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Mr. Nwanze was passionate on Sunday morning. And it was contagious. The setting was the World Economic Forum taking place on the shores of the Dead Sea in Jordan. The panel was on "Closing the Food Gap" and the five panelists were from agro-industry (Swiss, Austrian and Danish-Kuwaiti), banking (Azerbaijan) and ...the enabling-of-the-poor sector. The format allowed for initial statements that set the tone as well as the key issues, immediately followed by two challengers (Oxfam and banking sector respectively). Finally, the audience had time to comment and ask questions--principally covering public vs. private sector growth, the importance of research and the need to be realistic about the politics of protectionism.

The President was particularly forceful in stressing a message of alarm --in the face of complacency -- if we don't stay engaged in addressing the lessons learned from the food price crisis and in demonstrating the link between food security and national security. But he also had passionate messages of hope in specifically addressing the means of turning the phenomenon of an increasing demand for land for commercial farming into a potential instrument of development in the developing countries with underutilized resources for agricultural production.

I was there to witness a usually quite reserved audience enthusiastically applaud at two of the occasions where these message were delivered...I have to confess to the President...I did not applaud: I had promised Roxi I'd take detailed notes and couldn't drop the pen.

By the end of the 90-minute panel presentation my "to do list" would roughly read as follows (I did mention that the enthusiasm was contagious):

  • work with FAO and others on an international code of conduct for the large-scale international acquisition of agricultural land
  • help develop an IFAD position paper on genetically modified organisms and assisting the rural poor
  • use operational data to demonstrate and document the positive impact of IFAD support in conflict and post-conflict situations on livelihoods, as well as conflicts themselves
  • see how we can have a regular participation with WEF partners to provoke debates over key issues that involve rural poverty and participation of the private and NGO sectors
  • work with partners on further elucidating IFAD's field evidence with respect to "the business case for investing in small farms".

Five follow-up actions -- this should be enough for the next few months.

At the conclusion of the session, the President gave another three quick media interviews and off we went to the airport, and then to Riyadh.

To conclude: this was an excellent event where IFAD demonstrated its ability to shape the debate on poverty, as well as the one on food security and the sustainable use of natural resources. Also, the networks at WEF will undoubtedly allow us to discover and establish new partnerships.

Nadim Khouri

On 8 May, bright and early, IFAD staff at headquarters came together in the cafeteria for a 30-minute town-hall meeting with the President.

He shared some of the highlights of his first month in office:

The President thanked colleagues involved in the above meetings for their impeccable teamwork, for providing all the necessary support and backstopping to make IFAD’s participation in these events a success.

On the recent Executive Board session, Nwanze highlighted the need to improve our intelligence-gathering and importance of briefing new board directors about IFAD's operations.

Building a more effective and efficient organization

The President reminded colleagues that change and adaptability are essential if we are to remain relevant, agile and flexible. He reiterated that he will give authority, space and responsibility to IFAD staff, to allow us to be more efficient and more effective in delivering our best and that he will do so without building new layers of bureaucracy, or creating new and unnecessary committees, just for the sake of doing so."

What I am interested in – what for me is an absolute priority – is helping IFAD to work more effectively and efficiently, so that the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society can lift themselves out of poverty and deprivation," said Nwanze.

To achieve this, and consistent with his pledge to delegate both responsibility and accountability, Nwanze said he wants more IFAD managers, and those who support them, to contribute to the corporate agenda.

"It is important that my senior management team should be able to better draw on the skills and talents of managers across the house. And it is important that the coordination that exists at the senior levels should be shared across the organization," he explained.

To achieve the above, to strengthen accountability of line managers, to improve corporate decision-making and to enhance cross department and divisional cooperation and cooperation, the President has put in place the following decision-making framework and processes:
  • the Executive Management Committee (EMC) which will be the highest level management committee and will replace the existing Senior Management Team
  • the Operational Management Committee (OMC) which will both guide and oversee the reform agenda and also assist the Executive Management Committee in implementing and following up on strategic decisions. The OMC will replace the current Change and Reform Management Team
  • the IFAD Management Team which is already in place

"The Operational Management Committee will be the heart of the institution, and it will be at this level that challenges and issues will be discussed and resolved. This committee will take decisions at operational level," explained Nwanze.

