Issue number 12 - November 2008

Message from the director of the Western and Central Africa Division

Dear readers,

As the year concludes, may I first wish you and your families a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2009. Allow me to briefly review the division’s achievements in 2008 and share my thoughts on the coming year.

The year 2008 was very successful, and I would like to acknowledge the outstanding work and highlight important accomplishments of our team. Overall, a general improvement in implementation performance has been noted. The division’s objective to have at least 80 per cent of its projects rated ‘good or better’ by 2008 has been achieved.

The portfolio comprised 50 loan-financed projects in 20 countries for a total of US$729 million and additional cofinancing of about US$325 million. This 12 per cent increase demonstrates IFAD’s ongoing commitment to rural poverty reduction and to effective collaboration with partners and bilateral and multilateral agencies. IFAD directly supervised 13 projects and continued to provide implementation support to all ongoing projects. Seven new programmes and projects were designed in Cameroon, Cape Verde, the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mauritania, the Niger and Senegal, for a total of US$101 million.

Grant activities included the development of a third phase of Fidafrique, a regional knowledge management network. Fidafrique seeks to improve the impact of IFAD-funded projects in strengthening established networks and communications among stakeholders. This, in turn, will promote continued knowledge management, cooperation and partnership, as well as effective policy dialogue. The new phase has broadened the network, embracing eastern and southern Africa.

The division’s portfolio of supplementary funds amounts to more than US$5 million, 50 per cent of which is funded by the Government of Italy. The majority of activities with supplementary funding involve developing private-sector partnerships, enhancing market access and strengthening capacities, as well as thematic work such as the Regional Cassava Processing and Marketing Initiative. The division has developed other thematic partnerships with Finland, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (through its Department for International Development (DFID)).

Rural poverty in the region remains widespread and in some areas is worsening, particularly in the many countries affected by armed conflict and political instability. Uncertainty continues to be a prevailing characteristic of the global economic environment, and the possibility of ongoing volatility is real. Despite these challenges, the overall economic performance of the region has been improving, and agricultural growth has averaged more than 4 per cent.

In January we will meet in Cameroon for a few days. We will work together to develop a strategic plan for designing and implementing cost-effective projects and programmes to maximize our impact at the field level.

As we go forward, we will continue focusing on priority areas: expanding the loan and grant programme by 10 per cent, strengthening partnerships, and improving efficiency, knowledge-sharing and innovation. In particular, we will emphasize raising the agricultural productivity and output of smallholder farmers – essential in reaching the Millennium Development Goals.

I thank each of you for your valuable contributions and support. My best wishes to you and your loved ones for a wonderful New Year filled with health, happiness and fulfilment.

Mohamed Béavogui

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IFAD regional portfolio: Building on agricultural experience and opportunities



Crop and commodity prices are rising on international markets

Some positive trends, successes and opportunities were seen in western and central Africa in 2007 and 2008. Several countries have recently recorded strong economic and agricultural growth, making steady progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Prices for agricultural commodities and key cash crops such as cotton and cocoa have been rising on international markets, generating increased income for some of the region’s exports. Innovations in agriculture, technology generation and dissemination, rural organizations and policy processes feature in many success stories.

However, the effects of these macroeconomic developments have not necessarily had a significant impact on the livelihoods of poor rural people. IFAD’s work programme in the region aimed to address such challenges over the past year by focusing on management efforts to improve both the quality of project design and project implementation support. The division has emphasized the following thematic areas:

As at 30 June 2008, the division’s portfolio comprised 50 ongoing, loan-financed projects in 20 countries. The division reactivated the Guinea‑Bissau and Gabon portfolios with two projects, one in each country, approved and effective in the period 2007-2008. Another five were approved for the region, but are not yet effective.

For further information, please contact:
Périn Saint-Ange, Portfolio adviser

Cassava: Enabling producers to seize new market opportunities



Cassava equipment Database of cassava equipment makers and prototypes is available on the Fidafrique website

IFAD developed the Regional Cassava Processing and Marketing Initiative (RCPMI) in 2006, and the initiative began operations in March 2007. RCPMI has implemented a wide range of activities to support and improve the performance of four national, IFAD-operated roots and tubers programmes in Benin, Cameroon, Ghana and Nigeria. It is also supporting cross-cutting activities with a broader, regional focus.

