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If you want to know more about the IFAD building - Get on the roof!

Posted by S.Sperandini Thursday, February 26, 2015 1 comments

By Clare Bishop-Sambrook, PTA

This week many staff have taken advantage of the opportunity to visit the IFAD roof and learn more about IFAD’s greening efforts first hand. Twelve solar panels (hot water system), four gas fired boilers (723 kW each), five chillers and 13 air handling units make up the heating, ventilation and air conditioning in IFAD’s HQ.

The visit in numbers….

In the summer do not open windows because unfiltered, moist air enters the building and can block the chilled beam (air conditioning) unit in the offices
IFAD is the only building in Italy to have achieved the gold level of the Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) voluntary green building certification for Existing Buildings – Operations and Maintenance (EB:OM). No UN or IFI building has yet to achieve this certification at the Platinum level
Visual inspections per day
Two visits per day by the maintenance technicians to ensure all critical elements of the mechanical and electrical installations are working properly
Payback period on the solar panels which were co-financed with Gemmo (maintenance contractor)
LEED points
If IFAD maintains the points from the original certification in 2010, IFAD needs 11 points to move from gold to platinum level on LEED
The frequency with which the air filters are cleaned; recommended practice is 4 – 6 weeks
Base temperature for building in winter
Base temperature for building in summer
Sq metres
Solar panels
Signed up for the visit to IFAD’s solar panels this week
Per cent
Women in the IFAD Facilities Team
Per cent
Share of air travel (by staff) of IFAD’s total greenhouse gas emissions
Per cent
All occupied areas of the building are air conditioned and have light quality of a minimum of 350 Lux
Per cent
All hot water requirements during the summer months should be met from the solar panels
Energy Utilization Index (EUI)
IFAD obtained an EUI of 202 kWh/m2/year – some 40 per cent better than best practice for a building such as IFAD HQ in this climatic region
Completed the ADM survey (at least 300 are required in order to potentially gain an extra point in the LEED evaluation)
Sq metres
Area of lawn and flowerbeds requiring watering in the summer
Water tanks on the roof  heated by solar panels with additional tanks in the basement to store a further 9500 litres of hot water
Water tanks in basement for harvesting water from the rooftop
Average volume of water used per day in IFAD

Thanks to the rooftop tour guides: Dave Nolan and Antonio Russo

Written by Adam Vincent

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director Oxfam International, gave the inaugural IFAD Lecture at the recent 38th session of the Governing Council, IFAD's annual meeting of Member States. Her talk, entitled The Future of Aid, discussed the relevancy and future of aid in a post-2015 world.

"I cannot pretend that we don't need aid," Byanyima said, "but good aid needs to work itself out of a job." Although aid has the potential for great change, too often donors prioritize their own needs over those of their partners, she suggested. Aid should primarily benefit people at the grassroots, catalysing investments and empowerment. It needs to support the poor and marginalized so that they can find their voice and take a more active role in their communities.

First and foremost, local people need to be "in the driving seat" of partnerships between governments, businesses and rural communities, Byanyima explained. Farmers are rarely asked what they need or want, she said, and programmes responding to these desires are "even rarer." Aid should support the progress that citizens envision. Smallholder farmers are not mere beneficiaries, Byanyima noted; they are potential "innovators, investors and voters" who could flourish with the proper support.

Furthermore, aid needs to work against corruption. According to Byanyima, tax avoidance costs developing countries (and their citizens) €123 billion each year. Aid should support governmental efforts to build "efficient and effective" financial systems that help channel more aid to those who need it most. Additionally, she said, aid needs to be sustainable and not tied to "protectionist policies" or other schemes that benefit donor countries.

Challenges for a post-2015 world
Byanyima went on to list the three challenges post-2015 rural development must address: climate change, inequality and women's empowerment.

