The UN General Assembly has declared 2006 the International Year of Deserts and Desertification. About two thirds of Africa's people are affected by land degradation and two thirds of cropland could become unproductive within the next two decades. As well, more than half of all deforestation takes place in Africa.
There are direct links between environment and rural poverty. IFAD well understands the challenges. The President of IFAD, Lennart Båge, pointed out during the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg in 2002, that "it is painfully clear that natural resource management and development are not separate goals and unrelated agendas. They are in fact, inseparable twins".
In Western and Central Africa, environmental degradation resulting from extensive agriculture, deforestation and overgrazing has reached alarming levels. Some countries of the Sahel bordering the Sahara, the world's largest non-polar desert, regularly face natural disasters such as drought and the recent locust invasion.
Consequently, poverty and food insecurity increase and threaten the lives of many rural poor people. Thus, reversing the degradation of environmental resources is crucial for the development of sustainable systems of production for the rural poor in the region.
During the past 20 years, IFAD has pioneered a Programme for Sub-Saharan African Countries affected by Drought and Desertification in the Sahel. In Niger, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Mauritania, major investments were made in soil and water conservation, land rehabilitation, agroforestry and small-scale irrigation. Significant results have been achieved, and are documented by research institutes and universities. In the Central Plateau of Burkina Faso, IFAD helped build nearly 750 irrigation dikes, and improved the traditional water collecting and harvesting system on 32,500 hectares. In the Department of Diffa, Niger about 718,000 plants are now grown in tree nurseries and millet is now being grown on 5,800 hectares of previously degraded land in the District of Illela. Throughout that process, many farmers were also trained in techniques to protect their environment.
Today IFAD dedicates new efforts, working in new areas and promoting new techniques to support and implement natural resource management programmes. In Western and Central Africa we are experimenting with conservation agriculture and organic agriculture, to help rural poor people find solutions and adopt good practices, combining both environmental protection and agricultural productivity.
IFAD’s new strategies aim to tackle both natural resource management and food security issues. Building on the achievements of successful interventions conducted with other development partners we need to increase our efforts to replicate and disseminate good practices, to protect natural resources and to contribute to poverty reduction.
Finally, at the beginning of the New Year, on behalf of IFAD, I am pleased to extend to all of FIDAction’s readers, our best wishes for 2006!
Most IFAD-supported projects in Western and Central Africa focus on improving the management of natural resources, while fighting poverty: and farmers and their knowledge are central.
"We can’t just take for granted that the environment is being damaged, look at it and tell the people who live there: 'it’s bad, you have to be more careful’", says Florent Maraux, a scientist visiting IFAD from the Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement (CIRAD). He is working with the Western and Central Africa Division to prepare a regional research and development project on soil and water management under rainfed conditions in the region (see box below on conservation agriculture). "It is precisely because rural people are at the front line of natural resource management that we have to work closely with them to find ways of improving their productivity and their environment."
"In 20 years things have changed," Maraux says. "We used to go straight to hardcore work to fight land erosion at all costs, we would dig wells, and we would build dikes. But today, we start by analysing the situation with the farmers, individually or through their unions, to understand better their environment, their constraints and their needs."
"It is also essential for them to know why we are offering to build these," he says. "Innovation has to be implemented with the community."
In 1988, IFAD launched a special project in Northern Burkina Faso for the preservation of the soils and water. When the project started, its main objective was the protection of soils and water. In the follow-up Sustainable Rural Development Programme, launched in 2004, capacity building is at the top of the agenda. IFAD wants to develop the ability of villagers to plan locally. The focus is now on the men and women who live and work on their land and contribute to the structural changes that lead to land degradation or improvement.
"People, prior and in addition to technology, are at the heart of IFAD’s interventions", says Mohamed Béavogui, Director of the Western and Central Africa Division. "Only the people can guarantee the sustainability of the programmes."
More than half of IFAD’s current loan programmes and projects in the region address issues related to environmental sustainability.
In savannah areas in western African, IFAD has launched the Programme for Participatory Rural Development in Haute-Guinée. It works with women’s groups to promote the protection of water and land. The participants are being empowered to manage their own development and to take an increasingly leading role in decision-making and programme management activities.
