The experience of IFAD

The evolving experience of IFAD3

IFAD support to range users has evolved during the last 20 years from strictly subsectoral projects to complex holistic, strategic and policy-oriented projects. Although the primary investment in rangeland development was limited to only 22 projects (4 in West Africa, 3 in East Africa, 3 in Asia and 12 in the Near East and North Africa), hundreds of other projects included activities which, in one way or another, addressed the needs and living conditions of range users. In some countries, most loan proceeds were directed towards building public institutions (e.g. the Fourth Livestock Project in Ethiopia). In others, the support was given for the delivery of services and the transfer of vegetation and animal-husbandry technologies to pastoralists through formal institutions (e.g. the National Animal Health Services Rehabilitation Programme in Kenya). One project was dedicated to the establishment of wateryards to service livestock moving along a 2 000 km track from rangelands to markets (the Stock Route Project in the Sudan).

Some projects have been more complex and have tended to address many constraints. For example, the Western Savannah Project in the Sudan was designed to support a mixed community of nomads, transhumants and traditional farmers through improved crop production, the development of wateryards, the provision of veterinary care and the dissemination of range management and conservation technologies. Other projects, especially those in sub-Saharan Africa, sought complementary resources from other cofinanciers such as the Belgium Survival Fund in order to help communities access essential social services (health care, water, education and community training). In some countries where accessing and controlling natural resources were found to be the most critical factor in development, solutions are being tested through pilot projects which aim at setting rules agreed to by communities for resource management.

The more advanced generation of projects with range-improvement activities has sought integrated solutions to the social, economic and technical constraints (for example, the Livestock and Pasture Development Project in the Eastern Region in Morocco and the Arhangai Rural Poverty Alleviation Project in Mongolia). Some projects have become a driving force in encouraging governments to speed up the enforcement of range conservation and management legislation (e.g. Qinghai, Hainan Prefecture in China as explained below). Most of the new projects have been designed and are being implemented in a participatory way with varied degrees of involvement of range users. Some range projects concentrate on building community institutions and on empowering them through training and financing (e.g. the National Livestock Project in the Central African Republic). Some of the most recent projects stress the need to develop and enforce favourable policies and strategies (e.g. the National Programme for Rangeland Rehabilitation and Development in Jordan and the Badia Rangelands Development Project in Syria). Other projects are used as tools for the judicious management of rangeland resources (Sidahmed, 1996) through the design of protocols which encourage the redistribution of livestock from large-herd owners to small households willing to follow a migratory grazing cycle (e.g. herd reconstitution in Mongolia during the transition to the market economy).

IFAD allocates a small but still significant number of grants to support pre-investment and action research in agriculture. Most of the grants are provided to members of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, which supports several international agricultural research centres.4 Support to rangeland development includes research aimed at the development of policies and institutional (formal and community-based) environments which favour the adoption of sustainable rangeland improvement and technology use in North Africa and West and Central Asia. The grant programme also supports long-term monitoring and evaluation of rangeland resources and assets (e.g. studies of CO2 fluxes) and the application of advanced animal-health-improvement research results such as the testing of the efficacy and use by herders of the recently developed east coast fever vaccine in eastern Africa.

IFAD was an active participant in the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification5 (Agenda 21, 1992). It was instrumental during the interim period between the signing of the convention and the implementation of the UNCCD and has assisted a number of countries in preparing their National Action Programmes (NAPs).6 The Fund convened in June 1996 the international forum on local area development to support the implementation of the NAPs. In recognition of its achievement in resource mobilization and implementation support for dryland development, IFAD has been selected as the institution to house the GM of the UNCCD.7 This arrangement will help mainstream the objectives of the UNCCD into IFAD's strategies and programmes at the country, subregional and regional levels. At the same time, it will offer IFAD an opportunity to re-enforce its catalytic role in bringing the concerns of pastoralists and rangeland users to the attention of the global community.

More specifically, IFAD will participate in GM-enabling activities. For instance, IFAD will provide support to a framework programme for community exchange and training - a grass-roots capacity-building UNCCD initiative implemented by the GM and the International Network of NGOs to Combat Desertification or Réseau International des ONG sur la Désertification - (UNCCD, 1997; IFAD, 1999). The initiatives will benefit local communities in the member countries and in those countries participating in the relevant investment projects (IFAD and other donors) by broadening their horizons for cross-fertilization through training, the exchange of information and other means of cost-effective linkage, including the dissemination of indigenous knowledge. Also, the initiative will provide marginal communities left out of development programmes because of remoteness or other difficulties with training and help build their capacities and secure their preparedness for new programmes in the future.

The activities of the GM, which has been operational since September 1997, were discussed among the members of the third Conference of Parties to the UNCCD in November 1999. In light of the recommendation of the Conference of Parties and in response to the many requests received so far, the GM has undertaken measures to support the Subregional and Regional Action Programmes in West Africa, West Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean. These programmes cover a wide range of activities and thematic networks, including the management of shared water resources and transboundary ecosystems (rangelands, forests, oases, protected areas and mountainous areas) and the harmonization of public policies in relation to natural resource management (IFAD, 1999).

