Maximizing impact in the LAC region with SSTC and knowledge management

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Maximizing impact in the LAC region with SSTC and knowledge management

© IFAD / Panos Pictures / Xavier Cervera

Although the residents of the global South – a collective term that encompasses much of Africa, Asia and Latin America – may live worlds apart from each other, they often face a surprisingly similar set of challenges. As a way to build solidarity among them, the idea of South-South and Triangular Cooperation (SSTC) was born in 1978.

Under SSTC, two or more developing countries collaborate to share ideas, skills and best practices, with the goal of teaching – and learning from – each other in a way that helps all involved parties gain new strategies for tackling the local challenges they face.

SSTC represents a much broader idea of cooperation than can be expressed in a simple recounting of technical and financial flows. It implies an exchange of not just raw knowledge, but experiences – and all the doubts, challenges and achievements they involve. SSTC works by making people come together, think together and work together.

We at IFAD have long endorsed these principles, and over the years, SSTC has become increasingly embedded in IFAD’s work – along with its inseparable companion, knowledge management (KM), the broad range of activities aimed at disseminating, sharing and promoting the implementation of lessons learned through experience. What began as a few isolated activities has evolved into a full-fledged corporate strategy.

Here are just a few examples of what we’ve done – and what we’re doing – in IFAD’s Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) Division that show how SSTC accomplishes all this.

New ideas to make the most of semi-arid regions

Mexico’s PRODESZA and Brazil’s PROCASE are two IFAD-supported projects, co-financed by the Government of Mexico and the Brazilian state of Paraiba, respectively, that focus on improving the lives of family farmers in the semi-arid regions of each of these countries.

These areas host some of the largest pockets of poverty in the world – and are also among the regions of the world most severely affected by climate change. Development projects in these territories thus face the central challenge of providing access to water in order to facilitate agricultural and livestock production.

PROCASE focuses on overcoming the harsh semi-arid conditions by using the so-called syntropic agroforestry system, which combines the strategic planting of native fruit and timber trees with agricultural crops and grazing areas for livestock in a way that conserves natural resources and enhances food security.

Having heard of PROCASE’s success, it seemed a good idea for the PRODESZA staff and participants to visit Paraiba and see how their Brazilian peers were managing the same types of problems the PRODESZA staff work on in Mexico’s semi-arid regions. Last November, participants and staff from PRODESZA visited agroforestry research institutions, fodder production units, native seed banks and water storage stations in different locations throughout Paraiba state. At the end of the mission, they had many new ideas to take home – and they planned to stay in contact with their Brazilian partners to share their experiences.

Transferring good livestock management practices

In September 2019, a delegation from Cuba’s PRODEGAN project visited Uruguay. Their objective was to learn about Uruguay’s successful milk production models and draw conclusions about possible new technologies and good practices to introduce in Camagüey, the Cuban province where PRODEGAN is implemented.

It was a pretty intense week of visits to farms, milk processing plants, cooperatives and university centres – but the Cuban delegation ended up with a complete set of new ideas. Upon their return to Camagüey, the project participants, supported by the project staff, started introducing these changes to the way their own milk cooperatives work.

Just two months later, a good number of these new practices, adapted to the local situation in Cuba, were already fully operational. To name just a few: grazing areas had been re-divided to favour the consumption of quality forage and the recovery of the vegetal carpet; mobile water troughs were made available to offer a continuous water supply for the livestock; and a new Collective Heifer Rearing Centre had been established to raise young, healthy cows to replace older ones.

The first farms to introduce these changes are now considered “reference units” – and other farmers in their areas are learning from them and beginning to make similar changes.

KM and SSTC: The key to advancement

The experiences described above are just two examples of the SSTC activities supported by IFAD in the LAC region. I could tell you about many more: The Back to the Roots project, for example, is documenting experiences of partnership between family farmers and gastronomy businesses like restaurants and gourmet supermarkets. Meanwhile, the IFAD-funded initiative “A common journey”, implemented by the Alliance Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, is sharing experiences with climate-smart agriculture policies and tools between Colombia and several Central American countries.

All of these activities aim to help small-scale farming organizations become more productive by adopting the skills, practices and technologies acquired through exposure to others’ experiences. They are also key to establishing new partnerships that can be effective in influencing national or regional public policy debates.

To make this work more comprehensive and consistent, IFAD opened an office in Brazil in 2018 that functions as a regional centre for facilitating SSTC and KM activities. The LAC division is also currently finalizing a strategy that centres on SSTC and KM, with the goal of maximizing cross-region collaboration and the sharing of knowledge and expertise obtained from IFAD’s operations in service of making its programmes more efficient.

The strategy recognizes the importance of working together a with a wide range of partners – other UN agencies, financial institutions, the private sector and regional research centres – to organize and share innovative technologies and practices in agricultural and rural development. It also makes use of a wide range of tools, from country strategies (COSOPs) to regional grants, from global knowledge platforms to regional ones.

All of this collaboration and experience-sharing is in service of our most crucial project: delivering on the 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals, especially its promise of ending hunger and extreme poverty and building a global society that leaves no one behind. That’s no easy challenge – and the impact of COVID-19 on our lives makes it even more difficult. But that doesn’t mean we’re giving up; it means we have to double our efforts to build resilient societies around the globe. Family farmers have a crucial role to play in helping us do that – and IFAD’s SSTC and KM activities can help them make the connections they need to play it.