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Nerina Muzurovic and Audrey Nepveu de Villemarceau

Moderator: Marcela Villarreal, Director, Office for Partnerships, Advocacy and Capacity Development, FAO
Emily Mattheisen, Global Program Officer at the Housing and Land Rights Network, Habitat International Coalition
Moujahed Achouri, Director, Land and Water Division, FAO
Nicoline de Haan, Senior Researcher, CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems
and Tarek Kotb, Country Programme Manager, Near East, North Africa and Europe Division, IFAD

Women and water governance was the topic of the well-attended panel discussion "Water governance in the Near East and North Africa (NENA): A policy debate on tenure, equity and gender."

Experience from The Western Sudan Resource Management Program (WSRMP), Sudan
- 79,017 women benefited from the provision and improvement of water resources, which reduced distances of fetching domestic water (from 8 km to less than 1 km) and resulted in time savings (of 1 to 5 hours per day) that allowed women to access credit and extension services, engage in agricultural work (mainly sorghum production) and diversify sources of income. This led to 43% increase in productivity, improved availability of food, and greater food security. Women were able to spend more money on the education of their children, acquire assets, and improve household hygiene and nutrition.
- Greater decision-making power through women's participation in water committees: women now represent 38% of water user associations' members. This was achieved by applying a quota system to ensure no less than 30% involvement of women in committees, water user associations and other local organizations.
Held as part of the 42nd meeting of the Committee on World Food Security in Rome on 14 October 2015, the side event explored the impacts of water scarcity in NENA region, and the role institutions can play in giving women more rights to key natural resources (land and water) as well as opportunities to exercise these rights.

NENA is the most water-stressed region in the world with 609 m3 of water available per capita per year. By 2045, this area will experience an expected water deficit of 60 per cent, owing to the combined effect of rapid population growth and climate change. What will the region look like by 2050? How can society and communities be prepared to adapt to this change? What present practices do we need to change? These were some of the key questions that emerged at the panel discussion.

Why look at water governance through a gender lense?
Many factors make women well-adapted to play a role in water management. As men increasingly leave degraded rural areas to look for jobs in urban centers, women are left behind. The percentage of women in the agriculture labour force has risen sharply, faster than in any other region in the world. As a result, women are affected first — and most — by water scarcity and flooding, and tend to be gravely impacted by poor water management. But women also increasingly hold the decision-making positions that were traditionally occupied by men.

Experience from Al Dhala Community Resource Management Project (ACRMP), Yemen
-Water supply for 13,748 households with roof rain-water harvesting (individual and group) reservoirs for drinking, domestic and irrigation uses. The construction of the reservoirs was done in a participatory way in dry mountain areas. It resulted in time savings (2 to 5 hours per day) that allowed 16,000 women to complete literacy classes (including Training of Trainer programmes for some 2,200 women in sewing, handicrafts, midwifery and other topics) and some 3,400 women to train in first aid, hygienic use of water and general health.
-Income-generating activities. Thanks to the time saved on water collection, more attention could be given to home gardening and backyard chicken raising: they became a vital source of household nutrition and women's revenues.
-Better resource management was achieved through 25 rangeland management groups with 125 members each (35 women and 90 men), and 10 ha rehabilitated thanks to 11 nurseries. Women were introduced to environmental actions, including nursery and tree planting techniques.

However, the specific needs and priorities of women as farmers and agricultural water users are still not reflected enough in sector policies, legal frameworks and programmes. If women could participate on an equal basis in decision-making processes about water use and management, women's contribution to agricultural production would ultimately increase. Ultimately, we believe this would lead to better food security and nutrition as well as more sustainable management of water resources.

Because rural women have local ecological, social and political knowledge, they can both inform and contribute significantly to solving water-scarcity problems. Hence maximizing the role of rural women in water governance and food security is essential.

Work by FAO and others demonstrates that water access and use are not only influenced by infrastructure, rainfall and geography. In fact, social, political and economic power relations within and among countries are just as important. "For women, access to water is always mediated, either by technology or by society", said Nicoline de Haan, Senior Researcher, CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems. In the context of water scarcity, women's capacity to access water depends on a system of power relations, and existing access rights. Interventions should look into enabling women to fully engage in local development processes.
Experience from West Noubaria Rural Development Programme (WNRDP), Egypt
-Targeting women. Women headed-households comprised 15% of all settlers' households, and women comprised 61% of recipients of training in nutrition and health, 55% in environmental awareness, 81% in literacy, and 20% of cooperative and community training. 10,229 women were trained in agriculture and water management, and 2,729 women participated in demonstration field days.
-Conversion of 36,000 feddans (eq. to 15,120 ha) to drip irrigation resulted in annual water savings of more than 50 million m3 in the main project area. The water savings also contributed to better natural resource management, savings in fertilizer use (40%) and reduced use of pesticides, thereby contributing to reduced pollution and improved environmental quality. Overall savings for the farming community amounted to USD 1.5 million in annual irrigation costs (electric power and labour).
"Strengthening water governance for agriculture and food security for women" means adopting an effective problem-solving approach to develop policies and strengthen institutions that are accepted by all relevant stakeholders.

Tarek Kotb, Country Programme Manager, Near East, North Africa and Europe Division, IFAD, presented some experiences from the field that have had a positive impact on women's empowerment, when it comes to tackling the issue of water governance and food security in the region. These projects illustrate ways in which women are taking on new roles to tackle water-related issues, including adequate management of natural resources (WSRMP, Sudan); rain-water harvesting (ACRMP, Yemen); drip irrigation (WNRDP, Egypt); and grey water management (ARMP-II, Jordan).

