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Investing in Africa’s women farmers

Posted by Steven Jonckheere Friday, June 27, 2014 0 comments

Across sub-Saharan Africa agriculture is the backbone of the economy, accounting for 30-40% of nations’gross domestic product, and a leading source of jobs for over two-thirds of the population. Improving the productivity, profitability and sustainability of agriculture on the millions of farms that cover the African continent is essential for ending poverty and boosting shared prosperity in the region.

Even though women make up a large share of Africa’s farmers, they are, for the most part, locked out of land ownership, access to credit and productive farm inputs, support from extension services and access to markets, to name just a few factors essential to their productivity. This array of daunting challenges means that, on average, Africa’s female farmers produce less per hectare compared with men, which adversely affects their families, communities and – in the long term – entire countries.

Despite the centrality of agriculture in the economies of most African nations, relatively little is known about why farms managed by women are on average less productive. This“knowledge gap” in turn translates into a “policy gap” in the steps that African governments, their development partners, business leaders and civil society can take to equalise opportunities for female and male farmers.

On 16 June IFAD invited the World Bank to present one of their most recent publications: “Levelling the Field: Improving Opportunities for Women Farmers in Africa”. This new report, jointly produced by the World Bank in partnership with the ONE Campaign with financial support from IFAD’s West and Central Africa Division, seeks to focus international attention on the impediments that Africa’s women farmers face in feeding their families, increasing farm incomes and lifting the heavy burden of poverty in rural areas.

By combining information and backing it up with new surveys that allow for the disaggregation of results by gender, this report uncovers new evidence that explains some of the factors responsible for the low productivity of female-managed farms in Africa. The report profiles six countries – Ethiopia, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda– that together account for more than 40% of sub-Saharan Africa’s population. It presents the clearest evidence to date about both the breadth and the depth of the gender gap in African agriculture.

The presenters argued that existing agricultural policies need to become better attuned to the issues that undermine the productivity of female farmers, and new policies and programmes must be designed and implemented to address their particular needs. Ten policy priorities were presented that are informed by the main drivers of the gender gap identified in the country profiles.

1. Strengthen women’s land rights.

2. Improve women’s access to hired labour

3. Enhance women’s use of tools and equipment that reduce the amount of labour they require on the farm

4. Provide community-based child-care centres.

5. Encourage women farmers to use more, and higher-quality, fertiliser.

6. Increase women’s use of improved seeds

7. Tailor extension services to women’s needs, and leverage social networks to spread agricultural knowledge

8. Promote women’s cultivation of high-value/cash crops

9. Facilitate women’s access to and effective participation in markets

10. Raise education levels of adult female farmers

The presentation was followed by interventions from IFAD colleagues. Khadidja Doucoure, Regional Gender Coordinator in West and Central Africa, presented the significant progress that IFAD-supported projects in the region have made over the last years in promoting gender equality. IFAD’s Land Tenure Adviser, Jean Maurice Durand, explained that IFAD has learned that defending and expanding women’s rights requires comprehensive action at different levels: information and capacity building; organizational and empowerment measures; legal assistance and advocacy. Land tenure issues are inextricably linked to gender relations and thus a gender analysis is critical to design effective, targeted actions. It is often necessary to put complementary measures in place to enable women to influence decisions about their rights to land. Intra-household dimensions must be taken into consideration. Wafa El Khoury, IFAD’s Senior Agronomist, highlighted the importance of looking at the management of a farm in a holistic manner. The timeliness of labour and inputs is important. Given that traditional extension systems do not favour women, farmer field schools appear to be more appropriate. Women need to be encouraged to join farmers’organisations. Finally, IFAD’s Technical Adviser on Value Chains, Marco Camagni, emphasized that the starting point should always be the market. However, a balance must be sought between cash and food crops. Access to information is key and partnerships with the private sector should be strengthened.

Finding the right mix of climate-smart solutions in East Africa

Posted by daniela cuneo Monday, June 23, 2014 0 comments

June 12, 2014
by Melissa Reichwage

@IFAD/Siegfried Modola
Farming systems that integrate crops with livestock carry much of the weight of the world’s food systems. These “mixed” farming systems produce about half of the planet’s food on 2.5 billion hectares. They not only account for over 90% of the world’s milk supply and 80% of the meat from ruminants but also provide most of the staple crops consumed by poor people, including maize, rice, sorghum, and millet.

