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Fishy business in the Fish Market – a tale from Maputo

Posted by Ann Turinayo Tuesday, April 23, 2013 1 comments

If you have been on a project implementation support mission, you know the feeling of fulfillment and relief that one gets when the Aide Memoir has been written, discussed and agreed upon by the project management team. You generally feel that you have added value and have learned something new in the process. It is on a day like this, on a mission to the Rural Markets Promotion Programme (PROMER) in Mozambique, that our team leader, Claus Reiner, also the Country Project Manager, suggested we take an evening off to have dinner as a team.

The members of the team who had been to Maputo before suggested a visit to the fish market and off we went! The market has stalls with all sorts of sea food – fish, crabs, prawns, etc. It is a rather basic market, some kind of make-shift roof over the stalls, made of old tarpaulins and an assortment of sisle bags. I expected there would be a fishy smell, but I thought the market, being in the capital, would be more modern.

One of our colleagues who lived in Maputo for two years - entertained us with tales of how slippery the market vendors are, and their custom of cheating you several times over if you are not careful or in company of a local person. Everyone was thus alert and ready to make sure that we got value for their money.

The first stop was in the stalls where you buy your choice of fish and other sea food. The ladies have electronic hand held weighing machines and so we begin to think ‘these can’t be messed with, surely?’ and with some confidence, two of us begin to make orders for the rest of the team. Every kind of fish, ‘camarai’, crabs, prawns, squid, etc selected is carefully weighed. Not to be out-witted, the two decide to re-weigh the goods on someone else’s scale. To everyone’s surprise, the second scale shows much higher weight than the one for the seller, meaning that we have to pay more money. They quickly rush back to the original scale, weigh again, and decide to pay.

Feeling a bit comfortable that we have not been cheated, we walk to the restaurant right next to the stalls where the fish is supposed to be prepared. In the restaurant, there is another weighing scale so our representatives decide to weigh the goods again! Guess what? They are all less than what we have paid for (at least we knew how much a kilo of the different kinds of fish bought cost).

We see our two colleagues rushing out of the restaurant where the rest of us have taken seats on the verandah and ordered some drinks, back to the market stalls. They explained that they went to the guy who sold them the biggest fish, and told him that the restaurant scale shows something else and managed to get back 250 meticai (the Mozambique currency). Then they go to the lady who sold the lulus and ask for refund. She carries the extra lulus to the restaurant where upon seeing the original goods she sold weighed, says that “that weighing scale has malaria” and walks out. The guys, in hot pursuit run back to the market to get the third lady who sold the king prawns, only to find that she has disappeared away after seeing her two colleagues being followed up to pay up.

“All is well that ends well” Finally the two team members accept defeat and take their seats. They have understandably been worked up by the whole process and all they need is a beer, and for the food to get ready quick. The food does come, after about fourty-five minutes and looks delicious! Those who get to eat it confirm that it is great – worth the hassle! Two of us planned to have chicken because we do not really like fish.  

The discussion, as we eat is - about the whole unfortunate business of not being able to trust anyone, and yet business essentially, should be done with a healthy measure of trust. Unfortunately, everyone agrees that this is not something that happens only in Mozambique, but it is a worldwide problem. Actually, someone gave an example of how in the developed countries, cab drivers will take advantage of tourists who do not know the rates by charging them exorbitant prices for short distances. For people who have been working on a project that promotes markets and access to markets, this is one other aspect that we realize has to be emphasized.

The other questions are, is there a standards bureau in Mozambique? Is it possible that that institution can change the measurement standards aspect of the way business is done in the fish market? When traders are trustworthy, they will have more customers visiting their stalls regularly and more frequently. They can ensure a steady, regular income, and expand their businesses just by working towards making their clients have confidence in their scales. Doing business is about building a good reputation. Has anyone tried to explain this to them? Has anyone bothered to combat the cheating by making use of scales that are tampered with illegal and holding the perpetrators liable or maybe encouraging and rewarding those that are trustworthy? Just a thought - for development partners out there, looking at improving livelihoods of small scale traders.

Jyoti Macwan, General Secretary, SEWA
Valiben Macwana, Executive Committee member
Smita Bhatnagar, Senior Coordinator, SEWA

When was the last time you met a truly empowered woman? Well, earlier in the week, I was lucky enough to meet Valiben Macwana, one of the 1.7 million empowered self-employed women's association (SEWA) members.

SEWA, based in Ahmedabad, India, is an organization of self-employed women workers who earn their living thanks to their small business. These women do not get a monthly salary, nor enjoy benefits like those of their sisters in the "organized labour sector". And to make matters worse, it seems like these women are "uncounted, undercounted and invisible".

What is amazing about these women, is their extraordinary will power and their openness to new ideas and innovations.

With a beautiful smile and a lot of pride, Valiben Macwana shared her inspiring story of the day that she received a mobile phone. Macwana's story is yet another example of the power and potential of how mobile telephony is a catalyst to eradicate hunger and poverty.

Her first experience with what transformed her business into a successful one was one of utter fear.

"I was so scared when the phone started moving, that I almost threw it out of the window", said Macwana. "I then gave it to my children, who know more about these things, and they explained that when the phone vibrates, this means I have a message. And you know what was the message? It was the price for the commodity I wanted to sell".

Macwana may be illiterate, however, she knows how to make the most of the information she receives on her mobile phone. She looked at the information on her screen and diligently transcribed it on a piece of paper. Thanks to this information, she then  decided it was a profitable proposition to make a journey to the local market.