Experience from Agricultural Resources Management Project (ARMP-II), Jordan
-Greywater treatment units in backyard gardens of 800 to 4,000 m2/household enabled households to treat domestic wastewater, and use the treated water to grow vegetables in their backyard gardens. This led to 16.3% savings in water consumption and to nearly 70% less sewage effluence.
-A total of 400 Jordanian households (3,000 people) – including 13 women-headed households received these subsidized grey water treatment units, as well as technical guidance.
-Income increased by 72% from sales of farm products: mainly from olive trees, and in some cases from fodder and nuts.
Overall, exchanges with the audience allowed the panel to identify the following challenges for the coming years:

  • Documentation is generally missing to understand the challenges women face, and which tools and approaches would be the most appropriate to address these. Here, research has a definite role to play.
  • Currently "women" tend to be considered as a homogenous group. Research can play an important role in correcting this idea. In fact, women constitute a diverse group. Thus they are also diverse water users, who face diverse challenges.
  • Institutional changes, including the corresponding regulatory mechanisms, are required for local institutions to include greater gender equality, so that women can better engage in multi-stakeholder processes.
  • Implementing meaningful participation processes will be essential to empower women to take on decision-making positions.
  • Climate change will create additional social tensions and imbalances for women. In particular, the increased climate variability may negatively impact their resilience capacity.
  • Responsible investments are needed to bring about sustainable changes. Elements of success that were identified relate to: building on political willingness and adequate incentives; mobilizing local champions; reaching out to the private sector; and empowering civil society to play its role.

Read more:

Pictures from the event

Transforming desert land into a profitable fruit oasis

Improving Food Security in Arab Countries - WB, IFAD, FAO 2009

FAO - THE STATE OF FOOD AND AGRICULTURE 2010-2011 - WOMEN IN AGRICULTURE: Closing the gender gap for development

Near East and North Africa's Water Scarcity Initiative

Adaptation to a Changing Climate in the Arab Countries - A Case for Adaptation Governance in Building Climate Resilience - WB 2012

Blog on water rights: Taking the lead or imposing inequity?

Reinforcing gender equity

Blog on why women need indicators: Spotlight on measuring women's empowerment at the Milan Expo

FAO Committee on Agriculture - 2014 Report on Water Governance for Food Security and Nutrition

2015 Report of the High Level Panel of Experts on "Water for Food Security"

by Marian Amaka Odenigbo

Earlier in October, the Government of Malawi and IFAD held a training workshop in Lilongwe, Malawi to raise awareness and share experience about nutrition-sensitive development initiatives. The training brought together representatives of Ministries of Local Government, Ministry of Agriculture, colleagues from the Nutrition and HIV/AIDS department of the Ministry of Health, Department of Agriculture Extension Services, WFP, CIAT and TLC.

The selected participants for the training sessions included the food and nutrition officers at agricultural development divisions and district levels, Agriculture Extension Development Coordinators (AEDCs) and Agriculture Extension Development Officers (AEDOs), programme staff of IFAD-funded Rural Livelihood and Economic Enhancement Programme (RLEEP) and the Sustainable Agriculture Production Programme (SAPP).

The purpose of the workshop was to disseminate key findings of the survey conducted to assess the knowledge, attitudes and practices (KAP) about food to policy makers, and to train programme implementers on nutrition-sensitive interventions based on the KAP survey findings.

Mr Bright Kumwembe, the Chief Director of the Malawi Ministry of Agriculture opened the workshop and hit the nail on the head by saying "The issue of nutrition goes beyond what we see" in his opening remarks.

He expressed delight on IFAD efforts in addressing malnutrition in its investment programmes, highlighting that this is an equally important issue for the government of Malawi.

Survey findings
The KAP survey showed poor dietary diversity among rural households as well as ≥40% stunting in target districts. The high stunting rate compared to the national average was mainly because the surveyed households live in  remote rural areas.

While this is a devastating finding, at the same time it underscores the relevance of IFAD-funded interventions and the importance of working for and with the poorest of poor and those who suffer from malnutrition.

The survey noted a lack of knowledge vis-a-vis processing and marketing vegetables, fruits and pulses. It highlighted the need to improve processing techniques in an effort to ensure nutritious food products. The survey's key recommendation was to put in place vigorous and rigorous nutrition interventions in all the districts benefitting from the IFAD-funded RLEEP and SAPP programmes.

During the workshop Mr Dixon Ngwende, the National Programme Director for RLEEP programme and Mr Alex Malembo, Coordinator of SAPP, shared the story of their epiphany in realizing that for development interventions to be successful they cannot exclusively be income focused and need to also take into account other aspects such as nutrition. Ngwende, once a sceptic, now is one of the better nutrition-sensitive advocates.

This change of mind-set on nutrition was linked to the sensitization of project staff and supervision team on nutrition-sensitize agriculture during previous supervision and implementation support missions in 2014.

To make the most of the training opportunity, participants were clustered into small working groups according to their districts and they discussed:

  • appropriate approaches for addressing the challenges of maternal and child nutrition.
  • how to leverage and learn from RLEEP and SAPP interventions to ensure better nutrition outcomes.
  • indicators and targets for nutrition friendly activities in programmes. 

In preparing their action plan, there was a lot of optimism and conviction that communities could indeed operationalize the survey findings and use it as a benchmark for nutrition-related interventions.

