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Pioneers for food security

Posted by Sarah Hessel Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sharing knowledge for better development programmes at the IFAD-EUFF capitalisation workshop in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire

How can we effectively introduce new seed production techniques? Which roles do farmer organizations play in helping smallholders to grow more food? How can agricultural research support seed production? These are some of the issues that the participants of the capitalisation workshop on the IFAD EU Food Facility project in West Africa discussed at today’s opening of the meeting – and you will find the answers below.

The EU Food Facility (EUFF) was created as an answer to soaring food prices in developing countries in 2007/2008. With the Facility, the European Union provided one billion euros for projects that:

  • improve the access to agricultural inputs and services,
  • maintain or improve the agricultural productive capacity and
  • address the basic food needs in developing countries
and chose IFAD as one of the implementing partners in West Africa.

Since the programme has been launched one and a half years ago, much has been achieved. Building on existing IFAD projects, 20 million euros were used to support small farmers achieve higher yields, grow more food and earn more money. The projects in Mali, Benin, Ivory Coast, Senegal and Ghana were implemented in collaboration with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and reached more than 200 000 rural families.

Now, that the programme’s activities have closed at th
e end of 2011, project partners are coming together for a capitalisation and a closing workshop. During the next days (23-26 March), they will share experiences, draw lessons and discuss the way forward.

“The first meeting of all implementing partners showed, how beneficial it is, to exchange knowledge and experiences. It has been an important part of our collaboration since,” said Adriane del Torto, IFAD’s EUFF coordinator for West Africa. All participants have brought one or two examples of capitalization products – success stories, videos, posters or other materials – which will be reviewed by their peers to improve and enrich the products, before they are officially released. “The sharing of knowledge in this way has helped everyone involved in the projects. We all have learned how to properly identify and explain what works in our programs. This could potentially help to raise funds and to scale up our projects with relevant and efficient activities. From the experiences that will be shared here today, some have successfully been replicated in other settings. In the long-run this will lead to better and more sustainable results in development programmes. And this is why we have organized this capitalization workshop,“ explained Adriane in her opening statement (scroll down for the video).

Following the o
pening ceremony, every project presented their cases, followed by a short Q&A, and as promised, here are the answers to the questions raised above: How did the projects manage to spread new, more efficient seed growing techniques within such a short time, was one of the questions that came up. The answer came from the Ghanaian participants, who used a proven knowledge-dissmenination technique for their Root and Tuber Improvement and Marketing Programme (RTIMP): word of mouth. Many of the farmers, participating in the programme, produced their yam seeds on sites that were close to roads or other places with many people passing by every day . Soon, they realized that these farmers weren’t following the traditional seed production technique. They became curious. And learned from the farmers about the benefits of this new seed production technology – and how it works. In this way, the project reached a much larger, and growing group, who now uses the new technique.

The role of farmer organizations, was another issue, that came up frequently. All participants agreed, how important the organizations, such as cooperatives, are in enabling smallholders to increase their production. In some projects, for example the Management of Certified Groundnut Seeds Production in
Senegal, cooperatives and their establishment were a constituent part of the project design.

And last but not least, how can agricultural research support seed production? The answer to this was given by Prof Corneille Ahanhanzo from
Benin, who highlighted the need for strong links between agricultural research and seed producers: “Researchers help to find improved techniques and better seeds. We are pioneers for food security.”