"Thanks to my mobile phone, now I only go to the market when I know I can sell my products, this way I can save on the bus fare". Saving the bus fare may seem something trivial to some, however, for someone who lives on $1.25 a day, it means putting more food on the table for the family, or buying a pair of shoes for the children or sending the kids to school.

Macwana's mobile phone also acts as a mini Amazon.com, allowing her to take orders. Knowing the demand has allowed her to plant the right crop in the right quantities, thus avoid producing in excess and being faced with storage challenges.

There is no doubt that we moved from anecdotal examples of how mobile telephony and ICT4D in general are improving lives of millions of people. What we, as development workers need to do, is to make sure that  rural development and agriculture related activities include and embed ICT4D solutions and consider embracing and adopting m-development!

Écrit par Franck L. Kapiamba Je suis nouvellement recruté comme Chargé d’Appui au bureau Pays-FIDA à Kinshasa, RD Congo

Pendant mes deux premières semaines de travail, j’ai assisté à deux ateliers de formation visant d’une part l’appropriation des documents de conception du PAPAKIN (Programme d’appui aux pôles d’approvisionnement de Kinshasa en produits vivriers et maraichers) par les membres de l’UGP nouvellement recrutés et d’autre part l’introduction au système de planification, suivi et évaluation des projets/programmes cofinancés par le FIDA.

A mon avis, la tenue de ces deux ateliers a constitué une démonstration évidente de la mise en œuvre de bonnes pratiques pouvant garantir la bonne performance de nouveaux projets dans le pays. Les programmes en cours mis en place par le Gouvernement et cofinancés par le FIDA en RD Congo dans le cadre du COSOP-1(PRAPE, PRAPO, PIRAM) se sont généralement caractérisés par une faible performance tout au long de leur période d’exécution. Parmi les facteurs grevant cette performance, il y a notamment la faible compréhension des documents de projet par ceux qui doivent les mettre en œuvre, le retard dans la mise en place d’un système de gestion fiduciaire et les faibles capacités pour la mise en place d’un système de planification, suivi et évaluation. En vue de capitaliser ces leçons et de garantir une bonne performance aux programmes appuyés dans le cadre du COSOP-2, le bureau pays-FIDA et le bureau de liaison des projets cofinancés par le FIDA en RD Congo ont organisé deux ateliers de formation qui ont regroupé les membres nouvellement recrutés pour la mise en œuvre du PAPAKIN, les responsables programmation, suivi et évaluation des projets en cours et en phase d’achèvement ainsi que les membres du comité de pilotage.

Le premier atelier de cinq jours (2-6 avril 2013) sur la mise en œuvre et la gestion fiduciaire du PAPAKIN visait à combler l’écart entre les documents de conception du programme PAPAKIN et la compréhension des gestionnaires et des équipes de mise en œuvre qui devront opérationnaliser ce programme. Alors que les ateliers de démarrage se limitent très souvent à des présentations sommaires du projet sans approfondir la compréhension du montage et des détails opérationnels de mise en œuvre, cet atelier de formation a couvert en détail plusieurs aspects du programme y compris la conception et les stratégies de mise en œuvre de différentes sous composantes, le budget du programme et le lien avec sa gestion financière, les textes juridiques du programme, la gestion financière du programme, l’élaboration du cadre de résultat du programme et la génération du PTBA à partir de ce cadre, les notions fondamentales sur la passation des marchés, etc. Les présentations sur ces sujets par les concepteurs du programme et les consultants ont été alternées par des réflexions et des exercices pratiques en petits groupes. Le deuxième atelier de formation (9-12 avril 2013) a porté sur le suivi-évaluation et le système de gestion des résultats et impacts (SYGRI) des projets cofinancés par le FIDA. Il a été une occasion non seulement d’introduire les participants au système et aux outils de suivi-évaluation mais aussi de partager des expériences pratiques sur la base de leçons apprises de la mise en place du système de suivi-évaluation des programmes appuyés dans le cadre du COSOP-1. Les sujets présentés ont couvert les principes directeurs du système de planification, le suivi et évaluation des projets cofinancés par le FIDA, le concept de la chaîne des résultats, le cadre logique et le PTBA comme instruments du suivi&évaluation, le SYGRI etc. Ces présentations ont été enrichies par des exercices pratiques et la revue des soumissions SYGRI par les projets en cours en RD Congo et en République du Congo.

 Après la tenue de ces deux ateliers, j’ai continué à travailler cette semaine avec les membres des équipes des programmes qui y ont participé, en particulier PAPAKIN et PIRAM. Je suis très particulièrement impressionné par les effets positifs générés par l’utilisation des produits livrés à travers ces ateliers de formation: les membres de l’UGP nouvellement recrutés pour le PAPAKIN forment déjà une équipe cohérente et soudée qui a une vision commune et partagée de « comment les résultats doivent être atteints ». Bien que non encore déployés pour le démarrage effectif des activités du programme, ils se réunissent sous la conduite du bureau de liaison pour identifier les chaînes des résultats, analyser le cadre logique et proposer des révisions, élaborer le cadre de résultat du programme pour 2013-2015, générer et préparer la trame du PTBA par une approche partant des résultats à atteindre avant d’identifier les produits nécessaires à livrer par le projet et les activités à exécuter pour réaliser ces produits.

