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Meeting to prepare IFAD Response to the Crisis in Haiti

Posted by Zoumana Bamba Sunday, January 31, 2010 0 comments

DAY 1 – 28 January

The workshop was opened by Ms Josefina Stubbs, Director of the Latin America and the Caribbean Division. Josefina Stubbs extends condolences of IFAD over earthquake in Haiti. She provided a comprehensive overview of the objectives and background to the workshop. PL Director highlighted the immediate response of IFAD to the crisis that focused on facilitating the resumption of agricultural activities as a means of restoring the livelihoods of thousands of communities that are dependent on agriculture. The main challenges for the workshop were to identify interventions and strategies for the long-term reconstruction of the agricultural sector. In order to achieve this will require an integrated and participatory approach. She welcomed the FAO residents for Haiti and Santo Domingo and other FAO staff as well as representatives from a national NGO from Haiti and IICA, a regional organization at the workshop. This is indeed not only a reflection of the importance of partnership as efforts are being channelled to start the rehabilitation of the agricultural sector.

Attendees were also invited to introduce themselves. The remainder of the day was comprised of formal presentations on the situation from each of the IFAD-funded projects, by representatives of FAO and non-government organizations.

COUNTRY OVERVIEW - Experience sharing and testimonies on impact on rural areas
Representatives of the IFAD-funded projects staff, along with NGOs, FAO and IFAD staff, reported on the progress to date with respect to the situation of the agricultural sector.

The disaster made a serious impact on agricultural related livelihoods, including both on-farm and off-farm activities. It destroyed not only physical facilities (i.e. agriculture tools and equipment, irrigation systems, houses and buildings), but also natural resource capacities.

Analysis of preliminary existing information on post-earthquake situation in rural areas based on first-hand information from IFAD-funded project staff in Haiti shows that:
i) The major impact of the earthquake for the agriculture sector is the massive migration of population from the capital city to the rural areas which magnitude is still to be confirmed. The Ministry of Agriculture estimates the number of people leaving cities for rural areas could reach more that 1 million. Migration is putting further pressure on rural households in terms of availability of food and access to basic services and socio-economic stability in areas already
grappling with meagre resources;
ii) Assessment of physical damages in the rural areas is still underway. However, it is confirmed that there has been some damage to irrigation systems, productive infrastructure, roads, including main routes to agricultural markets, particularly in the Western regions (Leogane, Grand Goave, and Petit Goave, Nippes in a 100 km radius).
On mid-day, the Minister of Agriculture of Haiti visited the workshop venue to address workshop participants. The Minister confirmed the assessment made by IFAD-funded projects staff and informed that a programme has been worked out by the Government for 600 million US$ over 18 months for agricultural development.
The Minister requested the three ongoing IFAD projects to maintain all activities approved in their AWPB 2009-2010 which are still relevant trying to speed up their implementation to meet their ambitious annual targets. In addition, the Minister welcomed additional resources to
address the immediate needs in the rural areas most affected by the earthquake outside IFAD-funded projects areas. Finally, the Minister invited IFAD and FAO to reactivate the seed distribution programme which was implemented in the aftermath of the food prices crisis.

The mission has also found out that a multi Donor Need Assessment Exercise is under preparation with the aim of presenting a detailed report at the next world conference on Haiti to be held in New York in March. The IFAD participation in this exercise will be discussed in a series of bilateral meetings with donor agencies (World Bank, IADB, AECI, FAO) next week.

In summary, the impact of the earthquake has been exacerbated by the huge migration to rural areas, increasing demand for food and agricultural production and concerns about food security.
Before leaving a grant financing agreement of US 5.6 miilion with the Ministry of Agriculture.

Day 2 – 29 January

On the 2nd Day of the Workshop, the participants discussed needs to support rural communities by:

- Reviewing and analyzing the current approved AWPB for 2010:
- Mapping the existing needs assessment information and identified information gaps;
- Identifying the main factors and trends that could impact the implementation of annual work plans;
- Identifying priorities areas and overall objectives for the 2010 short term and long term strategies;
- Started the development of response plans for each project and FAO.

In conclusion, the food security needs of earthquake-affected rural areas households will require, according to participants and based on previous experience, an immediate combination of food assistance, rapid agricultural input supplies (seeds, fertiliser, tools, poultry and small ruminants etc.) and a rehabilitation of production infrastructure, such as on-farm irrigation, storage facilities.

Workshop participants suggested that IFAD response should focus th e following:
Rehabilitation of agricultural infrastructure such as irrigation systems in time for the March 2010 planting season and the re-establishment of agricultural markets to ensure the short and long term goal for food security.
· Research, development and information sharing - documentation and data collection of the impact on and recovery of affected agriculture areas and ecosystems.
· Development of income generating activities, micro-credit schemes and community empowerment with a focus on agricultural livelihood activities.
· Distribution of seed and planting materials; crop diversification that includes or incorporates cash cropping options; livestock; and improved agricultural practices.

This was my first trip to Latin America. The first impression I had during my breakfast is the number of UN staff, NGOs, rescue and humanitarian teams in Santo Domingo.

After the breakfast, we made arrangement with the hotel for the workshop. Our colleagues from Haiti have arrived. I am anxious to meet them. I missed the opportunity in November 2009 as they participated in the project implementation workshop organized by the Division of Western and Central Africa.