"I will give OMC full authority and I look to you all to support this important structural change. It is designed to help you have a more direct say in decisions on strategy and policy direction; and help me draw on the best and most relevant expertise in this organization."

Nwanze also reminded staff that he wants to ensure a transparent and collaborative decision-making process, thus, decisions will be made by these groups, and not elsewhere. He also said that there is nothing wrong to disagree with each other and to have different perspectives. "What is important is to come up with solutions and options,"he added.

The President closed his remarks by sharing the schedule of his forthcoming travels. "I will be travelling in the coming months as a champion for rural poor people and advocate for increasing investment in agriculture," he said.

President's forthcoming travels

In May, the President will be in the Gulf region for the World Economic Forum on Middle East in Jordan and subsequently visiting Saudi Arabia and Qatar. In June the President will be participating in the:
  • World Economic Forum in South Africa
  • Joint AU/ECA ministerial meeting
  • G8 development ministers' meeting
  • Ministerial council of the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) in Venezuela

While in Latin America for the OFID ministerial council, the President will also visit Brazil and Argentina.

Question time

In answering the questions from colleagues, the President highlighted the following three main challenges which we all collectively need to address and tackle:

  • increase in our programme of work -- at least 15% increase in our programme of work will be a key challenge
  • country presence and direct supervision --Nwanze reminded the gathering that country presence is a corporate responsibility and that everyone should proactively be contributing to this strategic activity
  • HR reform --Nwanze reiterated that HR reform is one of IFAD's priorities in the coming months

In concluding the meeting, Nwanze encouraged colleagues to share their ideas and insights with the OMC and asked the members of the OMC to make sure they solicit inputs from their co-workers.

"We need a vertical and horizontal exchange among staff to put in place a collaborative and transparent decision-making process," he concluded.

Yesterday morning Bill Gates met with IFAD President, Kanayo F. Nwanze and discussed common goals of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and IFAD.

Messrs Gates and Nwanze iteriated that poverty reduction in rural areas of developing countries – where most of the world’s poorest people live – and investment in agriculture as a key engine of economic growth are top priorities for their respective institutions.

Both the foundation and IFAD are working with partners to foster a new ‘green revolution’ in Africa through a number of initiatives. Along with other donors and partners, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation supports AGRA (the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa), an Africa-based and African-led partnership to help millions of small farmers and their families lift themselves out of poverty and hunger. IFAD signed a Memorandum of Understanding with AGRA to work with small farmers in Africa.

Key areas for action to enable small farmers to break the cycle of hunger and poverty for both the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and IFAD are:

  • In developing countries, women do most of the work on farms and agricultural development programs must address gender in order to most effectively reduce hunger and poverty.
  • Small farmers often need a range of services to fully realize their potential—from access to markets, better seeds and more fertile soil, to better farm management practices, storage and transport facilities and market information.
  • Technologies and innovations must be developed to meet the needs of the poorest people.
“I have noted what the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation does in agriculture, and there is quite a lot of convergence with IFAD,” Nwanze said during the meeting. “Your focus on smallholder farmers is one that IFAD shares. We are helping farmers improve their livelihood – from more productive agricultural practices to better processing and marketing – and making sure they have access to vital financial services”.

One area of common interest Nwanze discussed is research to find breakthrough technologies for smallholder agriculture and the institutional mechanisms required for its expansion. He said the potential of Nerica rice, a high-yielding, protein heavy strain, to improve food security has yet to be fully tapped in Africa.

Put farming first in Africa

Posted by Roxanna Samii Friday, May 8, 2009 0 comments

I was inpsired by the Guardian article entitled "Put farming first in Africa" and could not but agree with Dr. Lindiwe Majele Sibanda that investing in agriculture is the most efficient way to increase food production and improve food security. This entails more effective policies as well as programmes and projects that deliver.

