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Funding new opportunities for microenterprise development in Colombia

Posted by Greg Benchwick Thursday, March 29, 2012 0 comments



Colombia videos highlight project successes, new trends in rural development

Click through the playlist above to see all 11 videos from the Oportunidades Rurales' Ruta Verde Program
By promoting competitive processes that inject funds directly into the hands of small businessmen and women, Colombia’s Rural Microenterprise Assets Programme – known locally as Oportunidades Rurales – is funding innovation, peace and sustainable development in the Colombian countryside one competition – and one campesino – at a time.

Targeting traditionally marginalized communities like indigenous peoples, youth, afro-Colombians and people displaced by violence, the Oportunidades programme focuses on funding technical assistance through competitions, providing financial services and capturing the lessons learned through their knowledge-management programme.

“One of the primary objectives is to finance innovations that will be relevant to rural people, especially in the areas of micro-credit, insurance and savings,” says Andrés Silva, Director of Oportunidades Rurales.

Made possible through US$20 million in funding from the United Nations’ rural poverty agency, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the project has a total price tag of some US$32 million and is slated to benefit around 50,000 people.
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Financiando nuevas oportunidades para el desarrollo de microempresas en Colombia
Con la promoción de procesos competitivos que inyectan fondos directamente a las manos de los pequeños empresarios y empresarias, el programa Oportunidades Rurales de Colombia (conocido como el Rural Microenterprise Assets Programme en inglés) está financiando innovación, paz y desarrollo sostenible en los campos colombianos, concurso por concurso, y campesino por campesino.

Al enfocarse en las comunidades tradicionalmente marginadas como los pueblos indígenas, jóvenes, afro-colombianos y las personas desplazadas por la violencia, el programa Oportunidades tiene como objetivo financiar la asistencia técnica a través de concursos. Así, ofrece servicios financieros y captura las enseñanzas aprendidas a través de su programa de gestión del conocimiento.

“Uno de los objetivos principales es financiar innovaciones que sean relevantes para la gente rural, especialmente en la áreas de microcréditos, seguros y ahorros”, dice Andrés Silva, director de Oportunidades Rurales.

Hecho posible gracias a US$20 millones en fondos proporcionados por la agencia contra la pobreza rural de las Naciones Unidas, el Fondo Internacional de Desarrollo Agrícola (FIDA), el proyecto tiene un valor total de aproximadamente US$32 millones y se espera beneficie a cerca de 50,000 personas.
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Photo courtesy Paula Rodriguez.
Por Dinyer González 
Fueron cuatro días en los que 24 mujeres provenientes de remotos sitios del Pacífico colombiano se dieron cita en el CIAT para compartir sus experiencias, sus sueños y sus temores en torno al uso ancestral de las plantas aromáticas y medicinales, y recibir de los expertos en mercados herramientas que les permitirán mejorar sus negocios.

El taller “Aprendiendo juntos: compartiendo nuestros modelos de negocios” fue organizado por el Programa Análisis de Políticas (DAPA), y las participantes forman parte de tres organizaciones de Guapi, Buenaventura y Quibdó que trabajan con la Fundación ACUA (Activos Culturales Afro), con el apoyo del Fondo Internacional para el Desarrollo Agrícola (FIDA).

No se conocían entre sí y sus negocios son diferentes –parteras, productoras de jabones, cremas, ungüentos- pero las unía el mismo interés: el conocimiento en torno a las plantas medicinales, aromáticas y condimentarías.

De Guapi, en el departamento del Cauca, vino la Fundación Chiyangua, cuyo trabajo está orientado al cultivo de plantas condimentarías y medicinales en azoteas y patios y su posterior comercialización; de Quibdó, capital del Chocó, vino la Asociación Tesoro de la Selva, dedicada a la producción de jabones, cremas y ungüentos a partir de plantas medicinales; y finalmente, de Buenaventura, en el Valle del Cauca, llegó la Asociación de Parteras Unidas del Pacífico (Asoparupa), en cuyo oficio heredado utilizan plantas medicinales.

Estas tres organizaciones colombianas forman parte de las 20 que en América Latina reciben el apoyo de la Fundación ACUA, para preservar sus activos culturales, con recursos del FIDA. Si bien dichos recursos han sido administrados por el CIAT desde hace algunos años, solo hasta el 2010 se diseñó un proyecto que permitió al Centro vincular su trabajo de investigación con la labor de estas mujeres, por lo cual eligieron las asociaciones relacionadas con la agricultura.