The workshop is a unique opportunity to listen to IFAD-funded project staff and share their concerns. They provided us with testimonies and useful and painful information on the situation. Despite the pain, they are strong and speak with calm and dignity. They are eager to share information so that we can collectively assess initial findings related to rehabilitation needs and opportunities, share plans and proposals for future rehabilitation work, and develop mechanisms for collaboration and joint activities. You can read the testimonies I collected in the next blog.

The tragedy of the earthquake in Haiti is beyond what many of us can even fully imagine. We have see shots of the seism, and humanitarian efforts to get food, water and shelter to people. But listening to people stories is shaken.

Fortunately, the situation in Haiti is improving. This was good news and for which we are grateful. As Haiti begins to rebuild, the development process must be driven by values and processes that ensure real sustainability. According to our colleagues, the work of empowering communities must start and this includes building lasting food security, rehabilitating agricultural infrastructure and development of income generating activities, micro-credit schemes and community empowerment with a focus on agricultural livelihood activities.

Airlifted from Machu Picchu

Posted by Roxanna Samii Saturday, January 30, 2010 0 comments

Remember Elizabeth from Claus' blogpost? Well, after finishing their extraordinary Learning Route experience, Elizabeth and Maria decided to visit the marvelous Machu Picchu over the weekend.

As you may remember, last week heavy rains triggered massive landslides causing the railway between Machu Picchu and Cuzco to be blocked. Elizabeth and Maria were two of the many blocked because of the landslide. On Thursday, when they were finally evacuated, Elizabeth sent this message:

"Just a few lines to let you all know that we have just arrived to Cusco. It's nearly 21.00. Both Maria and myself are safe. It has been an incredible experience. The evacuation only started on Monday afternoon and we have been going every day to the station where people had to gather for the evacuation. Priority was given to sick and elderly people, pregnant women and people with young children.

Today we went very early to the station but no sign of helicopters until 13.00 pm because of the weather conditions and other factors (fuel, etc) and also because the whole region is affected by landslides and flooding. Our colleagues from UNDP and UNIDO have been working as volunteers for the last three days and have been in contact with UNDSS. Colleagues from UNDSS (Lima) have been in touch with us daily to make sure that we were okay. They spoke with the "coronel" of the army to indicate that there were four UN officers in the area to see whether they could accelerate our evacuation. We thought we could not make it today since there are still hundreds of people blocked. Food started being scarce since everything comes from outside. At around 5.00 pm we got signals from our UNDP/UNIDO colleagues to move fast and get to the queue. We moved together with another 15-18 people and Peruvian soldiers to the ground field where the helicopter was awaiting. We crossed a long path in the middle of a thick forest (sort of jungle) while local people were bringing basic food supplies from the helicoper to the station. It was unreal. I thought it was like a Rambo film with Silvester Stallone.

I got a bit emotional thinking about all those who were still left behind. I hope they can accelerate the evacuation plans to get them out soon. Local people are also quite concerned because the river is getting very close to the houses and some areas have been evacuated. Others are concerned because it will take a couple of months (at least) until they will be in a position to repair the railway since the water is covering certain paths. All the food is brought by train since there is no land suitable for agriculture. The area is surrounded by high and rocky mountains.

The flight by helicopter was incredible but God was on our side and we all arrived safely to a small village where a bus was waiting for us to bring us to Cusco. If we manage to change the flights tomorrow we would like to go to Lima and then take the flight to Rome. Let's see whether we succeed since there have been many flight cancellations these days and the situation is very critical in this area.

Thanks to all of you for your concern. I will keep in touch."

IFAD Response to the Crisis in Haiti

Posted by Zoumana Bamba Friday, January 29, 2010 0 comments

In the aftermath of the devastating 7.0 earthquake in Port-au-Prince, a team of IFAD staff led by Josefina Stubbs PL Director arrived in Santo Domingo Haiti to assess impacts on the agricultural sector and damage to infrastructure in the earthquake zone. The team comprised Marco Camagni, CPM, Audrey Nepveu, PT, Maija Peltola, APO, Jean-Jacques Gariglio, senior consultant, Jorge Pina, Infrastructure Specialist and Zoumana Bamba, PA.

The objective of the mission is to start the implementation of the Response Plan. The focus of the mission work will be:
(i) the analysis of existing information on post-earthquake situation in rural areas;
(ii) close coordination with other development partners, including UN agencies, IFIs, bilateral agencies and international and national NGOs;
(iii) design of up to two small grants to finance projects aimed at helping small farmers to restore agricultural production and economic activity.

For this purpose, the mission is working in the Dominican Republic from 27 January to 5 February 2010, where a workshop with GOH representatives, IFAD country team, and development partners, including the WB, FAO, WFP, UNDP, and NGOs will be organized. The mission will also meet in the border area with Haiti with representatives of MARNDR and MEF, the IFAD country team and development partners and NGOs.

That is to introduce you to the purpose of the mission. Tomorrow I will give you more information with photographs on the meeting with the Minister of Agriculture, IFAD-funded project staff in Haiti and development partners.

Rebuilding Haiti From Davos

Posted by Roxanna Samii Tuesday, January 26, 2010 0 comments

When the captains of business and industry meet in Davos for the World Economic Forum this month, the devastation caused by the recent earthquake in Haiti will be near the top of their agenda. It should be, for there is much they can do to help.

Haiti was in dire straits even before the earthquake struck. Rapid population growth, coupled with political and social turmoil, helped make Haiti the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere. Right now, the international relief efforts in Haiti are rightly focused on the country’s urban areas, which suffered most in the earthquake. But when rebuilding starts, rural areas must not be overlooked.

