extension services if they experience reduced productivity during the transition periods.

Access all workshop blog posts (ppts, demonstration videos)here

Thanks also to Waltteri Katajamaki for his contribution to this blog post.

Invest ‘big farming’ gains in new opportunities for small-scale producers
By Kanayo F. Nwanze

Family farmers are the future. We need to invest in their well-being and prosperity in Argentina – and across the globe - if we are to ensure food security, peace and sustainable natural resource management over the next 50 years.

Argentina is making sound economic progress in the area of mechanized “Big Farm” agriculture, and has become a world leader in soy production. I applaud these efforts. Nevertheless, a country with an annual per capita income of around US$7500 still claims a national poverty rate of 12 per cent. In the Northeast the rate is even higher. More worrying to me are the reports that eight children died of malnutrition in the Province of Salta this February.

And rural poverty, inequality and food security are not just a problem facing Argentina or Latin America. Sustainable rural poverty reduction is a global issue, and needs to become a global priority.

The Rural Poverty Report 2011 issued by my organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), shows that around 70 per cent of the developing world’s 1.4 billion extremely poor people – that’s people living on less than US$1.25 a day – live in rural areas. The report also underlined the need to increase production, reduce risk and ensure sound natural resource management practices. In fact, global food production will have to increase 70 per cent by 2050 – with a double in output from the developing world – in order to feed the 9 billion people who will inhabit the earth by then.

So how can Argentina – and the rest of Latin America – increase production, all the while ensuring sustained rural poverty reduction, environmental protection and inclusion? The answer is quite simple. We need to invest in family farmers.

The scale and possibilities for these investments are massive. In the MERCOSUR – a common market that includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay – there are around 4.9 million farms, covering some 120 million hectares. Of these, 83 per cent are family-operated, providing as much as 70 per cent of the food for the region.

The first step is to create pro-poor policies that empower smallholder farmers and rural entrepreneurs to take the reins of their own destinies, and make family farming a profitable and sustainable enterprise.

I am happy to say that Argentina is making good progress in fostering proactive dialogue with family farmers. And IFAD has played an active role as an honest broker between large institutions, government and family farmers by supporting policy dialogue platforms like the National Family Farming Forum and the MERCOSUR Regional Specialized Meeting on Family Farming (REAF MERCOSUR).

In last year’s REAF MERCOSUR in Brasilia, Argentina agreed to buy more produce from family farmers for use in public institutions. I’ve seen this policy at work in Brazil, where 30 per cent of the food used in schools comes from family farmers. It’s a policy that works. And I am hopeful that Argentina will make good on its pledge and move forward with this important public policy.

But sound policy alone is not the answer. You also need to invest in productive resources, youth and women, technology and training, and natural resource protection if you ever hope to create lasting poverty reduction in Argentina’s rural areas.

Here, too, Argentina is making slow upward progress. At the end of 2009, the responsibilities of implementation of all IFAD-funded projects in Argentina were transferred to the newly created Unit for Rural Change at the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries. This welcome reform has allowed the projects funded by IFAD in Argentina - the North Western Rural Development Project (PRODENOA), the Patagonia Rural Development Project (PRODERPA), and the Rural Areas Development Programme (PRODEAR) – to synchronize their projects on the national level all the while ensuring demand-driven decision making by local stakeholders.

In these projects, we are seeing sound evidence that farmers are learning new skills to protect our Mother Earth and build sustainable rural enterprises. For instance, in the North East new beekeeping associations are allowing area farmers to collectively bargain and earn more money. The bees also provide much needed services to pollinate local fields and protect the forests. In the end, with most of the world’s biodiversity housed in rural areas, these family farmers will be the protectors of our natural patrimony, and we need to invest in them today if we are to see a better world tomorrow.

Also worth noting is the key role women and youth are playing. In Argentina and the rest of the world, we’ve seen that an investment in these two key agents of change will be a driving force in poverty reduction.

Investing in Argentina’s rural youth is especially important. These will be the farmers that will feed the nation 25 years from now. And creating improved opportunities in the countryside – with better training and schools, and more resources to work in off-farm industries like agricultural processing and craftsmanship – will work to stem Argentina’s urban flight, in the end, reducing urban poverty as well.