At the country level, RCPMI implemented activities to:

RCPMI carried out market studies in Benin, Cameroon and Ghana and feasibility studies in Cameroon to assess the potential for producing and marketing new cassava derivatives (precooked and vacuum-packed).

Regarding activities with a regional focus, on the Fidafrique website RCPMI set up a regional database of cassava equipment makers and their prototypes in Benin, Cameroon, Ghana and Nigeria. It also produced market studies targeting either ethnic markets in selected European Union countries – such as Belgium, France and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland – or consumer markets in countries of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC).

For further information, please contact:
Andrea Serpagli, Coordinator, RCPMI

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Gender programme gives voice to women in communities



Feton Kiné Ndiaye of Ngapp village. In Senegal, gender programme helps women gain economic power

IFAD projects in the region contribute significantly to empowering poor rural women and men to take advantage of economic opportunities. The projects also support them in achieving higher incomes and better food security by building their individual capacities and helping them develop and strengthen their organizations and communities.

IFAD’s Thematic Group on Gender carried out self-evaluation in projects in the Niger and Senegal. The field-level evaluation of IFAD’s Gender Programme in Western and Central Africa was encouraging. Overall, the evaluated projects had significant success in increasing women’s participation in village meetings and other mixed forums. Today, ‘freedom of speech’ allows women to have their say in these meetings, together with an improved social position and decision-making and economic power.

For further information, please contact:
Cristiana Sparacino, Country programme manager

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Fidafrique: The knowledge network gains ground in western and central Africa

Fidafrique was designed both to connect IFAD-supported programmes and projects in the region and to link them with key partners in rural development. In partnership with the West African Rural Foundation, the network is successfully building projects’ capacities to identify, document and share innovation.

In recognition of Fidafrique’s strategic roles in knowledge management and as the main regional source of information on rural development and agriculture, the Seventh Annual Western and Central Africa Donor Meeting proposed that Fidafrique become the main forum for information-sharing among donors in the region. The meeting was held at African Development Bank headquarters in Tunis in October 2007. Moreover, IFAD, also recognizing Fidafrique’s achievements in knowledge management, approved a new three-year phase of grant funding for the period 2008-2010.

For further information, please contact:
Karim Hussein, Regional economist

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Stories from the field

New yam varieties to increase production in the Congo

In December 2003, IFAD formulated a programme to introduce new yam varieties in order to diversify agricultural production, increase yam production and improve the incomes of producers. The programme, which was placed under the Rural Development Project in the Plateaux, Cuvette and Western Cuvette Departments (PRODER-Nord), underlines the importance of yam cultivation in the Congolese diet and as an income-generating activity.

Within the framework of transfer of knowledge to rural populations – and in a bid to optimize the production of West African yam varieties with adapted tools – two models of dabas (hoes) used in Benin were introduced in the Congo. Their use in producing climbing sticks for yamswas submitted to a participatory evaluation process.

An expert mission was fielded to the zones of Gamboma, Ngo and Brazzaville. It introduced the first of the yam varieties in the PRODER-Nord area, multiplying 132 kg of Florido (Dioscorea alata) using the mini-set technique. A thousand mini-sets were established in nurseries, and in seven or eight months a new process of multiplication and distribution will begin with the seedlings.

IFAD plans a second mission to the project area in December 2008 or January 2009. It will train producers and trainers in the technique of mini-sets and will introduce three more yam varieties: Laboco (Kponan), Morokorou and Kokoro (Dioscorea cayenensis-rotundata). The introduction of the Benin daba models was received positively by area producers.