In fact, many of those who have lost their homes and jobs in Port-au-Prince and other Haitian cities will likely return to rural communities where they have family. This will put pressure on the rural economy and place more strain on areas already grappling with meager resources.

Agriculture plays a vital role in Haiti’s economy, yet the country does not produce enough food to feed its people. Some 60% of the food Haitians need, and as much as 80% of the rice they eat, is imported. Sustainable agricultural development is essential to improving the country’s prospects for long-term economic and food security.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has seen first-hand how investing in agriculture can help people recover from natural disasters. Our experience in developing countries tells us that investments in agriculture can be twice as effective in reducing poverty as similar investments in other sectors.

Less than two years ago, Haiti was devastated by a hurricane that caused about $220 million in damage to food crops – at a time when the population was also struggling to feed itself because of high world food prices. IFAD funded a program to kick-start food production. The 2008 winter planting yielded $5 million in bean crops, helping to improve food security and the incomes of poor farmers.

While the crisis in Haiti is a major setback in achieving increased food production, it should not be a stop sign on the path to long-term development. The challenge is to ensure that earlier efforts are not lost, and that recovery includes a push toward sustainable agricultural production systems for Haiti.

One group now rising from the rubble is Fonkoze, a microfinance organization operating predominantly in rural Haiti. With assistance from IFAD’s multi-donor Financing Facility for Remittances, Fonkoze purchased satellite phones and diesel generators in 2007, and began delivering remittance services in rural areas where basic infrastructure is often weak or lacking.

Only today is the true value of that investment coming to light. Fonkoze was back in operation only days after the earthquake. Remittances transferred through Fonkoze are free, giving recipient families in Haiti vital resources to meet short-term needs while also encouraging long-term development.

More than $1.9 billion was sent to Haiti in 2008 through remittances, more than official development assistance and foreign direct investment combined, with more than half of these funds going directly into the hands of families in rural areas.

When I am in Davos, I will highlight for the CEOs and business leaders the mutual benefits of forming partnerships with small producers. Much-needed capital investment can enable smallholder farmers to provide the private sector with a sustainable supply of high-quality agricultural produce.

Indeed, smallholder farmers are often extremely efficient producers per hectare, and can contribute to a country’s economic growth and food security. For example, Vietnam transformed itself from a food-deficit country to the second-largest rice exporter in the world by developing its smallholder farming sector. As a result, poverty fell from 58% in 1979 to below 15% today.

In Haiti, and in developing countries around the world, smallholder farmers can contribute to food security and economic growth just as they did in Vietnam. But they cannot do so without secure access to land and water – as well as to rural financial services to pay for seed, tools, and fertilizer. They also need roads and transportation to get their products to market, and technology to receive and share the latest market information on prices. Above all, they need a long-term commitment to agriculture from their own governments, the international community, and the private sector, backed up by greater investment.

The productive capacity of Haiti’s small farmers will be crucial in helping the country to overcome this crisis and avert severe food shortages. That is why Haiti needs the private sector now more than ever – to help rebuild both the country and the livelihoods of poor rural people.

Indeed, the private sector has a pivotal role to play in rural development, not just in Haiti but throughout the developing world. But public- private partnerships must be backed up with the right policies and support for rural communities, so that poor rural people can increase food production, improve their lives, and contribute to greater food security for all.

Organizations like IFAD can help link the private sector and smallholder farmers. We can support investments that expand the productive potential of the smallholder sector in the developing world by helping investors reduce their risks, and by assisting smallholder farmers in accessing new financing and markets through private-sector partnerships.

Klaus Schwab, the founder and chairman of the World Economic Forum, has said that this year’s Davos meeting should be used to “solicit commitments in practical help for relief of the continued pain of Haiti’s people, and particularly for the reconstruction of Haiti.” In Davos, I will work to ensure that the interests of the world’s smallholder farmers – in Haiti and in developing countries around the world – are represented.

Kanayo F. Nwanze, is President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), an international financial institution and a specialized agency of the United Nations.

Basement blues

Posted by Roxanna Samii Sunday, January 24, 2010 1 comments

Saturday, 23 January 2010. The final day to wrap it all up. We spend the full and only day in the hotel basement, a kind of behaviour that has probably not yet been seen in Cusco, the tourism capital of Peru. Maria is back with us, having overcome the altitude sickness.

The first session, a left-over from yesterday, draws conclusions from the rural financial services in the project. The overall feeling is that the savings-based approach is very sound and sustainable, and that the combination of savings with micro-insurance, especially life insurance, is very powerful in assisting the rural poor to acquire assets while making sure no calamity throws them back to square one. It was suggested to limit the savings subsidies in time, and to include an insurance package in the savings products similarly to the credit products.

Lunch is spent preparing the innovation plans with which we hope to put the learned bits and pieces to practice in our own work, without which the entire tour is useless, as Ariel reminds us.

Making sense of it all

The Rwanda team kicks of with a joint proposal to integrate CLARs and competitions to provide capacity building grants through 2 IFAD-financed projects and one financed by Belgium. The plan would use local structures already being set up, but with a new focus on popular presentations of the proposals and results to be assessed by CLARs. An innovation would be the strong involvement of community innovation centres (CCIs) as secretariat to the CLARs supported by project staff, thereby supporting sustainability. The plan is explicit in its implementation plan, aiming at organising the first community competitions in December 2010.

