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Food and identity: local recipes on the grill

Posted by Beate Stalsett Tuesday, September 29, 2015 0 comments

Written by Bertrand Reysset 

Participants at the congress in Milan. Photo credit: Bertrand Reysset
The VI World Congress of Agronomists, held in the Expo conference room, started on Tuesday 15 September in Milan. 500 agronomists from all around the world were gathered to discuss the connection between food and identity.

I participated in the opening session together with the president of the World Association of Agronomists, Mrs María Cruz Díaz Álvarez, officials from Italian authorities, agronomists from all over the world, as well as representatives from FAO.

It was an opportunity to recall IFAD's strong support for rural smallholders for nearly 40 years, and that working with agronomists and using agronomical science is a part of IFAD’s DNA.

The conference topic, Food and Identity, was also an opportunity to highlight a recent IFAD campaign that celebrates the local recipes of rural people. Local recipes are at the crossroads of nutrition, culture, food systems and climate challenges. Climate change is putting local recipes and products at risk, and this is affecting local identities and tradition. In Lesotho the change in rainfall and snowfall patterns are challenging rangeland management, threatening the future of their traditional mutton stew (Sechu Sa Nku). In Vietnam sea level rise threatens rice paddies and freshwater pond fisheries in coastal areas, lands that yield two staple ingredients that go into sweet and sour catfish soup. In Rwanda and Guatemala, higher temperatures will reduce kidney bean and black bean yields, which are used in traditional sauces. These examples of local recipes threatened by climate change show concretely how our climate affects the future of local and nutritious cuisine, and thus impact not only food security but also cultural assets.

IFAD invests in building climate resilience for these distinguishing food systems, to sustain rural development and cultural assets even under a changing climate. In Lesotho, an IFAD project to improve rangeland management and quality is being supported. In Vietnam, salt tolerant rice and catfish species are being developed. In Rwanda and Guatemala, climate resilient farming practices help to buffer higher temperatures. We call these actions our "Recipes for Change". All this and much more is made possible through the support of our Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP). These concrete investments resonated with the agenda of the World congress of Agronomists, and there is valuable knowledge to draw from this event.

The event also reflected the orientation towards sustainability taken by the agronomists’ community. After having launched the Green Revolution over 50 years ago, the community is now aware of the challenges ahead to sustain food for an increasing population, while having a lower environmental footprint. The concept of a new green revolution is today gaining currency: agriculture today needs to sustainably intensify production, reduce agrochemical and food waste, and play a multifunctional role (combat climate change, ensure nutrition, landscape management, social support, etc.). The Congress will bring its message to political leaders in all parts of the world.

This trip to Milan was an excellent opportunity to share views and meet technical experts in the field of agronomy. I had the chance (and the time) to visit the Expo and UN pavilion before leaving and I highly recommend it. The scenery is amazing, our colleague Giacomo is an enthusiastic guide, and the UN team has done an incredible job. If you pass by the Expo, don’t miss this pavilion! And you can even enjoy low carbon transportation: there are direct trains from Rome to the entrance gate of the Expo.

Makati City, Philippines -12 September 2015 - The European Union (EU) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) are pouring in fresh support to a capacity building programme that is helping improve the livelihoods and food security situation of smallholder farmers and rural producers in ASEAN countries.

This was announced by Hoonae Kim of IFAD Asia Pacific and Franck Viault of the EU Delegation at the 37th Meeting of the ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF) on September 10, 2015 at the Manila Peninsula, Makati City, Philippines following IFAD and EU regional programme joint presentation to the ASEAN Ministers.

Hoonae Kim, IFAD Director emphasized the success of ASEAN and the current IFAD investments in 8 of the 10 member countries (20 projects amounting to USD 2 billions and dedicated to agriculture development). She indicated that "80% of agriculture investments are done by smallholders who provide 80% of food supply, and they deserve support from Governments and international finance institutions".Ms Kim presented two areas for cooperation with ASEAN: a policy grant support to ASEAN common market integration to ensure smallholders are not left behind; and farmers' organizations support with EU and Swiss Cooperation Agency: https://youtu.be/S2a93Jf0P00

The ASEAN Farmers' Organizations Support Program (AFOSP) is an EUR 16 million programme of which EUR 15 million are provided by the EU. AFOSP aims at strengthening Farmers' Organisations (FO's) institutional and operational capacities; enable FOs at different levels to have their interests better taken into account in regional, national and provincial policies on smallholder priority subjects; and improve FO's services to their members through entrepreneurial capacities and participation in value chains.
The program is helping ASEAN FOs to evolve into stable, professional, accountable organisations capable of providing effective and sustainable services to their members and of influencing policy and corporate processes on agriculture and food security issues at local, national, ASEAN regional and global levels.