Oxfam's Winnie Byanyima gives first IFAD Lecture. ©IFAD/Flavio Ianniello
First, Byanyima said future rural development strategies must respond to the reality that the "poorest and most vulnerable are being hit hardest by climate change." Changing and unpredictable weather patterns are affecting crop yields, leading to hunger and malnutrition. As a result, Byanyima warned, by 2050 there could be 25 million more malnourished children – the equivalent to all the children in Canada and the United States.

Second, Byanyima called inequality "possibly the biggest challenge of our era." Proper aid should tend to people, not just plants, she said, and focus on improving food security and income in addition to crop yields. Aid needs to support the poor and marginalized – who "are often politically, socially and geographically remote from development decision-making," she said – in finding their voice and influencing resource distribution. Donors must also ensure that their donations are benefitting smallholder farmers, not reinforcing oppressive power relationships.

Aid must empower women
Finally, Byanyima noted that aid should empower women, specifically. Gender inequality starts with the low value placed on girls, she said, which then extends to public decision-making. The resulting cycle of marginalization devalues girls' lives, impeding their access to education, resources and opportunities. As a result, even though they work more than men, women farmers are still often rendered invisible.

IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze with Oxfam Executive Director
Winnie Byanyima. ©IFAD/Flavio Ianniello
Unrepresented in investment decision-making, women may miss out on the benefits of aid. Men tend to value productivity-raising investments, for example, whereas women tend to prefer investments that save time and add value. If you were to ask women in a Tanzanian village what investments they most needed , Byanyima said, they would likely say a water pump close to the village could save them hours of time. Aid needs to especially recognize the needs of women, which may otherwise be overlooked, she added.

Byanyima concluded by recognizing the incredible progress in the Millennium Development Goals era, during which "we have seen the fastest reduction of poverty in human history." Aid has played a significant role in this achievement, she said, but there is still work to do: We must continue our commitment to rural development, with a keen eye to climate change, inequality and women's empowerment. We must find not only agronomic solutions but also social, political and environmental ones. There is still a place for aid in the future of rural transformation, Byanyima said – but it should work toward its own eradication.

Written by Larissa Setaro

The second global meeting of the Indigenous People's forum convened on 12-13 February 2015 in IFAD's headquarters. Held every two years, the Forum is a dialogue between the United Nations, represented by IFAD, and representatives of indigenous peoples from all over the world acting as ambassadors of their own experiences, traditions and cultures. This year the focus was on indigenous peoples' food systems and sustainable livelihoods.

Indigenous peoples have a long history of food systems depending on the traditional knowledge of their local ecosystems. In addition, they play a vital role in preserving and recovering the natural environment that shaped their livelihoods and cultures for centuries, acting as stewards of biodiversity.

In this regard, the Forum hosted a session on the relationship between indigenous food systems and nutrition, and two experts on the subject were invited to speak: Harriet Kuhnlein, Professor Emerita of Human Nutrition and founding Director of the Centre for Indigenous Peoples’ Nutrition and Environment (CINE) at McGill University in Canada, and Treena Delormier, Assistant Professor, Native Hawaiian and Indigenous Health, University of Hawaii.

Nutritional value of indigenous foods

CINE's research started in Canada with the Mohawk Council of Kahnáwake, located near Montréal, Québec. Interested in understanding the impact of indigenous food in indigenous peoples' diets, Kuhnlein and her team developed a methodology on documenting traditional food systems to understand their nutrient composition, benefits and threats. The data collected would then be kept to help the community preserve knowledge on local food systems.

Through the methodology, they developed a range of case studies that involve 12 communities worldwide. CINE's team found that generally, when indigenous products are part of people's diets, they have a positive nutritional impact and should be protected. An example that surprised me comes from the Inuit community, where the traditional food is muktuk, the skin and underlying blubber of the whale. These products contain vitamin C and A, besides micro-nutrients such as iron and zinc, that can be of particular relevance in areas where the growth of fruits and vegetables is constrained by ecological features.