Given their importance and vulnerability to climate variability, smallholder mixed crop-livestock systems should be a primary target for strategies to produce more food while taking less from the land.

Climate change is happening even faster and with more damaging effects on the world’s food security than previously anticipated, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s most authoritative body on climate change science.

Agricultural research for development can make a big difference at every step from field to fork by, for example, providing new strategies that help smallholder farmers balance the needs of livestock and crops or by encouraging and guiding investments and policy. Scientists have identified a number of adaptation options: including better technologies, such as drought-tolerant crops; behavior changes, as in diets; improved land management practices; and new policies to foster market and infrastructure development.


One of the biggest challenges in implementing climate-smart agriculture is ensuring that solutions are locally appropriate. “Dozens of activities can help crop-livestock farmers adapt to climate change or reduce their emissions, while boosting their food security. But there is no fixed package of interventions or a one-size-fits-all approach,” said Leigh Winowiecki, a CIAT soil scientist, who is working on the project.

By linking social and ecological tools and datasets, CIAT and partners are identifying and scaling out context-specific strategies for climate-smart agriculture.

The “Increasing food security and farming system resilience in East Africa through wide-scale adoption of climate-smart agricultural practices” project led by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), through the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), specifically its Flagship 4 on policies and institutions for climate-resilient food systems, is being supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Over the next 3 years, the project will work closely with IFAD and national and international partners in Tanzania and Uganda to scale up climate-smart options. An assessment of the impacts and suitability of these options at the local level will help mixed system smallholders, especially women and marginalized groups, make better choices about a number of practices and techniques on offer, based on their real needs. The innovative approach includes spatially explicit monitoring and modeling of land health and agronomic suitability, and on-farm participatory research to ensure the success of the practices on the ground.

By working with farmers and local, regional, national, and international partners to mix and match the most locally appropriate solutions, climate-smart agriculture is becoming a bit smarter.

Learn more about CIAT’s partnership with IFAD in the Stewardship Report outlining our shared vision of a world without poverty and hunger.

Originally posted on CIAT website

By Margot Steenbergen & Gernot Laganda

“I could better understand the reality of how climate change is affecting the ‘on the ground reality of small scale farmers’, in a safe environment, without my investment actions being harmful.”

This comment was made by one of the participants of an innovative two-day climate change workshop held in Kigali, Rwanda. The workshop was organized by the Single Project Implementation Unit (SPIU) of IFAD-supported projects in Rwanda. The specific programme that initiated this workshop is the Climate Resilient Post-Harvest and Agribusiness Support Project (PASP). This  project includes an innovative grant for climate change adaptation provided by IFAD’s Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP).
©IFAD/Red Cross
Alphonse Mutabazi, Climate Change expert from the Rwanda Environmental Management Authority “preparing” for a flood.
The Rwandan context is unique in the global ASAP portfolio, in that it focuses on post-harvest climate risk management. Post-harvest losses is one of the greatest sources of inefficiency in agricultural production in Rwanda. Current losses for key agricultural commodities amount to up to 30 percent of harvested product. If no action is undertaken, these losses are expected to increase, considering the country’s reliance on rainfed agriculture and its vulnerability to climate change.

The country strategy supported by IFAD plans to create 200 collection points for agricultural produce, called HUBs. For the moment, the programme focuses on the five value chains of maize, cassava, beans, Irish potatoes, and dairy. These value chains are part of the Government of Rwanda’s flagship Crop Intensification Programme (CIP).

Reducing post harvest losses through the creation and support of climate smart HUBs is a practical example of climate change adaptation. Some regions in Rwanda are experiencing increasingly longer dry spells, alternated by shorter, but more intensive periods of rainfall. An on the ground reality is that harvesting now takes place at wetter times of the year. Consequently, farmers can no longer rely on the sun to dry cereals to safe moisture content.

Moreover, the IFAD supported project allows for specific climate risk management actions, including improved use of weather forecasts. The programme is novel, and the idea of climate change, and climate change adaptation are relatively new to the country programme team. As part of the initial capacity building strategy, a climate change workshop was organized.

In addition to technical lectures by the Rwandan Meteorological Agency (RMA), and the Rwanda Environmental Management Authority (REMA), the Red Cross and Red Crescent Climate Centre was invited to allow for the participants to ‘experience’ the effects of climate change, in the safe setting of the Ministry of Agriculture.