The overall enthusiasm about mainstreaming nutrition was reflected in the comments provided in the post-workshop questionnaire.

Throughout the workshop I could not resist having a smile on my face while listening to policy makers and stakeholders advocating for nutrition with so much enthusiasm and interest.

Participants were challenged to be the agents of change and to raise awareness about government of Malawi and IFAD-supported programmes commitment on nutrition. The onus was on workshop participants to practice what they preach as they  proceed with the implementation of nutrition-sensitive interventions to improve the livelihoods of rural communities and smallholder farmers.

We've come a long way… We've managed to raise awareness about nutrition and we're designing and implementing more and more nutrition-smart interventions. There is more to be done, but when there is a way, there is a will!

The 42nd CFS event is currently being held at FAO. On Tuesday 13th October, IFAD and CGIAR hosted a side event: Healthy diets from climate-smart food systems: Debating a climate-smart approach for a food-secure future.

Amongst the speakers was Ska Mirriam Moteane, an award winning Lesothan chef, Hervé Saint-Macary, the deputy director of Persyst (Performance of Production and Transformation Systems ) at CIRAD. Other speakers included IFAD's Environment and Climate Division's agronomist Bertrand Reysset and University of Harvard Professor of Nutrition, Walter Willet.

Opening the event was CGIAR Chief Executive Frank Rijsberman, who underlined the importance of bringing together the themes of agricultural production, climate change, nutrition and food security.
''How do we produce healthy food, and importantly, how do we produce healthy food from sustainable food systems?,'' said Rijsberman. “Unhealthy food is a key driver in pushing our planetary boundaries, and we are now risking an unstable planet.''

The majority of agriculture investments are directed at producing staples such as cereals, and not towards vegetables and other means of diversifying a healthy diet.

'The world is overinvested in cereals and underinvested in nutritious crops,'' added Frank Rijsberman.

Modern agriculture can bring with it nutritional risks despite increasing real income. Under a gender perspective, commercial agriculture often  undermines the role of women in traditional agriculture.

”The potential to improveme diets worldwide is huge but the evidence so far suggests that as a planet we are heading down the wrong path,” said Harvard’s Walter Willet.

The importance of knowledge for healthy diets was also highlighted. Preparing healthy food requires extra knowledge. As we now have to produce more food with less natural resources we must use a wider diversity of crops and a more intelligent approach.  Disseminating this knowledge is key.

''We are seeing an increase in junk and unhealthy food being introduced even in Lesotho…this has to stop,” said Chef Ska Motoeane. ” Eating nutritious meals is seen as scary, like school work, a chore, but nutritious meals can still be appetising and delicious, and people need to know this!''
©FAO/Giulio Napolitano

©FAO/Giulio Napolitano

©FAO/Giulio Napolitano

©FAO/Giulio Napolitano

Rome-Based Agencies Talk Adaptation to Climate Change on Day 2 of CFS42

Posted by Christopher Neglia Wednesday, October 14, 2015 0 comments

At a Committee on World Food Security (CFS42) side event yesterday, representatives from the Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP) had an opportunity to present the programmes of their respective agencies, as well as to explain to an engaged audience how they are working together to realize the Adaptation and Innovation Potential of Smallholder Farmers and Rural Communities. 

Margarita Astralaga, IFAD
Moderator Martin Frick expressed the dilemma that confronts the international community. We live in a situation where 800 million people go to bed hungry every day, and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 is committed to zero hunger by 2030. While this is an enormous challenge in itself, climate change adds even more complexity. 

“Risk has always been a dimension in agricultural development, but climate change has raised the magnitude, and altered the nature of risk,” according to Leslie Lipper of FAO’s Agriculture Development Economics Division. The costs of adapting to climate change, which can be significant, should not fall only on rural communities. That’s why FAO and WFP have both promoted safety net and cash transfer programmes that provide a basic income resilience to smallholders in some of the most food insecure regions.

“This is critical work, but safety nets and hand outs aren’t enough,” said WFP’s Inge Breuer. Increasingly, there is a need to combine such programmes with climate risk management systems. For instance, through cash-based transfers that incentivize rural people to participate in community adaptation projects. “We have a lot of work going on to optimize food systems and see what works best in rural communities. We are thinking about how we can leverage these cash transfers to encourage new economic opportunities,” Breuer said. 

Similarly, Margarita Astralaga, Director of IFAD’s Environment and Climate Division said that adaptation to climate change should not be done on an ad hoc basis, which may create winners and losers in rural areas; rather, adaptation investments should aim to increase the resilience of the entire food system. Astralaga brought up the work being done in the CALIP project in Bangladesh, where IFAD is partnering with local universities to enhance climate modelling for a flash flood early warning system. In this way, rural women and men living in the vulnerable Haor Delta will have access to more accurate, real-time climate information, which can afford them the ability to protect their rice crops, a vital income source.

Finally, Beat Roosli of the World Farmers’ Organization (WFO) asserted that secure access to productive resources is a central factor when farmers’ decide whether to make adaptation investments in their farms. “In this regard, climate change and land tenure are inextricably linked,” he said. This also raised the question of farm-size, and whether it’s better to optimize productivity on each farm unit, or focus on aggregating small plots, thereby scaling up adaptation investments. “The question of farm size is secondary at first, Roosli suggested, “Farmers may have to scale up later, but first they must become more productive with the resources they have.” 