AFOSP consists of two highly complementary Components -- (i) support to the Medium Term Cooperation Programme phase II and regional policy dialogue in ASEAN region – MTCP ASEAN and (ii) Farmers Fighting Poverty – Food Security Initiatives of Farmers’ Organisations in a Regional Perspective programme (FFP ASEAN). The two components share the same objectives and activities although both the approach and the level of intervention are different but complementary.
MTCP2 ASEAN will be managed by the consortium of the Asian Farmers' Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA) and La Via Campesina (LVC), while the FFP ASEAN will be managed by the AgriCord network of agri-agencies.
Since 2013, MTCP2 operates in Asia Pacific at regional and national levels, supporting FOs platforms at regional, sub-regional and national levels and to create institutional linkages between these platforms and ASEAN Secretariat, while FFP ASEAN mainly involves local FOs and value chains specialised FOs from the local to the national level since 2007. MTCP ASEAN would primarily focus on those activities that can benefit all members’ platforms towards building common agenda for policy dialogue and joint action both for economic and political actions, while FFP ASEAN would tailor its support to the specific needs of individual FOs in terms of organizational strength and inclusiveness, institutional development, business development (economic services), policy elaboration and advocacy.

Franck Viault, Head of Cooperation EU Jakarta, highlighted the enhanced ASEAN-EU partnership including notably increased EU development assistance to ASEAN both at regional and bilateral level, notably support for agriculture sector in Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar; AFOSP will be fully complementary to these bilateral programs. He also mentioned that "the ASEAN Secretariat, ASEAN Sectoral Bodies and the ASEAN Foundation are the shareholders of AFOSP program and this will ensure the stronger and mutually beneficial links with Farmer Organisations and other stakeholders": https://youtu.be/8tJh4TAPQ5Y

The feedback from six ASEAN Ministers and their representatives on the presentation and purpose of AFOSP was very positive. They highlighted in particular the diversity of challenges their smallholders farmers are facing, importance of marketing and interaction with the private sector, knowledge dissemination and need for incentives for young generations to stay and succeed in the agriculture sector.
The program will run for 5 years from June 2015, and its implementation is monitored on www.asiapacificfarmersforum.com

Women and agricultural biodiversity – from the seed to the table

Posted by S.Sperandini Friday, September 25, 2015 0 comments

By Maria Hartl, Senior Technical Specialist - Gender and Social Equity

EXPO Milan has definitely given us the space to talk – with a calendar of occasions for exchange about topics that often do not make it into the headlines, including for example the core mandates of the Rome-based agencies and their collaboration.

That was my first thought, when I was invited to speak at a round-table on “Agricultural biodiversity, value chains and women’s empowerment”. The event was organized by Bioversity International and supported by the Italian Development Cooperation. The focus was on the strategic role of women in managing and conserving agricultural biodiversity and the challenges and opportunities they face.

The round-table was skillfully moderated by Barbara Serra, news presenter and correspondent for Al Jazeera English. It brought together many key players on gender and biodiversity, including representatives from FAO, IFAD, Oxfam Novib, to Slow Food, Fair Trade and the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSFR) in India.

In fact, to me it felt like the extended IFAD family.  It was certainly not a coincidence that many of the programmes that were presented kicked off with IFAD grant support. It was a great opportunity to learn about long-term results and impact. And it was really gratifying to see that all the programmes integrated a gender perspective and contributed to women’s empowerment, in particular for indigenous women.

Ann Tutweiler (Director General, Bioversity International) and Stefano Padulosi (Theme Leader, Marketing Diversity, Bioversity International) spoke about the result of years of research on neglected and underutilized species (NUS), which started with IFAD grant support.  They had also invited Sebastiana Choque, a custodian farmer from Bolivia, to give a testimonial about her management of many varieties of native potatoes, cañihua, oca and barley. Choque also spoke about the important work she has been doing in support of the Bolivian National Agricultural and Forestry Research Institute in its cañihua germplasm collection.