It was also interesting to listen to the experience of Delormier, who herself comes from the Mohawk Council of Kahnáwake and stressed that food is what we are and where we come from. Delormier explained that economic, social and environmental transitions are threatening their food systems. She emphasized that often indigenous products are of higher nutritional value than food bought in supermarkets – which, while inexpensive, is low-quality food that increases carbohydrates and sugars in diets and can lead to obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, premature heart disease and shortened life spans.

A pertinent comment came from an indigenous peoples' representative from Bolivia, who stressed that indigenous products are central to their nutrition and cultural identity. However, in some cases external forces undermine the preservation of food systems, as it is happening with quinoa, which is becoming less available to indigenous people given its international demand. In these cases, long term, sustainable solutions are overlooked in favour of the driving forces of globalization. Another example comes from the Green Revolution that – through large mono-cropping of high-yield varieties – led to high dependence on a few major cereals varieties and loss of biodiversity.

Table laden with candles and food staples from around the world at the Indigenous Peoples' Forum.
©IFAD/ A. Vincent

Dietary diversity and resilience

During the Forum, participants said that indigenous peoples' can have a role in feeding the growing global population through their sustainable ways of preserving ecosystems and therefore conserving the world's biodiversity. However, they still need recognition of their rights, governments willing to work together with them in partnership, access to technologies, and a policy balance between the growing pressure of globalization and the preservation of indigenous culture and food systems.

Through the Indigenous People's Forum and a dedicated session on indigenous food systems at IFAD's Governing Council, IFAD renewed its engagement in preserving and supporting indigenous food systems, rights and identity. Juliane Friedrich, IFAD Senior Technical Specialist on Nutrition, encouraged a holistic approach to improving nutrition, and emphasized the important role of indigenous peoples in that approach. Her point was supported by Adolfo Brizzi, Director of the Policy and Technical Advisory Division at IFAD, who said that diversity is resilience and resilience is a way to manage risks.

Senegal spearheading innovations in rural development

Posted by Steven Jonckheere Tuesday, February 24, 2015 0 comments

Since 1979, IFAD and the Government of Senegal have been working together to eradicate rural poverty in the country. As such numerous agricultural and pastoral innovations have been introduced.  They helped to increase production and supported the shift from subsistence agriculture to market production. The IFAD portfolio contains many examples of technical innovations emerging from experiences in other countries that were reproduced in Senegal. At local level, the projects in the portfolio encouraged producer organizations and decentralized government services to adopt the innovations. Following a value chain approach, IFAD-supported projects have contributed to reducing food insecurity, increasing incomes and creating jobs, especially of women and young people.

IFAD and the Government of Senegal realize that it is now time to capitalize and scale up the innovations that have been piloted with the support from IFAD. As a first step, two events have been organised to share the results and best practices from IFAD supported projects in Senegal and to see how innovations can be scaled up: on 9 and 10 February 2015 a national workshop was held in Dakar bringing together all national stakeholders and on 17 February 2015 a seminar was organised during IFAD’s 38th Governing Council for a broader audience.

The innovations and best practices are plentiful. Some examples are:

Inclusion of young people: PAFA has been using an innovative targeting approach to create jobs for rural youth. They are encouraging local sports and cultural associations to prepare proposals in order to obtain project support. Forty-five associations are being assisted by the Project in terms of financial support and capacity-building. As a result, more than 4,000 young women and men are now involved in agriculture related practices. This has allowed them to turn into successful agricultural entrepreneurs. PAFA is providing young women and men with both decent work and livelihood options in their rural communities, so they can remain there if they choose.

Value chain roundtables: PAFA has set up four value chain roundtables (millet/sorghum, cowpea, sesame and hibiscus), bringing together key value chain actors and offering a space for dialogue. The roundtables are responsible for the following activities: (i) increased seed production to ensure members have access to certified seed; (Ii) the dissemination of the market prices; (Iii) dissemination of information on rainfall; (iv) commercial and financial intermediation between producers and buyers; (v) the establishment of an internal control system the quality; (Vii) dispute resolution between producers and buyers.