Climate-Smart Agriculture and Gender Side Event Held at CFS42

Posted by Christopher Neglia Monday, October 12, 2015 0 comments

With the 42nd Committee on World Food Security (CFS) going on this week at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome, IFAD today participated in a side event, entitled Climate-Smart Agriculture and Gender — Evidence for Equitable, Food Secure and Sustainable Agriculture. Clare Bishop Sambrook, lead technical specialist for gender at IFAD led off the discussion. She posited that as climate change becomes a more pressing issue for small agricultural producers, resilient techniques will become more intentional and explicit in their business processes. This may translate into planting more fodder crops in pastoral contexts, or growing more fruit trees in tropical food systems. She said that IFAD’s gender-focused interventions are primarily concerned with addressing women’s shortage of time and voice. 

Time. Rural women spend many hours of the day traveling to obtain firewood or water for their households. In the dry season, water may be further away, and as deforestation spreads, firewood may be difficult to find. Therefore IFAD is piloting a flexibiogas system, which generates enough energy for domestic cooking and lighting needs. The environmental dimension is that flexi biogas reduces methane emissions from livestock, and has the potential to alleviate human pressure on forest resources. The system is being piloted in a growing number of projects, thus far in Kenya, Rwanda, Mali, Cambodia and India. 

Voice. Gender dimensions are a constraint on the development of women. Household methodologies are something that IFAD has been doing in the context of climate change and gender equality as a practical household planning exercise that promotes the contributions of women to the household and create goals to work towards.

Dr. Martin Frick, Director of Climate, Energy and Tenure Division at FAO next discussed the need to recognize the different realities of rural men and women in the design and application of interventions, including in the area of climate-smart agriculture. When speaking about improvements in productivity, Frick argued that the solution was not always technologies. If women had the same access to resources as men, the extra output could reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12 - 17 per cent, he said.  

The issue of measuring women’s empowerment was raised by Vera Weill-Hallie, Chair of Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management (WOCAN). The organization has developed a certification label, the W+ Standard, that endorses projects that create increased social and economic benefits for women participating in economic development or environment projects. In terms of climate change and gender, Weill-Hallie cautioned that more analytical work on gender and climate-smart agriculture needed to be done, and signalled that the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) submitted by countries to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) did not place a sufficient focus on gender. 

The final speaker was Marc Sadler, World Bank Adviser on risks and markets in agriculture. He talked about the different adaptation methods adopted by men and women in response to climate-related risks. Indeed, gender is seen as a one of the main determinants of farmers’ choice of adaptation methods. These factors must be identified at the outset of a project if it’s gong to be able to achieve results, Sadler argued. 

By Clare Bishop-Sambrook, Lead Technical Adviser (Gender and Social Inclusion) and Zak Bleicher (Partnership Officer)

After lengthy deliberations and a highly consultative process, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – also known as the Global Goals - and their 169 targets have finally been approved. What will they mean for IFAD’s work to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment?

In order to amplify the voice of rural women in the post-2015 development agenda, IFAD has partnered with the Huairou Commission – an NGO and network of grassroots women’s organizations. As part of the 12-month partnership, five grassroots women leaders who are champions of rural priorities - from Jamaica, Kenya, Nicaragua, Peru and Zimbabwe – attended three days of participatory training in New York to build up their knowledge of the SDGs, develop a collective advocacy and action plan, and learn to effectively communicate rural priorities within this new paradigm. A session led by Zak Bleicher and Clare Bishop-Sambrook focused on where IFAD’s efforts to empower rural women stand within the SDG framework. 
From L-R: M. Crawford, translator V.Glab, trainers D.Goldenberg and V.Shivutse, H.Rodriguez, S.Chitongo and J.Nyokabi Gitau. Photo credits Huairou 
The new agenda recognizes that gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls will make a crucial contribution to progress across all the goals. It states categorically that the achievement of full human potential and of sustainable development is not possible if one half of humanity continues to be denied its full human rights and opportunities.
The first two goals focus specifically on: ending poverty in all its forms (Goal 1) and achieving food security and improved nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture (Goal 2). Goal 5 aims to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

In contrast with the targets for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a great many of the new Global Goal targets resonate with the lives of poor rural women. In addition, they address the three strategic objectives of IFAD’s gender policy, which focuses on:

- economic empowerment
- voice and participation
- equitable workload balance and sharing in the benefits.

The targets include the usual fundamental objectives, such as promoting women’s equal rights to economic resources – including land and other forms of property, women’s leadership in decision-making bodies, and women’s access to financial and other services.

A focus on reducing women’s workload hits the spot
Crucially, a few targets also address the key issue of workload and this could be hugely important for rural women. As we know, in many settings, rural women spend hours every day fetching water and fuelwood, as well as undertaking a wide range of care and domestic work around the home. Hence the targets that recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work including the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family; access to safe and affordable drinking water, and reliable and modern energy services for all are hitting the mark.

Significantly, the targets are not just about strengthening women’s productive and household roles but also improving the quality of their lives. Attention is paid to eliminating all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, and eliminating all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

How will this be achieved? 
The agenda talks of activities that relate to IFAD’s core business …. ‘promoting development-oriented policies that support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and encourage the formalization and growth of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises, including through access to financial services’.

It talks of enhancing international support for implementing effective and targeted capacity-building to support national plans to implement all the sustainable development goals, including north-south, south-south and triangular cooperation.

The ability to track progress from the perspective of different players is also recognized. Data should be disaggregated by income, gender, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, geographic location and other characteristics that are relevant in national contexts.