Through the tried and tested methodology of ‘serious games’, the participants appreciated the value of forecast based decision making.
©IFAD/Red Cross
Some decisions had better outcomes for the participants than others

Three decades of development investment decisions made in the space of an hour, while taking into consideration complexities caused by climate change? No problem for the participants of this climate change workshop.

Similarly, being asked to think as a HUB manager, they were presented with the following options:

For the next year, do we invest in:
A) Collecting and processing maize, and ensuring the maize flour will reach a market (regular HUB activities);
B) Ensuring we do not suffer the negative consequences from a potentially devastating flood, by purchasing hermetically sealed harvest storage bags;
C) Longer term, more expensive climate risk management measures, such as elevated and more robust storage facilities;
D) Improved Flood Early Warning Systems, which similarly require an initial investment.

Complex trade offs, in a complex setting triggered rich discussions. The real value of improved early warning systems and longer-term climate risk management became more evident. In a country that is 85 percent rural, largely agriculture dependent and highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate stresses, a shift towards longer-term protection could be very beneficial.

The workshop not only improved the understanding of climate change, but also fostered the grounds for new partnerships between different government agencies. All in all, a very promising start of the IFAD supported Climate Resilient Post-Harvest and Agribusiness Support Project of the Government of Rwanda.

Kanayo F. Nwanze (@knwanze) open letter to African Union heads of state

Judging from the daily outpouring of commentary, opinions and reports, you would think that there were two African continents. One of them is the new land of opportunity, with seven of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies, offering limitless possibilities to investors. There is, however, this other image: a starving and hopeless continent, hungry and poor, corrupt and prey to foreign exploiters.

As Africans, we are tired of caricatures. But we are also tired of waiting. Waiting to be led toward the one Africa we all want: the Africa that can and should be. We know the real Africa, filled with possibilities, dignity and opportunities, able to face its challenges and solve them from within. Never has the time been more right for us to finally realize our full potential. It is within our grasp.

As a scientist, I am always interested in facts. Africa is a land rich in resources, which has enjoyed some of the highest economic growth rates on the planet. It is home to 200 million people between the ages of 15 and 24. And it has seen foreign direct investment triple over the past decade.

As the head of an institution whose business is investing in rural people, I know that you also need vision and imagination. At the International Fund for Agricultural Development we have banked on the poorest, most marginalized people in the world, and over and over again these investments have paid off. For people, for communities, for societies. And more than half of the people we invest in are Africans.

More than 10 years have passed since the Maputo Declaration, in which you, as African leaders, committed to allocating at least 10 per cent of national budgets to agriculture and rural development – key sectors in the drive to cut poverty, build inclusive growth and strengthen food security and nutrition.

Today, just seven countries have fulfilled the Maputo commitment consistently, while some others have made steps in the right direction. Ten years is a long time to wait. In less time I have seen projects turn desert into farmland.

In just a few days in Malabo at the 23rd African Union Summit, I will join those of you, African leaders, who will gather to discuss this year’s focus of agriculture and food security. This is my call: Don’t just promise development, deliver it, make it happen now. Make real, concrete progress toward investment that reaches all Africans. Investments that prioritize rural people.
Our biggest resource is our people. To squander this is worse than wasteful. If we don’t act now, by 2030 Africa will account for 80 per cent of the world’s poor. Is this the legacy that we want to leave for future generations?

The AU declared 2014 as the year of Agriculture and Food Security. And this is the year we look beyond the deadline of the Millennium Development Goals to a post-2015 world with new goals and targets to reach. I hope that this means that we will be dedicating ourselves fully to making agriculture a priority. GDP growth due to agriculture has been estimated to be five times more effective in reducing poverty than growth in any other sector, and in sub-Saharan Africa, up to 11 times. Ironically, it is countries that lack lucrative extractive industries and that have had to invest in agriculture who have found out what is now an open secret: agriculture not only improves food security but creates wealth. Small family farmers in some parts of our continent contribute as much as 80 per cent of food production. Investing in poor rural people is both good economics and good ethics.

