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Welcome to Roots, the Independent Office of Evaluation (IOE) podcast for rural communities.

Personal stories of people who participate in IFAD-funded projects evaluated independently allow us to stop, reflect and see what is working well, what is not, why, and what needs to be corrected.

Beneficiaries' voices are references to improve projects intended to promote an inclusive and sustainable rural development.

IOE listens to these voices and disseminates them through Roots, a podcast produced for a broader audience to share knowledge and learning amongst rural communities around the world.

Roots travels with evaluators to IFAD-supported projects that help to change the lives of rural people and communities, bringing you a new voice from a different place on our planet once a month.

IOE invites radio broadcasters to use our podcasts in their schedules of programmes.

Roots in Surkhet, Nepal - Increasing agricultural productivity of smallholder farmers

Turmeric and ginger have many health benefits and have been consumed for thousands of years. Both spices are high-value crops, and come from the part of the plant called the rhizome, a stem that grows underground.

In this episode, Roots visited the Agriculture Sector Development Programme in Surkhet, Nepal. Over the past decades, IFAD operations have helped increase the productivity of small farms here by focusing on improved production of high-value crops, including ginger and turmeric.

Roots spoke to Khadga Kumar Bhattarai and Sulochana Shrestha, two entrepreneurs who own a turmeric processing factory and a ginger processing company, respectively. The project has helped both their businesses grow by providing necessary training for farmers from whom they source their products.

Roots in Kordofan and Sinnar, Sudan – Improving vulnerable women’s access to financial services and markets

Sudan has faced substantial changes in recent years. With important human, oil and land resources lost, growth has faltered, and poverty and undernourishment have worsened. The main challenges for rural livelihoods are low agricultural and livestock productivity, erratic climate conditions, inadequate water availability, and limited access to markets and financial services.

In this episode, Roots spoke with Um Durein and Thaya Al Gasim, two women from the rural communities supported by the Western Sudan Resource Management Programme. The project helped smallholder farmers to improve their management of natural resources and provided rural communities, particularly women, with access to economic opportunities, productive services and markets.

Roots in Palapye, Botswana – Building a sustainable agriculture sector

Botswana is a landlocked country in Southern Africa with one of the world’s fastest growing economies; however, following the global economic downturn in 2008, there is concern over the long-term sustainability of resources.

In this episode, Roots visited the Agriculture Services Support Project in Palapye, which aimed to contribute to economic diversification by achieving a sustainable agriculture sector based on farming as a business. Through the provision of training and new irrigation systems, the project helped farmers like Oarabile Nkoloi George, Malebega Poroga and Baboloki Ernest Ramadi, to improve their livelihoods and reduce reliance on subsidies and welfare measures.

Roots in Tungurahua and Bolivar, Ecuador – Supporting the production and sale of cereal, fruits and vegetables

In rural Ecuador, agricultural communities work collectively to produce food for their families and to increase household income.  Good food production requires infrastructure and knowledge that families not always have.

In this episode, Roots spoke with Gladis Fabiola Alcedo, a woman farmer who started an organization for egg production in Tungurahua, and with Angelita Morejón Chaves, a housewife who received training and now runs a company in Bolivar.

Roots in Koinadugu, Sierra Leone – Improving the lives of rural people affected by climate change

Sierra Leone is one of the most vulnerable countries hit by the adverse effects of climate change. The change in weather patterns, reflected by fluctuating levels of rainfall, has a hugely negative impact on agriculture, which is the only source of income for thousands of farmers in Sierra Leone.

In this episode, Roots visited the Rehabilitation and Community-Based Poverty Reduction Project in Koinadugu District, which helped to rehabilitate the agriculture sector taking into account climate change.

Thanks to the provision of training and greenhouses, the project helped farmers like Mohamed Sheku Marah, a young farmer, and Haja Sundun Marah, a 61-year-old woman farmer and mother of eight, to increase their incomes and move from subsistence to commercial farming.

Roots expert series - Inclusive Financial Services

Access to financial services is an important component of the inclusive rural transformation agenda for the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). Since 1981, IFAD has financed over 1000 investment projects, worth US$ 3.4 billion.

Roots spoke with Johanna Pennarz, Lead Evaluator of the Independent Office of Evaluation and Michael Hamp, Lead Regional Technical Specialist Rural Finance, Markets and Enterprises, Asia and the Pacific Region, IFAD. They discussed the findings drawn from the synthesis on IFAD's performance in supporting Inclusive Financial Services. They highlighted the possible next steps, concluding that IFAD, in order to remain at the centre of inclusive financial services, should step up its efforts in building capacities and continue to work closely with its partners at global and local levels.


Roots expert series - Evaluating support to pro-poor value chain development

A value chain is the full range of activities – including design, production, and distribution – required to bring a product or service from conception to its final market destination. This topic is becoming increasingly important for the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) as traditional food systems are being replaced by organized value chains.

Roots spoke with Fabrizio Felloni, Deputy Director of the Independent Office of Evaluation of IFAD, who conducted a corporate-level evaluation on IFAD's engagement in pro-poor value chain development. The evaluation covers projects supported by IFAD over the last 10 years and draws information from 77 projects conducted in 29 countries. Given the large variety and quantity of information in the evaluation, the findings are very heterogeneous.

Mr Felloni explains that it is possible for IFAD to achieve its goal of reaching the very poor through value chain approaches provided that certain conditions are met. For example, selecting commodities that require inputs of unskilled labour rather than high investment of capital or ownership of land.

Roots expert series – Impact evaluation of the Food Security and Development Support Project in the Maradi Region in Niger

Niger covers a landlocked tract of the Sahel north of Nigeria. With a poverty rate of 49 per cent, it is one of the poorest nations in the world.

This month, Roots spoke with Michael Carbon, Senior Evaluator of the Independent Office of Evaluation of IFAD, who conducted an impact evaluation of the Food Security and Development Support Project in the Maradi Region, co-financed by IFAD in Niger between 2011 and 2018.

A story-based study was carried out to determine the extent to which women were involved in decision-making in their households. The study showed a strong relationship between women taking part in decision-making, their contribution to income and towards providing their household with several nutritious meals a day.

Roots in Cayo, Belize – Supporting rural people through financial services

"I started by saving a little money", said Amelia Catalan. Amelia grows potatoes for a living in the department of Cayo, in western Belize. After joining a credit union, her activity and living conditions have improved. Aida Coh, member of the same credit union, cultivates vegetables and grows peanuts in the same area. Thanks to her determination and the support of the credit union, she lives in a better house now.

In this episode of Roots, the Independent Office of Evaluation of IFAD visited the Belize Rural Financial Programme in El Progreso and San Antonio, Cayo, where Amelia and Aida shared their experiences. In their opinion, the credit union could improve its services by providing training on financial management and capacity building.

Roots in Kalawana and Ratnapura, Sri Lanka - Supporting business opportunities and partnerships in the agriculture and plantation sectors

Derived from the sap of the fishtail palm that grows widely all over Sri Lanka, kithul syrup is used as a sweetener in Sri Lankan cuisine. Pradeep lives in a small village of farmers in Kalawana District, and in 2016, he started tapping kithul trees for a living. He now sells kithul products to a company called Lanka Eco Products Ltd.

Not far from Pradeep, in Ratnapura District, Nadeeka cultivates flowers and sells them to a company that liaises with local producers buying their cultivation and then selling it in local and international markets.

In this episode, Roots visited the IFAD-supported Smallholder Agribusiness Partnerships Programme, which helps small farmers like Pradeep and Nadeeka, to expand their business opportunities in the agriculture sector.