Examples of IFAD's support to rangeland user communities

IFAD continues its effort to remain an innovative, experimental and flexible development organization. Because IFAD operates at the household level, its projects concentrate on people as its main instrument to induce change and to fight poverty. The justification for IFAD range-improvement projects stems from a basic understanding of the multiple benefits of livestock-raising to the smallholder: as a source of food and as instruments for the safety and the survival of the communities living in marginal areas. This concept has allowed the project designers in IFAD to appreciate the contribution of livestock in securing stability and domestic harmony and has been demonstrated in projects which support destitute and dislocated herders following conflicts, civil strife and natural calamities (IFAD projects in Mali, Somalia, the Sudan, northern Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi). Credit (in kind or cash) is used as an important instrument to enable poor pastoral communities to access services and to restock after periodic losses. Strong community organization and legislative securities are used as incentives for communities to invest their labour and resources in the difficult and trying tasks of range management and conservation, including the establishment of shrubs and fodder trees in hilly and low-rainfall areas. Considering the limited space and time allowed, only a few examples are presented below.

I. Post-drought relief, preparedness and development;

I.1 The Special Programme for Sub-Saharan African Countries Affected by Drought and Desertification (SPA)

A significant and relevant opportunity for IFAD was the launching in 1986 of the SPA. IFAD, then a very young institution, was developing approaches for supporting poverty stricken households at the microlevel and through sectoral or rural development projects. The SPA benefited the rural poor in 26 countries during the ten-year implementation period. The activities were mostly concentrated in the delivery of inputs, services and credit. The regular programme projects also included training and institution-building. The challenge of the SPA experience was unique and quite useful.

  • First, there was the need to restore the productive capabilities of herders and smallholders and to rehabilitate services and infrastructure in the wake of the problems arising from drought and economic dislocation.
  • Second, there was the need to reach immediate and measurable solutions in complex and multifaceted situations by working with communities at the farm and household levels in order to build greater resilience to drought and environmental stress. This process was taken a step further by including non-farm income-generating activities and rural enterprises.

Achieving such objectives was not possible without the creation of conditions and capabilities so as to allow communities to maintain relevant indigenous or contemporary practices or to change poor ones. For example, the objective of IFAD's support in the Kidal area of Mali was to restore the economy of the region following the droughts of 1973 and 1984 in order to encourage the return of the displaced Touareg pastoralists from neighboring countries. The programme achieved a double objective: the cessation of hostilities and the return of 30 000 people. The programme assisted in the formation of 320 beneficiary associations (including 54 women associations), which received credit for agricultural inputs, vegetable garden schemes and other alternative income-generation activities. The success of this task was accredited to the innovative approach which engaged communities and traditional village institutions in the delivery of the new management practices needed to combat soil and range degradation and to sustain water use and conservation. The programme also took account of the importance of clarifying to pastoralists and oasis cultivators their right to use grazing areas. Furthermore, achieving this goal would not have been possible without a coordinated post-crisis action plan, which involved the World Food Programme, UNICEF, the Islamic Development Bank and the NGO consortium, ACCORD.

I.2 Restocking and Destocking as poverty alleviation tools

IFAD supported a number of projects through which livestock was distributed to impoverished herders through cash or in-kind credit (Sidahmed, 1996). IFAD realizes that small-scale herders are the most adversely affected by war or natural disaster because they lack the means to undertake rapid stock disposal on markets, rapid animal movements and alternative means to gain income or cash for buying food. The projects involved in restocking operations faced varied problems, but the most common was loan repayment. In relation to range management, experience has shown that support to restocking should be based on an in-depth understanding of year-round feed budgets. In drought-stricken countries, herders prefer small ruminants as starter stock. This allows gradual stock reconstitution by destitute herders in parallel with the slow recovery of rangelands, while assuring more rapid repayment of loans. Restocking oxen and other draft animals is an important approach in improving the income of small farmers. Feed availability during the dry season and particularly before the start of land preparation and the peak ploughing period was found to be very important for the success of animal distribution in IFAD projects in Nepal and Zambia.

IFAD has no projects specifically involving destocking. However, this process, which is very important during droughts, has been indirectly supported through projects which finance the creation of access roads and the structural improvement of local markets.

II Restoration of the range through the melding of old traditions and new practices

The Livestock and Pasture Development Project in the Eastern Region in Morocco is a typical example of how a workable structure can be developed for the delivery of promising technical solutions to severely degraded rangelands. Several consecutive years of drought terribly degraded the living conditions of the predominantly sheep-raising communities in the semi-arid steppes of Morocco. A key issue involved building a consensus among the various tribes on how to use and improve the available rangelands. This has become possible through the establishment of democratically and legally sanctioned "ethnolineal" cooperatives on the basis of tribal structures and ancestral rights to rangeland use. Although the cooperatives were formed within the framework of the legislation governing cooperatives in Morocco, the fact that membership followed ethnic lineages was, to some extent, an acceptable deviation from the rule.