Il en est de même du PIRAM où les participants à l’atelier ont continué à travailler sous l’appui du Bureau Pays FIDA pour affiner leurs soumissions SYGRI et réexaminer le cadre logique du programme ainsi que la cohérence du PTBA -2013 avec celui-ci. S’il est évident que la capitalisation de leçons apprises des projets/programmes passés fait partie de bonnes pratiques en matière de conception, de démarrage et de mise en œuvre de nouveaux programmes, il n’en reste pas moins vrai que, dans la plupart des cas, les équipes constituées pour assurer la mise en œuvre de ces programmes sont très souvent déployées pour le démarrage des activités sans aucune compréhension des documents de conception et des approches de mise en œuvre, suivi-évaluation et sans avoir développé une vision commune de « comment les résultats du programme seront atteints ».

Par l’organisation des ateliers d’appropriation par les membres de l’UGP des documents du nouveau programme et du système de planification, suivi et évaluation des projets/programmes cofinancés par le FIDA, la RD Congo semble résolument engagée dans une nouvelle dynamique pour une amélioration de la performance du portefeuille FIDA dans le cadre du COSOP-2 en cours dans le pays.

By John C. Weber and Carmen Sotelo Montes

Participatory analysis of vulnerability and adaptation
to climate change in the Sahel
According to most climate forecasts, people in the West African Sahel— an arid to semi-arid belt stretching across northern Africa—can expect a hotter, drier and more variable climate this century. Already, environmental stresses are being felt and farming is increasingly more difficult in the region. But what do rural people in the Sahel perceive to be the reason for this changing climate? How vulnerable do they feel themselves to be? And, most importantly, what do they plan to do different in order to cope with the threats posed by the coming climate?

As part of an IFAD-funded project titled ‘Parkland trees and livelihoods: adapting to climate change in the West African Sahel’, we carried out a participatory analysis of vulnerability and adaptation to climate change involving approximately 500 men, women and children from 36 villages in the West African Sahelian countries of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger. The analysis yielded some expected results, and some surprising insights.

The villagers said some dramatic changes had occurred on their landscapes over the past 30-50 years. They pointed out, in particular, the extensive disappearance of natural woodlands, which over time had been converted into parklands which include annual crops, trees and livestock production. The trees in these parklands continue to be overharvested for fuel, fodder, medicines and foods, which curtails their natural regeneration.  Compounding the situation are the large herds of livestock—owned by the villagers or nomadic pastoralists—that roam free in parklands and woodlands: browsing by these cattle, goats and sheep further limits the chances of trees and seedlings regenerating naturally.

Another change was the local extinction of many native tree species, especially in the drier regions, as a result of over-exploitation by humans and livestock. In south-central Niger, for instance, villagers could name more than 50 tree species that have completely disappeared from the landscape.

They also noted the local extinction of most wild animals (especially mammals, birds, turtles and lizards) from overhunting and habitat conversion; extensive soil degradation and reduced soil fertility; lower and less predictable rainfall, and a deeper water table.

We found that most villagers recognized that their own (and their ancestors’) actions were responsible for many of the changes they were witnessing in their landscapes. This knowledge is crucial for any climate change adaptation plan, since it bolsters people’s confidence that they can alter or adopt certain practices to reverse the trend and/or better adapt themselves to a harsher climate.

Most villagers, surprisingly, saw no link between human activity and a deeper water table, blaming it entirely on natural climate change. Reduced tree cover leads to less local rainfall and a deeper water table, and we had expected this relationship to be clear. It was difficult to explain certain concepts, such as cause-effect-consequence, in local languages, and we often resorted to using local metaphors. Clearly, extension and education programmes that explain crucial ecological relationships to farmers are needed, and we believe farmer-to-farmer exchange of knowledge models would work best.

To respond to the environmental stresses of the future, the villagers said that the following actions in parklands would form part of their adaptation plan:
  • Practicing farmer assisted natural regeneration
  • Diversifying and increasing drought tolerance of the parklands by planting and protecting a range of selected species, using seedlings produced from seeds that were collected in drier locations;
  • Practicing soil and water conservation; and
  • Controlling free browsing by animals.
As we expected, villagers in drier regions considered that their trees were more vulnerable to drought compared with villagers in more humid regions. Therefore, adaptation plans in the drier regions must put more emphasis on planting trees that are more drought tolerant and practicing soil water conservation techniques in parklands. Regional differences such as this are important to capture in an analysis of vulnerability and adaptation to climate change. There are limited financial and human resources for implementing adaptation plans, so adaptation plans should focus on the physical and natural resources that villagers themselves identify as most vulnerable to threats in their particular region. In other words, generic adaptation plans that are developed without active participation and input of villagers in different regions cannot efficiently respond to the vulnerability of villagers in different regions.

It is also important to understand vulnerability and adaptation plans of different gender groups, such as adult men, adult women, young men and young women. Gender roles by livelihood activity are sharply defined in most Sahelian communities. For example, adult men and young men typically engage in agriculture and animal herding respectively, while the sale of food products from trees and fuelwood collection falls on adult women and young women respectively. The gender groups classified these and many other of their livelihood activities as “very vulnerable” or “severely vulnerable” to drought and degraded soils. Adaptation plans of these gender groups must therefore pay special emphasis to these twin threats.

All groups except ‘young women’ listed “lack of financial capital” as an important vulnerability factor. Young women and young men said “insufficient woodland” was an important factor; this was expected, as woodlands are used for herding animals and collecting firewood.