Agriculture is a major contributor to African countries GDP. The agriculture sector is the main source of employment and 75% of the poor in Africa work and live in rural areas. Increased investment in this sector is paramount if African countries are to reduce rural poverty by 2015 in accordance with the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Whats more, to achieve that target African agriculture will need to sustain an annual growth rate of at least 6% from now till 2015.

The main challenge for Africas agriculture is to increase productivity in a way that would eliminate food shortages and generate surplus production for markets. To achieve this, Governments must fulfil their earlier commitment to allocate 10% of their national budgets to agriculture. The donor community needs to significantly boost official development assistance (ODA) for agriculture.

The challenge requires short, medium and long-term actions:

  • Creating and implementing coherent and better policies
  • Increase agricultural productivity through new technology and more performing inputs
  • Increasing access to financial services, marketing and processing of agricultural goods
  • Developing rural infrastructures
  • Developing secondary and tertiary processing of agricultural products to increase their value
  • Emphasizing the need for greater involvement of women farmers, the main workforce in this sector in Africa

Mohamed Beavogui
Director, Western and Central Africa Division

Day 4 – Thursday 7 May

Perin and Dr Jimoh, RTEP Programme Manager Nigeria, were interviewed by a local radio. The interview was aired today 7 May at 7h. I have received a radio but I realized this morning that they did not give me batteries.

We have Internet connection today. I will be able to send files to Roxy for posting on the blog. While the connection is still available, I showed the blog to the participants.

I started the day by presenting a summary of yesterday presentations as well as the findings of day 3’s evaluation. Main issues in the evaluation sheets are:

  • More time for procurement
  • Field visit should be included in the workshop structure
  • M & E should be included in the workshop structure as well.

All participant acknowledged that the workshop structure allows knowledge sharing – panellist, role play, guest speakers, interactions between participants and case studies.

Today, we will have some hands-on practice on preparing for supervision mission, procurement, and fiduciary responsibilities as well as presentations on internal control, KM and a guest speaker on quality control on project supervision.

Mr Attah, the guest speaker of the day, Project Coordinator of REP, Ghana, presented his experience on requirements to ensure quality control in implementation. To ensure quality control, all processes of project must be implemented using a participatory approach, including M & E.

“Stakeholders review meetings is a very important tool for ensuring quality control in my project – I organized quarterly review meetings and annual review meetings.”

He also recommended paying attention on mid-term review and supervision missions as tools for ensuring quality in project implementation.

They are factors that can affect quality control:

  • Capacity building
  • Ownership and commitment of staff and beneficiaries
  • Team spirit and belongingness
  • Flexibility in project implementation.

Perin intervened to share two points on the project managed by Mr Attah:
  • Besides the terrible design of the project, Mr Attah has been able to achieve excellent results and impacts.
  • In reviewing the portfolio of the division, REP, Ghana is considered as the best project in the region.
  • REP one of the few projects domiciled out the Ministry of Agriculture. Institutional arrangement is very important in project implementation.
Before the guest speaker, a session on procurement procedures took place. This session has been followed by case studies including what IFAD supervision missions verified during their visits.

Doudou, the procurement consultant, presented an evaluation grid for bids on procurement and issues to consider when a project is about to be completed. Participants expressed concerns on delays receiving feedbacks from CPMs.

Before lunch, I introduced participants to knowledge management – a 20 minutes session on initiating, implementing and supervising kM activities. The purpose was to help projects introduce KM into their work planning. A slide was presented on the supervision of project sharing mechanisms and activities. A checklist based on IFAD result framework and WARF self-assessment tool of KM activities has been developed for this purpose.

After this heavy session, Stefania and Karen came in for another bone cracking exercise which energized participants and kept them awake.

Then Stefania remained in front of the participants to present fiduciary responsibilities followed by the consultant who introduced internal control. “Internal information is very important to improve internal control. People need to know what they can do and what they cannot do”.

Then we have coffee break. Today we have coffee with yam and fried beans balls.

Martin started the last session of the day on the case study “preparing for supervision mission”.

