Progress in Eastern and Southern Africa

Issue no. 1 - October-November 2006


Message from the director

This is the first issue of our division’s newsletter. We felt there was a real need to provide a platform for communication linking projects, development partners and IFAD, for exchanging experiences and improving on performance and impact in the field.

We are counting on you to participate actively in the making of this newsletter by sending in contributions, providing feedback and making suggestions. It is, after all, our newsletter – our opportunity to communicate effectively and share our knowledge and experience on an ongoing basis in order to work better.

We hope the newsletter will soon become an invaluable forum for discussion and debate and that it will help create a sense of a community working together to achieve a common goal: to use the best of our knowledge, skills and capabilities to fight poverty and permanently improve life for rural poor people in eastern and southern Africa and elsewhere.

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Interview with Ides de Willebois, director, Eastern and Southern Africa Division

Ides de Willebois was appointed director of IFAD’s Eastern and Southern Africa Division (PF) in June 2006, after having worked as country programme manager in the same division. In this interview he talks about the new challenges that IFAD and the division face, and explains how the division will work to make the most of its resources and experience.

The challenge ahead: improved impact
The challenge ahead: improved impactIFAD’s goal is to empower rural poor people to help them overcome their poverty. Responding to this challenge, IFAD’s new operating model is being developed to improve the design and impact performance of projects while adopting a country programme approach through which projects complement each other, contributing to government objectives and making use of government systems and in-country partnerships. In this context, says de Willebois, we not only want to improve partnerships with governments, development partners and civil society but “We’re increasingly looking at partnerships with private companies to work on our projects, After all, agriculture is a private sector activity in which farmers, as private entrepreneurs, produce and take decisions and private enterprises are responsible for input and produce processing and marketing”. The division will build on existing partnerships with the private sector that are proving valuable for smallholders. The challenge for all will be to be innovative and to have better results and impact in support of the rural poor.

Important role for projects and country officers
Looking for new partnerships requires time and effort, as well as good relations in each country, to help identify and approach potential partners. “We would like to encourage staff from IFAD-funded projects to have an open mind and look for potential partners”, he adds. Part of the new strategy will be to put projects and country officers more in the forefront and integrate them fully into the developing IFAD country programme. In some countries we have IFAD country officers, and where they are present they will be an important, driving force for the country programme and in-country relations supporting the work of project staff. We also want to better integrate the cooperating institution into country programme development and implementation.

Agricultural productivity still a priority
Agricultural productivity still a priorityThe regional strategy focuses on technology development, better use and management of land and water resources, rural finance and market linkages, all of which are important elements in rural poverty alleviation. However, in terms of both land and labour, agricultural productivity is very low, and this is an important cause of rural poverty. “Therefore, an important element in the country programmes will be to provide support for improved agricultural production and commercialization in the region, using new tools to ensure that projects are well implemented and sustainable and have a long lasting impact”, says de Willebois. IFAD strives to develop better projects to respond to the needs of the rural poor.

Communication is key to the division
To help achieve these objectives, communication at regional level and regular exchange of information and experience will be second to none. “We want to stimulate more interaction between countries, cross-learning, and linkage between projects”, says de Willebois. “Schemes that are successful in one country can be used in another in the region. We hope that this newsletter will contribute to improved exchanges of experiences and will contribute to our learning, to increase performance and impact of activities supporting the rural poor”.

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Regional programmes

New natural product markets for PhytoTrade

Natural products, whether food, cosmetics or other products, are becoming increasingly popular with a new generation of health-conscious consumers. Such products are often based on the ancient knowledge of communities in Africa or other areas, which are not made aware of their value outside their region and the new interest they generate. A new association, PhytoTrade, set up with IFAD’s support, is helping microproducers promote their natural products and gain access to the new markets. 

PhytoTrade targets food markets
Baobab pressingFive years after its launch, PhytoTrade is awaiting European Union approval for the use of baobab fruit pulp as a food ingredient, the first in its product range that would be used by the European food industry. “We’re very positive that it will be accepted. We’ve done a lot of research on the quality of baobab pulp as a food ingredient”, says Cyril Lombard, who is in charge of marketing development at PhytoTrade. “Baobab pulp is already used as food in Africa”. Approval would open up a whole new market for baobab fruit pulp, giving small farmers all over southern Africa new possibilities to commercialize their ancient knowledge. It would put the young association on a new level.

Many commercial food companies have already shown an interest in using baobab fruit pulp in healthy cereal bars and drinks, mainly because of its high vitamin C content, nearly six times higher than that of an orange. The baobab tree, best known for a thick trunk that can reach a circumference of 25 metres, is also renowned in Africa for its many nutritional and medicinal properties and its many uses as beverage, food and oil. The bark of the tree is already being sold in Europe under the name cortex cael cedra, to treat fever.

Nutraceutical industry and natural remedies
Nutritional food, or nutraceuticals, and cosmetics and natural remedies are the main focus of PhytoTrade. The association was formed in September 2001 with the help of a US$1.5 million technical assistance grant from IFAD, one of its main financing partners, to promote the use of natural products and help small farmers in southern Africa commercialize their unique products and skills. PhytoTrade is legally registered in Johannesburg, and its members represent small farming communities, local associations and institutes in Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The association also has a marketing office in London.

Seed processingCommunities in those African countries have long had a tradition of natural remedies and have passed down knowledge about using indigenous seeds and pulp to cure ailments, but until now those skills have been limited to the local market. “The harvesting of nuts and seeds is a traditional activity in the region and an important income supplement in low-productivity areas, especially for women”, says Edward Heinemann, PF’s regional economist, who is in charge of the PhytoTrade programme for IFAD. PhytoTrade was established precisely to capitalize on the increasing interest in natural products and to give poor farmers and villagers new sources of income while protecting the environment. The association represents its members in negotiations with potential buyers and provides advice throughout the value chain on issues ranging from improving quality and providing reliable supplies to approaching new markets and sustaining an export market.