But Argentina does not simply have a responsibility to invest in rural poverty reduction and family farmers within its borders. The nation has taken giant leaps in creating new techniques and technologies in for-export agricultural production, making it a world leader in soy and beef production. These new resources and technologies need to be shared with the rest of Latin America and the rest of the world. ‘Big farming’ has resuscitated the nation’s economy. It’s time to take those resources and re-invest them in the ‘small farmers’ that will keep us whole for centuries to come.

About the author

Dr. Kanayo F. Nwanze is the President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), an international financial institution and a specialized agency of the United Nations dedicated to ending rural poverty. In early July, Dr. Nwanze, along with the Director of IFAD's Latin America and the Caribbean Division Josefina Stubbs, Argentina Country Program Manager Paolo Silveri, and the Director of the Office of the President Sirpa Jarvenpaa met with high-level government officials in Buenos Aires and visited the IFAD-funded PRODEAR project in Chaco and Misiones.

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This article was originally published in Spanish in Argentina's La Nacion on 13 July. Check it out online.

Spanish speakers should also check out the Testimonio Directo, from small-scale tea producer Evo Albrecht.

Smart choices in Argentina

Posted by Greg Benchwick 0 comments



IFAD President Nwanze reflects on Argentina, MICs and the future of rural development

On his recent mission to Argentina we caught up with IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze for an impromptu interview on the role of IFAD in Middle-Income Countries like Argentina. Nwanze's reflections provide unique insight into the way IFAD does business in large emerging economies. It also pans out to provide us with new ideas on how IFAD should work over the next six years, where we should invest our funds to reduce rural poverty, and how smart investments can be leveraged to create peace, prosperity and long-term sustainability.

Tune in to Nwanze's press conference in Chaco, Argentina.

See photos from the mission.

Learn more about the mission to Argentina.

Snapshot Argentina

Posted by Greg Benchwick Thursday, July 14, 2011 0 comments



Travel with IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze to Argentina with this in-depth photo essay. Along the way, you'll learn how IFAD can work with Middle-Income Countries like Argentina to end rural poverty, how new processing facilities are improving incomes in Argentina's Chaco and Misiones Provinces, and how a simple tractor can make the world of difference.

Check out more photos from the President's visit.

After a dinner reception hosted by the mayor of the municipality of Pato Branco on Tuesday evening, the workshop resumed Wednesday morning slightly later than usual. We travelled to Coronel Vivida to learn about microcredit opportunities for smallholder farmers in the state of Paraná, after which we had a chance to visit an idyllic and successful organic family farm outside the town (fish pond surrounded by indigenous fruit trees, pasture up the hill and beyhond that sugar cane).

(The below ppt was delivered on Day 3, and has great background on conservation agriculture and cover crops)



Thirteen years ago Adir Lino (at left) completed his farm's transition into organic production. He chose organic farming because he could not make ends meet with conventional (chemical / input intensive) farming of soybeans and noticed negative health effects on his family. Today his farm has high levels of diversity, and all of the production is integrated into one system (the meat and honey production is not fully organic). This, Adir says, has been the key for success. For the Paraná region the farm is relatively small – a total of 17 hectares, half of which is under cultivation while the other half is kept as a reserve forest (more than the federally mandated 20%).

The farm uses only family labour, with Adir, his wife and his parents working together . And it sounds like there might be quite a bit of work to do with all the different products of the farm: sugar cane, corn, beans, rice, fruits integrated in the agroforestry system, cassava, vegetables, honey, fish, poultry, dairy… You name it! Where possible, the production is organic, and minimum tillage and cover crops such as black oat, ryegrass and radish are used. In addition, agroprocessing is being done at the farm to further add value to the products, which are then sold to Brazil’s school feeding programme, in regional markets, and to customers directly at the farm.

Today, Adir’s family farm is a shining example of what can be achieved through using diversified and integrated farming systems. As workshop participant August Basson, from Lesotho, put it, Adir’s farm is something of a paradise. The question remains as to how these practices can be adapted to the realities of African smallholder farms.