We closed the day with a sad note as the workshop got a shocking news on the death of Perin’s Father. A one-minute-silence was there on observed for the deceased. May his soul rest in peace!

By Zoumana Bamba

Participants changed places

Posted by Roxanna Samii Thursday, May 7, 2009 0 comments

Day 3 – Wednesday 6 May

Stefania lost her voice. You need to get very close to hear what she is talking about. She managed any way to go the summary of Day 2 and run through today agenda.

Hot topic like a pepper soup “IFAD anti-fraud and corruption policy” has been addressed by Karen. Karen’s presentation on IFAD anti-fraud and corruption policy was much appreciated but raised a lot of questions on how to address the issue. She gave on how to identify potential fraud and corruption, responsibilities and other potential steps and support that may be provided by IFAD.

One participant asked how to address “lobbying”. Participants requested that the presentation anti-fraud and corruption policy should more practical with case studies.

Another heavy subject addressed today is procurement. According to the participants, procurement is one of the most challenging tasks there are facing.

What they enjoyed the most is the role play on supervision mission. Four roles were played: the “angry” Honourable Minister, the CPM, Mrs Potato, The Project Manager, Mr Rice and the Financial Controller, Mr Yam. The role players acclimated to their role and the situation perfectly. They received a round of applause.

A guest speaker from the World Bank presented his experience on project implementation. The replenishment of special account also raised a lot of interest from participants. Personally, I learnt a lot on WA, disbursement, reconciliation of account, replenishment of account, etc.

Key learning for future training: IFAD anti-fraud and corruption policy needs more be developed for next workshop to include, practical examples case studies and/or role play.

Participants’ opinion

“This workshop is so useful that, it should not only be limited to the Project Coordinators and Financial Controllers of IFAD-financed projects. The entire project Teams need to be trained and sensitized on these aspects.

It may be impractical to close down projects for a week for staff to attend this course and besides, the numbers may be huge at one training session. The solution may be to get IFAD consultants and staff responsible for the fiduciary issues to spend time at each project or pairing projects with geographic proximity for the training.

This course has demonstrated the importance of Project Coordinators taking a close look as well as monitor the Special Account and its reconciliation. We have realized that the Special Account Reconciliation is a powerful management tool to ensure funds availability to the project.

As at now, I can prepare a WA and reconcile the Special Account given the necessary information/documentation in the absence of my Financial Controller. Most Financial Controllers easily change jobs and leave a project stranded.

There are a number of new things such as the direct supervision by IFAD and its potential for improved support to project implementation. One advantage I see is that, it will shorten the previously long chain and/or cumbersome steps of getting WA, AWPB, request for ‘no objection’ delivered to IFAD and also the feedback.

Quoting a popular phrase in Ghana, I will say “we are moving forward in the right direction” with this workshop”, said Roy Ayariga, National Programme Coordinator, Northern Rural Growth Programme, Ghana

By Zoumana Bamba

Day 2 – Tuesday 5 May

Day 2 was a heavy day with AWPB and loan Administration. Key aspects of AWPB were introduced. These topics were introduced by Perin, Stefania and the consultant on financial management.

Financial management addressed WA, special account management, payment procedures and supporting documents.

The most interesting part of the day was the case study, which invited participants to identify some of the key elements of an AWPB. Projects presented their experiences in developing the AWPB, which is an essential tool. Each group was asked to identify and list on the flip-chart key elements of an AWPB.

Key learning: AWPB is main tool to measure progress towards development effectiveness impact. A sample format was presented to participants as well as tips.

To follow-up by PA: Publishing of tips for AWPB, which can help projects in developing their AWPB.

To keep participants awake, Stefania broke the monotony with a stretching exercise.

On a wrap-up, we reminded participants that tomorrow is a heavy day, with procurement and IFAD anti-fraud and corruption presentations.