Next is Venezuela. Their innovation plans promoting rural financial services, especially a savings culture, starting with a few pilot MFIs (cajas rurales), by providing subsidies to savers and additionally using competitions between savers (especially women) to allocate credit to the most performing savers that request credit. This sounds like a very interesting combination of elements of the SSDP. Marcela suggests undertaking exchange visits with Colombia.

The Colombians themselves, true ambassadors of their country, start their presentation with a publicity movie on Colombia. They continue with a talking map, evidently having learned something on the trip. It proposes:

  • a pilot activity on including cultural identity in the business promotion, also to respond to the cultural diversity of the clients;
  • the inclusion of micro-insurance with small subsidies; and
  • the promotion of local talents. Finally, Marcela from the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), Colombia, plans to orient the local authorities in its development efforts, carry out exchange visits and to promote rural savings strategies.

The Irrigation and Rural Livelihoods Development Project (IRLDP) in Malawi wants to pilot some activities in 3 districts. The project team wants to move from project-driven grants for inputs and materials to CLAR-type allocation systems, include services by talents through direct sourcing in the these grants, link farmers to microfinance institutions and improve community-level marketing, and use PRAs to develop talking maps for natural resource management. Ariel suggests that convincing the authorities of the changes will be a challenge, and we propose that the project look for allies to support the cause.

Elizabeth Farmosi’s proposal is called Alliance Sierra Sur – Mother Earth. It is targeted at the Sierra Sur project, with new mechanisms for the population to access resources, alliances with public and private institutions, and improvements to the conditions of the competitions in favour of the poorer members of the participating communities. Good stuff, but possibly the recommendations are a little late for the project and can rather flow into the next design.

Maria Hartl proposes a Learning Route on rural financial services in Peru, targeted at IFAD-financed projects, IFAD staff (especially field staff) and other partners, covering savings, credit, insurance and leasing. Recommendations to Maria were to include remittances, and to match well the innovation needs and experiences available. I wonder how many of us are considering whether this should be their next route.

The final stretch is the auto-evaluation of the Learning Route, which I find really embarrassing: how can you just praise everything. In desperation, I propose organizing the background material so that it’s a little easier to work with. But honestly, the organization and contents was terrific, and now it’s on us to implement the learning plan, as otherwise Ariel will come back some day and tell us that it was all futile. I hope we can count on some ongoing support from PROCASUR and the project for that.

The last night we spend at Chicha, a restaurant specialising in refined traditional dishes. The tour ends with a fun round of surprise awards of certificates between routeros, at which it becomes clear to us that we’ve become a close group of friends that has shared a very intense experience.

I wouldn't be surprised if it turned out that this tour was the best thing I did this year.

Claus Reiner, Country Programme Manager, IFAD

Maps that can talk

Posted by Roxanna Samii 0 comments

Friday, 21 January 2010. After a long wait for the bus in front of our rather basic hotel on the unpaved roads of Yauri, a town that should be rich with mining revenues, we all meet for breakfast at the Katamaran restaurant with its peacocks running around outside. Bellies filled, we’re off to the Comunidad Campesina de Antaccollana, which presents its development plans that include many elements of natural resource management. A number of sub-committees manage different aspects: tractor management, irrigation, mirocredit, playschool, etc.

After this brief introduction that included not only traditional music but collective dancing, we jump in the buses to have a look at one of the small hand-dug reservoirs. Now in the rainy season, it's hard to imagine how crucial its water will be during the 9-month dry season.

As we discuss water and pasture management, our drivers turn the buses around and get them both stuck in the mud. Immediately they get different and even contradicting proposals, it seems in Africa and Latin America the approaches to this quite common situation are rather different. As the former throw stones under the wheels, the latter take them out again and replace them with grass. But somehow we push the two busses out, and continue to different families that demonstrate sound natural resource management at household level. I join the group visiting Lorenza, a lady whose exemplary improvements to her cattle, pasture, silage, compost, weaving, cooking and cheese making activities leave us all well-impressed. You name it, she's improved it.

What’s more, she goes around encouraging and teaching others all the various skills she learned from the local trainers contracted by the community. And to top it, her personal development plan, skilfully painted by her nephew, illustrates so well what she's already done and what's still up. We leave her thoroughly impressed.

Heaps of alpaca for lunch back at the Katamaran. Thereafter, it's not exactly easy to continue with a 4-person working session on the Rwanda innovation plan, with which we want to adopt the CLARs. But it's well productive, and we continue in the entire group with an analytical round on the territorial development, the talking maps and business plans. All well-appreciated tools, effectively applied by the project. Of course the group also has recommendations to make to the project team, although the heavy rain on the roof makes communication rather difficult. A particularly tough time for the interpreters.

Just before dark we board the buses for Cusco. The rid takes ages, partly due to the heavy rain, partly as the accompanying pickup has a double puncture and we stay together. I happen to be on the bus without heating, and it feels more like a mobile fridge. By midnight, we pull into Cusco, and are more than glad to be back to warmth and wireless.

Claus Reiner, Country Programme Manager, IFAD

The marvels of Peruvian rural businesses

Posted by Roxanna Samii Friday, January 22, 2010 1 comments

Thursday, 21 January 2010. At sunrise, I go for a walk up the hill behind the church. A couple is already weeding potatoes and a girl fetches firewood by chopping branches and roots off the thola bush. The view is spectacular. Back in town, I realise that it's this herb that's giving the aromatic morning flavour to the thin air.