A full 60 per cent of our people depend wholly or partly on agriculture for their livelihoods, and the vast majority of them live below the poverty line. It’s not pity and handouts that they need. It’s access to markets and finance, land tenure security, knowledge and technology, and policies that favour small farms and make it easier for them to do business. A thriving small farm sector helps rural areas retain the young people who would otherwise be driven to migrate to overcrowded cities where they face an uncertain future. Investing in agriculture reinforces not only food security, but security in general.
In an Africa where 20 states are classified as fragile and 28 countries need food assistance, the need for a real rural transformation backed by investment and not just words is critical – I have often said that declarations don’t feed people.

Investments must be focused on smallholder family farms. Small farms make up 80 per cent of all farms in sub-Saharan Africa. And contrary to conventional wisdom, small farms are often more productive than large farms. For example, China’s 200 million small farms cover only 10 percent of the world’s agricultural land but produce 20 percent of the world’s food. The average African farm, however, is performing at only about 40 per cent of its potential. Simple technologies – such as improved seeds, irrigation and fertilizer – could triple productivity, triggering transformational growth in the agricultural sector. It is estimated that irrigation alone could increase output by up to 50 per cent in Africa.  Rural areas also need the right investments in infrastructure – roads, energy, storage facilities, social and financial services – and enabling policies backed by appropriate governance structures that ensure inclusiveness.

If we look at the countries that have met the Maputo commitment, we see that investing in agriculture works. Given that agriculture has become lucrative for private investors, and about 60 per cent of the planet’s available uncultivated agricultural land is in Africa, there is no mystery why we hear about so-called ‘land grabs’. Opportunity draws foreign investors. There is nothing wrong with foreign investment. But it has to be managed, to the benefit of all.

What is a mystery is why, with such a vast potential and a young population just waiting for a reason to seize it, our African leaders do not announce that they will redouble their efforts to drive an inclusive rural transformation, with concrete commitments, that will make Maputo a reality. I hope that after the Malabo meeting, that will be a mystery no longer.

African economies have grown impressively. But it is time to stop focussing on GDP figures and instead focus on people. The majority of our people are engaged in agriculture, and the neglect of that sector must stop if we really want to realize the healthy, peaceful and food secure Africa that we know can be. It is not a dream; it is a responsibility.

Learning for improved performance in IFAD projects in Ethiopia

Posted by Wairimu Mburathi Tuesday, June 17, 2014 3 comments

Dr Robson Mutandi opens the workshop
The IFAD Ethiopia Country Office hosted a knowledge management and learning (KM&L) workshop on 10th -12th June 2014 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It was an opportunity to gather IFAD supported projects in Ethiopia to take stock of ongoing KM&L activities.

Robson Mutandi, Country director and Regional Representative for Ethiopia, Angola and South Sudan, opened the workshop.  He encouraged the 20 staff of projects gathered at the workshop to use the learning experiences to ‘skyrocket’ people’s lives by successfully investing in agriculture, adopting best practices and lessons learned to empower the rural poor. He urged participants to adopt what they have been learning from exchange visits, and develop a culture of sharing. “We have to come out of the culture of doing things alone, and learned to share. There is nothing that is not shareable,” said Mutandi. 

The Knowledge Management System
During the workshop, the participants identified challenges and opportunities to improve sharing, learning, and exchange for improved project implementation.  The workshop, supported by IFADAfrica, was held as part of the grant’s in-country support towards facilitating knowledge management and learning integration in projects.  Participants, majority of whom had never participated in KM&L workshops, were introduced to the “wheel of knowledge” an integrated framework, which was used to identify opportunities to use knowledge management tools in specific areas - information management, internal and external communication, learning oriented monitoring evaluation and to encourage innovations and experimentation - for improved project implementation.

Miriam Cherogony, the IFADAfrica Knowledge Management Coordinator shared valuable experiences from the East and Southern Africa region to inspire future action on KM&L action plans developed by project teams during the workshop. Importantly, she challenged projects to take initiative and adopt new implementation approaches having participated in learning exchanges nationwide and in the region.

Participants were keen to discuss how they were going to strengthen monitoring and evaluation activities and find innovative ways to capture qualitative impacts of their projects. They further shared on the tools to improve KM&L including tips on photo captioning, designing key messages for communication, writing case studies and future stories, and documenting best practices and lessons learned amongst many other tools.

Robert Ouma facillitates the workshop
As participants made their personal commitment to undertake a future knowledge management activity, they all left the workshop ready to implement activities with a new awareness of ideas, plans and multi-media tools. Participants commented that they enjoyed the method of facilitation and found the training materials useful. With a clear understanding of what knowledge management and learning is about, IFAD projects looked forward to changing implementation approaches for better results.   