In more humid and potentially fragile regions, such as in the Congo, with the Rural Development Project in the Plateaux, Cuvette and Western Cuvette Departments, IFAD is working with local people to ensure that new agricultural techniques do not damage the soils. Even though there is no acute pressure on natural resources at the moment, there is a need, in agreement with the local people, to prevent future land degradation.
In coastal areas, such as The Gambia, with the Participatory Integrated Watershed Management Project, IFAD will set up a participatory process involving farmers in building protective dikes to prevent saline water from invading rice plantations.
IFAD is also looking to bring new farming techniques to the Sahel, and is exploring whether conservation agriculture could contribute to better agricultural productivity.
In recent years, farmers around the world have introduced a variety of techniques known under the generic name of conservation agriculture. They are based on three principles: minimum tillage; permanent soil cover; and appropriate crop rotations instead of monoculture.
Today, it is estimated that conservation agriculture is practised on 95 million hectares, predominantly by richer farmers, and mainly in South and North America, and Australia. However, small-scale farmers in Africa are trying these techniques, with examples in Zambia, Ghana and Cameroon. In most cases, these initiatives are led by teams of researchers or NGOs working with farming communities in pilot locations.
The advantages for small-scale farmers are many. Labour intense ploughing is abandoned, which can be particularly welcome in areas plagued by HIV/AIDS, and there is less risk of soil erosion. The soil’s biodiversity is better preserved. The first results in Africa are promising. However, critics say that the increased use of chemicals can be damaging. Others say that poor farmers cannot afford these techniques and that it might increase the tension between farmers and pastoralists.
"New technologies don’t necessarily help the poorest farmers in the short term", says scientist Florent Maraux. "That’s why it is important to discuss thoroughly with the communities, to know what they think about the innovations and how they could in the long run improve their quality of life. We are touching on both crucial technical and social issues here."
IFAD is working on a regional research and development project on soil and water management under rainfed conditions in Western and Central Africa. The project will explore various options, including the introduction of conservation agriculture approaches, as well as more conventional sustainable land management practices, mainly in IFAD-supported investment projects.
Under IFAD’s Special Programme for Sub-Saharan African Countries Affected by Drought and Desertification, several programmes in Niger and Burkina Faso promoted a set of conservation practices for water harvesting and soil fertility management to restore and maintain the productive potential of agricultural and pastoral ecosystems and agroforestry activities.
Tassa is a farming technique that softens deeper grounds, bringing organic matter up and laying out ground in piles. The technique involves digging a hole of approximately 20 to 30 cm in diameter and 15 to 20 cm deep. The ground extracted is collected and gathered. Then manure is introduced into the hole to enrich the ground generally deprived of organic matter. This facilitates the activity of termites during the dry season and improves water infiltration. With the first rains, the soil is improved at the level of these arranged seed holes and allows farmers to grow millet and sorghum. The technique is called 'zaï’ in Burkina Faso.
As a result, significant areas of degraded, barren land, on which nothing had been harvested for years in the Sahel, were cultivated again.
Each year the Western and Central Africa Division conducts a review of its portfolio of programmes and projects. The review process allows the Division to monitor and improve the quality of project implementation and management.
"Results from this year’s review are quite encouraging," said Ulac Demirag, Associate Country Programme Manager in the Western and Central Africa Division. "We are clearly improving our operations’ performance but there is still quite a bit of work to do," he added.
This year’s review focused on performance related issues in 39 projects. Progress and impact indicators were used to evaluate project performance, assess the quality of project implementation and management and to identify severe implementation problems.
The review found that the proportion of potential or actual problem projects had actually declined from 15 per cent to 10 per cent between June 2003 and June 2005. There has been significant improvement in the performance of the monitoring and evaluation systems as well as for the institutions that provide credit.
Some results have been particularly encouraging. Poor rural households have more resources to work with. Access to credit and financial services, as well as physical assets such as farm equipment and seeds, has improved. Loan disbursement rates are also positive, suggesting that implementation constraints have been addressed successfully, allowing project activities to continue on schedule. But the Division still has work to do. Nearly 25 per cent of the projects show disbursements below target goals.