For further information, please contact:
Luyaku L. Nsimpasi, Country programme manager
Jean Bruno Gogliele, Project coordinator

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Djilemo oven made in Cameroon eases work of cassava processors



Louis Djilemo receives prize in Burkina Faso from Karim Hussein, IFAD Regional Economist

Owing to the ingenuity of its inventor, the Djilemo oven was awarded the title of ‘best technological innovation’ at a trade fair on innovation in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. The fair was organized by IFAD with several partners and with the support of the Burkina Faso Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Fisheries Resources, and was hosted by the West African Economic and Monetary Union. Partners included the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), the Sahel and West Africa Club (SWAC) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the West Africa Rural Foundation (WARF), the Network of Farmers’ Organizations and Agricultural Producers in West Africa (ROPPA), and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).

Louis Djilemo, an agricultural technician, developed the oven to dry cassava derivatives such as starch, cassava pellets and high-quality cassava flour (HQCF), which can be used in bakery products. “I was inspired to conceive the oven when I witnessed farmers allowing their cassava to rot on the farm due to a lack of processing means. I wanted to do something to curb post-harvest losses,” Djilemo said.

The oven, made from local material such compressed earth or bricks, uses fuelwood or cassava peelings as the source of energy. It comprises a combustion chamber and a drying chamber. The oven is constructed so as to allow hot air from the combustion chamber to pass through the drying chamber, carrying away the moisture contained in the cassava paste or pellets. Cassava processors greatly appreciate the oven. The first prototype was entirely financed by an individual, the late Marie Claire Ekaboma. At present, the oven is being used by a women’s group in Nkenglikok village in Cameroon, specialized in the processing of cassava. The Roots and Tubers Market-Driven Development Programme (PNDRT) is assisting Djilemo in distributing the oven across the region.

The oven’s advantage is that it dries the product faster than traditional methods in which the cassava paste or pellet is dried in the sun, with all the weather hazards that may negatively affect the process. The Djilemo oven dries cassava in 48-72 hours, depending on the variety, so as to allow some fermentation to take place. Moreover, the quality of the pellets or flour produced with the help of the oven is higher, as it is free from discoloration and is odourless. The oven is cheaper and easier to maintain than ovens from West African countries, which use electricity and cost 7 million CFA francs (CFAF). The price of the Djilemo oven ranges from CFAF 200,000 to 1,500,000 (from US$450 to US$3,350), depending on the means of the purchaser – the better the materials, and thus the higher the cost, the greater the longevity.

Louis Djilemo was recently invited to take part in an economic forum in Israel. With the support of IFAD’s Regional Cassava Processing and Marketing Initiative, he also travelled to Ghana to share his experience with cassava processors in that country. The success of this invention, yet to be patented, has persuaded Djilemo to develop versions of the oven for gas and electricity. He is also working on a machine to process yam flour. His main objective is to improve the processing of agricultural products to avoid post-harvest losses.

For further information, please contact:
Abdoul W. Barry, Country programme manager
Thomas Ngue Bissa, Project coordinator

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Organic, fair trade production revitalizes cocoa industry in São Tomé and Príncipe



Harvested cocoa pods

Only nine years ago, cocoa producers in São Tomé and Príncipe were suffering as a result of falling global prices. Many of them abandoned their plantations, while others cut down the trees to clear land for maize or other crops. Thanks to IFAD and its partners, nearly 1,200 of them are now growing organic cocoa for the international chocolate industry.

In late 2000 IFAD launched a three-year pilot project involving 500 farmers in 11 communities. Kaoka, a French producer of organic, fair trade chocolate, agreed to supervise the project and to purchase all the certified organic cocoa produced. Farmers received technical advice and extension services from Kaoka and through the IFAD-funded Participatory Smallholder Agriculture and Artisanal Fisheries Development Programme (PAPAFPA). This aided the transition from producing medium-quality cocoa beans to high-quality dried, organic cocoa. A solar cocoa dryer and a storage facility reduced spoilage of the harvest. A local research station certified the cocoa’s aromatic qualities, and an international organic organization, ECOCERT, began a three-year process to certify that the cocoa was indeed organic.

The cocoa activity is now a dynamic, multi-stakeholder partnership, led by the Government and supported by IFAD as a subprogramme of PAPAFPA. Before activities began in 2004, about 700 farmers were producing only 50 tons of cocoa. By 2007, nearly 1,200 farmers were producing 200 tons of organic cocoa.