Parana State has seen incredible yield and productivity increases since 1992 thanks to conservation agriculture, but other things have changed, too.

As Dr. Ricardo Ralisch of EMBRAPA and University of Londrina and Danilo Rheinheimer dos Santos of FEPAGRO (Rio Grande Do Sul) tell it, in the 1980s no-till was increasing for big farmers and mechanized (tractor-powered) farms, but smallholders were not in the picture at scale. During this time the research institutes (EMBRAPA, IAPAR, universities) were learning about conservation agriculture to help farmers become more efficient and smallholders more productive. The turning point for smallholders was the introduction of animal traction tools for conservation agriculture, which IAPAR designed. With financing from Monsanto and Semeato, the first 36 prototype animal traction planters, “gralha azuls,” were produced in 1985. They were provided to the extension agency EMATER, who then worked with smallholder farmers, IAPAR and others to introduce conservation agriculture through countless field demonstrations.

Conservation agriculture helped the struggling smallholders who previously produced only grain or cash crops, to develop integrated crop-livestock systems. Now Parana state is a major producer of dairy products, powered by smallholder production.
In 1992, the conservation agriculture federation FEBRADPDP was founded and the revolution was in motion.

During the 1990’s some government support for small farmer programmes came in the form of loans through PRONAF to cooperative investments for agro-processing and storage systems. Work also continued on improving infrastructure including rural roads for market access.

As incomes steadily grew, smallholder communities became more organized and asked municipal leaders and politicians for stronger support. In the 2000s, government investment in smallholders increased through beefed up credit programmes through PRONAF and the creation of a new Ministry for Agrarian Development, which implemented policies and programmes specifically targeting smallholders. One key policy now regulates market for smallholders and includes a programme of direct buying from small farmers by municipalities – each municipality must purchase at least 30% of food it supplies to schools, welfare programmes and military needs from small farms.

Adir Lino accessed credit from PRONAF to buy his agroprocessing equipment (a 5 year group loan at 1.2%/yr interest) and also sells his produce to the municipality, among others. Clearly, his family's success is the result of organic and conservation agriculture approaches together with a strong enabling environment.

Reporting by Jeff Brez and Waltteri Katajamaki

By Kevin Cleaver, IFAD Associate Vice President

The current drought in the Horn of Africa, the worst in the past 60 years, has governments in the region and the international donor community scrambling to raise additional funds for emergency relief and provide desperately required food, medical care and shelter to the affected populations in Somalia, southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya to address their dire immediate needs.

Drought in this part of the continent is not unknown and has been an increasingly frequent occurrence. Datelines change (2005, 2006, 2008 and now, 2011) but the stories of unimaginable hardship, death and depravation, while differing in magnitude from one drought to the next, remain much the same. Drought never only has localized consequences. Its effects cascade through countries in the form of higher food and fodder prices, civil unrest and diminished social services as governments redeploy budgets to meet the most pressing needs of their citizens. These effects multiply the impact of the drought, dragging millions of families who had improved their living conditions back into poverty and deepening the hole of those fighting to climb out of poverty.

Although governments and their development partners cannot make the rains come, they can mitigate the impact of these recurring droughts in East Africa by helping farmers and herders build resilience to these inevitable meteorological occurrences. This is a cornerstone of the work the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in the region. Much greater investment in agricultural research, an area long neglected by both governments and donors, is essential to develop and diffuse drought and disease-resistant food and fodder crops which are better able to withstand moisture stress. There needs to be greater government and donor support for integrated soil fertility management, erosion control, agro-forestry, and reforestation, which are fundamental to preserving the natural resources — the principal capital asset of smallholder farmers and herders. Minimizing post-harvest food and fodder losses through better on-farm storage facilities, improving farmer and herder access to credit to purchase agricultural and veterinary inputs, supporting transparent and accessible markets, and strengthening farmer and herders’ organizations are all critical to building the resilience to mitigate the effects of drought.