Participants’ opinion

“Project Implementation and Financial Management Workshop Day two
The Project Implementation and Financial Management Workshop has just concluded its day two with the interactive sessions on Annual Work Plan and Budget (AWPB), Loan Administration and Procurement with Monica having the very crucial task of policing the time. The practical sessions which comprised of case studies on loan administration and the AWPB increased our understanding of the subject matter. This was however spiced up with the Panel discussion on Experiences with Participatory AWPB and Procurement. This highly interactive session afforded the Projects Staff the opportunity of sharing their field experiences, challenges and mitigations.

"The bone cracking energizers from Stefania helped to drive sleep far away and left us with no option but to concentrate on project implementation and financial management issues. It was indeed a day well spent", said Irene I Jumbo-Ibeakuzie, PC, IFAD CBNRMP-ND

After the wrap-up, we had an account reconciliation session to make a deposit in our hotel account. A forex agent came to the hotel to change our dollars into naira.

See you tomorrow for an account of a role play on supervision mission by participants.

DAY 1 - Monday 5 May

At 8h Monica Chelagat, Patricia Wills-Obong and Faith Nwinee, Programme Assistant from the CBNRMP, Nigeria, were busy with the registration and ensuring the set-up of the conference room is completed. The workshop is being organized in Valencia Hotel situated in the heart of Abuja, at Blantyre Street in the Wuse II District.

Patricia Wills-Obong made all arrangements with the hotel before our arrival.

Setting the scene

Perrin looks better, thanks to the goat pepper soup of last night. He was red while eating his soup but he has “good heart” as we said in Africa, meaning he is strong and he participated in setting the scene.

Seven round tables were set up in the large hall of the conference room. On each table were six bottles of water, table number and two large post-it papers. At the side of each table is a flip-chart and markers. Sitting arrangements ensure a good mix of participants from at least 3 countries.

A long table on the right hand side with the tie-dye skirting just as one entered the room served as the registration desk. A sinister one at the back is used by IFAD staff, WARF and consultants. Another flip-chart is placed at the center of the room for the facilitator’s use.

Finally IFAD posters were placed on the wall as well as a notice indicating non-use of cell phones and dark curtains to ensure minimal distraction.

Opening ceremony

Official opening is delayed, our host is late. While waiting for officials, Martin presented the objectives of the workshop and outcomes.

The workshop is designed to provide standards procedure, checklists, reference materials and practical tips so that participants may better organize and manage implementation activities and time. The workshop will draw mainly upon participants’ experience and perspectives regarding implementation to ensure that there is appropriate knowledge sharing and best practices are identified and shared.

The experiences from the Abuja workshop will be valuable. PA is planning to publish a user-friendly training material on project implementation. Tips, checklists and best practices, including from participants will also be published.

Our host, Dr. S.A. Ingawa, Executive Director, National Food Reserve Agency, has arrived finally. On behalf of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources of Nigeria, has arrived.

Dr. Ingawa welcomed the participants. He brought the felicitations of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources of Nigeria, Dr. Sayyadi Abba Runa, who is also the current Chairman of IFAD’s Governing Council Bureau. He gave a brief overview of the partnership between IFAD and Nigeria for the last 24 years. IFAD and Nigeria have collaborated in the implementation of the Cassava Multiplication Programme (CMP) from 1987 to 1997. With the collaborative efforts of Nigeria, IITA and Nigeria, Nigeria became the number one producer of cassava in the world. Subsequent and current programmes include CBARDP, CBNRMP and RTEP.

He also urged IFAD to further promote country ownership and capacity building. Encouragements were sent to participants to participate fully in the workshop.

“I wish to also request you all to double your efforts in the commitment to achieving the First Millennium Development Goal of global poverty reduction which incidentally is IFAD’s main objective in the rural areas. This is more so in view of the global food crisis that has led to the return of Agriculture to the centre. Furthermore, our commitment to IFAD must be doubled especially with the recent election in February in which a Nigerian was elected with a landslide victory to the post of President. Dr. Nwanze, is the first African South of the Sahara to head IFAD and with this we, developing countries and Africa in particular owe IFAD our increased commitment to its goal of enabling the rural poor overcome poverty” concluded Dr Ingawa.