We start with a breakfast working session in which we analyse the CLAR and the rural businesses we met at the fair on Tuesday. All routeros see them as great development mechanisms that can promote local ownership and capacities at both local government and community levels, and thus achieve higher levels of efficiency and sustainability than conventional project implementation approaches. Clearly, one of the preconditions for a functioning CLAR is a relationship of trust between the local administration and the rural population. The participants made a number of practical suggestions that may strengthen the CLARs further. These include more illustrative documents to be used for consideration by the CLAR, feedback to the groups, and the transfer early on of many management aspects of the CLAR to the local government.

On the enterprise, the routeros felt that they had clearly improved people's lives, not least through elements of scale. One of the main shortcomings seems to be marketing, which is often thought about too late. Many businesses would also benefit from better linkages to banks and MFIs.

Despite having started our session at 6h30, we depart with the usual 2-hour delay to climb up the Tisco pass, which we cross at 4800 m. The castle-like rock formations are absolutely stunning, the only other traffic on the dirt road is trucks from the silver and copper mines, that have no linkages whatsoever with the local communities. After hours of knocking about the almost uninhabited and beautiful countryside, we pass a mountain flank disfigured by artisanal gold mining, and just before pulling into Yauri a huge copper and gold mine. The sheer size of the mining operations illustrate quite well the power imbalance in any conflict with agricultural land use.

After a late lunch Maria continues to Cusco to cure the altitude sickness, she’s not really recovered after 3 days and at this point it’s better to seek sound medical advice. The rest of us are off to the comunidad campesina Huisa Ccollana (yes, 2 c’s), a conglomerate of 200 milk producing farmers. As the average farmer owns around 20 heads of cattle and cultivates between 5 and 60 ha, a few of us have the feeling that we may have a targeting problem here. We continue to a progressive association that has trained two members in milk processing and artificial insemination. So far so good, but when we hear that the land in jointly owned and there seems to be no member who's not closely related, it becomes clear this is not an association, but a family. That's not the idea of the CLAR support. No doubt the training investment is very useful and even reaps a multiplication effect, but should one force the trainees into bogus associations?

As last event of the day we hold a discussion round with rural savings groups, MFIs and a microinsurance company. The project is encouraging a savings cultures through providing access and different subsidies. While the clients gladly take the subsidies, I’m not fully convinced that these transfers are required to convince rural women of the advantages of formal savings. But there’s no doubt, the savings introduction changes many aspects of women’s life to the better. Maria would have loved to see this. Similarly the life insurance, once people see its utility they will probably not be discouraged by a price of 5 USD per year and person. While the age of the joining person is the most important factor for the insurance company, HIV/AIDS is no big topic here. However, in Rwanda and many other African countries it would probably require higher premiums.

Another full day ends, albeit not in such a picturesque little town as Sibayo.

Claus Reiner, Country Programme Manager, Rwanda

Wednesday, 20 January 2010. Departure from Chivay to Sibayo. Breathtaking landscape with rugged mountains, steep gorges, stone walls, some alpaca and cattle, very few people. We arrive in the small town that is in a process of reconstruction, fully on the basis of its low stone houses and thatched roofs. Martin from Malawi likes the place so much he'd like to stay. Today it’s Maria Hartl’s time to get altitude sick, and Lorena from the Lima office takes good care of her, after a visit to the health post Maria retreats to the room. This is also the town that won the support for the underground electricity connections with its elaborate play at the CLAR yesterday. We visit the Sumac Pallay handicraft association that has managed to start a medium-scale business processing the wool of the 20 members. With a local trainer and some matching grant support, their lives have clearly improved. Yet for further growth they are still dependent on grants, and for the assets they own it's surprising that the only financial service they use is a savings account. All seems to be targeted at tourism. It intrigues me that there aren't any tourists, but Raúl, the mayor, assures me they come in organised tours by the busload year-round.

We continue through the picturesque town, past stone walls on which cacti were planted to discourage animals from climbing across. Next is a company of 10 local partners producing trout in many large tanks built and owned by the municipality. The tanks are managed by the company under a contract, without rent, and have a capacity to produce 5 t of fresh fish per month. The business is new, albeit well operational, and according to Raúl it represents a model for economic development. However, for an investment as large as this it appears that more partners could be involved, and possibly it might have been more equitable and less risky to set it up as smaller units.

He then proceeds to give a passionate presentation in a thatch hall, outlining his development approach in working with local associations and companies that need to compete for public support. He likes incentives. The municipality provided a laptop to the best scholar of the agricultural college, it subsidises thatched roofs, English courses, daily pay for road works for residents, lots of things. And he likes competitions. Any support the municipality provides it allocates through public competitions: pasture improvements, rehabilitation of houses, reforestation. What could be a sleepy little town is actually a dynamic local capital that manages to leverage 14 Sol for every Sol of its budget, and a participatory budget at that.

After the warm midday sun the cold sets in. We follow a couple of presentations on the concept of territorial rural development, cultural maps and ecotourism, and after a good round of comments and questions disappear with our host families to their rustic guest houses where we'll spend the night. Janvier, Benson and I are staying with Dora, a little lady in her 50s with traditional dress, and share a room that fits just about 3 beds and a table. Very homely, simple, clean. We help ourselves to coca tea, and for the joint dinner in the town hall Elizabeth Farmosi arrives in traditional Colca dress. After dinner there’s music with a local group, we move out to the log fire that struggles badly with the thin air, but when it finally gets going there’s dancing around the fireplace until we’re all warm and tired.