Decreasing input subsidies: PAFA provides farmers’ organisations with subsidies to acquire quality inputs (certified seeds, fertilizers and agricultural equipment). The financial support last three years and decreases over the years: 80% in year 1, 60% in year 2 and 40% in year 3. The model allows: (i) to facilitate access of small producers to markets at remunerative prices, (ii) to ensure that small farmers have access to quality inputs, (iii) to ensure buyers get the required quality and quantity; (iv) to empower farmers’ organisations in the area of access to inputs; (v) to strengthen rural enterprises and their capacity to mobilize the savings of beneficiary households.

Improved village poultry: PAFA has developed a holistic approach to village poultry, which has proven to be extremely successful. The characteristics of the model are: (i) setting up farmers’ groups in a transparent and inclusive manner; (ii) technical training tailored to the needs of the beneficiaries, especially women; (iii) close technical follow-up provided by local extensionists; (iv) construction of henhouse with local material as a shelter during the night; (v) breeding local chickens that are adapted to the environment and farming conditions; (vi) vaccination and other preventive measures; (vii) production of feed by the beneficiaries themselves using local ingredients.

Promoting local consumption: To promote the consumption of local products, PAFA has trained more than 800 women and young girls in processing and cooking techniques using local cereals. Furthermore, hotel and restaurant owners have been sensitized to introduce dishes prepared with local products in their menus.

Stories from Swaziland: New Gardens with Healthy Vegetables

Posted by Christopher Neglia Monday, February 23, 2015 1 comments

Based on a report by Priscilla P. Mkhatshwa, a farmer from Vikizijula,  Siphumelele Ngqwane, an Extension Officer in Siphofaneni, Regional Development Area, Ministry of Agriculture, Tengetile Mpila journalism student at the University of Swaziland, Dumsani Hlanze, Sustainable Agriculture Graduate Trainee at the Lower Usuthu Sustainable Land Management Project (LUSLMP), and Norman Mavuso, a Sustainable Agriculture Coordinator at Swaziland Water and Agricultural Development Enterprise (SWADE)

Makhundlu in Swaziland’s Lowveld region is often drought-stricken with smallholder farmers dependent on external food aid. The low quality of the land means growing crops can be tough and food security is extremely volatile.

In response, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Tinkhundla  (Swazi term for traditional leadership) and Regional Development worked together to design the Lower Usuthu Sustainable Land Management Project (LUSLMP), also referred to as LUSIP-GEF. The project is financed by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Swaziland Water and Agricultural Development Enterprise.

In Makhundlu water is a very precious natural resource. The closest supply is six kilometres away and only provides enough for domestic use,  so growing crops or tending to livestock can be incredibly challenging.

The project targeted family farmers in the area who were most affected by the lack of water (mostly women) and help improve their food security. It provided the farmers with the tools and workshops necessary to cultivate permaculture gardens and adopt rainwater harvesting methods.

Permaculture gardens involve incorporating wood ash and manure into the soil when it is tilled. This improves the soil's ability to retain water, increases its fertility and stops pest infestations. Then a 5-10 cm layer of mulch (dried grass or leaves) is applied which keeps moisture in the soil, regulates soil temperature, suppresses weeds and reduces soil erosion during the heavy rains.

After this a variety of seeds are planted from leaf and root vegetables that are mixed together to reduce pests and diseases. The crops are watered three times a week around the base of the stems to conserve as much water as possible. Two weeks after planting a liquid fertiliser of water mixed with manure is applied. Organic anti-pest sprays are used, made from ingredients such as aloe and lemongrass.

The farmers learned about the principles of permaculture from workshops and demonstrations. Of the 44 farmers that were trained, 41 went on to start their own permaculture gardens which they organised in groups to provide each other with support and advice.