The development programmes for roots and tubers are helping to improve food security. While there have been good results in the areas of social capital and people’s empowerment, particularly through support to farmers’ organizations, the mainstreaming of gender in the portfolio remains a concern that requires the continued attention of IFAD and cooperating institutions.
In addition to its focus on agricultural research, the Division’s grant portfolio is now also backing strategic action areas such as post crisis assistance, policy dialogue, knowledge management and capacity building. A grant to strengthen the monitoring and evaluation systems and the results and impact management system (RIMS) is being prepared for approval in 2006. All new projects in the Division have adopted the RIMS, and this is expected to foster closer links with country processes and help IFAD measure the impact of programmes and projects.
Cameroon: tree domestication boosts family income
The World Agroforestry Centre tree domestication training programmes in Cameroon, supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), have generated a lucrative new nursery industry with farmer groups producing their own improved planting materials for agroforestry trees, particularly indigenous fruit and medicinal trees.
For Christophe and Delphine Missé and the other seven members of their farming group, in the village of Lekie-Assi in Cameroon's Centre Province, the nursery in which they are domesticating indigenous trees and improving some valuable exotic species has produced small miracles.
"The plants we produce in the nursery have changed our lives," says Delphine Missé. "My husband has been able to build this house, and our eldest daughter who is 12 was able to join secondary school after completing her primary education. The school costs 260 000 CFA (USD 500) a year and it is because of the plants we sell that we can afford that."
The Missé family and the other members of their farming group are delighted by the success of their nursery and the income they can generate with their newly-acquired skills in vegetative propagation, marcotting, grafting and rooting of cuttings techniques. These have allowed them to multiply superior indigenous trees such as safou (Dacryodes edulis), njansang (Ricinodendron heudelotii), Kola nut (Cola spp), and bush mango or Dika nut (Irvingia gabonensis).
"This year we earned more from selling plants than we did from our cash crop, cocoa," says the Missé family.
The farmers' group in Lekie-Assi has come a long way in a short time. Six years ago, they were trekking 15 km to a central pilot nursery where the World Agroforestry Centre and its national partners were offering training on vegetative propagation. After they finished their training and mastered the techniques, the Centre helped them establish their own nursery in 2001.
Ebenezar Asaah, the Centre's agroforestry tree domestication specialist, says the Centre began the training on tree propagation techniques in 1998, as part of their participatory tree domestication programme supported by lFAD. They held training sessions for farmer groups, community-based organizations, NGOs, national research institutes and also extension organizations. They began with pilot nurseries in the different ecological zones of Cameroon – two each for the forest and humid savannah zones. These nurseries were to test and evaluate vegetative propagation techniques with farmers, and later to train neighbouring communities on these techniques, nursery management and germplasm collection.
Two years later, off-shoot nurseries began to emerge throughout Cameroon, even in the South Province, where no pilot nursery had been established. These satellite nurseries, in turn, began spawning more nurseries, which now amount to 67 in Cameroon.
Richard Ndeugue also recognized the business potential of the nurseries. On the main road between Yaoundé and the western highlands, Ndeugue has put up a shade house, three non-mist propagators and one taller 'humidity chamber' in which he weans marcotts after they have been lopped off a mother tree and potted in polythene bags. In this thriving nursery, established in 2003, Ndeugue earns a healthy income for himself, his family and the six men who work with him.
A page from his ledger shows that the group has taken in an impressive 395 400 CFA, about USD 750, from marcotts, rooted cuttings and grafts of a wide range of indigenous and exotic agroforestry trees. "Researchers even come to me from Yaoundé asking for medicinal plants."
"Nurseries are good business," says Deman Aseh, another young nursery operator and entrepreneur in the village of Mulombo in Cameroon's mountainous Northwest province. Aseh and his mixed farming group MUMIFAG say that they are generating income not just for themselves but also "for farmers in their community who are now able to plant and grow lucrative and high-quality indigenous trees on their farms".