Let’s use the post-2015 agenda to strengthen the impact of IFAD-supported activities at field level, with a strong commitment to realising the potential of rural areas through promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. As noted by the Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, “Rural women are critical to the success of almost all of the SDGs”.

ROUTASIA is back in Nepal for new Learning Routes
Partnership of the Nepal Agricultural Cooperative Central Federation, Small Farmers Cooperatives, IFAD and Procasur

After an unfortunate hiatus due to the devastating earthquake, ROUTASIA returns to Nepal to move forward on the successful journey in partnership with NACCFL and the Small Farmers Cooperatives. The purpose of last week’s visit was to agree on the particulars of two new Learning Routes in Nepal, involving the country’s Eastern and Central regions.

Despite rural poverty, earthquakes and political unrest, farmers in Nepal are cheerful, optimistic   
   and more dedicated than ever to work together in finding solutions for the common challenges.

The meetings took place at NACCFL’s headquarters, in a pleasant residential area on the hills of Lalitpur, near Kathmandu, where 20 professionals gathered to discuss actions in preparation of the Learning Routes. Local Champions, replicators, cooperative managers and leaders came from Nepal’s Eastern and Central regions to meet with NACCFL’s leadership and a small team from Procasur to answer the first questions:

Where to find strong themes for the Learning Routes?

And how to select the Local Champions who share their solutions with specific target groups?

Through an interactive exercise to try and sell local knowledge, the Eastern and Central regions mapped their strong points and evaluated each other’s proposals. 

The strongest point of the SFACL Maharanijhoda, as everyone agreed, is the cooperative farming model, the first of its kind in Nepal, which already aroused the interest of the Nepali government for replication. The cooperative farming model targets lowland farmers where land pooling is possible.
CENTRAL REGION’S PROPOSAL FOR LEARNING ROUTES (SFACL Hadikhola and Manahari)The Small Farmer Agricultural Cooperatives of Hadikhola and Manahari are both women led and chaired by young ladies. In Hadikhola, out of the cooperative’s 2100 members only 6 are male. But this alone does not make them unique in Nepal, where many cooperatives are women based. Their strongest points include integrated farming, lift irrigation, and the only social theme for indigenous groups, the cooperative involvement of the almost extinct Bankariya people. 

Poster at NACCFL headquarters 
showing cooperative organization structure.
NACCFL’s three-tiered cooperative organization structure starts with the Small Farmer groups, featured on the top of the tree. Through their Village Councils (white circles), they each send one representative to an inter-group at ward level (red circles). In average, 9 wards make up a Village Development Committee (VDC, blue circle), where the wards send elected leaders to form a Cooperative Board. Since VDCs in Nepal have been gradually merging, VDC level cooperatives boast thousands of members who benefit from financial and non-financial assistance, livestock insurance, infrastructural development and women empowerment.

“We are planning two Learning Routes, one on national level and a second one for international participants”, said Mr. Trijan Singh, Assistant Programme Manager at NACCFL. “In these parts, innovations and solutions are poorly documented and not recognized”, he said while welcoming the systematic approach of Procasur’s Learning Route methodology.

In his rundown on the Learning Routes, Mr. Ariel Halpern, Vice-President of Procasur emphasized the recognition and access of farmers’ innovations.
 “Only 5-15% of the farmers have access to innovations and technical assistance services worldwide. But the farmers’ knowledge is available, affordable and accessible for others.”

As an outstanding example from Latin-America, where Procasur’s Learning Routes first initiated, Mr. Halpern cited the government of Peru, which adopted a new policy for farmer-to-farmer training, and Local Champions are now recognized as service providers. 

There is a problem worldwide with innovations being too far and widely spaced, and there is little investment in research and documentation of innovations that farmers own. To address this problem, “we need to work with Local Champions to find and promote local solutions for their wider outreach”, said Mr. Halpern.

Q: “While the investments in Learning Routes are obvious, regarding time, effort, commitment and travel, but what are the benefits?” A: “On cooperative level, financial benefits include payment for case studies, for replication and for trainings. This is also a solution for documentation and valorization of the knowledge.
There are also numerous technical benefits in knowledge management and identification of innovations, best practices and Local Champions as owners. The programme ultimately provides trained professionals for replication and dissemination. Also, NACCFL will be part of an international network that shares information.”

Following an earlier Learning Route in Nepal’s northwestern region, the impact of ROUTASIA’s learning method is beyond doubt. “In 2 years we registered massive changes in Kapilvastu District, largely thanks to the comfort the farmers found in peer-to-peer learning”, explained Mr. Dhruba Regmi, Procasur’s focal point in Nepal, who worked more than 7 years with small farmer cooperatives in Nepal. “Most cooperatives are invisible, and Learning Routes offer a lot of opportunities for exposing themselves, for learning and for replication.”

Learning Route to Rayale VDC Leasehold Forest User Groups cluster in February, 2013

PROFILESmall Farmer Agriculture Cooperative, Maharanijhoda VDC, Jhapa District
Eastern Region This women-only cooperative was established in 1999 within the NACCFL network, and now provides financial and non-financial services to its 1531 female members. They have been involved in a variety of agribusiness activities, such as integrated farming, seed production, milk production and marketing. The cooperatives innovative integrated farming involves 49 households who benefit from good irrigation, mechanization, collective marketing and improved production.  “We started with many types of crops and merging fragmented lands. Through the innovations we achieved higher profit and lower costs. Our cooperative just opened a seed processing center which creates higher value than only rice growing.
– Ms. Mina Kumari Dhakal, Chairperson of SFACL Maharanijhoda

Land fragmentation in Nepal: With 64% of households engaged in farming countrywide, land fragmentation is one of the main causes of food insecurity in Nepal.
One of the biggest challenges for small farmers in Nepal, especially the young generation, is land fragmentation due to legal restrictions and the very common land inheritance disputes.  Land is the main family asset in Nepal that is also used as collateral for temporary loans and as a source of investment. Access to land is a symbol of wealth, status and power. 