Claus Reiner, Country Programme Manager, Rwanda

Despite earthquake, Haitian microfinance continues to serve rural poor

Posted by Robert Meins Wednesday, January 20, 2010 0 comments

Over the past week it has been impossible to ignore the scenes of utter desperation coming out of Haiti. After being ravaged by four storms in 2008, last week’s earthquake once again devastated one of the world’s poorest nations, effectively resetting the clock on its development. Despite this, however, the stepping-stones of the rebuilding process are being laid.

One organization that is rising from the rubble is Fonkoze, a microfinance organization operating predominantly in rural Haiti. With assistance from IFAD’s multi-donor Financing Facility for Remittances, Fonkoze purchased satellite phones and diesel generators in 2007. This equipment was intended to allow Fonkoze to deliver remittance services in rural areas where basic infrastructure is often undependable or lacking. But in the wake of the earthquake, the true value of this investment is coming to light. In spite of a host of difficulties, Fonkoze remains operational only days after the earthquake.

The reason why these services are so vital is due to the massive contribution that remittances make to migrants' families, to their communities and to the country as a whole. More than $1.9 billion dollars was sent to Haiti in 2008 alone, more than official development assistance and foreign direct investment combined. With more than half of these funds going directly into the hands of families in rural areas, remittances are key to meeting short-term needs and to encouraging long-term development.

This short video was produced last year after four successive hurricanes battered Haiti. It tell's the story of two Fonkoze clients and examines the impact the bank has had on their lives.

After ensuring that Fonkoze personnel and their families were safe, Fonkoze director Anne Hastings and her staff set about the process of bringing services back on-line. During a conference call yesterday she laid out the challenges including a destroyed headquarters, security concerns and limited supplies of cash and diesel. Despite this, however, 28 Fonkoze branches are open for business today.

Hastings is sure her institution can play a vital role in making it possible for Haitians abroad help their families rebuild. Partner institutions such as MoneyGram and City National Bank of New Jersey have either eliminated or drastically reduced fees to make sure that the maximum amount of money reaches those who need it most.

Robert W. Meins,
Remittances Specialist,
Financing Facility for Remittances

For more information visit http://www.fonkoze.org/
Recent article on MSNBC: Earthquake disrupts key payments lifeline (MSNBC)

Tuesday, 19 January 2010. Today we start with the real thing. A CLAR in action, this is what we came for, so it’s difficult to hide the collective excitement. Plus it’s a warm sunny day, much in contrast to yesterday’s cold rain. But first we go off to the project office, strangely by bus, as we could have easily walked the 300 m.
A casual chat with project staff. Maria Hartl enquires about the definition of communities, and it turns out that the ancestral laws have found their way into modern Peruvian legislation. These extended families have legal status, and are dealt with by the project just as other registered groups and companies. Mary from Rwanda asks about the collaboration with local government, which is promoted in the SSDP by facilitators in each municipality. Staff fluctuations in the municipalities are a problem. For communication with communities, the project’s events in the main squares are the best advertisement for its initiatives. Benson, the vice mayor of Kirehe in Rwanda, really likes the idea of using the CLAR competitions to build up local support, after all this can be very helpful in local elections.

We move back to the main square, where the CLAR session is already in full swing, together with the rural enterprise fair. The fair has been built up across the street from the municipality, a row of colourful booths offering mainly handicraft and cheese, in front of which a tent has been pitched to accommodate the members of the CLAR. Behind them the local project office has set up a mobile office to provide administrative support. In front of this tent, one group after another does not only a presentation of what they’d like to do (and for ongoing ones, what they’ve achieved so far), but full-blown shows with dancing, singing, flower-clad bodies and – the absolute killer – a complete play with several stages and an array of actors including human houses and real tourists. Only the development worker was missing! The groups further show that they manage the project by showing maps and accounts, and by answering questions from CLAR members. Once all are through, the CLAR will declare its verdict on each request for funds. As clouds and some raindrops come over the surrounding peaks, the plaza clears conspicuously and the day’s results get announced: most projects are approved; the group representatives receive the announcements with relief. We flee for lunch, and I guess our groups are not indulging in such a lavish meal, with causas, trout and alpaca.

But no time to relax, Ariel rushes us on to the discussion round with CLAR and group members. We learn how dead easy the voting works, that the community groups hire local TA to prepare their progress reports, that they receive occasional unannounced visits by CLAR members, and how small the CLAR members’ allowances are. Véridianne declares she is deeply impressed with the competitions with judges from different interest groups and client groups that present their own plans and reports.

After a short preparatory break we run the first analytical workshop, at which we jointly analyse the overall project. Our praise is so comprehensive, it almost feels awkward to keep repeating it. There is a genuine feeling that it is amongst the project types of the future. Luckily, to keep things somewhat balanced, we also found some weaknesses, including some targeting aspects, the strong involvement by the project unit, the credit gap for successful enterprises and the low involvement of the communities in preparing and revising their business plans. Nonetheless, the overall feeling is that the Southern Highlands project is too good to be true, and having reached 20h00 again we decide our communal nackerdness has reached a level that doesn’t allow us to launch the final item of the day, an analytical round of the CLARs and the enterprise fair we witnessed today. We keep that for tomorrow, and a group of cold Africans forms around the mobile gas heater as we wait for dinner.