The original pilot project encouraged smallholder cocoa producers to resume cultivating their trees, and supported communities in organizing associations to manage the collection and drying of the cocoa beans. The process involved construction by PAPAFPA of infrastructure in each community to enable producers to collect, weigh, ferment and dry the beans for export.



Fermented cocoa beans being sorted before shipment

Smallholder families participating in the cocoa subprogramme have seen their yearly income increase from a level of 25 per cent below the poverty line to 8 per cent above it, on average.

Many producers have invested in home improvements and items such as bicycles, generators, radios, refrigerators and television sets. One particularly successful producer used the profit from organic cocoa to set up a small roadside shop run by his wife, generating even greater profit.

 “The PAPAFPA programme clearly demonstrates the vast potential of public/private partnership for rural economic development and poverty reduction,” says Mohamed Béavogui, Director of IFAD’s Western and Central Africa Division. “With a subprogramme horizon of 2015, and linked with premium-paying commercial buyers, organic, fair trade cocoa production will become self-sustaining,” says Norman Messer, IFAD Country Programme Manager for São Tomé and Príncipe.

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For further information, please contact:
Norman Messer, Country programme manager

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News and events

Guinea: New IFAD strategy will further agricultural development



Women farmers weeding maize in a 'tapade' (house garden) in the Labé area

A workshop to validate IFAD’s Republic of Guinea Country Strategic Opportunities Programme (COSOP) for the period 2009-2014 took place on 14 October in Conakry. The workshop brought together some 97 participants from farmer organizations, public institutions, ministerial departments, consular offices, development NGOs, and development projects and programmes, as well as technical and financial partners.

The new COSOP is based on three axes: reinforcement of local governance; creation of wealth through the promotion of private ownership by raising agricultural production and productivity; and enabling access to financing for rural populations.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, the Guinean Minister of Agriculture, Mahmoud Camara, said the COSOP was in harmony with the country’s agricultural development policy and its second poverty reduction strategy.

Mohamed Béavogui, Director of IFAD’s Western and Central Africa Division, congratulated the experts and actors who took part in formulating the programme. He observed that the new COSOP is the result of a participative process and reflects the Government’s policy as outlined in the second poverty reduction strategy, the national policy on agricultural development and the Code des collectivités territoriales décentralisées (Decentralized Territorial Collectivities Code).

IFAD will implement its strategy in Guinea through two programmes: the Village Community Support Project (PACV) and the National Support Programme to Agricultural Value Chain Actors (PNAAFA).

For further information, please contact:
Ulac Demirag, Country programme manager

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Financial stimulus for fighting rural poverty in western and central Africa



Banana plantation and water pump in Woudourou village, Matam, Senegal

At its ninety-fourth session on 10‑11 September 2008, IFAD’s Executive Board approved US$28.39 million in loans for rural poverty programmes and projects in developing countries in the region.

In Cameroon, a loan of US$13.5 million and a grant of US$0.2 million will target smallholder farmers who cannot currently access financial services. Without access to financing, most of these smallholders cannot make meaningful investments to sustain their activities. This project will help raise the incomes of smallholder farmers, particularly young women and men, by expanding the network of microfinance institutions.

In the Congo, a project will target 250 villages, reaching some 20,000 households, supported by an US$8.6 million grant. Current cassava yields in the targeted region are very low as a result of poor-quality seed and the effects of mosaic disease. The project will help farmers’ interest groups produce, multiply and disseminate improved, disease-free cassava planting materials and seed. By inserting ex-combatants into agricultural and food production systems, the project will also support the first pillar of peace efforts in the region.

In Senegal, a loan of US$14.89 million and a grant of US$0.27 million to support agricultural value chain development will help tackle rising rural poverty in the country’s ‘groundnut basin’. The project will assist smallholder farmers through the promotion of production/purchase contracting arrangements between their organizations and market operators.

The Executive Board also approved a grant under the global/regional grants window to the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) for a total of US$1.2 million for the Programme for Promoting Rural Innovation through Participatory Tree Domestication in Western and Central Africa.