The project provided each farmer with a starter pack of mixed seeds to begin their permaculture. Project staff made frequent visits to answer questions or provide any help the farmers might need. They also organised farmer learning exchange visits where farmers shared experiences, skills, challenges and solutions.

As well as the permaculture starter pack, the farmers were given training and materials to build their own rainwater harvesting tanks. This means that they have clean water which they can use to water their gardens.

Farmers increased their knowledge by exchanging experiences during farmer learning exchange visits
The 41 farmers who participated in the project have benefitted in many ways. They now have fresh vegetables free from synthetic chemicals, fresh water and have created strong bonds in the community by working together.

Farmers and their families now 
consume fresh, healthy vegetables
The cost of vegetable production has decreased and the farmers no longer have to go and fetch water from the borehole during the rainy season. However, there were some initial challenges to the project. The first stage of a permaculture garden is particularly labour intensive which the farmers found hard to accept. Also during summer there is a lot of work in the maize fields so most farmers prioritise their work on the fields and neglect their gardens.

However, overall the project managed to overcome these issues. Agnes Mangwe, a farmer from Vikizijula in Makhundlu now has a permaculture garden and sells lettuce from it to pay for her grand-children's school fees.

“I advise farmers to start a permaculture garden so that in five years’ time the poverty rate in the country might be decreased and there will be no one struggling in the country,” said Mangwe. “ Farmers should move from being dependent on food aid towards being self-reliant.”

Training women's groups in the construction of ferro-concrete water harvesting tanks
Permaculture Garden

The key to this project's success was the willingness of the community to teach each other and work as a team. Farmers told us they appreciated the continued collaboration with the project staff, but were now able to make their own way. This is what has made the project approachable and sustainable.

Since this initial training in 2011, more than 500 permaculture gardens and 700 rainwater harvesting tanks have been established in the project area.  A further 100 gardens have been  constructed in the peri-urban communities of Manzini and Mbabanes.  In addition the project has trained primary school teachers to introduce Permaculture into the school curriculum and at national level to the National Curriculum Centre.

Based on a report by Lynn Kota, LUSIP-GEF National Project Manager, Prince Mngoma, LUSIP-GEF Environment Coordinator, Clement Gamedze, LUSIP Community Development Officer,  Debra Khumalo, reporter from Agribusiness Monthly magazine, Lwazi Dlamini, Journalism student at the University of Swaziland and Msutfu Fakudze, Director of the NGO Conserve Swaziland.

The village of Luhlanyeni is located in the Mamba Chiefdom of Swaziland, one of the driest areas in the country. While drought causes serious issues for smallholder farmers in the area, it is flash flooding and erosion that pose the biggest threats.

The Sihlangwini Sustainable Land Management project, initiated in 2010, is working to tackle the issues of drought, flash flooding  and declining soil fertility.  
The programme is part of the larger Lower Usuthu Smallholder Irrigation Project supported by the Global Environment Facility (LUSIP-GEF). It is financed by IFAD and the GEF, and implemented by the Swaziland Ministry of Agriculture and the Swaziland Water and Agricultural Development Enterprise.

Luhlanyeni has suffered from degraded lands due to overgrazing and lack of managed drainage systems. When flash-floods arrive, heavy rains are channelled into gullies which became deeper and deeper each year through erosion. Some of these gullies have grown up to twelve meters wide and over six meters deep.

The gullies are encroaching on arable land in and around Luhlanyeni village reducing the areas suitable for cultivation and grazing, endangering the livelihoods and food security of the community. 
Some have grown so wide that some of the villagers' homes were in danger of collapsing into them.
The community decided something needed to happen to stop the rich topsoil from washing away and more arable land being destroyed. They had already attempted their own solutions to the problem but they knew that they needed more help.  

The Sihlangwini Sustainable Land Management project began in early 2011. It involved hosting workshops to look at the causes of the gullies and possible prevention measures as well as sustainable land management practices.  It then provided training for the community members to build on their existing knowledge to rehabilitate the land. Additionally the project supplied the necessary field tools for the restoration processes.  