Para el CIAT ha resultado muy motivador el trabajo con ellas, dado el dinamismo, la sabiduría y el interés en compartir y aprender. Por eso, el taller fue una enriquecedora experiencia para todos. Se trabajó con una metodología participativa en la que, una vez dados los modelos y las las herramientas, ellas mismas reflexionaban en torno a las fortalezas y debilidades en los negocios y diseñaron las hojas de ruta que quieren seguir.

Términos que al principio les sonaron extraño, se volvieron familiares: segmentos de clientes, propuesta de valor, canales de ventas, relaciones con los clientes, fuentes de ingresos, recursos, actividades, socios claves, estructura de costos.

“La importancia del taller radica en la oportunidad que tienen las organizaciones de profundizar el conocimiento de su actividad como tal y poder recibir retroalimentación de organizaciones que están desarrollando procesos semejantes o complementarios a ellos y que les puedan aportar experiencias que les sirven para su progreso”, afirma John Jairo Hurtado, coordinador del proyecto.

Además de actividades teórico-prácticas, las visitantes tuvieron la oportunidad de interactuar con otro grupo de mujeres con mayor experiencia en los negocios, pero que tuvieron que sortear muchas dificultades. Se trata de la Asociación Femenina Agropecuaria, con sede en la vereda Yumbillo, en las goteras de Cali, capital del Valle del Cauca.

La visita fue emocionante. Eso se pudo evidenciar en los ojos de estas mujeres afrocolombianas, quienes se sentían maravilladas al escuchar la experiencia de sus colegas y saber que el negocio no es fácil, pero tampoco imposible si se saben aprovechar las oportunidades y si se tiene convicción con lo que se hace.

Esa visita fue enriquecedora para las mujeres del Pacífico, y se sintieron más motivadas para continuar con sus proyectos. “Lo más importante no es solo recibir recursos económicos sino también la educación necesaria para poder adquirir las técnicas y habilidades requeridas para nuestros negocios”, afirmó Jenny Rentería, líder de Tesoro de la Selva.

Por su parte, Rosmilda Quiñones, presidenta de Asoparupa, admitió que no tienen dinero, tampoco todos los conocimientos técnicos para el cultivo de las plantas, “pero sí tenemos el conocimiento de nuestros ancestros, además de unas ganas inalcanzables de dar a conocer nuestros productos y servicios”.

Con conclusiones como ésta, quedaron en evidencia las motivaciones y anhelos de estas mujeres, de seguir trabajando en sus pequeños negocios, reconociendo los puntos claves en los que deben buscar el apoyo necesario para prosperar sus microempresas.

Al término del taller, todas las mujeres, sin excepción, se sentían más seguras, más confiadas y mejor orientadas hacia el camino que deben seguir y que las llevará al éxito de sus negocios, aún cuando además de empresarias deban seguir cumpliendo con sus roles de madres, esposas y encargarse del hogar.

“Me voy feliz, ¿y sabe por qué?”, expresó con una luminosa sonrisa Teófila Betancourt, líder de la Fundación Chiyangua, cuando el taller había concluido. “Porque aquí nos dimos cuenta de que nosotras no estamos solas en esto. Hay un proceso enorme que está en marcha y ya estamos metidos en él”.

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Completion workshop of the IFAD EUFF Programme in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire

When the European Union launched its Food Facility (EUFF) Programme in 2009, it chose IFAD as the implementing partner for West Africa. Building on existing IFAD-supported projects and working closely with ECOWAS and ICRISAT, our colleagues have successfully implemented the 20 Million Euro programme – in only 18 month! The programme activities helped to strengthen the value chains of the production of certified seeds of rice, cassava, groundnut, yam and maize. What has started as an emergency relief programme to help the countries with the food crisis that affected the sub-region in 2008, turned out to be much more than that: By increasing the availability of high quality seeds and by training smallholder farmers in innovative production techniques, the work of EUFF Programme helped to grow food security in West Africa, not only in the short but also in the long term.


Earlier this week, the implementing partners met in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, to discuss the final report and draw the lessons learned for future projects. While the final report and the capitalisation products will be available around the end of May, I have spoken to Ernest Aubee, Principal Programme Officer and Head of Agriculture at ECOWAS, Dr. Samba Traoré, who coordinated the implementation of the regional component at ICRISAT and
Adriane Del Torto, Coordinator of the EUFF Programme in West Africa at IFAD, to give you a first assessment of the programme. Many thanks to the three for their time!