Adult women in several villages flagged two more threats to their livelihood in a changing climate: large families and small farm sizes that force many young men to migrate. To the women, managing the size of their families so all children can be properly fed, clothed and educated is an essential component of their personal climate adaptation strategy, and inseparable from their communities’ natural resource management efforts.

About the research:
The IFAD-funded project ‘Parkland trees and livelihoods: adapting to climate change in the West African Sahel’ is a partnership of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), national agriculture research institutes, forestry extension institutes and IFAD investment projects in the three countries:

  • Burkina Faso: Institut National de l’Environnement et des Recherches Agricoles, Direction des Eaux et Forêt, Programme de Développement Rural Durable, Programme d’Investissement Communautaire en Fertilité Agricole
  • Mali: Institut d’Économie Rurale, Direction Nationale de la Conservation de la Nature, Fonds du Développement en Zone Sahélienne
  • Niger: Institut National de Recherche Agronomique du Niger, Direction Nationale de l’Environnement, Programme de Promotion des Initiatives Paysannes pour le Développement d’Aguié
Related links:

Women unlock chains of development in rural Nepal

Posted by Timothy Ledwith Tuesday, April 16, 2013 1 comments

Bimala Adhikari, shown with her children, heads a rural women's
cooperative in Nepal. ©Rocky Prajapati/IFAD
By Sanjib Kumar Chaudhary

SURKHET, Nepal – Amidst the hustle and bustle of passing vehicles, dust and honking horns on the Surkhet-Jumla road, about 350 km west of Kathmandu, the patches of green vegetables within a few minutes’ walk are a soothing treat to the eyes.

The proud owners of the vegetable plots are women, most of them affiliated with the Nari Ekata (“Women United”) Women’s Cooperative. With 124 members, all of them women, the cooperative is not only empowering its members but also creating a bandwagon effect. The result: More and more women are eager to join the cooperative. Thanks to their vegetable farming, they earn enough to send their children to school, pay for other miscellaneous expenses and save a little.

“The women have literally changed –personally, behaviourally and professionally,” says a member of the cooperative, Shanta Oli. “Women who were once not even able to utter few words in a meeting are now leading income-generators for their families.”

Linking producers and traders
Bimala Adhikari, President of the cooperative, manages her family expenditures by growing and selling cabbage, cauliflower, broad leaf mustard and other vegetables. She recently added a plastic greenhouse to grow tomatoes in her small plot of land.
A doko trader carries produce to sell from house to house.
©Rocky Prajapati/IFAD

“Seeing me earning more by growing hybrid tomatoes, other members have started building greenhouses, too,” Adhikari says. “The techniques were taught by the experts from HVAP,” she adds, referring to the High Value Agriculture Project in Hill and Mountain Areas. The project is being implemented by the Ministry of Agricultural Development and financed by IFAD. The SNV Netherlands Development Organisation and Agro Enterprise Centre are the implementing partners.

HVAP has provided production and post-harvest support – including quality seeds, technical know-how and advice – to members of the Nari Ekata Women’s Cooperative and other smallholder farmers. The project seeks to create sustainable market linkages between small producers and traders. Concentrating on seven high-value agricultural commodities (off-season vegetables, vegetable seeds, apples, goat meat, timur, ginger and turmeric), it aspires to provide benefits to each actor in the value chain through inclusive development.

Regional and national markets
As the sun sets, women traders start collecting freshly harvested vegetables from the plots owned by the cooperative members. They use the doko, a traditional Nepali basket woven out of bamboo culms, carried on the back with a strap over the forehead. Nanda Kala Nepali and Dhanshari Nepali are two doko traders who frequent the vegetable plots, collect the produce and sell it from house to house. In turn, they make a decent income. The doko traders share camaraderie with the growers – and being women makes it much easier.

The market in Birendranagar Municipality is vibrant with
merchants negotiating deals. ©Rocky Prajapati/IFAD
The next morning, before the sun rises, the Babu and Shahi Sabji mandi – or farmers’ market – at the heart of Birendranagar Municipality is vibrant with merchants negotiating deals. The mandi is the largest fruit and vegetable wholesale market in Surkhet district.

Vegetable wholesaler Prabal Shahi is busy calling and coordinating with suppliers. Truckloads of vegetables are waiting to be unloaded, while other trucks wait to be loaded with produce for regional and national markets. “When I started this business, I had never thought that it would go so far,” Shahi says. “There are many small vegetable and fruit wholesalers in Surkhet. I want to bring them together to make Surkhet ‘numero uno’ in vegetable trading.”

Shahi’s dream does not seem inaccessible given the volume of vegetables that can be grown in the Surkhet-Jumla, Surkhet-Dailekh and Chhinchu-Jajarkot road corridors, the working areas of HVAP.

The writer is Communication and Knowledge Management Advisor, SNV Netherlands Development Organisation/HVAP.

Remembering Samantha, our dear friend and colleague

Posted by Roxanna Samii Monday, April 15, 2013 1 comments

by Laura Arcari

Ten years ago, on this day, we at IFAD, lost a dear friend and colleague. In the last 10 years, many things have changed. However, one thing that has not changed is our love for Samantha. Today we honored her life…..

Monday 15 April marks the tenth anniversary of the untimely passing of our colleague and friend Samantha Santoni. Samantha passed away on 15 April 2003 after a battling struggle against leukemia at the age of thirty and she continues to be a strong presence in many of our hearts.