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IFAD launches new project in Gabon

The start-up workshop for the Agricultural and Rural Development Project (PDAR) was held in Oyem, in the Woleu-Ntem province ofGabon,on 3 September 2008. The new IFAD-supported project will help small farmers and their organizations diversify their incomes by developing and marketing new products from staple crops such as banana, cassava and peanut.

The workshop was well attended by representatives of farmers’ and women’s organizations and mayors of other provinces. After introductory speeches by Rose Allogho Mengara, Mayor of Oyem, and Abdoul W. Barry, IFAD Country Programme Manager, the workshop was opened by Patrick Martial Mezui, Secretary-General of Woleu-Ntem province, representing the Governor. Also present were Charles Mbourou, Adviser to the Prime Minister for Rural Development, Luc Bézas Saba Okouyi, Director-General of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Rural Development, Yolande Mbeng, Director of IFAD Projects in Gabon, and Célestine Ndong Nguéma, President of the Centre national d’appui aux organisations de femmes du Gabon (CNAF-Gabon).

Through training, farmer exchange visits and a new market information system, the project will also help farmer organizations defend the economic interests of their members and market their goods more efficiently. The project will directly benefit 28,000 small farmers, half of whom are women and a third young people. Another 70,000 people will benefit indirectly through awareness-raising activities in the province.

PDAR starts its activities after a long period without an ongoing IFAD project in Gabon and marks the beginning of renewed cooperation between IFAD and the Government.

For further information, please contact:
Abdoul W. Barry, Country programme manager

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Development partners chart ways to combat poverty

Some 57 representatives of IFAD-backed institutions took part in the Regional Consultation Workshop on Rural Poverty in Western and Central Africa in Dakar-Senegal on 18 July 2008. Participants reviewed the major challenges facing poor rural people, drew lessons from successful interventions and examined problems linked to the rise in food prices and the vulnerability of small-scale actors. The meeting was held within the framework of consultations undertaken by IFAD to prepare its 2009 Rural Poverty Report.

At the end of the meeting, participants adopted a resolution to establish a network of all regional actors involved in agricultural and rural development. They also expressed the wish that the consultation process be included in the IFAD calendar as a permanent mechanism for the transmission and sharing of information to guide all investment actions and future development.

Participants identified five major challenges to eradicating or reducing poverty in the region. The challenges include: the increasing qualitative and quantitative shortage of resources; withdrawal of the State and public services in vulnerable rural areas; absence of coherent institutional and environmental policies at national, regional and international levels; the development of activities and non-agricultural enterprises given the lack of human capital; and, lastly, the limited organization and capacity for collective action of rural men and women.

For further information, please contact:
Abdoul W. Barry, Country programme manager
Karim Hussein, Regional economist

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Equatorial Guinea: IFAD director discusses partnership opportunities

Mohamed Béavogui, Director of IFAD’s Western and Central Africa Division, and Luyaku Nsimpasi, Country Programme Manager, visited Equatorial Guinea on 1-3 September 2008. The mission discussed priorities of the Government of Equatorial Guinea for agricultural and rural development and explored the possibility of relaunching cooperation between the Government and IFAD on such development.

During the visit, Béavogui and Nsimpasi met with the Vice-Prime Minister for Agriculture and the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Agriculture. They also held a technical meeting with all directorates of the Ministry to reach a clear understanding of the country’s current agricultural development situation: its strategy, opportunities and main constraints, and possible areas of intervention.

The IFAD officers also met with the main United Nations agencies currently present in the country, including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), FAO, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children's Fund. The meeting was an opportunity, on the one hand, to know and discuss the operations of these agencies and, on the other, to examine the means for working together in line with the Paris declaration on aid effectiveness. The United Nations agencies present at the meeting stressed the need for agricultural development and encouraged IFAD to assume an important role in this effort. The vast majority of the population remains extremely poor, and the level of poverty is said to be higher in rural areas. Equatorial Guinea is ranked 127th of 177 countries in the UNDP Human Development Index.

For further information, please contact:
Luyaku L. Nsimpasi, Country programme manager

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