What are the main achievements of the EU Food Facility Programme in West Africa?

Ernest Aubee, ECOWAS:


Dr. Samba Traoré, ICRISAT:

The ICRISAT component of the programme was focussed on the production of higher and more stable grain yields of sorghum and pearl millet by smallholder farmers. We have increased the production of quality seeds, not only at the individual seed producer level, but also at the level of farmer organizations. As a result, more quality seeds are available which leads to higher yields. One farmer told me that he planted millet on ten hectares and sorghum on three hectares. With the quality seeds he increased his sorghum yields from about 1000 kilogram/hectare to two tons/hectare and is expecting similar results for the millet field. With the profit he made, he could solve his financial problems and send his children to school. And this is just one example of how we have improved the living conditions in the region. In general, the major outputs of the programme are strengthened skills and capacity of seed producers, farmer organizations and researchers through training and farmer field schools; an increased communication and stronger coordination among the different actors in the region; increased varietal options for sorghum and pearl millet for smallholder farmers and a strengthened monitoring and evaluation capacity.


Adriane Del Torto, IFAD:


What are the lessons learned of the EU Food Facility Programme in West Africa?

Ernest Aubee, ECOWAS:


Dr. Samba Traoré, ICRISAT:

There were several success factors that made it possible to implement this comprehensive programme in such a short amount of time. First, the strong engagement of producers and other stakeholders in the process. Second, the problem of bad quality seed was real and widely spread, so we could improve the yields within a short time. Third, capacity building helped to spread the knowledge, also beyond the direct beneficiaries. Fourth, we build on an existing project, which saved us the time of doing baseline research. And last but not least, the strong communication throughout the whole process was a major success factor. Because if you don’t communicate, you can’t scale-up.


Adriane Del Torto, IFAD:


What are the necessary next steps to sustain and build on the achievements made by the EU Food Facility Programme in West Africa, now that the programme activities have been completed?

Ernest Aubee, ECOWAS:


Dr. Samba Traoré, ICRISAT:

The sustainability of our work was very important from the beginning. This is why we used community technologies, supported the spread of knowledge and produced materials, such as training manuals or leaflets with descriptions of new varieties and their specific adaptive and quality traits. But now it is important to put a mechanism in place to enhance the region’s food security in the long term. We should not wait for a crisis to do that.


Adriane Del Torto, IFAD:



After a day filled with discussions, the workshop participants celebrated their achievements with some traditional Ivorian dance. And while the programme activities have been completed, everyone agreed that the issue of food security is still a timely one and that the work to grow food security in West Africa must continue.

Magic Cassava

Posted by David Paqui Tuesday, March 27, 2012 2 comments

By David F. Paqui
When I was a little boy in Benin and I was hungry but my mother was not home to prepare something, my saviour was “Gari”, a food derived from cassava. I would put water on it and after waiting a minutes it would swell. I ate and drank until my stomach was full. My first week in China as foreign student, left me hungry too, since most Chinese food contains added sugar. The “Gari” I had brought with me was again my salvation. When I visited my relatives in Ogun State in Nigeria, one of my cousins, Matthew, had “Eba”, which is also made from “Gari”, as his favourite food. Whenever he demanded it he would shout: “Eba makes me strong, Eba makes me strong”.

Even though it has played a prominent role in my nutrition, I had no idea cassava was such a powerful, or dare I say magic crop, until I had the opportunity to join the President of IFAD, Kanayo F. Nwanze, in the field during his official trip to Cameroon from 29 February to 3 March 2012. I discovered that cassava is changing the lives of an entire community of smallholder farmers in Minkoa, where the Roots and Tubers Market-driven Development Programme was implemented. This programme is supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) with the contribution of two important research centres: the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the National Institute of Research for Agricultural Development (IRAD).

On 2 March 2012, the discovery of cassava as magic crop began during the visit to IITA and IRAD centres close to Yaoundé where I learned more about the continuing cassava revolution. In Africa, particularly in West and Central regions, each person consumes 80 kilograms of cassava each year. Cassava is also used for food, animal feed and industrial products, and requires less labour than other staple crops (21 per cent working days compared to maize, yam and rice). However, it requires considerable post-harvest labour because the roots are highly perishable and must be processed into a storable form soon after harvest. It is important to point out that IFAD has provided both centres with research grants. Mr Hanna of IITA said: “IFAD funding has helped researchers to develop and disseminate cassava varieties with multiple resistance and or tolerance to pest and disease constraints and to disseminate natural enemies under the IITA-biological control programme to tackle some of the pests.” The two research centres have supplied the beneficiaries of the programme IFAD supported Roots and Tubers Market-driven Development Programme with 4 million of news improved varieties of cassava.