Claus Reiner, Country Programme Manager, Rwanda

Africa conquers the Andes

Posted by Roxanna Samii Tuesday, January 19, 2010 2 comments

Monday, 18 February 2010. At 3h45 the phone rings, I fall out of bed, it’s the director of an NGO in Madagascar. He tells me the two staff that have just arrived in Kigali have been arrested by the police and locked up in a cell, he doesn’t know why. He also couldn’t know I’m in a different time zone. The two are to work with the Support Project for the Strategic Plan for the Transformation of Agriculture (PAPSTA), but I can’t call Janvier, the project coordinator, as he’s with us on the tour. So I call André, field coordinator of KWAMP, who says he’ll look into this. At 4h10, when I call Madagascar again to calm them down I hear that the problem has already been resolved, it was something connected to the visas, we don’t know the details and at this point we don’t need to know.

Short sleep till 5h30, fall out of bed, get ready, back on the road. We pull out of Arequipa after a quick trip through the colonial centre with its white stones, and start climbing the cordillera. Arequipa itself is at 2300 m, the surrounding snow-peaked volcanoes more than 6500. At 3000 m, Beatrice, our guide, start a coca chewing demonstration and distributes small plastic bags of leaves. At around 3000m, tucking our little bundles of coca leaves away in the cheek pockets, we drive past road signs saying "zona de neblina", but I think the two are unconnected.

With strong arguments about preventing the altitude sickness, Beatrice manages to convince all Africans to give it a try, except Janvier, who is apprehensive for the proximity to cocaine. Martin from Malawi claims feeling high, which is probably the altitude. At 4040 m, he doesn't feel any better. Beatrice prescribes chocolate. Here we also pass vicunas grazing next to the road. These camelids belong to the government, but the locals own the wool. We pass the Aguas and Salinas Blancas National Reserve, and Martin starts feeling better. A little further up, going through the crater of the Chucura vulcano, we encounter two intriguing plants adapted to extreme conditions: bright green lumps called Asorela compacta, and Pecnofilium that resembles a yellow-greenish pancake. Shortly afterwards we pass the highest point at Patapampa, 4910 m, and thanks to Beatrice's tricks not a single soul feels sick.

Alpaca country

However, upon arrival in Chivay, Véridianne gets hit by altitude sickness. Again the PROCASUR experts jump in, conjure an oxygen bottle out of somewhere, reassure her and advise to rest.

Meanwhile, the session starts. Carlos Leyton, ex-minister of agriculture, gives a presentation on challenges of the Southern region of Peru. The crops of opportunity per micro-region smack a bit of the priority crops declared by government in Rwanda. A real dilemma is the conflict between farmers and mining businesses, including individual miners that have no links to the place they mine and no interest in not polluting the water.

But time is short, we are rushed off to the municipality and administration of Caylloma Provine, were we are surprised by a reception with brass band, traditional dancers with men comically disguised as women. Having been invited by the group to dance on the main street outside the municipality, we are invited in. Long and fiery speeches are made, and each routero is presented with a large decorated heart of bread as a sign of friendship. The endless ceremony again moves on to joint dancing, a little surreal with giant bread hearts, and before we know it we have moved from relatively to badly behind schedule.

Back at the hotel, we are glad to find Véridianne feeling much better. In the conference room, we learn about the general setup of the Southern Highlands Project, its impact and outreach, and enjoy a short film on the project. The ensuing discussion clarifies many issues (on financing details, sustainability, poverty focus, obligations of winners of competitions, women representation, etc.) and keeps the level of attention well high with full participation until 20h00. A full day ending with a rush to the cybercafé to send my blog on its way. I’m not sure I’ll be able to get a connection tomorrow, so please bear with me.

Claus Reiner, Country Programme Manager, Rwanda

Africa meets the New World

Posted by Roxanna Samii Monday, January 18, 2010 2 comments

Sunday, 17 January. Today, our long-awaited Learning Route to Peru finally started. Having flown into Lima from Rome the night before seemed like a long haul, but when I met the 6 Rwandan participants in Amsterdam they had already spent more than a night flying. In Lima, they would have had every right to look like zombies, but surprisingly they didn’t. As we kicked off, there was some excitement in the air in getting to know the project staff from the New World. It’s not the fault of the Malawians that to “us Africans” Colombia and Venezuela are more exotic than they are. Anyway, I had the impression that we did the introductions with more curiosity than normally on such occasions.

Soon it became technical, and more participative than some had thought. As Rwandans, we were to come clear on not only our objectives from the route, but also what action points we would put in practice upon return. Very refreshing to move quickly beyond presenting project objectives and activities, and to do some actual thinking about what we had come here for. Janvier, the project coordinator, knows all too well that the concept of community competitions had been integrated in the Kirehe Community-based Watershed Management Project (KWAMP) on the basis of the experience in Peru. This is what we wanted to see in action. The core phrase in his presentation brings out what we believe to be the key to making it happen in Rwanda: to assist the communities in developing confidence for their own initiatives. Confidence, of course, has many facets, but I’m not going into any of that now.

The PROCASUR team confirms my impression of professionalism in organising this multicultural multilingual tour. They are firmly in control. In fact, the effective air with which Ariel solves the teething problems of the audio system and the relaxed simultaneous translators who go through hours of translating into English and French without a break (little Rwanda can be demanding with its two international languages) were finally topped by the hassle-free departure to the airport despite running half an hour behind schedule. And this first day, which I thought risks being quite boring with a couple of dry presentations, wasn’t that at all. Despite our jetlag, we were riveted by the series of presentation that felt more like erudite university lectures that gave answers to questions it seems we had carried around with us for a long time.

When the head of Agro Rural of the Ministry of Agriculture kicked off, it didn’t take long to dawn that what we’re about to visit is backed by an institutional might we are not used to, at least us Africans are not. The monitoring capacity Agro Rural established to track its investments is simply impressive, and a ministry desperate to give away its spending power to local committees is also not easy to find. Can this work in Rwanda?, I think to myself. But Rome was also not built in a day, what’s important is to start.