Perrin at the podium, on behalf of IFAD, started by saying “PLEASE DO NOT THROW SHOES AT ME”. Then he continued “It is a great day for PA and for IFAD projects as we set out to drastically improve project implementation performance and financial management. This workshop provides the opportunity to confirm our engagement to capacity building in a multi-country training programme which shares with you IFAD’s perspectives”.

Perrin expressed his real pleasure for having leaded the organization of this workshop which comes at a time when millions of poor rural men and women in Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, and The Gambia face unprecedented challenges which compound the persistent threats to their livelihoods. He underlined the progress made in portfolio management in a difficult socio-political environment, and is looking forward to further progress in key implementation and financial management areas, as a means to improve performance further.

He finished his remarks by thanking the Federal Government of Nigeria for hosting the workshop and hope that participants will enjoy Nigeria hospitality, the Valencia Hotel facilities, over the next five days and that the training contribute to efforts in rural poverty reduction, IFAD’s ultimate goal.

Martin took over again to present:

The general rules of the workshop: lunch, coffee break, timeless, no cell phones, question box – participants may use cards at their tables to note questions regarding the materials, presentations or other issues.

Quick overview of binders to get participants comfortable with with the binder’s layout and sections.

He continued by asking the participants to write-up their expectations on flip-chart. That was the first group activity. The outcomes will be compared with these expectations at the last day to see if expectations have been met.

We have also assigned participants to review subjects for final day – stress 3 to 6 bullets regarding the key points and/or issues, which will be followed by discussion to site additional points or questions.

Participants were asked to sign names on cards with assigned subjects. For each group of 3, we try to keep groups mixed between countries and responsibilities.

Participants were also introduce to the quiz, which purpose is to ensure that the curriculum is delivering demonstrate value to participants. The same quiz will be given the last day to see what has been learnt.

After the coffee break – we have chicken for coffee break- Martin continued by introducing IFAD policy framework and the on-the-ground implications which provide an overview of key elements of project implementation, including specific detail of responsibilities.

Guess speaker: Dr. NURALLAH ABUBAKAR IFAD COORDINATOR, NATIONAL FOOD RESERVE AGENCY, FEDERAL MINISTRY OF AGRICULTURE AND WATER shared his experience on project negotiation and start-up from the perspective of IFAD as it really occurred in the case of four projects in Nigeria. After presenting a typical project cycle consists of Conception, Formulation, Appraisal, Negotiations, Implementation, /M&E/MTR, and Implementation Completion Review.

He finished his presentation giving 8 keys to successful coordination of a project from conception to effectiveness

  • Constitute a team where possible
  • Identify Interlocutor Ministry
  • Determine responsible agency
  • Identify a dedicated Officer
  • Network extensively
  • Thorough understanding of the programme and national procedures
  • Determine key points, selling points
  • Stay healthy

After the guess, 3 topics were presented by Perrin and Stefania:

  • Negotiating the loan agreement
  • Case study- start-up workshop
  • Letter to the borrower

We wrap-up the day 1 with questions and answers.

More to come tomorrow from participants!

By Zoumana Bamba

Workshop on project implementation and financial management

Posted by Roxanna Samii Tuesday, May 5, 2009 0 comments

The first workshop on Project Implementation and Financial Management amongst IFAD projects in West and Central Africa began is being organized in Abuja, capital city of Nigeria, 4-8 May 2009. Participating projects are from Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and The Gambia and are composed of project coordinators, financial managers.

The main objective of the 5 days learning event is organized with the aim of capacity building and sharing knowledge for effective and efficient implementation and financial management of IFAD-funded projects.

The workshop is using “blended learning” methods that include lecture, case studies, role play, panel discussion and guest speakers.

Before I start reporting on the workshop, let me give you the insights of what happened.

Stapling party

We arrived at the hotel at around 5h30 am following an overnight flight. We had a couple hours rest before the “stapling party” of the hands-out for the participants. There was no room for yawning and at completion we had a meeting on the organization.

Everything seems to be under control except that Perrin looks a little ill and Martin was disappointed because he could not have boiled yam for lunch.

More to come soon on the first and second days of the workshop!

By Zoumana Bamba