I spoke to Immaculate Ngandje, a 50 year-old who is also a member of “Comité Villageois de Concertation (CVC)” of Batoke and a beneficiary of the IFAD-supported programme, she told me more about this magical crop. She said: “I used local varieties of cassava and produced only 23 to 25 trucks per hectare. From 2007, I started using the improved cassava varieties and I now produce 35 to 40 trucks per hectare. My income also has increased from CFA 90 000 to CFA 200 000 each month.”

When we arrived in Minkoa, a group of women were singing. The song was dedicated to cassava with the words: “cassava is food security, with cassava we can send our children to school, with cassava we can go to the hospital when we are sick, with cassava we can have a land and a house, with cassava we will have a car and with cassava we will have internet one day.” Many of those involved in the programme are women. Madame Susanne Nke, the President of CVC Minkoa illustrated the achievements of the IFAD-supported programme. She emphasized how the programme has improved the conditions of women through production, processing and marketing. She said that the CVC has used 64 hectares of land, among 16 in common and the remaining by village and individual members. The group has produced 430,000 cassava cuttings and sold 205,000 for the total amount of CFA 2.05 million and distributed 225,000 to the members. Thanks to the rehabilitation of rural roads, the members of the CVC Minkoa have access to markets and sold the cassava processed products for the total amount of CFA 15 million. But all this could not be possible without the contribution of research. Before, the cassava yield in Minkoa was 5 tonnes per hectare. Now with the improved varieties, the smallholder farmers produce up to 25 to 30 tonnes per hectare.
Madame Nke said, “the rural women of our villages must really reach full autonomy. The arduous nature of their work must be reduced. We want to move from the hoe to the tractor. To transform our lives we need modern equipment, water, electricity, telephone, and why not internet?” For me this visit was proof how through research, people are able to make a business of farming. And I think that these powerful women will be able to see the reality of internet one day. With the magic of cassava, anything is possible.

This field visit is a proof that agriculture can be a business and IFAD supported Roots and Tubers Market-driven Development Programme is making the difference in the like of the community of Minkoa. With the dynamism of the rural women of the area, I believe that magic cassava will really bring internet in Minkoa. CVC Minkoa keep up, you are the best!

Lessons learned from learning lessons

Posted by Sarah Hessel Saturday, March 24, 2012 0 comments

Third day of the IFAD-EUFF capitalisation workshop in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire


The third day of the IFAD-EUFF capitalisation workshop is not only the final day of this workshop. It is also the end of a process that was initiated in September 2011 at the first capitalisation workshop in Bamako, Mali. The term capitalisation refers to a process to profit or benefit from a “capital” that we have, in the case of the IFAD-EUFF programme, the lessons learned and experiences of the colleagues working in the different projects. Over the last six month, the participants have worked on narrowing down a unique experience or factor in their projects that they want to share with others. Now it was time to draw the lessons learned and discuss the next steps.


Isaac Vifa, who has been working with the Root and Tuber Improvement and Marketing Programme in Ghana for the last two years, took some time to tell me about his experiences:


What is capitalisation and can you briefly describe the process?


You have participated in the IFAD-EUFF programme capitalisation process. What are you central learnings of these six month?

How can capitalisation increase the impact of development programmes?

A big thanks to you, Isaac!


Other points that were raised during the feedback discussions:

  • Failures are a learning opportunity: By sharing difficulties, limitations and the way we addressed them, others can learn from the experiences and avoid having to face the same challenges.
  • Exchange matters: Sharing knowledge among different projects and between different country teams creates synergies, helps everyone to improve the work and to sustain what has been achieved.
  • An addition, not an alternative: Capitalisation products proved a valuable addition to formal reports and scientific papers.

Steps to integrate capitalisation in knowledge-management strategy:

  • Capitalisation should be included in the project design.
  • Everyone involved in the projects should receive training on knowledge sharing and capitalisation.
  • Knowledge-sharing is not only for knowledge-sharing experts, everyone can do it.