Aseh has employed his brother full-time in his small shop so he can devote himself to the agroforestry nursery and to the new shop the group has opened on the roadside, to sell the improved planting materials that lay the basis for a new era of farming with high quality agroforestry trees in the humid tropics of Africa.
Source: World Agroforestry Centre, 'Agroforestry in action’ series, document reference 2005-11-Trees and Markets-African Humid Tropics
Almost 270,000 people live in the Aguié Department of Niger, which has a population density of 100 farmers and pastoralists per square kilometre. This density is creating serious pressure on land access. The area faces major problems such as climate change, loss of soil fertility, chronic food insecurity and poverty.
With the support of IFAD’s Aguié Rural Development Project, the local population has been protecting the area’s environmental and agricultural assets by using improved clearing techniques and assisted natural regeneration (ANR).
In 2000, more than 100,000 hectares were put under assisted natural regeneration. As a result, there has been a growth of 50 new trees per hectare throughout the 100,000 hectares. Vast zones in the project area are now protected from wind erosion and the destruction of seeds by sandstorms. Assisted natural regeneration has also contributed to restoring soil fertility, meeting the local population’s need for tree products and fodder, and increasing incomes. It has been so successful in the Department of Aguié that it has become a general practice, and it has also spread to several zones of the Maradi region.
Local people have formed village committees to monitor assisted natural regeneration activities. The committees have prevented conflicts arising between the farmers and pastoralists by demarcating 800 kilometres of corridors to facilitate the passage of livestock and rehabilitating areas of pasture land.
Today, in the north of Aguié, tree plantations are growing so fast that the local people are working on ways to market the timber and to create new income generating activities. Tree plantations constitute new challenges and bring up questions about the status of the regenerated trees and the need for regulations to ensure a rational exploitation of the plantations, as well as determining the best techniques for promoting assisted natural regeneration.
IFAD Executive Board approves loans and grants of over US$26.7 million to combat rural poverty in Western and Central Africa
The 86th session of IFAD’s Executive Board approved US$204.8 million in loans to support rural development programmes and projects in 12 countries: Albania, Bangladesh, Benin, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, India, Kenya, Malawi, Morocco, Pakistan, the Republic of Moldova, Tunisia and Zambia. The Board also approved US$11.25 million in grants to support indigenous producers, farmers, farmers’ organizations, agricultural research and exchange of information and training programmes.
In Benin, IFAD will provide a US$10.0 million loan to support the US$14.8 million Rural Development Support Programme, which will benefit 56,000 rural poor people, at least half of whom are women. The programme will assist both groups and individuals in starting or expanding income generating activities and micro-businesses. It will help rural poor people to increase their incomes and will create new employment opportunities in their villages. Local village institutions will be strengthened so they can manage their own development plans and undertake joint efforts with other villages.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, IFAD will support the US$26 million Agricultural Rehabilitation Programme in Orientale Province with a US$15.5 million loan and a US$300,000 grant. The programme will help poor farmers, fishers and livestock owners to increase their incomes and food security. It will rehabilitate the agricultural and fishery sectors by improving access to financial services and new technology. Farmers’ groups will receive support and funding to build infrastructure and to develop economic activities such as fish farming and processing. New trunk roads will be built and feeder roads re-opened so that farmers can travel to markets to trade and sell their goods. Village repair committees will be trained to maintain local roads. Basic social services will also be made more accessible.
A US$1.2 million grant will go to the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), a CGIAR supported research centre. It will help finance ICRISAT’s Growing Out of Poverty: Intensification of Sorghum and Millet Systems by Unlocking the Potential of Local Biodiversity and Market Opportunities in Semi-Arid West Africa. The programme will support research and the use of new technologies to create improved crop varieties and increase the food security of poor farmers.
Niger receives US$200,000 grant for the food crisis
IFAD has provided the Republic of the Niger with a special grant of US$200,000 mobilized by the Government of Italy to assist people affected by the food crisis in the Department of Aguié.
The grant is being channelled through the ongoing PPILDA project (Projet de Promotion de l’Initiative Locale de la region d’Aguié) in order to take advantage of the project’s knowledge of the affected communities as well as the operational set up of the project to ensure efficient and timely intervention in the field.