“Land fragmentation also drives outmigration, which is a big problem in rural areas, affecting a large portion of our youth who shift to migrant workers”, said Mr. Tirtha Raj Ojha, Manager of SFACL Maheshpur of the Eastern region. “The question is, how to bring back the people?”
The answer lies in cooperative farming, farmer-to-farmer learning and the opportunities in Learning Routes. Many farmers, including rural youth, started to come back to the Eastern Region to invest in high value production of spices and fruits. They use land management by putting fragmented pieces together. Within the Maheshpur Small Farmer Cooperative, merged lands create high diversity and quality by letting each farmer grow one crop they are experts of.

PROFILEThe concept of Lead Farmers
Central Region Choosing the right farmer leaders or Local Champions is essential in planning the Learning Routes. In Makawanpur District in the Central region, the Small Farmer Agricultural Cooperatives of Hadikhola and Manahari perfected their own system for identifying “lead farmers”. Since 2 years, they have been trained 25 farmer leaders at district level to open an agriculture school. The lead farmers identify people to be trained, 20 students for one trainer.
Into the group of these 25 lead farmers, 2 are selected from each ward. They are trained, and the top 2-3 are picked out as resource persons with leadership qualities.
 “In the final stage, lead farmers run their own field trainings but there is no emphasis on follow-up. While cooperatives and their replications are running smoothly, we welcome ROUTASIA’s assistance in sustainability.”
– Mr. Deewakan Rupakheti, Manager of District Agricultural Federation, Makawanpur 

With the Local Champions and their solutions identified to be featured on the Learning Routes, NACCFL, Procasur and both regions agreed that the first LR should choose the Central Region as its destination. The Route is scheduled for the end of the year.
In the meantime, as part of the mutual agreement, participatory case studies are being prepared for the cases identified for LR exposure.

ROUTASIA is looking forward to the next steps in its partnership with NACCFL and the Small Farmer Cooperatives towards successful Learning Routes that can bring recognition to local solutions and their owners. 

By Andrea Listanti

Youth power
Photo credit: Andrea Listanti
At Terra Madre Youth, we spent three days learning about agriculture and food production, listening to stories from rural people from all around the world, and sharing our thoughts with each other. On the fourth and final day, we brought our energy and our passion to Expo. Expo 2015 with the theme of "Feeding the world, energy for life" was the perfect venue to spread the word on food and agriculture. As youth, we feel responsible to advocate for a change. Our message was that a new, sustainable global food production system is possible and we need to work on it together.

In the spare minutes before the wrap-up meeting in the Auditorium, we took the opportunity to visit the Holy See pavilion. We entered a quite small and solemn square room, with images and videos on the walls and a long rectangular table in the middle. Pictures from different parts of the world showed the devastating impact of hunger, malnutrition and food waste. These pictures made a tremendous impression and made us reflect on the contradictions and inequalities of our world.

Photo credit: Andrea Listanti
Scenes of everyday life came to life when people got close to the rectangular table. A lady explained to us that the table would have lost its meaning without people. This was a profound message, as a table is where families come together to eat, it is a place where people come together to meet and interact with each other. We thought of the importance of food in this process, remembering when we had shared our lunch with our companions on the first day around a table, and we realized that if every pavilion had been like the one we were visiting, Expo would have been an even better experience.

At the wrap-up meeting, Carlo Petrini addressing the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Paolo Gentiloni said: “you have come to the United Nations of young farmers”. Then he gave us a fascinating explanation of the word “sustainability”: “it derives from ‘sustain’, which is actually one of the pedals of the piano. If you push it with your foot while playing, the sound lasts more. We want Slow Food’s activity to be long-lasting, and we want you to do better than the founders”. At the end of his speech, Petrini endorsed Alice Waters’ proposal to organize the first ever Terra Madre event in the United States, and announced the next Indigenous Terra Madre for 3-7 November 2015 in India.

Gentiloni was the last to take the floor. “The message of feeding the planet is extraordinarily political”, he said, and he underlined the connection between Terra Madre Youth and the COP21 Climate Conference which will be taking place in Paris in December 2015. “There’s a fil rouge linking these two events: the way we are going to feed the planet in the future depends on the way we will tackle challenges poses to agriculture”. In listening to his words, we hope that governments will also take into account the message we were trying to convey.

Photo credit: Andrea Listanti
At the end of the meeting, Joris Lohman, chief of the Slow Food Youth Network, led the final march. United, we "invaded" Expo grounds! We walked down the “decumano”, singing and showing our posters. And must say we felt very powerful, we thorough enjoyed the surprised look of Expo visitors.

For many of us, being on the frontline for four days as IFAD young delegates was the best training we could have received, and we hope that IFAD  will continue to create opportunities for the young people to be more and more involved in these kind of activities in the future.