Samantha was a beautiful ray of sunshine full of positivity; she loved her family, friends, animals and nature. Her favorite flower was in fact the sunflower, its yellow color symbolizing happiness and vitality. The sunflower is also symbolic of spiritual faith and worship as it moves itself towards the direction of the sun so it can get the maximum life-giving rays. Sami, as most of her intimate friends would remember her by, had a passion for the spirituality, her diary initiated with tribal verses from the American Indian tribes and she often gave dream-catchers as presents, she read books on Buddhism and collected angels (Angelica).

Long before IFAD introduced the concept of open space work environment, Sami worked at the telecommunications on the ground floor next to the garage in an open office connected to the cold Computer Processing Unit along with other IT colleagues. The group formed their own sorority with their rituals of “ciofeca time” (afternoon break with instant coffee brewed and junk nibbles) and shared many hours of bonding time in between the endless calls and on-site office visits for IT assistance. From the outside the office looked like a beauty parlour, white with canopied windows and a heavy fireproof door with an oblo. She was also part of the IFAD girls Volleyball team and participated in the UN Inter Agency games, the dream team with their long hair, short shorts and knee protectors. Many of us would also fondly remember her dancing on the tables at the Charro Café.

Following her demise, her friends and family planted a pomegranate tree as a symbol of the sweetness of the heavenly kingdom. When IFAD moved to its new headquarters, the tree was re-planted near the child care center where the children laughter would flourish its growth. Today, to honour her remarkable persona, we planted a peach tree. Her friends and colleagues collected Euro 500 as a donation to the Fabbrica Del Sorriso a project to assist children suffering from leukemia.

…….ho imparato, che non avevo mai capito, che la vita vera è in ogni istante che viviamo.Qualsiasi cosa cambi nella vostra vita, non lasciate mai spazio alla paura, quella davvero non esiste….Ciao Sami

Written by Pham Tung Lam 

Learning Route participants in interaction at community
The Learning Route on “Women empowerment, new businesses and sustainable natural resources management” could not look more encouraging and exciting on its final day. Route participants busily exchange views and work as individual or together in group to crack down final details of their innovation plan – a final stage of conceptualizing what they learn and take home after their nine-day journey which have taken them to Kavre, Chitwan and Kapilvastu. 

Getting to a point of completing her group presentation, Kumari Pabitra Nepali felt motivated and positive than ever. Being a manager of the Karmeshwor Agriculture Cooperative Ltd, in Kapilvastu, she is prepared to turn the newly- gained ideas into actions that will benefit herself and other cooperative members.

“We should not be afraid of failure. We have now new knowledge, skills, energies and commitment to do something different”, shared Kumari.

From the field visits, idea from the onion production run by the Pragatishil Agricultural Cooperative in Bijwa inspired Kumari to adapt a new commercial vegetable farming for her own Cooperative.

According to the idea of Kumari and her group members, they would like to start off a commercial vegetable farming on a leasehold land of 32 kattha (approximately 0,5 hectares) that will generate jobs and regular incomes for 100 local women and men.

Kumari and her group members presenting their Innovation Plan
“We did not think about this idea before the Learning Route. We have just grown vegetables based on season and based on our own needs. Seeing good experiences in the host communities have made us think of new ways to bring benefits our community and sustain income”, continued Kumari.

Local market in Bijwa
Meena KC, President of Mahendrakot Cooperative, could not agree more. “It is easy and can connect many people working for a common objective at the same time. Small opportunities, if we can analyze them well would bring big success”, she said.

Sanjay Kumar wrap up learning points at Pragatishil Cooperative
Having the agreement of working together and complementing each other’s efforts, Meena notes that the two groups will be even stronger and more united for a common goal of social inclusion and empowerment as drivers of economic activities.  “We’d like to work by putting our heads and hands together to implement this project, both women, men and everyone else should be equally included”, added Meena. “Various international organizations or NGO often come to our area with their own idea and funding. Now we will go to them with our proposal for funding, we know where to knock on doors”, she noted.

“In these nine days of journeying and learning together, we have seen very good cases in women empowerment, natural resource management and income generation activities. We take back very positive lesson learned and experiences”, summarized Kumari.

The innovative idea of Kumari and Meena was not just alone. Many other initiatives and new proposals were presented by 27 other participants. They provide innovative ways of addressing rural poverty by social inclusion, capacity building and scale up best practices.

Being a key local facilitator, Sanjay Kumar Jha, Porfolio Programme Manager of Poverty Alleviation Fund (PAF) has been instrumental for the entire process of Learning Route preparation, systematization and implementation. He is content with the process, outcomes and increased awareness on tools available for rural development by all stakeholders involved such as participants, facilitators as well as the visited communities. “The Learning Route has promoted knowledge sharing and understanding of economic conditions and social inclusion as keys to improve livelihoods of rural people”, said Sanjay Kumar.

“We decide to have a Learning Route in Bijuwa VDC, Kapivastu because good practices of social inclusion are here. They include the fact that Dalit [Dalit are those groups considered as traditionally low cast and excluded from most social and economic development]and female representatives are provided with equal opportunities. Local women can now openly discuss and confidently describe their issues and take leadership positions”, continued Sanjay Kumar while stressing that the case study has helped influence the thinking of participants.

He also noted that it is not yet the end of the process and future efforts will be made to monitor of project implementation while sustaining and expanding good models which have been proven effective. He wrapped up by emphasizing that “Participants as well as facilitators are indeed very happy. Everyone has some great learning points to bring back home for implementation”.