Better seeds for higher yields

Posted by Sarah Hessel Thursday, March 22, 2012 1 comments

Second day of the IFAD-EUFF capitalisation workshop in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire

I’m sure, all of you are familiar with the following situation: You write an article/report/letter and you think you have addressed every aspect, answered every question and structured the information in a logical way. Then you give it to colleagues and they come back with inputs and comments. And in the end, you have an even stronger document.

This is exactly what happened today, at the second day of the IFAD-EUFF capitalisation workshop in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire. The different country groups from Senegal, Ghana, Benin, Mali and Côte d'Ivoire had prepared one or two articles in which they outlined experiences they made while implementing the projects. These documents will be published and will support other organisations working on similar issues, to gain new ideas or to replicate the successful approach. This morning, all participants came together in small groups and discussed the articles prepared by the other projects.ents where you ask yourself how you could have possibly not considered this. And in the end, you have an even stronger document.

The feedback was as diverse as the people in the room: “What kind of training was provided?”; “How many seed producers were selected?”; “You should insert subheads to make the document better readable.” and so on.

The result is a room full of participants who are working in their colleague’s comments in their paper. While this morning was dominated by lively discussions, now you mainly hear clicking of many keyboards. And while the workshop participants are working on their articles, I will share some of their experiences with you:

Senegal

Since it is the UN International Year of Cooperatives, I will start with Senegal, where more than 65 per cent of the population lives in rural areas. Most of them are engaged in agriculture, many produce groundnuts. A change in agricultural policies, the hand-over of groundnut seed production from the state to the private sector, let to a rapid decline in the groundnut production. Attempts to rebuild the seed stock failed. Together with IFAD and the World Bank, the Government of Senegal piloted the establishment of groundnut seed producer cooperatives . The pilot was a big success and with the additional funding by the European Food Facility (EUFF), cooperatives have been established in five more regions. In their article, the colleagues from Senegal share their experiences in establishing cooperatives, good practices for marketing, financial and administrative management and how to ensure the cooperatives’ sustainability.

Mali

Northern Mali is landlocked, has a fragile ecosystem and regularly faces drought. But at the same time, it is rich in natural resources and offers huge flood or non-flood plains – perfect to cultivate rice along the river Niger. Rice is not only the main cereal consumed in the region, but also offers an income source as a cash crop. With the support of IFAD, the Government of Mali established the Programme for Investment and Rural Development in Northern Mali (Programme d’Investissement et Développement Rural des Régions du Nord Mali, PIDRN). Supported with the funding by the EUFF, PIDRN increased the availability of certified seeds. The project developed small irrigated village seed plots which are managed by cooperatives. Traditionally rice seeds are produced in small plots within the rice paddies and are often exposed to drought periods. Producing rice seeds in village seed plots allows for better water management, better production monitoring and the scale-up of the production. The numbers of farmers engaged in seed production are increasing, but so is the demand for certified rice. In their article, the colleagues from Mali share not only a project outline and the lessons learned but also future steps to ensure the project’s sustainability.

Benin

In Benin, seed production is divided among a large number of actors. Without a joint platform, there was no dialogue, no joint approach and a lot of conflict about the different competences. The Government of Benin, together with IFAD and financial support from the EUFF, established a dialogue platform, to bring all actors together and create synergies in their work. The difficult undertaking was worthwhile. As a result, the availability of rice seeds and cassava cutting has increased significantly. Another experience the colleagues from Benin shared, was the use of biotechnology to ensure the quality of the cassava cuttings. A video documentary gives some background about the set up and results of this project.


Côte d'Ivoire

For Ivory Coast, the Project for Support to Small Scale Market Gardeners in the Savanes Regions (PPMS), shared the experience on the establishment of a process to produce certified rice and maize seeds. This process helped to ensure the use of quality seed and led to higher yields. With support of IFAD and the EUFF, the Project developed a four phase-certification process:

  1. pre-inspection which includes the identification, accreditation and the training of seed multipliers as well as the choice of plots;
  2. the field inspection to verify the quality of the pre-base seeds and the inspection of production conditions;
  3. from the harvest of accredited farms samples were taken and analysed at the national seed laboratory,
  4. depending of the results of the analysis, the producers receive a certificate of compliance or non-compliance by the Ministry of Agriculture.