Miriam Cherogony awards Habte Mebre with a certificate of participation at the workshop

Workshop participants


The Ubiquitous Eucalyptus

Posted by Ricci Symons 1 comments

By Steve Twomlow and Will Critchley

In many developing countries , including Ethiopia, Eucalyptus spp, was first introduced as a fast growing cash crop, sold to meet growing construction and energy needs.  Eucalyptus’  fast rate of growth, even on degraded land, and its ability to ‘drain’ swampy areas is viewed by many as its greatest asset. However, Eucalyptus has been at the centre of an environmental and sustainability debate for years.

©IFAD/Will Critchley & Stephen Twomlow
Since  Eucalyptus woodlots are  cash crops, they can help to reduce human pressure on natural forests. On the other hand, Eucalyptus woodlots are densely planted (to ensure straight poles for construction) and they have little understory foliage growing beneath the trees.  Eucalyptus is an invasive plant and it’s leaves prevent the survival of other plants, thereby creating a sterile forest floor bereft of biodiversity. This makes the land that Eucalyptus grows on even more vulnerable to erosion, especially as water that drips off leaves increases the natural erosivity of rainfall. Combined with the huge water demands that Eucalyptus trees require, in excess of 4000 litres of water per tree every day to achieve its full growth rate, it’s no wonder that environmental specialists are continuing to question its relevance to sustainable development. 
©IFAD/Will Critchley & Stephen Twomlow
Despite these enigmatic effects, Eucalyptus is still highly valued. In Ethiopia, and other areas of the world, Eucalyptus woodlots increasingly represent a major, or even sole, source of income for households.  The farmers of the Lake Tana Watershed, in the Amhara region of Ethiopia are no exception. They grow Eucalyptus poles that are sold for use in  construction.

©IFAD/Will Critchley & Stephen Twomlow
The IFAD and GEF funded ‘Community-based Integrated Natural Resources Management Project’ (CBINReMP), has been working with smallholders to develop participatory forest management approaches that encourage the regeneration of indigenous forests and the sustainable management of Eucalyptus woodlots. Recently, the project began investigating a spontaneous community innovation; using Eucalyptus trimmings to make charcoal. A typical building pole is 6 m in length - after trimming between 1 and 1.5 m from the raw length.  In the past, these trimmings were a waste product, as Eucalyptus wood is not a desirable  fuel for the domestic cook stove, because its  high gum content makes it burn too fast.  This new method of charcoal production may provide an  alternative fuel source that  reduces the need to burn dry cattle manure or cut down wood from  indigenous forests. Perhaps this new development may inform debates on the growth of Eucalyptus woodlots.  

IFAD, FAO & WFP in DRC awarded for joint work on food insecurity

Posted by Steven Jonckheere Thursday, June 12, 2014 0 comments

©WFP/Giulio d’Adamo 
The collective efforts of the three UN food and agriculture agencies in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been recognised in the 2014 Award of Excellence by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The award ceremony took place on Friday, 6 June, 2014 in Rome, during an official session of WFP’s Executive Board.

The three Rome-based agencies, which share the goal of increasing food security, play an important role in the agricultural policy in DRC. They cooperate in political dialogue and sector coordination as well as in strategic planning, formulation and implementation of projects.
The agencies make regular efforts in pooling their expertise on agriculture, food relief and rural development. Their teams work closely to support DRC in its efforts to ensure food security and agricultural development, mainly in the provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu, Orientale (Tshopo, Ituri, Haut and Bas-Uélé districts), Northern Katanga (Manono, Mitwaba and Pweto), Bandundu, Bas Congo and Kinshasa outskirts.

The Consortium is also active in the effective coordination of support from various technical and financial partners in developing strategies and programmes for agricultural development, including the National Agriculture Investment Programme (NAIP), one of the key results of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP).

©WFP/Giulio d’Adamo 
In this field, the Consortium builds on the experience of the Belgian Cooperation Agency. In November 2013, the Consortium supported a NAIP business meeting for fundraising, after supporting its formulation, finalization and validation process.

In January 2014, with the technical and financial partners’ support and following the recommendation of the New Partnership for the Development of Africa (NEPAD), the Consortium started working with the Government on a consultation process, which should ultimately lead to the development of a common roadmap on the improvement of governance in the agricultural sector.