Social Inclusion and Women Empowerment: Key to Success - Nepal LR

Posted by Ariel Halpern Saturday, April 13, 2013 1 comments

Lam PhamKM and Communication Specialist, IFAD Vietnam
As the Learning Route continues its journey in Nepal, we feature today one of the most active participants, Ms. Sushila Kumari Thapa Magar. Being the Gender and Social Inclusion Advisor of the High Value Agriculture Project (HVAP) in Surkhet, Mid-Western Region of Nepal since last year, she is now development worker for ten years. Sushila will provide her observations and some lessons learn by participating in the Learning Route herself and why these are important to her context, report Pham Tung Lam from the field.
1.     Could you share with us your expectation in participating in the Learning Route please?
First of all, there are 3 other colleagues from HVAP who also participate in this Learning Route. Our project addresses social-economic barriers in Nepal by facilitating market-based solutions in value chain development. 
Personally, I heard about the Learning Route from colleagues who participated in the 1st phase of this program. After they participated in the program, they shared what they did and learned as well as the process of the Learning Route in the PMU.
At the beginning, I was not clear about the Learning Route, though I knew it is about finding the best practice and learning from it. Being part of this Learning Route, I wanted to explore more about the innovations going around in different projects and different areas. I also wanted to know about how they are involving woman and socially-excluded groups in their programs. Finally, I would like to find out if there are pro-poor and gender friendly tools and technologies so that I can adapt them in my work areas, as well as the process about getting inclusive innovations.
2.     What are some of the challenges you face in your work context?
Specific challenges I face in my work context are inclusion of women in different activities that we organize since women in our areas have low level of leadership now. Sometimes, they really want to try something new, but they cannot. This is because of lack of information, gender-friendly technologies and tools, as well as finance. For example, women are interested in doing commercial off-season vegetables but they lack tools and technologies which would be time-efficient, handy and cheap.
For excluded communities, they face other challenges such as they do not have access to productive resources like land and finance. Further they are mostly illiterate and do not have information where they can get technical assistance and services from. Sometimes they may also lack institutional or group mechanism to get organized. Even if they are organized, they are not strong enough.
On the other hand, there are risk-averse people whom cannot go for the commercial farming because they fear of failure.
3.     What do you think about the strengths of the cases selected for the Learning Route?
I think this Learning Route is all about learning together with and from local communities based on the experiences and learning from their successes and failures.
We observed quite a few best practices around three districts and each case has its own strengths that we can learn from. In Kavre, the good lessons were with this the Leasehold Forestry. In particular positive change in their livelihoods if they have access to natural resources like land where they plant fodders, grasses which serve as a source of direct income and base for animal husbandry. Furthermore, it can also be source of raw materials which support income generating activities like briquette and indirectly for dairy via animal husbandry.
In the district of Chitwan, it was women empowerment which proves stronger than what I have ever seen before in other localities. Empowerment is seen in terms of organizing themselves, leadership, innovation, dismantling traditional and removing social barriers which prevent women from being entrepreneurs and self-decisive.
4.     What have you seen in Kapilvastu which could be interesting and relevant for you?
The context of Kapilvastu is very different and complex than we saw in other districts. Specially, I was impressed that the bottom of the pyramid groups which can be really strong when they unite together. Women in Kapilvastu seem less vocal but in their context this is way far they have come. Culturally, they have to be bounded within four walls and are not allowed to talk with outsiders. Now not only they talk, they can also express their view, even understand and speak Nepali in front of mass audience even though their own dialect is Awadi. It’s pround to say that household-chores has been shared by men. Also, men support their wives and allow them to attend public meetings, workshops and trainings.
I really appreciate the way they try to include “differently-abled people” in their program and the loans they are providing is good enough for farmers to start their own business.
5.     Based on what you have observed, seen and probably learned, what are the most important things that you plan to take home with?
To be honest, one can compare Learning Route as an exposure visit but this is much more transformative. It does not only expose you to the best practices, learn and adapt it, and but also provides learning opportunities to the visited communities, thus it is mutually beneficial process. In my view, it prepares local communities to be good presenters and good leaders, communicate what they really want to show to others in a systematic way. I have been using exposure visits and SWOT analysis tools in my context, but this Learning Route has combined both and made it a stronger tool for both learning and reflection as a process.
What I really take home are the key factors that community values should be the starting points of any development project. But sometime we need to facilitate them on what are the opportunities that we can build upon.
As the Learning Route expected, I am positive that some of the community representatives can be really resource persons in the future in our project areas as technical persons. This has provided avenue to collaborate and work jointly in future days.
This Learning Route has also re-emphasized that empowerment and economic activities should go hand in hand and the innovation plan is perfectly one of the good initiatives to build upon the learning they have from Learning Route to implement project activities in their own communities.
As participants are diverse, this can be designed for different levels. In our project context, I see the opportunities for applying this program within and across our value chain in order to learn and reflect within communities. It will motivate learning communities to adapt their best knowledge and encourage communities of practice to put their efforts for improvement.
I see Learning Route as a co-learning program which can disseminate the best practice locally, nationally and internationally as it provides successful cases and explain the factors behind each success. I see the importance of Learning Route to improve our programme practice. I wish Learning Route every success in the days to come.
Thank you very much.
Interaction of Learning Route participants in Chitwan
Kavre community meeting
Ms. Sushila Kumari Thapa Magar
Presentation of the community map of Chitwan
Representatives from Bijwa cooperative in Kapilvastu

