Rural transformation: A pathway to resilience

Written by Nerina Muzurovic

Khalida Bouzar, IFAD's Director for Near East, North Africa and Europe Division
speaks at Opportunities for Africa at COP22.
©IFAD/N. Muzurovic

At the OCP Group side event ‘Opportunities and Solutions for Africa,’ held as part of a larger conference on food security and climate change at COP22 on 14 November 2016, Khalida Bouzar, IFAD's Director for Near East, North Africa and Europe Division, emphasized that investment in agriculture is an attractive proposition—not least, because it provides a strong incentive for youth to stay in the rural areas that need them most.

Green agriculture an opportunity for Africa

The importance of agriculture in Africa cannot be overstated, said Dr Khalida Bouzar: “When we talk about agriculture in Africa, we have to remember that agriculture is still the main employer of the Continent, and that more than 80 per cent of food production in Africa is ensured by smallholders living in rural areas.”

While rural smallholder farmers are one of the groups most vulnerable to climate change, Dr Khalida Bouzar emphasized that this sector also has enormous potential: “Advanced and green agriculture is the real opportunity for rural Africa. It can create jobs, satisfy needs, and generate both wealth and wellbeing for Africans.”

From Morocco to Zimbabwe, IFAD invests in greening agricultural value chains—and in ensuring that youth can find space, interest and profit in the sector. “We also make available credit, technical assistance and resources for the states to access in order to effect such change,” said Dr Khalida Bouzar. “We are convinced that innovation and adaptation will restart the agricultural engine, and therefore provide renewed opportunities for youth and for Africa.

“All our projects are designed by and for beneficiaries,” added Dr Khalida Bouzar. “They are thus naturally adapted to the local and cultural context.”

Best practices from the region

Dr Khalida Bouzar shared two ‘Best Practices’ case studies from Niger and Morocco. These included:

Niger: ‘Nigeriens Nourish Nigeriens,' also known as ‘Initiative i3N, is the national strategy for achieving food security and sustainable agricultural development in Niger. ‘Nigeriens Nourish Nigeriens' seeks to achieve food sovereignty, thanks in part to IFAD-supported projects.

Morocco: In Morocco’s l’Oriental Region, 70 per cent of the land was exploited by tribal and nomadic communities for their livestock. Land degradation, overgrazing and water scarcity brought families into extreme poverty, and land and social desertification were a reality. The combined efforts of IFAD, the GEF, the Moroccan Government, ONUDI, local communities and administrations brought about clear pasture management plans and specific policies that led to the development of new and diverse pasture management strategies, bringing radical change to the area.
Today, Morocco manages rather than exploits these ancestral pasturelands. 

Other examples of IFAD’s successful practices include:

Mali: The promotion of biogas benefitted over 7,000 people (50 per cent were women, and close to 80 per cent were youth) in Mali. Some 155 bio-digesters were installed with a sustainable impact on livelihoods. This was especially true for women, for whom it meant safer and cleaner cooking environments, as well as freed up time, which could be spent on other tasks, such as the collection of wood and cleaning of pots. The environment benefitted, as well: 13 tonnes of wood were saved per year for a family of 40 people, and awareness of environmental issues was raised among local populations.

Senegal: In Senegal, coastal areas are vulnerable to rising sea levels, which cause both widespread erosion and coastal flooding in low-lying coastal areas (mangrove estuaries in particular). Other negative impacts include the increased salinization of soils, surface waters and groundwater. The project invested in infrastructure to reduce land salinity and restore productivity, with two dykes of about 3 km in total length in Ndiaye and Ndiémou and the establishment of three drainage systems. 10,000 halophyte plants (adapted to salinity) were produced to protect and rehabilitate saline fields. The project also allowed for more efficient use of scarce water resources, through improved irrigation systems and diversification of production. Some 250 hectares of agricultural land adopted drip irrigation, benefiting approximately 30 communities. Some 77 hectares of rice fields are under irrigated production, serving six farmers’ organisations and benefitting some 3,000 people.

Cameroon: A project currently under design proposes to promote “green jobs” for youth, who represent 78 per cent of the population and suffer greatly from unemployment or underemployment. The project aims to create and promote close to 5,000 agro-pastoral enterprises (of which 30 per cent are managed by women) and to create over 20,000 jobs; it also encourages rural entrepreneurship through the development of agropastoral training centres and rural financial services.