Ghana

The Root and Tuber Improvement and Marketing Programme (RTIMP), initiated by the Government of Ghana and IFAD, developes the crop production through research and extension. With additional funding provided by the EUFF, the project’s efforts to sustainable increase the production of seed yam and cassava stems by small-scale growers could be scaled-up. Traditional methods of multiplying and distributing planting often come with low yields, the multiplication and spread of diseased planting material and a large input to produce seeds/stems. To ensure that farmers have high quality crops and higher yields, RTIMP introduced the minisett technology, a methods to produce yam seeds with less input and better results and established a sustainable system for the supply of roots to Good Practice Centres through the strategic multiplication and distribution of improved cassava planting materials. In their two articles, the colleagues from Ghana, describe how they spread the improved methods of producing planting materials, outline the different production methods and share their lessons learned.

All articles will soon be available on FIDAfrique.

Pioneers for food security

Posted by Sarah Hessel Wednesday, March 21, 2012 0 comments

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.”

World Water Day 2012
The weight of water – and the significance of leisure

While I was chewing my pencil over how to start on this blog, I googled “how much does water weigh?” And I was pretty surprised at some of the answers, including that the question was incorrect and that water’s weight depends on its temperature.

Senegal: Pascaline Bampoky carries home a bucket of water

What I was really trying to estimate was how heavy the bucket of water Pascaline Bampoky is carrying in the photo would be. If she’s carrying about 20 litres of water – then the answer is about 20 kilogrammes. The only time I lift that sort of weight is when I heave my suitcase onto the airport scales.

For millions of women – especially young women – across the developing world, water means heavy loads and hours of drudgery. Every day one of their jobs is to walk long distances, often across unsafe areas, lugging home buckets, jars or plastic containers of water for household needs.

Obviously they are not the strongest members of the family – but they are mostly the ones with the lowest status. And so the task falls to them.

Here are some sourced stats, if you need them to be convinced. In rural Guinea women spend 3 and half times longer than men fetching water every day.[1] In rural Benin, girls spend an hour a day collecting water, while boys spend 25 minutes. [2]

When the load is lightened
There are also studies looking at how women use their time when water supplies are improved and brought closer to home. The results are thought-provoking.

School enrolment and attainment does improve for girls – much more so than for boys. And in some places, women spend more time in market-related activities when they don’t have to fetch and carry water.[3]

But several studies also show that women use some of the time they save for something potentially life-changing but difficult to measure – and that something is leisure.

That got me thinking about how many different ways women might use their free time – and still call it leisure.

Some might sit in the shade and talk to their friends – and who knows where that might lead ;) Others might study, visit a relative or even play with their children. Or they might choose to use their time for a task in the home that they want to do.

What makes it leisure is that they have the choice.

Women’s freedom to choose how they spend at least some of their time is a key strand in their empowerment – that slippery objective that is difficult to define and difficult to achieve, but still right at the top of our agenda.


[1] World Bank: World Development Report 2012: Gender Equality and Development, page 299.
[2] WDR 2012, page 111.
[3] WDR 2012, page 299.

By Elaine Reinke and Silvia Sperandini

Efficient breeding accounts for 30% of goats’ productivity, the rest is appropriate feeding and proper management”, was one of the key messages our “Ruteros” got from the Meru Goat Breeders Association (MGBA) we visited in the Eastern province of Kenya at the last stop of our Learning Route. The case was truly impressive as an example of sustainable development cooperation where a project designed and implemented by FARM-Africa is proving its economic, social and environmental impact eight years after its official closure.

Field visits to producers revealed the success of the project when local smallholder farmers proudly explained how they were able to move from below the poverty line into the middle class of their community thanks to the profitable goat enterprises and services introduced by FARM-Africa.

At the heart of this model is the approach to improve the productivity and economic returns of goats kept by families on small farms through enhancing the management, health and breeding of the animals. Breeding is improved by the genetic upgrade of local goats with a superior exotic breed, the Toggenburg. The result is the Meru Goat, a 75% Toggenburg, which proved to be more adapted to hash environment, to the locally available fodder, more resistant to diseases and more productive, giving 4 liters of milk per day compared to the local breed with 0.5-1 liter. The Meru Goat is a valuable asset, growing faster than local goats and yielding three times the monetary value.
Over two days we spent with the Meru Goat Breeders, the Learning Route participants understood how forming farmer groups has been critical for the sustainability of the project. The role of the association includes the organization and management of all necessary support services and inputs (from veterinary services, breed registration and inspection to quality control and processing milk and milk products), all instrumental to maximizing returns from the goats enterprises.

One of the most discussed issues was the introduction of the zero-grazing approach and its benefits in a context like Meru where the population density is high and land is limited. Farmers confirmed that housing goats in pens keeps these animals secure and healthy, also reducing their exposure to parasites from grazing on common land contaminated by other livestock - which is one of the biggest health problem of goats in Africa.