IFAD’s Country Portfolio Manager, Rasha Omar, recognizes that "the honour in obtaining this award is also due to the efforts of all three agencies’ staff across DRC, who give themselves heart and soul to the fight against food insecurity and rural poverty".

Mechanization of conservation agriculture slashes farming costs

Posted by Ricci Symons Wednesday, June 11, 2014 0 comments

Jabu Matsebula

©IFAD -Lindiwe planting
in the rows made by the ripper
FARMERS can increase yields, efficiency and drastically reduce the cost of ploughing, planting and weeding in the 2014 season following the introduction of mechanized Conservation Agriculture (CA). The new innovation that is being rolled out by the Lower Usuthu Sustainable Land Management (LUSLM) project, funded by the International Fund For Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF), uses  tractor drawn Conservation Agriculture implements.

Using mechanized conservation agriculture, a farmer can complete land preparation, fertilizing and planting all in one operation and in a fraction of the time it takes with conventional ploughing. This method uses the principles of minimum soil tillage, or “Climate Smart” agriculture practices, advocated by Ministry of Agriculture Principal Secretary, Dr Robert Thwala.

A 4x4 John Deer 5503 supplied by Swazi Trac in Matsapha rigged with a 5-tooth rippertyne was unveiled during the first demonstration. The designated field was just over a hectare, where Lindiwe Magagula (a local farmer) intended to grow legumes.

When the tractor starts, the ripper opens five trenches that are almost 25-30 centimetres deep and 45 centimetres apart. The ripper leaves rows of grass between the trenches. Norman Mavuso, a sustainable Agriculture Coordinator, showed Lindiwe how to mix the herbicide and using a sprayer on her back, how to spray the grass with a special Springbok herbicide to dry the grass so that it forms a mulch cover between the rows of plants.

The reduced tillage equipment makes it possible for the tractor to open planting lines, apply fertilizer, seed and cover in one pass. The fertilizer dispenser is able to place fertilizer on one side of the trench and the seed on the other, eliminating the danger of the seed being scorched.

The tractor drawn no-till equipment is so time efficient that it is possible to plant a maximum of sixteen fields instead of four, assuming that it spends two hours at work.

“Last year we conducted a rapid perception survey to understand public attitudes towards CA. We found that even though people see and appreciate the benefits that come with the CA practice, they are  discouraged by the heavy manual labor involved. The information was valuable as it convinced us to explore ways of reducing the manual labour through mechanization,” said Mavuso. This  observation was confirmed by Lindiwe, who joked that her children run away when it is  time to engage in hoeing to dig the planting holes.

CA was introduced in Swaziland as a poverty alleviation initiative after trials in Zimbabwe and Kenya showed minimum tillage greatly improved productivity at much lower costs. Over the years however it  has gained the reputation as a practice for poor people.

“We have now realized that to succeed in promoting universal CA, we must recognize that farmers are at different levels of development sophistication. Therefore it is important to deploy not one, but a range of tools so that everyone can find a tool that they can use according to their level of development”, explained Mavuso.

Universal implementation of CA is expected to greatly improve national yields, especially for the priority national staple food – maize, by addressing two destructive practices.
In some cases, farmers opt to follow the tractor and drop seed as it ploughs. This method is not only inefficient, but the seed is planted too deep into the soil, resulting in limited or no germination or delayed germination.

A second problem practice is wrong application of fertilizer. Reliance on rain has scared farmers to adopt cautious approaches to limit their losses in the case it does not rain for a long  time. Fertilizer is the most expensive input. As a result, farmers wait until it rains before risking their fertilizer – a very destructive practice. “Farmers now commonly plant seed without fertilizer, and wait for it to grow. They return when the seedling has grown a few centimetres and apply a side dressing with fertilizer. This is a total waste because fertilizer is a combination of three components: Phosphorus, Potassium and Nitrogen. The roots require all three nutrients to develop and feed the plant. Since the roots grow downwards, the fertilizer is wasted because it does not benefit the roots. Some nitrogen is absorbed by the plant, yet potassium and phosphorus could be the most expensive items that are  totally wasted.