The other speakers were not less sure of being on the right track, which is probably the most convincing position a presenter can have: Juan Moreno of PROCASUR outlined his philosophy of development through professional visits. Roberto Haudry, whose PDT recommendation of building community competitions into KWAMP had gotten us here in the first place, gave us the historic context in which the CLARs (Local Resource Allocation Committees) slowly evolved to an approach now fully adopted by government, plus his concept of citizens with democratic and social rights instead of a herd of beneficiaries, and the mistakes they had made of initially not letting the CLARs finance small investments. Finally Ricardo Vergara, a consultant, outlined that the social monitoring by communities is in fact still more valuable than its highly effective allocation of funds. His argument of why a poor farmer is the best decision maker when it comes to investments concerning his livelihood was so clear: because he has a real interest in improving the lives of his family. And that the same farmer is perfectly capable of passing judgement when supervising the implementation: just like anybody can tell whether a doctors’ treatment works or not. It was quite clear, at least in a conference room in Lima, thus no questions for which we also didn’t have any time, honestly, as it was now a quick rush to the airport to catch the flight to Arequipa in the southern highlands. Tomorrow morning it’s breakfast at 6, so we quickly fall into the luxurious beds of the Hotel El Lago.

So far, it couldn’t be more promising. I’m most curious for tomorrow. To be continued.

Claus Reiner, Country Programme Manager for Rwanda

Le FIDA aide les petits exploitants agricoles en Afrique

Posted by Roxanna Samii Thursday, January 14, 2010 0 comments

L'article de Joan Baxter publié dans le Monde Diplomatique de janvier (voir p.18) intitulé: "Un mouvement spéculatif mondial : Ruée sur les terres africaines" cite à deux reprises le Fonds international de développement agricole (FIDA), faisant référence à sa politique foncière et à ses activités en matière d'investissement. Je tiens à apporter quelques écaircissements permettant, je l'espère, de dissiper d'éventuels malentendus.
Le FIDA est une institution financière internationale de développement et une agence spécialisée des Nations Unies octroyant des prêts et des dons à ses Etats membres et à ses partenaires pour financer des programmes de développement et de lutte contre la pauvreté rurale. Les programmes soutenus par le FIDA visent à faciliter, promouvoir et dynamiser le développement de l’agriculture paysanne et des communautés rurales, souvent dans les régions les plus pauvres.

Ces programmes sont ciblés principalement sur les petits exploitants agricoles, les pasteurs, les peuples autochtones et en particulier les femmes et les jeunes en milieu rural. Un accès sécurisé à la terre – et en particulier aux terres cultivables – pour ces acteurs du développement est donc de première importance pour le FIDA. De fait, améliorer et sécuriser l’accès des ruraux pauvres aux ressources naturelles, terres et eaux, est le premier des six objectifs stratégiques du FIDA retenus dans notre cadre stratégique 2007-2010 facilement accessible sur notre site web. Par ailleurs le Conseil d’Administration du FIDA a approuvé en 2008 un document de politique sur l’amélioration de l’accès à la terre et de la sécurité foncière et en 2009 une politique d’engagement aux côtés des peuples autochtones. J'invite le lecteur à consulter ces documents de politique sur notre site ainsi que les nombreuses informations disponibles concernant les projets financés par le FIDA dans le monde et en Afrique en particulier.
On y peut constater qu’en aucune manière le FIDA n’est « tenant » d’une approche du développement agricole consistant à «installer en Afrique des fermes industrielles géantes pour y produire des denrées alimentaires et des agro-carburants entièrement destinés à l’exportation ». Cette approche n’a jamais été la nôtre, au contraire caractérisée par une préférence stratégique et systématique pour l’investissement dans les petites exploitations familiales et la microfinance rurale. Le dernier paragraphe de l’article de Joan Baxter (« Pourtant des solutions existent… ») décrirait parfaitement le type de programme que finance réellement le FIDA. Nous regrettons qu’un organe de presse de la qualité du Monde Diplomatique publie de telles informations ne correspondant ni au mandat ni aux activités d’une institution des Nations Unies travaillant depuis plus de trente ans pour le développement de l’agriculture paysanne.

Par ailleurs, il est vrai que le FIDA collabore actuellement avec la FAO, la Banque Mondiale et d’autres partenaires à la définition de principes directeurs en matière d’investissement dans l’agriculture (non pas d’un « code de bonne conduite ») ainsi que d’un manuel répertoriant les pratiques d’investissements responsables dans ce secteur. Ce faisant notre objectif n’est évidemment pas de promouvoir l’accaparement des terres paysannes par une agriculture industrielle d’exportation, mais de montrer que d’autres pratiques et partenariats mutuellement bénéfiques sont non seulement souhaitables mais aussi possibles entre investisseurs privés responsables, communautés rurales et petites exploitations familiales.

Enfin le FIDA soutient et participe activement à l’initiative de la FAO pour la préparation de Directives volontaires sur la gouvernance responsable de la tenure des terres et des autres ressources naturelles. Ces directives volontaires aideront les pays à améliorer la gouvernance de la tenure foncière dans une perspective de développement agricole durable et de sécurité alimentaire.

Jean-Philippe Audinet
Programme Management Department
Fonds international de développement agricole (FIDA)
Via Paolo di Dono, 44
00124 Rome, Italie