Bioversity’s support of the Andean “lost grains” of Quinoa in Bolivia and Peru led to the development of practical and safe processing machines which combine both traditional and modern technologies and significantly reduce women’s burden of labour. The machines slash the time required to thresh grains from 2 hours to 6 minutes per kilogramme. Another key process, the removal of saponin, the bitter coat around the grains, takes only 1 minute per kilogramme with the new machines, where before it took half an hour – a truly fantastic reduction of drudgery. (Remember that the third strategic objective of IFAD’s gender policy focuses on reducing workload – and that’s because it makes a huge difference to women’s lives.) The programme also facilitated strategic alliances with private companies to develop over 40 new food products, including fortified cookies and dairy substitutes with an Andean grain base which the government is now making available to breastfeeding women.

Putting Lessons into Practice: Scaling up People’s Biodiversity Management for Food Security” is an Oxfam Novib programme in Peru, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe supported by IFAD.  According to Gigi Manicad (Senior Programme Manager, Oxfam Novib), more than the 60 per cent of the participants were indigenous women who were actively engaged in seed management and in participatory varietal selection and breeding. (To find out more about this, take a look at the women’s video diaries, where indigenous women speak for themselves)

In 2014, the programme expanded into eight countries, using the innovative Farmer Field Schools method to preserve the seeds of neglected and under-utilised species that are a priority for women and food and nutrition security.

Oxfam Novib has submitted a report on the programme to the upcoming Sixth Session of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture with recommendations on farmers’ rights and inclusion of women.

Another joint IFAD-Biodiversity International project was introduced by E.D. Israel Oliver King, the principal scientist at the MSSFR (India) and coordinator of a programme strengthening the resilience of poor rural communities in the face of food insecurity, poverty and climate change through on-farm conservation of local agricultural biodiversity.  He was accompanied by Malliga Seerangan, a recognized custodian farmer and Jaya Eswaran, representative of a women’s self-help group, who described their involvement in varietal selection, community seed banks and value addition.

In my presentation, I put the spotlight on IFAD’s support to indigenous peoples, in particular women and their holistic approach to biodiversity. The link between biodiversity conservation and empowering rural people to improve their lives and strengthen their resilience is a leitmotiv for grant and loan-financed operations, leading to better nutrition and food security, and increased income and economic empowerment. Women are a key link in the chain that starts with seed selection and preservation and ends with putting nutritious food on the table.

In the discussion that followed, one participant asked about the collaboration between the many organizations present. There are indeed so many ongoing partnerships, often invisible to the public eye.  As Ann Tutweiler (Bioversity International) replied, a diagram showing all the different partnerships and collaborations among the organizations present in the room would consist of hundreds of lines running from one organization to the other.

The event concluded with a demonstration and tasting of delicious Indian snacks made out of millet and other neglected species, the final statement about women’s important role in the food chain, leading to the kitchen and filling hungry stomachs.

Related links
Stewards of biodiversity adapt to a changing climate


Written by Francesca Aloisio for Words in the Bucket

From September 25 to September 27, more 193 world leaders will gather together at the UN headquarters in New York to attend the UN Sustainable Development Summit to adopt a new sustainable development agenda to implement in the next 15 years. The importance of setting a new agenda, called “Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, had been recognized by all 193 members after succesfully reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) launched back in 2000.

2015 is therefore an important year since the there will be a major switch from the MDGs, that involved only the developing countries, to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which will apply to the entire world, the rich and the poor.

In order to end extreme poverty, fight inequality & injustice, fix climate change, the new agenda counts 17 goal:

The United Nations launched several campaigns to raise awareness among people because governments have to act now but to achieve these goals it’s necessary the commitment of all.

Take action and join the campaign launched by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) #ItsAboutPeople to donate your social media feed and tell world leaders that achieving the sustainable development goals means investing in rural people and building a better world for us all.

A Spotlight on Farmer Voices in the Post-2015 Process

Posted by Beate Stalsett Wednesday, September 23, 2015 0 comments

Written by Farming First

This week, Farming First has launched a new online resource that vocalises calls-to-action from farmers around the world on what they hope the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals on 25th-26th September 2015 will do for them, and how they can embrace them with their own actions. 

The collection of stories “The SDGs and Me” can be viewed in full at: www.farmingfirst.org/sdgs-and-me

Farmers from Cambodia to Kenya were asked how they hope the government, NGOs and private sector will take action in their local areas.