The community used a combination of biological and mechanical approaches to restore the degraded areas. Biological approaches consisted of planting trees to stabilise the soil and using drought-tolerant crop varieties. Mechanical approaches included the use of gabions (metre-square wire baskets filled with stones used to stop erosion) which were placed into the gullies.

Recognising the problem of erosion, local farmers had started collecting and using stones – but it was not enough

The main objective was to make sure the community understood the causes behind land degradation and how they could combat the threat year after year. The project also included additional training and workshops on teamwork, HIV/AIDS and gender equality.

Although the land was heavily degraded, the community can now use it again for farming. Roughly 21 hectares of land have been recovered which has aided over 150 farming families in strengthening their food security and providing them with additional income.

Nomsa Tfwala, Vice Chairperson of the project said: “We are now able to grow sweet potatoes, groundnuts and fruit trees. We have also been able to sell the peanuts we produced to the community. We no longer need to go and buy food since there is now enough from our own land!”

The project ended in 2013 and has been lauded as a great success. The experience in Luhlanyeni has inspired a nearby community, Sithobelweni, to rehabilitate a large area of their own.
The key to its success has been down to the commitment of the community. The project was driven and initiated by the community itself, building on the solutions and skills they had already implemented.

“The community had already started collecting stones, but more was needed,” said Msutfu Fakudze

Sikelela Magagula summed up: “What I have learnt is that all these development projects in our communities become much easier and more successful if they come from and are led by the people.”

Based on a report by Sibonangabo Sikhondze, Livestock Coordinator (LUSLM), Aaron Dlamini, Ministry of Agriculture extension Officer, Sandile Mkhabela, bee keeper and Magman Mahlalela, Communications student (University of Swaziland)

Smallholder farmers in Vikizijula Chiefdom, in the east of Swaziland, are turning to beekeeping as a new income-generating activity. The project is part of the Lower Usuthu Small Holder Irrigation Project of the Global Environmental Facility (LUSIP-GEF, which is financed by IFAD and the Global Environment Facility, and implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Swaziland Water and Agricultural Development Enterprise.

Before the project, the community faced poverty, unemployment and drought. This led to many young people moving away from the Chiefdom in search of employment leaving families divided and a lack of people able to carry out hard manual labour.

The project covers both practical and theoretical aspects such as hive construction and honey processing. The keepers also receive raw materials to construct beehives and other resources such as protective clothing.

Essential items for beekeeping
Locally made hive promoted by the project

Following the training the farmers were responsible for the beekeeping with regular supervision by project staff and a refresher course every three months.


Starting in 2011, the project now involves roughly 600 beekeepers and their families in the community. The results have been encouraging.  Community members have been able to raise household income and improve their food security. Working together the project has also brought the community closer together, dispelling the local myth ''you cannot live with bees, but must destroy them'',  and ensuring bees are no longer an overlooked ecosystem service. 

 A sweeter future for the youth of rural Swaziland
A truly family affair with children helping with the practical work and the record keeping 
The people of Vikizijula Chiefdom now refer to the bees as the' insect of hope'. The bees have created income from goods such as honey, which in turn contributes to school fees and home improvements for families in the community.

The average income per hive is USD 30 per harvest. Harvesting is done 4 times per season (which lasts for 4 months) with roughly 15 hives per household. This gives an average of USD 1 500 per household per season.

“Bees are not just a business to me, they are my life. I have been able to process and sell honey by-products such as floor polish and candles from the bees wax. We share the experiences learnt from this business with other families around the community. This has improved the income of my family and my community,” says beekeeper Mrs Thandi Mkhabela.

As beekeeping expands into other communities, it is creating a thriving economy. There are now specialist businesses established for the keepers such as beehive constructors and protective clothing tailors.