The case showed that which appropriate technical support, farmers were able to become very efficient breeders, sharing the genetic resources as a community. Associations like MGBA serve as support centers for the adaptation and uptake of new technology (genetic and husbandry improvement) and livestock marketing (guaranteeing high quality standards). Today, the Meru goats are exported to Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda. Farmers have gained good knowledge on goat husbandry and forage development, and the high quality manure collected at the goats’ houses is fertilizing a rich vegetable production to generate additional incomes in the Meru Country.


With this case, the Kenya Learning Route on Innovative Livestock Marketing comes to its end, while the good practices and lessons learned will now travel with our “Ruteros” back to Sudan, Somaliland, Ethiopia, Madagascar and the US to benefit other communities and prove once again that livestock really plays a critical role for the livelihood of poor rural families.


PS. Picture of how innovations travel and view the photo story of the route: http://www.slideshare.net/ifad/lr-kenya-photo-story-ii-compressed

Yvette Azane Ngwemetoh, from north-
west Cameroon, speaks at IFAD on
International Women's Day.
At least two things are certain about the millions of women who work as smallholder farmers worldwide. First, they are among the hardest-working people on the planet, and second, they are woefully under-appreciated and under-compensated for their daily, uphill struggles.

For most of those women, and the daughters who work alongside them, yesterday was probably just another day of rising early and tending their fields or herds. But their achievements and challenges were in the spotlight at IFAD headquarters, where the three Rome-based UN food and agriculture agencies – IFAD, FAO and WFP – jointly celebrated International Women’s Day.

The event illustrated the complex dynamics of gender, food security and poverty. As various speakers pointed out, women and girls do more than 40 per cent of all farming and virtually all household work in rural areas. Yet they don’t share equally with men in the resources needed for productive agriculture. Research suggests that women’s crop yields would increase by 20 to 30 per cent if they had access to such resources. In turn, the number of hungry people in the world would decline by 100 million to 150 million.

Participants in yesterday’s event focused on how rural girls and young women figure into this global equation. The question at hand was how they can fulfil their potential as agents of change. In broad strokes, the answer was starkly simple: Give rural girls and women access to the right tools, and they will change the face of agriculture.

IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze started off the discussion. Dr. Nwanze called gender equality and rural development “inseparable,” adding that “women hold the key to food and nutrition security” by virtue of their untapped capacity for higher yields. FAO Director General José Graziano da Silva followed, announcing the launch of his agency’s new gender-equality policy. He said the policy cuts across all FAO programmes and “underscores the organization’s commitment to addressing gender and women’s issues to eradicate hunger and poverty.”

IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze (right) and FAO
Director-General Josè Graziano da Silva listen to
WFP Deputy Executive Director Sheila Sisulu.
The dialogue continued as a succession of influential women took the floor.

WFP Deputy Executive Director Sheila Sisulu weighed in with an appeal for the Rome agencies to take their lead from the grass roots. “The first thing we need to do,” she said, “is listen to rural women.” Sisulu noted that even in industrialized countries, women are the main processors and preparers of food for their families. Women’s voices, she said, are central to any discussion of food and agriculture policy.

South Africa’s Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, called for redoubled efforts to educate rural girls, who lag behind boys in school enrolment, especially after the early grades. Motshekga cited the “tremendous multiplier effect” of girls’ education, which generates far-reaching economic and social benefits. Once rural girls gain equal access to the classroom, “the world will never be the same,” she said.

Ertharin Cousin, US Ambassador to the UN agencies in Rome, echoed Motshekga’s call for parity. “A plant doesn’t know if it was planted by a woman or a man,” observed Cousin, who will become WFP’s Executive Director next month. But because rural women and women’s organizations start at a point of material disadvantage, she said, they need technical and financial support to enhance their productivity and to compete in the marketplace.

A lawyer by training, Cousin said history would judge the international community’s liability for continued gender inequality on the basis of three basic queries: “What did you know, when did you know it and what did you do about it?” She argued that the obstacles faced by girls and women in rural areas – such as poor access to land and credit, and a disproportionate burden of household labour – have been well known for years.

From left: Ertharin Cousin, US Ambassador to the UN
agencies in Rome; Angie Motshekga, South Africa’s
Minister of Basic Education; and youth representative
Yvette Azane Ngwemetoh.
“The question is, what are we doing about it?” she asked.