News coverage of the unfolding events in East Africa brings stark images of desperation, disease and death into the living rooms, boardrooms and government offices in developed countries, eliciting sympathy, and hopefully the necessary financial support to address this growing emergency. But building resilience of farming and herding communities in East Africa requires a long term, sustained commitment on the part of the region’s governments and the international donor community. When the next drought comes in 2015, 2016, or 2017, will there be fewer refugees, walking fewer miles to get the help they desperately need? Will there be more water points, and greater availability of livestock feed and supplements? Will the granaries be full enough to tide over many who are now hungry? The answers to these questions depend largely on the continued commitment of the international community. The rains will fail. But let us not fail, too.

Today we visited a thriving smallholder farm as well as IAPAR’s research station in Pato Branco. In the 1970s and 1980s Parana State was losing 100 tonnes of soil per hectare per year - that’s a loss rate of 1 centimetre/ha per year, while it takes nature 400 years to make 1 centimetre per year of soil! (source: IAPAR, Parana State Agricultural Research Institute) Something needed to be done.

So in the early 1970s, soon after Herbert Bratz made his pioneering trip to the USA, IAPAR began research into conservation agriculture methods. What has become crystal clear to the workshop participants, is that integrated institutional partnerships – with farmers themselves and their associations and cooperatives at the center– are necessary for changing mindsets and affecting change. The hard work paid off beginning in the early 1990s when the number of hectares under CA began to skyrocket.


One of the keys to the success of CA in Parana state was a focus on its crop-livestock systems. Not only permanent soil cover, but also more livestock forage was necessary, and IAPAR’s research helped determine which winter crops could best serve as both cover crops and forage for dairy cattle. Before 1992 there was almost no no-till in Parana State, while now, 20 years later, it is almost all no-till. Of course, IAPAR has not achieved this alone – it has worked with the national extension service, EMATER, with EMBRAPA, with municipalities, with SEAB, with FEBRAPDP, often sharing and embedding staff.


On the bus ride back to town, participants from AGRA (Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa) and Lesotho stressed that demonstrations need to be guided by researchers and extension staff, but also carried out in farmers’ fields, so farmers can see firsthand the comparative advantages, benefits and costs of adopting conservation agriculture. An EMBRAPA participant enthusiastically agreed, saying this was the modus operandi in Parana State and elsewhere in Brazil.

Pictured at left, (Marietha Owenya, SARI, Tanzania) Marc Corbeels (CIRAD) and Waltteri Katajamaki (IFAD).

In the 1970s and 1980s, Parana State was seeing extreme erosion. When farmers lost their soil, they lost their farms, and began moving to urban areas in large numbers. Conservation Agriculture was a key part of the solution, strongly supported by all levels of government, including Parana State, to stop the desperate migration and increase the productivity of the farms, giving farmers a chance to make a livelihood on their land.

Conservation Agriculture: No plough! Use cover crops (continuous soil cover)! Crop rotation! (No burn! )

Because we didn’t have time to download everything yesterday, we are adding the below demonstration videos and interview videos now in a second posting for Day 2 – and also EMATER’s powerpoint.

No till agriculture in parana state brazil-july 2011 by emater


The interview videos below convey the initial impressions of participants after 2 days of workshop and our visit to the Roik family farm. We ask these questions: 1) What is the current situation of conservation in your country today? 2) What do you feel about what you have seen and learned so far here in Brazil? 3) What do you see as the main challenges for scaling up conservation agriculture in your country?

Interview video - Marietha Owenya, Principal Agriculture Field Officer, Selian Agriculture Research Institute (SARI), TANZANIA – English

Interview video - Magalhaes Miguel, Plant Physiologist, Agricultural Research Institute of Mozambique, MOZAMBIQUE - Portugues

Interview video - Mamadou Guye, Secretaire General de l’Association des Usagers du Walo, MAURITANIE - Francais

A note on the knife roller demonstration video we posted in our previous blog: normally the cover crop would be higher. The knife roller “lays down” or “smashes” the cover crop without cutting it, to obtain a slower decomposition and thus retain soil cover for as long as possible, and also to avoid clogging the blade of the Animal Traction Seeder (also featured in our last blog). You can also see a photo of a knife roller in action in a taller cover crop IAPAR’s powerpoint in our Day 3 blog (coming soon!).