The purpose of the grant is to provide food to extremely vulnerable people in villages affected by severe food shortages and to contribute to lowering food prices in the markets. From August to September 2005, cereals and milk have been distributed to vulnerable people in 5,000 family farms. The project is providing 5,000 farms with seeds, plants, food, animal fodder and small farming equipment. Funds are also being dedicated to support agro-pastoralists in feeding their animals and to restore sylvo-pastoral spaces.
IFAD’s participation in the World Summit on the Information Society
The second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) took place from 15 to 18 November in Tunis, with around 20,000 participants from all over the world.
IFAD organized a panel discussion on the First Mile project, an initiative linked to the IFAD-supported Agricultural Marketing Systems Development Programme in Tanzania and supported by the Government of Switzerland. Its main purpose is to determine whether or not access to ICTs can help rural poor people communicate and negotiate with others along the market chain to build fairer and more efficient market relationships. It is tackling two main challenges:
- access by rural poor people to information and knowledge
- access by producers to other key people in the market chain, including traders, processors and consumers
While still in its early stages, the project attracted considerable interest and some WSIS participants have indicated their interest in replicating the project in their own countries.
Version zero of the rural poverty portal was also unveiled during the Summit. Powered by IFAD, the rural poverty portal is a website where rural poor people, policymakers, donors, research institutes, non-governmental organizations and other development partners can share information about eradicating rural poverty.
One of the technological highlights of the Summit was the launch of the Green Machine, a US$100 laptop developed by the Media Lab of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) specifically designed to carry educational material for children and to allow them to connect to each other and to the Internet. The laptop would be purchased by governments and distributed to children with a full load of local textbooks.
While the idea was inspiring for most participants, with countries already complaining that they are not among the first recipients, the feasibility of such an ambitious project was also discussed. Some argued that the cost of distributions of the laptops could be prohibitive, others that these laptops may never reach their intended owners, but may end up on the black market. Finally some voiced concerns about it becoming yet another technology-driven project, when what is badly needed is local content and ownership. Whatever the concerns, however, the Green machine is certainly worth keeping an eye on…
Mamadou Kane, IFAD’s Field Presence Officer for Senegal and The Gambia is on board, the first in the Western and Central Africa region! The Senegalese national joined the Country Teams of Senegal and The Gambia on 20 October 2005. Mr Kane is an agronomist with wide experience in rural development in Western and Central Africa and expertise in monitoring and evaluation. Prior to joining IFAD, Mr Kane was Chief of Monitoring and Evaluation, then Director of Operations of the National Rural Infrastructure Project, the WB/IFAD/AfDB cofinanced project in support of decentralization in rural Senegal. The Field Presence Officer is based in the Dakar UNDP office.
IFAD Field Presence Officer for Senegal and The Gambia
Tel: +221 839 93 16
Hadjara Shibkau has been appointed as the new IFAD Field Office Coordinator in Nigeria, starting 12 December 2005. Ms Shibkau's role is to assist the Country Programme Manager in following up on projects and programmes implemented with the World Bank, IFAD’s cooperating institution in Nigeria, and to participate in dialogue with the government and development partners to influence policy in the interests of rural poor people. Ms Shibkau is a rural development specialist and has worked for several years with international development organizations in Nigeria.
IFAD’s Field Office in Nigeria is located at the UN House in Abuja. The establishment of the Office has been made possible through an IFAD/UNDP Framework Agreement and support from the Government of Nigeria (Federal Ministry for Agriculture and Rural Development).
IFAD Field Office Coordinator for Nigeria
Tel: + 234 0802 321 25 88
Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso: The Africa Forum held its ninth meeting from 19 to 23 September, hosted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Water Resources and Fisheries of the Government of Burkina Faso. Supported by IFAD and other organizations, the Africa Forum is an annual convention for donors, project staff and managers, governments, development partners including United Nations agencies and farmers’ associations to exchange experiences and lessons learned in programme design and development.
The forum focused on the promotion of agricultural production as the driving force for growth for African economies and addressed specific issues such as access to land and financial services, and coordination between public and private services as well as domestic marketing and international trade policies.