Together the community has overcome challenges such as beehive theft and stigma around bees themselves (traditionally they are associated with witchcraft) by forming the Honey Council. This council consists of one representative elected from each community to look at threats and issues that keepers might be facing. It provides a platform for the keepers to ask any questions or voice concerns they were facing as well as share knowledge with other beekeepers.

Success in this project has been attributed to several factors. Firstly beekeeping does not require much start-up capital, secondly it can be managed by children as young as twelve, the elderly and women. Thirdly, beekeeping has brought the community together. Struggling beekeepers were assisted by others to overcome challenges. The bees taught the community that if they work together they can fight poverty and hunger. It is the willingness and cooperation of the community in the Vikizijula Chiefdom that ultimately made the project a success.

Stories from the field highlight innovations in financial inclusion

Posted by Timothy Ledwith Friday, February 20, 2015 0 comments

Written by Adam Vincent

As part of the 38th session of IFAD's Governing Council earlier this week, John McIntire, IFAD Associate Vice-President, Programme Management Department, moderated a panel discussion about financial inclusion with six IFAD experts. The panel gave Member States an opportunity to learn more about how inclusive financing affects the lives of rural people – empowering them to build their resilience, increase their asset base and transform their communities.

Participants in the Governing Council panel of IFAD experts on financial inclusion in the field. ©IFAD/Flavio Ianniello
Hubert Boirard, Country Programme Manager for Bangladesh and Pakistan, offered a broad definition for financial inclusion: namely, access for those who are currently excluded. More than 2.5 billion working adults – more than half of the working adult population – are excluded from any form of financial services, he said. Without access to services like credit or savings, even simple investments (and subsequent growth) become difficult. Some rural people have no option but to accept the high usury rates charged by loan sharks.

Offering basic financial services can empower rural people to reach the microeconomic achievements outlined in the goals of IFAD-supported programmes and projects. For example, short-term loans with low interest rates have helped increase food security. Boirard shared the fact that in Bangladesh, these loans helped farmers achieve a 40 per cent to 63 per cent increase in revenue and shorten the hungry season by one month. He also noted that investing in smallholder producers can lead to greater production and, consequently, national economic growth.

Likewise, Robson Mutandi, IFAD Representative and Country Director for the IFAD Country Office in Ethiopia, described the benefits of savings and credit cooperatives. As access to loans creates opportunities for entrepreneurship and growth, he explained, fewer workers need to sell their labour or engage in petty trade. Rather, they can invest in industry, like one farmer who was able to begin raising livestock. This farmer needed a loan to buy her first goat, but the profits and further investments she made have enabled her to now own five cows.

In a similar vein,  Ndaya Belchikta, Country Programme Manager for Sierra Leone, described how loans helped one man in that country expand his business selling rechargeable phone cards. He now owns both a generator and a storefront and has hired two workers.

These community banks tend to be more beneficial to rural communities than commercial banks, as they also offer services to non-members. However, Abdelkarim Sma, Regional Economist for IFAD’s Near East, North Africa and Europe Division, advocated for using both types of banks. In Sudan, he said, he had worked with grassroots financial organizations as well as commercial banking in rural areas. Unlike community banks, commercial banks can help increase the visibility of rural areas and their needs.

Pedro De Vasconcelos, Programme Coordinator of the Financing Facility for Remittances, added another layer to the conversation: remittances. Although remittances sent back to their home country by migrants can be as high as a third of its GDP, access to remittance services in rural areas is sometimes scarce, he said. The opportunity cost of a journey to the nearest remittance services facility can be prohibitively high.

Throughout the panel, McIntire stressed that financial inclusion represents an investment in people. He and Michael Hamp, Lead Technical Specialist, Programme Management Department, pointed out that financial inclusion supports diversification of livelihoods and fosters resilience and empowerment, creating opportunities for rural people to improve their communities. New mobile technologies and digital infrastructure can present alternative methods of financial inclusion and inspire new ideas. With financial inclusion still unavailable to 2.5 billion adults, the opportunities and possibilities are virtually endless.