As a bonus, we are posting two more demonstration videos – very short – just in case you’ve never seen a “Fitarelli” Manual Jab Seeder or a manual sprayer in action.

Demonstration video: Manual Jab Seeder

Demonstration video: Manual Sprayer

And as an even bigger bonus, we spoke with Ataides Fitarelli (in photo) who joined our workshop. His grandfather Reinaldo invented the first manual jab seeder before traction animals were available. He said, “The jab seeder was much easier to use on the slopes and made the work easier for the smallholder farmers – it helped them to feed themselves. Today, we continue to produce for the smallholder market, the large industries don’t invest in them. We produce about 10,000 jab planters per year and we export our various products – www.fitarelli.com.br – to more than 50 countries.”

The tale of two lakes: Lake Ahémé and Nokoué

Posted by Roxanna Samii Tuesday, July 12, 2011 0 comments

Last week as I was leaving Cotonou for Rome, I promised myself to spend the weekend and finalize the last blogpost of the Benin series. Despite all my good intentions, I did not quite manage to do so. And back in the office, I literally got swamped and swallowed by a web of meetings, emails, phone calls and process work.

Despite the delay, I sincerely hope that the text that follows recreates my rich experience.

Benin’s fisheries landscape
Benin has a coastline of 121 kilometres stretching from Togo To Nigeria and an exclusive economic zone1 of approximately 27,750 km2.

Fishers community living on the riversides, coastal lagoons and lakes primarily practice inland fishing using pirogues. Pirogues are small boats designed in such a way that they can be used in shallow waters and can easily be turned over to drain water that may get on board. Typically, artisanal fishers use paddles, sails and in some cases outboard engines on their pirogues.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Benin’s maritime artisanal fishing fleet is composed of 825 pirogues, more than half operating without an engine and 52,540 pirogue are used for mainland fishing.

The country’s fishing sector is faced with challenges such as a decreasing fish stock due to over exploitation and soil erosion which has led to degradation of water bodies.

To overcome these challenges and others, the IFAD-funded Participatory Artisanal Fisheries Development Support Programme, better known as PADPPA through its activities:

  • put in place numerous spawning beds and acadja or “fish ambush trap” enclosures
  • undertook reforestation efforts to restore vegetation and reduce soil erosion
  • provided pirogues to crab collectors
  • equipped women fish wholesalers with iceboxes and improved Chorkhor ovens for smoking fish

A typical day for an artisanal fishers such as Ambroise Zounon begins at 5 in the morning when he set out for the lagoon in his pirogue.

Zounon has a fleet of seven pirogues and uses the acadjas for fishing. Thanks to the training received from PADPPA, he has managed to diversify his activities. He not only earns from his fisheries activities, but is also practicing pig farming and rents out his pirogues to other fishers.

“The fish stock in our lake was almost completely depleted”, says Zounon. “Thanks to PADPPA’s efforts, we now have the spawning beds in this lagoon”.

“Acadjas is a traditional fishing technique which provides a substrata of plants and animals and help to enhance fish production”, explains Zounon. “The spawning beds, on the other hand, are underwater solid surface used to increase the fish stock.”

These different methods have allowed Zounon and the other fishers in village of Houinta in Porto-Novo to have a relatively flourishing fishing business which in turn provides income generating opportunities for the women of their community.

Power women
The clear division of labour in Benin’s fishing practices is quite impressive. For example, fishing crabs and selling fish are exclusively a woman’s job. This is why whenever you visit a fish market in Benin, you can be sure to be greeted by a cheerful and colourful army of “mareyeuses” - women fish wholesalers. I challenge you to find a male fish wholesaler in the entire country!

The mareyeuses activities is not only limited on land. Even if you venture on a lake or lagoon where men are fishing in the spawn beds or acadjas enclosures, you’ll find the “mareyeuses” on their boats, buying fish from the men and selling it there and then.

Eugenie Bocovou is the president of a mareyeuses association which has over 8,000 members. She, like other members of the association, buys her fish directly from the fishers on the lake.

“I leave the house early in the morning for the lagoon, where about twenty men fish in the spawning beds and the acadja implemented by PADPPA”, explains Bocovou.