 Instead, spreading mulch to provide soil cover is a CA practice that creates compost, thereby  replacing  nutrients plants constantly remove from the soil. It also preserves moisture.
For now, the project is confined to Siphofaneni and Sithobela rural development areas (RDAs). When demand increases, the project plans to scale-up implementation nationally.


By Stephen Twomlow

In Ethiopia, overgrazing and the resulting land degradation has been one of the major challenges  to rural development of the last 50 years. Livestock numbers are ever-increasing meaning an escalation of grazing,  leaving the land prey to spiraling erosion, a diverse range of local species are lost, and ecosystems jeopardised and vital water streams dry up.

Figure 1 -  ©IFAD/Stephen Twomlow & Will Critchley
Despite these detrimental consequences, herders are unwilling to sell their ‘bank accounts’ of scrawny beasts. Thus the perennial question: is it really possible to persuade livestock owners in Africa to reduce stock numbers and introduce – or reintroduce – pasture management on valued communal lands?

Cynics believe the contrary, and predict widespread desertification as the inevitable and final consequence of overgrazing. A second opinion holds that establishing large private ranches, practising holistic range management– limiting herding to a few efficient emerging cattle farmers and encouraging the rest of the community to move onto and adapt new urban livelihoods – is a possible way forward.

Figure 2 -  ©IFAD/Stephen Twomlow & Will Critchley
But there may be a third way. At least in the areas where rainfall is adequate to support rapid re-vegetation when land is rested.

The IFAD-GEF-AECID funded  ‘Community-based Integrated Natural Resources Management Project’ (CBINReMP) has been supporting government policy in the Lake Tana basin of Ethiopia to provide communities land-use rights through a registration and certification processes, to demarcate land holdings and define the use of parcels of land on the proviso that the groups of livestock herders are required to improve their common land.

Often, the communities choose to close-off the area from grazing until it recovers adequately to allow a ‘cut and carry’ system of livestock feeding. Each family agrees to harvest only sufficient fodder for their animals - now kept close to their homesteads. Admittedly the initial transition period is tough – and fodder is scarce for one or two seasons. But experience shows that once the land recovers, animal nutrition improves and there are visible benefits to the environment. Indigenous, stoloniferous grasses recolonize bare patches of land, local legumes re-emerge and thrive, and streams are observed to flow for longer each year. Natural regeneration of multipurpose trees takes place, and unwanted species are weeded out. A virtuous cycle is established.

Figure 3 -  ©IFAD/Stephen Twomlow & Will Critchley
But the most remarkable development in the Lake Tana Basin is that many communities have decided to erect an invisible fence around their common land. This is ‘social fencing’, where members police themselves. They set by-laws and stick to them, with infringements (an unsurprisingly few number) punished by fines. The system is still in its early stages, but there is a sense of pride and optimism – which is reinforced by increased income from milk and meat, and the establishment of bee hives.  It would be rash to say the ‘tragedy of the commons’ has been averted, but the theatre curtain has opened on a new and exciting scenario.

Figure 4 -  ©IFAD/Stephen Twomlow & Will Critchley

The integration of family farming and agricultural development

Posted by Steven Jonckheere Thursday, June 5, 2014 0 comments

By Ides de Willebois, Director & Steven Jonckheere, Knowledge Management Officer for IFAD in West and Central Africa.

Developing an agricultural sector that is inclusive of small farmers

The demand for food and agricultural products is changing in unprecedented ways. Increases in per capita incomes, higher urbanization and the growing numbers of women in the workforce engender greater demand for high-value commodities, processed products and ready-prepared foods. A clear trend exists towards diets that include more animal products such as fish, meat and dairy products, which in turn increases the demand for feed grains. There is also a growing use of agricultural products, particularly grains and oil crops, as bioenergy production feedstock. International trade and communications are accelerating changes in demand, leading to convergence of dietary patterns as well as growing interest in ethnic foods from specific geographical locations. The nature and extent of the changing structure of agri-food demand offer unprecedented opportunities for diversification and value addition in agriculture, particularly in developing countries.

Restructured or modern markets and value chains offer a new environment for smallholders, with potentially profitable opportunities set against higher entry costs and risks of marginalization. There are about half a billion smallholder farms worldwide. In many developing countries, the overwhelming majority of farms are small and family-run, and they produce most of the food consumed locally. Smallholders are also by far the main investors in agriculture in most of the developing world. However, there is scope for large scale farmers as commercial enterprises, often in interaction with smaller scale farmers using institutional frameworks that encourage vertical integration and scale economies in processing and marketing.