Of course, history is not the only judge. Young rural women themselves are obviously well positioned to assess the pace of progress on gender equality. Yvette Azane Ngwemetoh spoke yesterday on their behalf.

Originally from north-west Cameroon, the young woman just recently arrived in Italy to join her husband. She grew up in the countryside and worked on the family farm with her mother. Unlike many rural girls, she managed to complete her secondary education. She was unable attend university for financial reasons, however, and migrated to an urban centre, where she lived and worked for three years.

Ngwemetoh was soft-spoken but firm in her conviction that farming can and should be a viable livelihood for young women. Given access to machinery and modern technology, as well as adequate rural health and education facilities, she said she would welcome a career as an agricultural entrepreneur.

“The land has a lot to offer,” said Ngwemetoh. “You just have to improve on the land.”

Watch the recorded webcast: 
Part 1: Speakers
Part 2: Panel discussion
Part 3: Experiences from the field

By Silvia Sperandini and Elaine ReinkeWe are a community of camels”, is how Kalif Abey of the Kenya Camel Association (KCA) welcomed us in Greater Isiolo in the arid and semi-arid low plains of the upper eastern part of Kenya. The majority of the “ruteros” are from Sudan and Somaliland, therefore have extensive experience with camels and been eagerly awaiting to meet the hosts of this case, local camel raisers and members of the Anolei Camel Milk Cooperative.



Through the discussion with these local champions, it became clear that the potential of the camel and its products has been immensely underutilized in Kenya until it was considered a food animal in the current livestock policy passed by the government in 2008. This policy finally recognized the importance of the camel to safeguard livelihoods due to its ability to survive remain productive even under drought conditions in most of the Arid and Semi Arid Land (ASAL) districts.


With the camel raisers surrounded by some 400 Somali camels (Horr and Gelab sub-breeds), we understood the intensity of camel rearing in an environment where water and forage are scarce, and could sense the depth of the relationship between the pastoralists and their animals. We witnessed the milking process, not missing to taste the fresh camel milk, and learned about the efforts of the herders and the cooperative to open new marketing channels for this valuable product.


Camel milk is a natural and essential food item. Compared to cow and goat milk, it is richer in iron, minerals, vitamins and unsaturated fatty acids, while its fat content is lower. The camel’s lactation period is also longer (from 1 to 1.5 years), all year round and under the harshest conditions. Recent researches indicate some medicinal potential such as anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties and positive impacts in cases of diabetes and tuberculosis. The producers therefore proudly pledge that it is much more than simple milk.



Camel-owning cultures traditionally place the men as the camel owners, while women possess and market the milk. Today, this female-dominated business of camel milk marketing contributes KSH 8 billion (US$ 95 million) every year to the Kenyan economy, and the profits are usually managed and controlled by women. Having recognized the marketing potential and growing demand for camel milk, the Anolei women, a pro-active group of Somali women, got organized as a self-help group in 1997 and registered as a cooperative in 2010. They managed to set-up a new, profitable business purchasing camel milk from local producers and marketing it in Isiolo and Nairobi. With some support of the KCA and other partners including SNV, VSF and FAO, the Anolei women upgraded their business processes, improved hygiene standards and herd management. They now collect and transport to Eastleigh Nairobi some 4,000 (in the dry season) to 6,500 (in the rainy season) litres of camel milk per day from producers within a 40km radius from Isiolo. They also run a milk bar where our “ruteros” were invited to enjoy camel milk, tea and meat.


The learning route participants appreciated how this group built a successful business for the benefit of their communities and became an important player in an effective milk marketing chain. Along the way, they faced many constraints particularly related to hygiene and transportation. In response, they introduced aluminum cans and cooling and established pooled transport arrangements. Demand for camel milk is gradually increasing, also beyond the Somali communities in Kenya, but there is need for further improve business process. Women traders are now using M-PESA as a means of cash transactions, increasing security and reducing losses. Bank accounts have been opened and the cooperative is planning to take a loan to purchase their own truck tond improve their transport.


Other challenges remain beyond their control, such as the lack of trained specialized veterinarians in the country and recurrent tribal conflicts in the Isiolo area based on competition over pasture, calling for continued collaboration and partnership among the different actors.


Within their capacity, the Anolei women have significantly increased their incomes and their decision-making power in their households and communities. With their commitment and business skills, camel milk production and marketing has become the backbone of the livelihoods of the Isiolo people.