Presenting merit certificate to Chitwan women group

A glimmer of hope for an Afghan woman in despair

Posted by Roxanna Samii Thursday, April 11, 2013 0 comments

by Matin Ezidyar, Microfinance Investment Support Facility for Afghanistan (MISFA) and Khalil Baheer, Director Development and Rural Finance of MISFA

Arefa in tears from a painful abdominal ailment
For MISFA staff Matin Ezidyar, the trip to Badakhshan was work¬—one of the tasks to tick off from his list of priorities. He was scheduled to meet with some of the beneficiaries of the Targeted Ultra-Poor Programme (TUP), a project being implemented by the Microfinance Investment Support Facility for Afghanistan (MISFA) with funding from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). He went there to learn about the project, which was successfully piloted in Bamiyan province and was recently replicated in Badakhshan province. He was also tasked to interview beneficiaries of the programme and write profile articles about them for MISFA’s information tools. The experience, though short, turned into an unforgettable personal awakening. Mr. Ezidyar finally understood the real meaning of the words “despair” and “abject poverty”. In this article, he shares his personal account of his meeting with one of the TUP beneficiaries in Dhooki, a rural village of Faizabad, the capital city of Badakhshan Province.

In many ways, Arefa’s house was a reflection of her life. Dark. Bereft. Oppressive. Everything a home and life shouldn’t be.

The traditional mud house in Dhooki, a rural village outside of Faizabad, has two small storage-sized rooms shared by a family of 10, of which the breadwinner is Arefa, 47 years old.

One room is the living/bedroom/everything space, furnished mainly by stacks of crusty, worn-out winter blankets, which are not enough to keep the entire family warm during winter, says Arefa. Badakhshan is 2,000 meters above sea level and is well known to have extremely cold temperatures over the winter months.

The only other room in the house¬¬—smaller and darker—appears to be the kitchen, with a soot-covered woodstove oven providing the only clue that the space is used for cooking.

It is hard to imagine that 10 individuals inhabit the tiny mud house, but it is even harder to imagine that Arefa is the breadwinner for five daughters, two sons, a dying husband, her aging father-in-law, and ailing, 110-year old mother.

Arefa’s husband, according to a doctor in Badakhshan, needs to be treated urgently in better-staffed and equipped hospitals in the capital, Kabul; or better yet, in neighbor countries, Pakistan or India. He was diagnosed to have malfunctioning lungs that if left untreated will collapse in a matter of months and take his life.

Arefa, who is illiterate, has been begging as a way of “breadwinning” for her big household, which is literally scraping by meal-to-meal. She narrated how one time, only two days after giving birth to one of her children, she had to go beg in the streets because there was no food and no money for the next meal.

As such, getting treatment for her husband is far beyond her grasp. But the thought of just watching her husband die, not being able to do something to save the father of her children, is simply unbearable.
On top of this burden, Arefa herself is beset by an undiagnosed abdominal illness that intermittently throws her off squirming in agonizing pain. In the course of this interview, Arefa begged for a quick break and doubled over, distress written across her creased face. As she tried to suppress sobs of pain, tears streamed down her cheeks.

“I have no friends or relatives to run to for help. If I had any, I would not be in this miserable condition,” cried Arefa. “My only friend is the Almighty, and sometimes, I pray and ask Him to take me and my children.”

One of her children did get taken away, although not by the Almighty as she sometimes prayed for in moments of despair. As if Arefa did not have enough to worry about, she came home one day to find one of her teenaged daughters, Naseema, who is not yet 18, sobbing next to an older male stranger.

It turned out, she was married off by Arefa’s husband to some stranger from Sheberghan, another province in northern Afghanistan, because he could pay dowry to the family. The sale left mother and daughter wailing until Naseema had to go to Sheberghan to live with her husband and his family.

But now, Arefa learned that her daughter wants to escape from her new residence and Arefa is extremely worried about the consequences. It is not uncommon in Afghanistan and Pakistan for women and girls in Naseema’s predicament to be the subjects of honor killings.

Arefa’s life is a clear definition of what being “ultra poor” means. And that is why she is among the 800 beneficiaries selected for the TUP programme from the Faizabad and Khash districts of Badakhshan. Following years of misery, there is a glimmer of hope for Arefa, who, at the very least, can now stop begging in the streets.

As a TUP beneficiary, she now receives a monthly stipend for basic household needs, including food. She is now also tending to the livestock she received for free, as she gets trained on livestock rearing, basic reading, writing and financial literacy, as part of the holistic support provided by the programme to the ultra-poor for a period of 24 months. Moreover, she now has access to free medication and check-ups at health facilities nearby.

At the end of this period, beneficiaries are expected to be in a position to apply some of their basic knowledge and skills set to engage in income-generating activities, starting with the livestock they have been caring for. They could also be in a position to take out a loan from a microfinance institution to start their own micro-enterprises in which they could employ members of their households.

It may take some time for Arefa to get to this point of self-sufficiency, but just waking up every morning these days has gotten a lot easier—she does not have to worry about how she is going to pay for the next meal.

And every night before going to bed, she is grateful to have learned something new that day. A new skill, new knowledge. All for the new life for her and her family out of abject poverty that she can now hope for; a light she can see glimmering not so far away.