“I hope government will consider giving agricultural loans to us
farmers at low interest rates in order to end poverty.”
Halima from Uganda

“I hope the government and private sector will invest in research and
development of better inputs, for increased productivity that
will eventually end hunger.”
Michael from Kenya

Read their stories, view pictures of their farms and get to know about the projects that are helping them prosper. Find out how their stories and calls-to-action could go beyond the goals to end hunger and poverty, and also made strides on tackling climate change, empowering women and promoting sustainable consumption.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development has also launched a collection of of rural people from around the world, to amplify rural people’s voices and stories in the lead up to the UN Sustainable Development Summit.

On 25 September, you can donate your social media feed and help IFAD share these stories.

We want world leaders gathered at the UN Sustainable Development Summit and the General Assembly to know that achieving the SDGs means investing in rural people and building a better world for us all. Follow the conversations on both campaigns using the hashtags #SDGsandMe and #ItsAboutPeople.

Asia-Pacific Local Champions Exhibition goes to Takeo

Posted by Ariel Halpern Monday, September 7, 2015 0 comments

Asia-Pacific Local Champions Exhibition goes to Takeo 
Location: O’saray Commune, Tram Kak District, Takeo Province, Cambodia 

On August 11, as part of the Asia-Pacific Local Champions Exhibition in Cambodia, delegations of farmers and supporters from nine different countries visited the model farm in Takeo Province. Visitors from Bangladesh, Colombia, Laos, Nepal, Philippines, Thailand, Tonga and Vietnam came to witness the process of change with the official opening of the first training center for farmers in Takeo: the Mongkol (Healthy Spirit) Community Learning Center. 

From Phnom Penh City to Takeo Province in the South of Cambodia there is a three and a half hour ride through the hot and dry countryside. It is August, the middle of the rainy season, but rains are scarce as the country continues its second year of drought. Almost half of the rice paddies seen along the way look abandoned or withering. In Cambodia, where 80% of all cultivated land is used for rice farming, economic vulnerability to climate change is evident. 

Some farms in Takeo, however, enjoy an abundance of water. With integrated farming, a growing number of smallholder farms are becoming more resilient, economic and efficient – especially when compared to monocropping, a popular farming method in rural Cambodia. Here, hand dug reservoirs are used as multipurpose fishponds, basins for organic fertilizer and irrigation holes for off-season rice. 

As a model, this farm in O’saray Commune was the destination of the Field Training Day at the Local Champions Exhibition, organized and supported by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Cambodia, IFAD and PROCASUR. 

Empowered by a series of trainings and Learning Routes, seven Local Champions created a model for community learning. They poured their own time, energy and resources into building a training site, a curriculum and a team for the dissemination of their knowledge. As a result, the Mongkol Community Learning Center became one of the most successful farmer-to-farmer training sites in Cambodia, open for people and innovations. 

The Magnificent Seven of Takeo, the founders, builders and trainers of the Mongkol (Healthy Spirit) Community Learning Center. From left to right: Daek Dol (Director), Nget Samouen (Deputy Director), Chhin Chhorn (Financial Officer), Toen Toeung, Prom Soeun, Bounna Sun and Paet Savouen (Secretary).

Nget Samouen, owner of the model farm used as learning site, also participated in the Learning Routes. He is now the Deputy Director and one of the trainers of the Mongkol Community Learning Center. Built on his own land, with his own resources, the Mongkol CLC is the center of knowledge exchange for innovations, and an important channel of communication for the likes of Mr. Samouen to tell their stories. 

“I want to tell my story to others so they can learn like I have learned. I used to have one fishpond back in 2009. But all my fish died. Then I went to Thailand and learned some very useful methods. Then I came back and restarted my fish farm three years ago. Now I have 17 ponds with lots of fish to eat and sell. Many people come to us for the good fish we have” – Nget Samouen, Deputy Director of the Mongkol CLC.

At the opening of the Mongkol CLC, more than a hundred people gathered from the Local Champions Exhibition to hear the welcoming notes of the farmers, their teachers and the organizers. Many praised the successful results of the knowledge exchange programs between farmers, and their self-growing network that made changes possible in poor, rural households. 

For the Field Training Day, six learning stations were set up by the Local Champions of Takeo to demonstrate innovations they have learned and successfully used in the production and use of EM, organic pesticides, natural hormones, and the parachuting planting method among others. 

“I am very happy to see all these people from Nepal, Bangladesh, even Tonga, who were interested in what we are doing, and came and asked questions from us. I am proud to be the one giving the answers.”  Daek Dol, Director of the Mongkol CLC. 
Daek Dol, Director of Mongkol CLC with rice seedling trays for parachuting.

 “Thank you all for your visit. We hope to see you again soon.”