There is a sound business case for securing and enhancing small-scale producers’ inclusion in agro-food value chains, which can bring both economic and wider development gains. This requires that appropriate business models are applied and, where applicable, that this is done in partnership with producers, the public sector, intermediaries and development agencies.

Forum for West and Central Africa

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo organised a forum for West and Central Africa from 13 to 16 May 2014 in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, to review lessons learned from IFAD-funded projects in the region. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development organized and set the agenda for this forum, showing how Africa's governments are taking the lead in efforts to accelerate rural development and expand food production throughout the region.

The workshop attracted more than 200 participants, including government officials, representatives of other United Nations agencies and bilateral development institutions, as well as members of the private sector and civil society groups and partners from IFAD-funded projects in the region. In keeping with the United Nations’ designation of 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming, and the African Union declaring 2014 as the Year of Agriculture and Food Security, the forum addressed a fundamental aspect of the transformation of rural societies which is the integration of family farming and agricultural sector in order to boost agricultural productivity, increase the incomes of farmers, women as well as men, create jobs for rural young people, assure regular supplies of food to urban centres and ultimately stimulate local economies.
There was a general consensus that family farming is the cornerstone of national food security. Participants agreed that there is still a tremendous untapped potential in smallholder agriculture, and especially among some of its target groups, such as women and youth. Agribusinesses (small, medium and large companies involved in the provision of agricultural input, processing, packaging and food distribution) are an essential segment of agricultural value chains as they link family farmers to urban consumers and allow for a development that is dynamic, sustainable and which created jobs and wealth. Building on their respective comparative advantages, the links between family farming and agribusinesses need to be strengthened through win-win partnerships. Agricultural policies and development actors have a role to play in facilitating the development of value chains that contribute to national food security and the inclusive growth of rural economies. 

Three thematic areas were chosen for deeper discussion on good practices: i) value chain development; ii) technologies and innovations; and, iii) financial services. Strong links to markets for poor rural producers are essential to increasing agricultural production, generating economic growth in rural areas and reducing hunger and poverty. Improving these links creates a virtuous circle by boosting productivity, increasing incomes and strengthening food security. The participants identified the following elements as being key to making value chains work for poor rural people:

-      A good understanding of the market and an analysis of the entire chain;

-      Strong producer institutions;

-      Trust between the different value chain actors;

-      Different business models need to be discussed and a one-size-fits-all should be avoided;

-      Access to finance and inputs is usually a stumbling block which needs to be addressed;

-      Hard (infrastructure) and software (capacity building) should go hand in hand; and,

-      Quality standards and control procedures need to be discussed and accepted by all actors.

A lack of access to appropriate technology is often a primary cause of poor and vulnerable rural livelihoods. Participants agreed that attention should be given to the following issues:

-      Build on traditional knowledge;

-      Facilitate dialogue between producers, users and researchers;

-      Research and extension should respond to the needs of the producers and the market

-      Strengthen the inclusion of post-harvest technologies in value chain projects; and,

-      Certified seed systems should respond to the local context, but also to the needs of the market.

IFAD recognizes vast potential to improve the livelihoods of rural people by developing by increasing their access to a wide range of financial services and sound institutions. The main points made during the discussions at the forum were:

-      Products need to be developed that meet the demands of people involved with family farming, with a specific attention to youth and women;

-      Matching grants should be transitory and complementary with market based credit and saving services;

-      Support the expansion of rural financial services, especially the physical access and proximity;

-      Support the dialogue between public and private sector and between Producers Unions and apex rural finance institutions;

-      Microfinance units should be established at the central bank;

-      National rural finance strategies should be developed;

-      Facilitate linkages with other sources of refinancing that will continue after the project ends; and,

-      Strengthen business approach and market orientation.

Finally, the participants made some general recommendations:

-      Engage in policy dialogue on land governance, in order to protect the land rights of smallholder farmers, especially those of women and youth;

-      Set up inclusive national and regional platforms where different stakeholders can discuss issues related to agricultural policies

-      Mobilise more public and private funds for the development of smallholder agriculture; and,

-      Put in place mechanisms to capture and share innovations and good practices.

We would like to thank the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo for organising the event and everybody who contributed to making the eight Regional Forum a real success.