By Andrea Listanti

Young participants
Photo credit: Francesca Borgia
On the first two days at Terra Madre Youth we made connections, we got inspired, shared knowledge and learnt from each other. The underlying theme of the third day was to put to practice our ideas. IFAD had co-organized an event focusing on young entrepreneurship and agriculture in the Superstudio Piùpurple room.

The purpose of the event was to discuss the global challenge of feeding the world, in an era when we are faced with an increasing decline of young people's willingness to stay or start working in agriculture. We were challenged to present innovative ideas to encourage youth to return to the land and to transform rural areas.

The speakers were young entrepreneurs, who have benefitted from IFAD-PROCASUR projects in Africa, Latin America and Asia. They presented their experience on how they had engaged in agriculture and encouraged others to follow their lead. The interactive session provided the opportunity for the audience to ask questions, share their ideas and put proposals on the table.

Pape Samb
Photo credit: Andrea Listanti
Pape Samb, the chairperson of Global Youth Innovation Network (GYIN), one of IFAD's partners, told the audience that GYIN  brings together governments, private sector and non-profit organizations to create an environment to support youth in development. 

“Young people who decide to devote their lives to agriculture must be put in the condition of becoming entrepreneurs. They need knowledge and capital to start their businesses”, Samb said.

A participant from Zimbabwe asked Samb this thought-provoking question: "Considering that accessing the GYIN’s online platform is essential for building capacity and in many rural areas few of us have access to the internet, how can we ensure that everybody is able to get this opportunity?"

In answering, Samb stressed the importance of the horizontal support. “While we wait for effective infrastructure to be built in rural areas, those who have access to the internet can act as facilitators for those who do not. Moreover, the people in the city can set up a mentoring programme for their brothers and sisters living rural areas and in doing so, they can also build their capacity.”

The moving and profound stories of rural young people who had managed to create a business for themselves and their communities underscored the importance of support and the role of donors such as IFAD in transforming rural areas and making them attractive.

The young speakers
Photo credit: Andrea Listanti
Dhruba, from Nepal, spoke about the role of PROCASUR in the horizontal knowledge-sharing between farmers. “To build our capacity we don’t need to hire experts, because PROCASUR facilitates the horizontal exchange of know-how. It creates a knowledge base to be shared with the community, which meets our needs. Then it gathers different people from different villages to share the information. This innovative approach has led to good results. For example, in Cambodia farmers used to sow the seeds directly to the land. These farmers benefitted from a learning route and learnt from other fellow farmers in the region how to improve the sowing process by using more sophisticated tools”.

Then it was the turn of Ambroise, from Benin. “I decided to work in the agriculture sector when I read the 2010 IFAD annual report, which said that Africa had doubled its agricultural production. I want to feed my country and Africa and I know to do so I have to address many challenges. For example, we need to learn when to sow seeds so that we have a good harvest. We need to know where to buy our seeds, how and when to use fertilizers, where and how to get access to credit." 

"Receiving seeds when it's too late does not make us good farmers. At the same time not having the appropriate equipment, also does not make us good farmers", says Ambroise. "We got a tractor for a three-year test period, and during this time we managed to partner with the organization who provided us with it, this way the grant was renewed for another six years”, Ambroise said, and he proudly showed us a picture of his wonderful tractor.

Photo credit: Andrea Listanti
The moderator, Darlene a young lady from Cameroon, was also inspiring and engaging. Her way of encouraging the audience to interact was very powerful. She too shared her story. “I was studying engineering, when I decided to become a farmer. My parents thought I was crazy, and didn’t want me to pursue my vocation. So I graduated and started working. When I had saved enough money I resigned and I started my own rural enterprise. Some years after, when my parents saw the pictures of my farm, they told me ‘ask us anything you want!’".

"I was invited to speak on national TV, where I showed pictures of my field. Immediately afterwards many people contacted me and told to me ‘wow, this works! I didn’t believe agriculture could be so cool!’. If we want the youth to work in agriculture, we have to bring agriculture to the them and raise awareness about the marvels of this sector", says Darlene.

Speakers and participants
Photo credit: Andrea Listanti
The fourth testimonial was Blanca, from Peru. She spoke about access to credit for rural youth. “I started working with 14 other young companions, but initially we didn’t have enough resources to invest in our project. Fortunately my mother gave us the land where we built our farm, using the tools provided by PROCASUR. IFAD helped us obtaining access to credit. Thanks to IFAD and PROCASUR we are helping rural youth realizing their dreams”.

After the workshop, Blanca told us she was so happy to have attended Terra Madre Youth event, and she was looking forward to participating in other Slow Food-organised events.

Photo credit: Andrea Listanti
Last but not the least, we heard Zoeliarimalala's story who comes from Madagascar. “My island is famous for its livestock. I milk my cows, and my dream has always been to produce and sell yogurt. When I started I didn’t have access to electricity nor to the internet. I began my activity by going door to door and selling them my yogurt. After two months I started selling my products in other cities and villages. But artisanal yogurts are sold everywhere in Madagascar, so there is a lot of competition among producers. I knew that if I wanted to succeed, my product needed to be different", says a proud Zoeliarimalala.  

"I was lucky to meet a young producer of Moringa - a tropical plant. We decided to cooperate and create an innovative product that maintained the characteristics of yogurt and added the high nutritional value of Moringa. Now we are feeding two elementary schools and two middle schools. Our yogurt and Moringa is healthy and cheap and has contributed to increase food security and nutrition for the boys and girls of these schools".

Zoeliarimalala’s story was truly emotional. It was incredible to see how a tiny girl could be so strong and determined. Listening to her, as well as to others, was a unique experience. We really got to understand what are the best practices to develop innovative ideas around food production.