At IFAD's Governing Council, signs that rural transformation is under way

Posted by Timothy Ledwith Wednesday, February 18, 2015 0 comments

Written by Adam Vincent

This week, delegates from IFAD's Member States joined IFAD staff and distinguished keynote speakers from across the world for the 38th session of the Governing Council, IFAD's main decision-making body. The theme for this year's Council was rural transformation, with a focus on sustainable development for the long-term health and security of rural communities.

Padoan: Europe ready to mobilise
After the Governing Council session was declared open, His Excellency Pier Carlo Padoan, Minister for Economy and Finance of the Italian Republic, took the floor to share the roles that both Italy and Europe as a whole can play, along with IFAD, in transforming rural areas. Padoan cited 2015's European Year for Development as evidence for a growing sense of European solidarity and desire to help others in developing nations.

His Excellency Pier Carlo Padoan, Minister for Economy and Finance
of the Italian Republic. ©IFAD/Giorgio Cosulich de Pecine
As 2015 is also the year of Expo Milano 2015 – the Universal Exhibition that Milan, Italy will host from 1 May to 31 October – Padoan took a moment to "reflect upon the contradictions of our world." We have the technology to balance food security and market stability, but poverty perseveres, he said. He recommended that Italy and other developed countries mobilise private resources to complement public investment in areas of rural poverty.

Mahama: Prioritise rural transformation
Next, His Excellency John Dramani Mahama, President of the Republic of Ghana, affirmed the importance of investing in rural areas and empowering rural people. "Neglecting transformation of rural areas can be more expensive than transforming them," he warned, citing the poor health-care infrastructure that facilitated the spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa. Mahama argued that improving social services in rural areas to match those offered in urban areas would even help solve urban poverty. Given greater opportunities to make a living in the countryside, fewer residents would leave for the city, he said.

Rural transformation depends on listening to and providing for the needs of smallholder farmers, Mahama continued. As an example, he said that his administration had rejected a sizable programme because it did not sufficiently benefit smallholder farmers. The farmers needed microfinance opportunities, seeds, tractors, reapers, threshers, preservation techniques and access to a market system – not workshops, consultancies and four-wheel drive vehicles. Mahama noted that his administration did not approve the programme until it was amended to better reflect smallholders' needs.

From left: His Majesty Tupou VI, King of Tonga; IFAD President Kanayo F. 
Nwanze; and His Excellency John Dramani Mahama, President of the 
Republic of Ghana. ©IFAD/Flavio Ianniello
Tupou: Uphold IFAD values 
His Majesty Tupou VI, King of Tonga, followed by listing some of the values that guide rural development in Tonga, and IFAD's values in particular. These included climate-smart farming practices, attention to risk and resilience, livelihood diversification, sustainable natural resource management and rural access to finance. According to the King, these themes have helped Tonga begin to achieve rural transformation.

Nwanze: The price of inaction
When IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze took the stage, he echoed Mahama's comments by saying that "we are paying the price of inaction" with the Ebola crisis in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. “Food insecurity and hunger are looming as a second crisis,” he said. “And all because, for 40 years, Ebola was a disease of the forgotten world, the invisible world, the rural world.”

Nwanze warned against continuing to neglect the rural sector. Malnutrition during the first 1,000 days of life has left a generation of children stunted, potentially leading to stunted nations, he said – adding that rural areas are responsible for growing food and contributing clean water and air, which are vital to the success of urban areas. Vibrant rural economies need healthy, enthusiastic young people to succeed, he said, but lack of opportunity drives many rural people to the city. To Nwanze, we don't need bigger cities (and bigger slums) so much as we need rural transformation.

IFAD offers powerful opportunities for countries to achieve this transformation. Internal reorganization and efforts to focus on in-country programmes have allowed IFAD to more effectively effect change. IFAD itself also continues to grow. The Governing Council welcomed the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Palau and Montenegro into the IFAD family, which now totals 176 Member States. The possibility for rural transformation has never been closer.