“I buy fish from them and sell it directly on the lake and what ever is left, I’ll bring it back to shore and sell it at the local market”.

The mareyeuses not always have storage facilities, such as iceboxes on board of their pirogues. Lack of adequate storage facility, combined with the lack of processing culture, are amongst the many challenges of women fish wholesalers.

One of the many new frontiers for Benin’s fishing sector and especially for the mareyeuses is the processing industry. You hardly find anyone employed in cutting, scaling and storage business. In fact, this is an underdeveloped sector.

To overcome these challenges, PADPPA has been providing iceboxes to the mareyeuses and has equipped certain communities with fish smoking facilities.

Smoking and frying fish are practically the only processing techniques practiced by the mareyeuses. And unfortunately, modern smoking techniques are not quite widespread in Benin.

Women still use firewood and rudimentary ovens. This means there is a high incidence of respiratory and eye diseases among women. Furthermore, smoking fish is practiced in less than hygienic conditions.

Recognizing the benefits of smoked fish such as longer shelf life and enhanced flavour, PADPPA provided mareyeuses such as Afi Lea Amoussou one of the 12 environmental friendly and clean smoking unit - known as chorkhor ovens.

“Thanks to these new ovens, I have better quality of smoked fish because the smoke circulates better and this way the entire fish is smoked. This improved quality means I have better business, I have reduced significantly health hazards associated with smoke inhalation, burns and my eyes do not tear as they used to before”, says Amoussou with a smile.

“I manage to sell my smoked fish anywhere from CFA12,000 to CFA25,000”.

“We love these ovens, because they do not cost too much to build, I can smoke much more fish, they are easy to use, the firebox is very accessible and I have significantly reduced the consumption of fire wood, which means we have to cut less trees and I do not have to spend a lot of time collecting firewood so I can do other things”, explains Amoussou with an ear to ear smile.

Amoussou, Bocovou and other mareyeuses are now running successful businesses and as a result have gained a social status within their communities.

It is common knowledge that there are no limits to women’s inventiveness and creativity and the mareyeuses are no exception. Their next frontier is to expand their processing business and to enter the export business, something that Albertine Fanounonsi is successfully practicing.

No crab mentality in Benin!
Crab fishing is another source of income for women fishers in Benin. Pierrette Medeho is one of the women crab collectors who lives in the village of Dohi in Comé district on Lake Ahémé.

PADPPA provided capacity building to this crab collecting community and equipped the women crab fishers with seven pirogues.

“Before we had our own boats, we used to take our husband’s boat when they were not using them and if we had a bit of money, we used to rent them”, says Medeho.

“Now that we have our own boat, during crab fishing season we are able to go out every day.”

“Collecting crab is a tough job. I go out with five other women”, explains Medeho. “We leave the house at 5 in the morning and if the weather is good, we stay out until 3 or 4 o’clock in the afternoon”.

On a good day, the women manage to come back with four to five baskets of crab each. And when they come back to shore, they have Albertine Fanounonsi waiting for them who buys their entire catch.

Medeho and her four campions use the money from their crab sale to send their children to school, contribute to the household expenses and they put aside the money they used to pay for rent for a rainy day.

Fanounonsi who is one of their main customers runs a thriving “crab export” business to Togo. She has devised a sophisticated delivery system in some ways similar to dabbawalla - the Mumbai lunchbox boys.

She buys a small basket for 1,000CFA and transfers the contents of eight small baskets in a big one. Fanounonsi’s crab baskets carry her brand which is her business trademark.

The crabs travel for two hours on road and then a boat takes them Togo. Someone on the other side picks up her baskets and sells them for her. Amazingly enough, thanks to the branded baskets which act like a bar code on a DHL package or a luggage tag, just like the dabbawalla lunchboxes in Mumbai, Fanounonsi crabs never go astray!

Fanounonsi visits Togo once a week to cash the money from the crab sale. On average she manages to sell one of her branded baskets between 9000-12,000CFA.