Utterly inspired, on our final day, we'll be taking all of this to the Expo. 

Terra Madre Youth - #WeFeedThePlanet – Day 2: Getting inspired

Posted by Roxanna Samii Monday, October 5, 2015 0 comments

By Andrea Listanti

Superstudio Piu
Photo credit: Andrea Listanti
The first day at Terra Madre Youth focused on making connections and meeting people. And we succeeded to break the ice!!! The theme of the second day was inspiration!

We were challenged to  develop innovative solutions to feed the planet, and to do this we had to form our own opinion on food production. The first step was to listen to the others, that is why the halls of Superstudio Più, (each of which has a different colour) were filled with young people eager to attend conferences and participate in discussions. The programme was full of debates on various topics, with many hosts delivering speeches.

Serge Latouche, partisan of the degrowth theory, was the first to take the stage. His style while different from that of Raj Patel and Carlo Petrini, who spoke took the floor the first day, was equally engaging. He sat down, spoke calmly, taking his time to find the proper words in his almost perfect Italian.

Inspiring lectures, debates and talks
Photo credit: Andrea Listanti
His speech was very inspiring, challenging and thought provoking. “We live in a society of unlimited growth. A society which seeks infinite consumption through an unlimited production which results in unlimited pollution”, said Latouche. According to him, marketing, irresponsible credit lines and producing products that are obsolete overnight are the three “bubbles” of a corrupt economic system which produce unsustainable “growth for the growth”.

The current system is unsustainable, reminded Latouche. On the one hand from an ecological point of view, the high carbon footprint on the environment has adversely impacted biodiversity, on the other hand from a social point of view, avidity and the limitless desire of consumption has led to an unhappy society which since the financial crisis of 2008 is in constant quest for equality and wellbeing.  If we apply these concepts to food system, we see that an intensive industrial production involves a massive, high mechanized exploitation of land, threatening small-scale farmers and their valuable cultural diversity.

Serge Latouche
Photo credit: Andrea Listanti
Latouche explained his idea of a new, happy society based on subjective well-being, in which sustainable food productions play a pivotal role. “Food is not a commodity, we have to keep food out of the capitalistic idea of market”. A young participant asked how can we practically build a society that is different from what we have. We all felt a sense of déjà-vu: as on the first day we had asked Joris Lohman a similar question.

“You already have the answer. Joining initiatives such as Slow Food  is a form of resistance to counter bad food culture and a consumer-driven society. Good, clean and fair is also the philosophy of the degrowth. Embrace this… think globally, act locally”, said Latouche.

A good speaker is not necessarily right, but certainly inspiring. We took Latouche’s inspiring words with us as we joined other sessions and discussions. Superstudio Più  hosted sessions focusing on land grabbing, edible insects and intercultural gastronomy. The debates were not the only attraction. Outside the seminar rooms, people met each other, talked, played and danced. Walking around at "Terra Madre Giovani" is far from being a waste of time, it is a source of inspiration.

We are activist.......
Photo credit: Andrea Listanti
We met Carlos, one of our “twins. Carlos is 27 years old dairy producer from Venezuela. He is not too talkative. He stares at the world with his proud eyes. I asked him whether it was the first time he was traveling outside Venezuela, to which he answered: “It’s the second time, but the first time I come to Europe". We really wanted to know his story and he indulged.

“I was born in the city, but then moved to the countryside. I've been living in a rural area for the last 13 years”, he told us. “We moved because in the rural area I can do what I like most, I can cultivate my passion for agriculture. When I wake up in the morning I go the fields where I feed and take care of my animals”.

Carlos has had his share of challenges. For example, the irrigation system of his farm is broken and he cannot buy fertilizer for his crops. Fixing the irrigation system would cost him 180 million Bolivar.

Our "Twin" Carlos
Photo credit: Andrea Listanti
He told us “The broken irrigation system means, not being able to make money and more importantly, it is preventing others from joining my enterprise. Things would be better if I had a business partner, but no irrigation systems means no partners”.

Recently, Carlos was able to benefit from a IFAD-funded project. Carlos told us that the IFAD-funded intervention helped him and his community a lot. “It helped because funds are being distributed equally among many different small-scale producers”, told us Carlos and we were proud to hear this.

Then we switched gears and started talking about youth and the land.  We asked him whether he thought other young Venezuelans would be willing to move to rural areas and make agriculture their profession just like he had done. “I don’t know anyone who would do something like that. Most of the young people in Venezuela leave rural areas… They abandon the land. But people around me say that I’m lucky, because I managed to build my own life and I’m doing what I’ve always loved to do”, said Carlos.

Here in Italy we normally don’t have any relation with the land. We live in our houses in the city and buy food in the shops. But for someone like Carlos things are different. We asked him whether he could conceive of a life without land. And his answer was loud and clear: “No I cannot think of a life without land. Even if my wife left me, I would stay behind. I want to teach my children to love the land. I love agriculture, I love breeding and livestock. When I was a child my parents bought me a bicycle and I sold it to buy hens. So As you can see my passion for land and agriculture dates back to my childhood and is something that has stayed with me…..”.

Lessons and concrete experience are the two components of knowledge, and we were lucky to have both. Inspiration is part of the learning process, and we learnt a lot and were equally inspired a lot. Now we are ready for the third day, when knowledge and inspiration will be used to create new campaign ideas, business plans and communication strategies through creative sessions and workshops.