Although it is rather difficult to assess the impact of such activities in the short term, there are strong indications that sustainability has been achieved. For example, 34 cooperatives were formed through participatory and consensus-building initiatives within five years. These cooperatives had a total membership of 8 250, including virtually all the sedentary, semi-nomadic and nomadic herders in a vast region covering over 3 million hectares. The cooperatives were able to create two-year reserves over an area of 450 000 hectares of once degraded rangeland. An acceptable compensation system was provided to the herders in the form of barley or concentrated feed (at an annual equivalent of 30 kg of barley per hectare). This small amount had a strong psychological impact on the herders: the offer of compensation was a proof that the government acknowledged their right to the rangelands they had been using for centuries. Plant cover has been established, and fodder production increased fivefold.

Having thus been "won over" by the project, the herders are now willing to pay a grazing fee to the cooperatives during the three or four months following the opening of each reserve (IFAD, 1998). Animal-health extension, parasite-control campaigns and access to drinking water have reduced livestock mortality. In addition to these accomplishments, the project has succeeded in opening a dialogue between the herders and the authorities that will allow the range users' cooperatives to become increasingly self-reliant.

III. Range management and conservation during economic transition

A more recent group of IFAD projects aims at helping range users in countries in transition from the command to the market economy (Sidahmed et al., 1997). For example, IFAD has recently designed projects to support newly emerging small herders in Mongolia, Azerbaijan and Georgia who are rapidly returning to subsistence living conditions and who are threatened by the competition for grazing resources with a relatively fewer number of emerging large stock owners. Rangelands in countries such as Kyrgyzstan were already stressed by the overgrazing of summer, spring and fall pastures. Overgrazing intensified after the decollectivization (of the Kolkhozes and the state farms) in spite of the sharp decline in livestock numbers because of the disruption of feed imports following the collapse of the wool market. In Kyrgyzstan, IFAD is supporting range improvement and conservation efforts by assisting the Government in the development, liberalization and activation of its marketing policies.

The speed of the transfer of state-owned livestock and public lands to individual users has varied in most countries. Whereas livestock and arable land were subdivided and distributed, public land remained common property. Understandably, issues such as common property rights, land laws, seasonal access and the right of use are highly complicated and require legislation and time to resolve. Therefore, IFAD's strategy in relation to the use of grazing resources in transitional countries is to encourage governments to speed up the process of the establishment of the legal foundation for the judicious use and management of grazing resources. Examples:

1. The Qinghai-Hainan Project in China represented an opportunity for IFAD to encourage the authorities to speed up the passage of land laws and legislation aimed at the establishment of incremental taxation for holdings over a stock threshold, besides measures to assure the management of grazing lands around heavily populated areas. Actually, the Qinghai-Hainan project's example demonstrates that the distribution of common land to herders is very inefficient for natural resource management. The more well off herders fence their individual plots and maintain them very adequately. They first graze their cattle on common land, thereby helping to deplete these resources in an accelerated manner and leaving few reserves for poorer herders. Then they keep their livestock in well-fenced individual plots with good vegetation and have thus the advantage of maintaining their livestock in good feeding condition.

2. The rangelands around townships and villages in Mongolia and northern China have become overused by large herds and flocks owned by urban-dwellers (government officials, merchants and traders) who have been able to purchase livestock from the smallholders who could not survive the initial stages of decollectivization. The IFAD-financed Arhangai Rural Poverty Alleviation Project in Mongolia represented an opportunity to negotiate with the authorities over measures to apply incremental taxes on large herds and to stimulate long-term policies leading to the even distribution of livestock in pastoral areas. Also, the restocking component of the project provided an opportunity to relocate to pastoral areas those herders who had lost their stocks, to improve the traditional system of seasonal mobility and to redistribute livestock from the emerging large-scale producers to the poorest herders.


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3/ Source: IFAD Report and Recommendation of the President to the Executive Board Meetings (1978-99), IFAD Document Management Centre, Rome.

4/ Other grants are presented to FAO, as well as to regional organizations such as the Camel Applied Research and Development Network, implemented by the Arab Centre for Studies of Arid Zones and Drylands, and the support to the South American institutions involved in research and development of camlids (llama, alpaca, guanaco and vicuna).

5/ The goal of the UNCCD is to fight the effects of drought and land degradation and to attenuate the effect of drought and land degradation on the inhabitants of arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, particularly in Africa (UNCCD, 1997; IFAD, 1999). The work in progress to achieve this goal includes efficiently coordinated measures at the local, subregional and regional levels and supportive international agreements in the spirit of partnership and cooperation.

6/ The NAPs are the vehicles for the implementation of the UNCCD. They are based on measures developed, designed and introduced at the local level and integrated in national, subregional and regional strategies in order to avoid the duplication of efforts and to achieve the optimal setting of priorities. The NAPs are supplemented by the Sub-regional Action Programmes and the Regional Action Programmes.

7/ Desertification is defined within the context of the UNCCD as land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas of the world. The convention advocates a multisectoral approach, with policy, institutional and investment dimensions. The GM was established with a view to promote activities that lead to the mobilization and channeling of substantial financial resources for UNCCD implementation. The facilitation committee of the GM includes IFAD, FAO, the World Bank, the UN Development Programme, UNEP, the UNCCD Secretariat in Bonn and regional development banks (e.g. the African Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank).


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