These women crab fishers collect crab, but as you can see they not have a “crab mentality”. For those who may not know what a crab mentality is - it is a metaphor describing how when crabs are put in a basket, they grab at each other and by pulling each other down, they prevent any of them from escaping.

There is a lot to learn from the women crab fishers of Dohi village. Their total lack of a crab mentality has allowed the community as a whole to thrive and prosper, with Fanounonsi running a thriving export business and Medeho and her companions running an equally flourshing crab collecting business.

The next logical step for industrious and intelligent women like Fanounonsi is to seriously consider adding value to her business by embracing processing and packing techniques and setting up a global crab export business!

Meet the people of Ganvie: Living on water
One of the last sites that my mentor Daouda Aliou wanted me to visit on this extraordinary trip, was lake village of Ganvie.

Ganvie is located in Lake Nokoué not too far away from Cotonou. It has a population of around 40,000 people, with 3,000 stilted houses spread out in 11 villages.

Ganvie village dates back to 17th century when the Tofinu people to escape slavery and the wrath of the Fon warriors - whose religion did not allow them to enter water - settled in this lake village.

It lies several kilometers from the shore. To avoid continuous trips to the shore, the inhabitants have organized themselves in such a way that they are completely self-sufficient. The floating markets, similar to those of Thailand, Viet Nam and Indonesia, sell fish, vegetables and fruits and acts like a social hub.

The villagers of Ganvie may have no running water or electricity, but almost all of them have a cellphone. While it is true that the main income generating activity on the lake is fishing, however, as you move around in pirogues on the lake, you’ll come across villagers selling cellphone airtime from their floating houses or running a thriving business of recharging cellphones for 100CFA. I wonder how long it took the “recharge votre portable” gentleman to pay for his generator - which incidentally is the only one on the entire lake!

Thanks to PADPPA, the artisanal fishers in Ganvie are using acadjas technique which is helping the polluted lake to restore some of its biodiversity and increase the available fish stock.

PADPPA has also introduced alternative income generating activities such as rabbit farming on this extraordinary lake village.

“What we really liked about the PADPPA approach was the fact that they listened to and understood our needs”, says BlandineKossou, the President of the rabbit farming association.

“We had our share of challenges with the villagers, as they thought that PADPPA was here to give them money and handouts”.

“The villagers who understood the scope of the programme and embraced the various activities such as fishing and rabbit farming today have a secure income”, explains Kossou.

“For example, we are able to sell our fish at the market for an average of 10,000CFA per basket and our rabbits between 4,000-5,000 CFA.”

The rabbit farming association has taken all of this one step further and ever month is putting aside 10,000CFA which is used to buy feed, repair or buy new rabbit cages.

“We could further expand our business and increase our income if we could get a loan, but you know having access to credit is not easy”, concludes Kossou.

“It is within this context that IFAD’s next interventions in Benin amongst other things will also focus on rural finance. This will hopefully allow people like Amoussou, Mensah and Kossou to finally have access to credit and be able to expand their businesses and turn their dreams into reality”, says Ndaya Beltchika, IFAD’s country programme manager for Benin.

On a personal note
I want to close this blogpost with thanking all the extraordinary people who I had the privilege of meeting on this mission. And they are:

Paul Allognon, Rose Mensah, Kuassi Oke, Vincent Deyo, Afi Lea Amoussou, Raphael Tokpowanou, Eugenie Bocovou, Ambroise Zounon, Augustin Amoussougbo, Pierrette Medeho, Albertine Fanounonsi, Blandine Kossou, Julienne Ebleou, Brigitte Bonou, Hounkanrin Vincent, Afomasse T, Mesmin, Richicatau Sale, Aglinglo A. Crespin, Gérard Gnakadja and, Daouda Aliou.

Thank you for your time, for you generosity and for your honesty. Thank you for sharing your stories, achievements, successes, challenges, aspirations and hopes. And I hope I’ve managed to share a sliver of your rich and inspiring stories.

Bonne chance for all your future endeavours and I hope our paths will cross in the near future.

Read more from the PADPPA series:



1/ Exclusive economic zone is an area of coastal water and seabed within a certain distance of a country's coastline, to which the country claims exclusive rights for fishing, drilling, and other economic activities.