KM and Communication Specialist, IFAD Vietnam

Sapkota and his father

It is early in the morning in Kavrepalanchok, Rayale in the hilly District of Kavre, Central Nepal, about 5 hours driving from Kathmandu.  Lekhnath Sapkota is busy preparing his daily work which would be full of activities.  Running a local dairy cooperative called Phulchoki which is named after a temple in his area, he is buying milk from local farmers which would be put in a chilling system for preservation. Milk will then be purchased by a commercial buyer going directly to his community to help transport milk truck bunk in to dairy factories for processing.

Sapkota calculates his income to participants of Learning Route
Started off with daily collection of only 30 litres, his firm is now able to buy up to 500 litres of milk on a daily basis.  With little land for cultivation, this provides regular work opportunities for around 80 households residing in the community, raising water buffalos or cows.

“I am very happy because as a farmer I can support other farmers with income generation activities that they can do on their own and based on their potential. On average, we buy 8 – 20 litres of milk from each household everyday”, said Sapkota with a smile.

In a small village like Kavrepalanchok, an extra of a few thousand rupees would go a long way. That would give local farmers some extra cash for buying school text books for children or re-investing cattle-raising.
Bhandari - standing and other participants of the Learning Route

“In the past, we sold milk individually to buyers and they decided the price. Now we can be in a much better position to negotiate the price and maximize the profit from selling in bulk quantity as a group”, continued Sapkota.    
Bhim Bhadur Timilasina is a local farmer of 50 years old, who has been supplying milk to Phulckoki for almost 15 years. He noted that his household is very content with the reliable source of income from selling milk.

Simple testing of fat in milk in the Dairy
“I receive money from selling milk twice per month of 15,000 to 17,000 rupees and payment is never late”, said Timilasina. “I am sure that I and other farmers will continue selling milk to Phulchoki in the future. Together, we will achieve more as a group”

Not satisfying with his current capacity, he is now looking for sources of loan from Government or international organizations so that he would be able to expand his firm. Dreaming of building his own dairy factory, he hopes to go into large packaging and commercial production of dairy products for local market, offering many more jobs to local farmers.

Story of Sapkota is deciding to set up a functional business and work together with other local farmers based on local potential
The Dairy collects milk from local farmers on a daily basis

have sparked a new way of thinking among participants of a Learning Route on “Women empowerment, new businesses and sustainable resources management” currently taking place in Nepal. Organized by PROCASUR and IFAD, it is intended as a knowledge management and capacity building tool to scale up best practices and innovations for the improvement of rural livelihoods.

Bashanti Bhandari is a social mobilizer working for the Western Uplands Poverty Alleviation Programme (WUPAP) in Bajhang, North Western Nepal. Having seen Phulcocki’s dairy business with her own eyes, she said she was totally impressed and would consider replication of this model in her own work context.

Timilasina - right and other local  farmers bringing milk to the local farmers
“Part of my work is to support group formation in our project areas. I will certainly bring these lesson learned back and use them in future planning”, said Bhandari.  “Experiences like the Dairy gained from the Learning Route will be very important for us in fulfilling the activities of WUPAP in setting up new businesses, addressing poverty and providing sustainable income to poor farmers”.

Truck coming to collect milk

Kathmandu, 3 April 2013: A 10 day field-based training program called “Learning Routes” was opening for implementation in Kathmandu, Nepal today. Co-organised by PROCASUR and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in Nepal, the program focuses on main theme of “Women empowerment, new businesses and sustainable resources management”. It is intended as a knowledge management and capacity building tool to scale up best practices and innovations.

Over thirty participants, with more than half of them are women from 4 different projects take part in the Learning. They include High Value Agriculture Project (HVAP), Poverty Alleviation Fund (PAF), Leasehold Forestry and Livestock Programme (LFLP) and West Upland Poverty Alleviation Project (WUPAP). All participants are ready to play their part in an action-packed journey that will take them to Kavre, Chitwan and Kapilvastu districts between 3 and 11 April 2013.

Ms Sajada Khatun, from PAF said she is extremely excited about the learning opportunity and the week ahead. “This is the first time I am participating in this Learning Route program. I hope to learn about new approaches, good practices in planning and implementation of projects to better improve the lives of poor farmers and communities”, she said.

“Learning Routes can be an effective learning mechanism for us all”, acknowledged Mr Rajendra Drasad Bahri, Project Manager of HVAP who serves the opening panel of the event. “At community level, farmers will learn about the methodological approach to expose and document knowledge which could be helpful for them to improve their livelihoods. At policy-making level, it should help develop and institutionalize a system that enhances dissemination of best practices and innovation for their scale-up at regional or national level”, he said.

According to PROCASUR, the Learning Route is a way to promote rural development knowledge market that positively includes learning among project staff, grass root organizations and local champions. This will continue after the end of the journey itself, allowing development projects the methods and tools to adapt and expand innovations and best solutions for the rural poor communities.
The end goal is for the local participants to become more effective and strategic in their own context. The Learning Route encourages each participant to come up with a concrete innovation plan for actions. Mr Bashu Aryal, IFAD Country Programme Officer in Nepal stressed that “sharing and learning from successful experiences is the ultimate goal of all learning organizations. I do hope that through “Learning Routes”, participants will be able view things from very different eyes and perspectives so that they come back with proven solutions to address poverty in Nepal while improving efficiency and sustainability of all our projects”.

Follow us in the coming days and see what happen in this Route here
Lam Pham, KM & Communication Specialist, IFAD VietNam