Large commercial potential
In terms of commercial scope, the natural product market is already a big business although it is only in an initial phase. Global sales for herbal remedies alone are expected to double to about US$40 billion by 2010, and Africa is widely seen as the last untapped source for such remedies. Given the current level of interest, PhytoTrade expects baobab to become one of the leading products in its natural range, with companies considering its use for cosmetics also. The French company Aldivia, a supplier of refined base oil to the cosmetics industry, has entered into a partnership with PhytoTrade. “Aldivia is investing in research to develop a baobab pulp oil suitable for the cosmetics industry”, says Cyril Lombard.

Many PhytoTrade products
Marula fruitBesides baobab, PhytoTrade also promotes marula oil, seen as the new miracle oil in cosmetics because of its nourishing and moisturizing properties. It is already commercialized as an ingredient at the Body Shop, which is one of the first cosmetics companies to have used natural ingredients in its range of products, and which was recently purchased by L’Oréal, the French group. “All the lipsticks sold by the Body Shop use marula oil as a base ingredient”, Lombard adds. Marula oil is extracted from the kernel of the fruitof the marula tree, which grows up to 18 metres high at low altitudes and in open woodlands. Traditionally, it was used to preserve meat, to protect leather clothing and to treat and rehydrate skin and hair. The bark is said to be effective against diarrhoea, dysentery, fever and malaria, while the fruit is used to make jam and beer.

Marula oil pressOther products promoted by PhytoTrade include the kalaharimelon, whose seeds are also used for cosmetics, and the products of the kigeliatree, which is common throughout Africa and whose oil and seeds have long been known for their dietary and medicinal properties, particularly in curing skin ailments. PhytoTrade and its partners are also undertaking research into the use of mongongo oil, extracted from mongongo nuts, a staple food of bushmen in Botswana and Namibia. They are also considering the use of the mobula plum, trichilia tree and ximenia fruit in health food and cosmetics. “As an association we commission independent research into our products”, explains Lombard, “often because we do not find the research we need in universities”.

A biodiversity certificate
All the products bearing the PhytoTrade label have to ensure respect for biodiversity and environmental sustainability. To guarantee this condition, the association is working with partners on a new international organic classification for the products, along the lines of the Fair Trade label. “PhytoTrade is currently working with UNCTAD [the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development] on a new form of classification for compliance with bio-trade principles and criteria. The idea is to give products a value premium by having them biologically certified”, says IFAD’s Edward Heinemann.

For further information, please contact:
Edward Heinemann, regional economist
Gus Le Breton, chief executive officer, PhytoTrade Africa

Useful link:
Phytotrade Africa

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Results from thematic workshops

Land Tenure Security for Poverty Reduction Workshop (Kampala, 27-29 June 2006)

Land tenure security for poverty reduction workshopA workshop on Land Tenure Security for Poverty Reduction took place in Kampala, Uganda, from 27 to 29 June 2006, to identify what needs to be done to improve land tenure security in eastern and southern Africa.

Participants recognized that access to land is a key factor in conflict and post-conflict situations, and that modest investments in strengthening land tenure security and land access can have a significant impact, especially when integrated with other activities aimed at pro-poor rural development and poverty reduction. Land should be viewed not only as a value asset but also as an integral part of the cultural and social fabric and dignity of a community. An understanding of land tenure arrangements has to be developed in situ, as part of the programme or project design process.

The workshop also highlighted the need for special measures to ensure land tenure security for vulnerable groups. Four particular areas of action were suggested:

The workshop was attended by approximately 100 representatives from governments, IFAD-supported projects and programmes, farmers’ organizations and NGOs, as well as by land specialists and IFAD and UNOPS staff from 15 countries in the region.

For further information, please contact:
Harold Liversage, programme manager

Agricultural Water Management Workshop (Maputo, 18-22 September 2006)

A Workshop on Agricultural Water Management (AWM) in Eastern and Southern Africa was held in Maputo, Mozambique, from 18 to 22 September 2006, in the framework of the Improved Management of Water in Eastern and Southern Africa Project (IMAWESA), to share knowledge and field experience and identify changes needed at national and regional levels to increase investment in AWM.

One of the outcomes was greater emphasis on rainfed agriculture and the use of irrigation as a supplementary source of water. The workshop highlighted the importance of meeting the needs of all water users, not only domestic, industrial and agricultural users, but also those within the agriculture sector, such as cultivators and livestock keepers, as well as the importance of meeting the different needs of men and women. The commercial viability of AWM schemes, as well as links with other aspects of rural development, were also underscored for the success of projects.

The workshop was attended by approximately 120 representatives from governments, IFAD-supported projects and programmes, farmers’ organizations, NGOs, regional and international research institutions, and by water specialists and IFAD and UNOPS staff.

For further information, please contact:
Harold Liversage, programme manager
Nuhu Hatibu, regional coordinator, IMAWESA Project

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Progress on the Regional Programme for Strengthening Management for Impact

New partnership
The Regional Programme for Strengthening Management for Impact (SMIP) has the aim of improving project management for better impact on rural poverty through better planning, monitoring and evaluation systems and tools. Two SMIP subregional partner institutions (SRIs) have been selected: a consortium made up of the International Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR) division of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and Alemaya University in eastern Africa, based in Addis Ababa; and the Khanya-African Institute for Community-Driven Development (AICDD) in southern Africa, based in South Africa. SRIs will support and enhance the work of national and local service providers involved in pro-poor programmes, which will involve training, mentoring, and information and knowledge management, as well as policy research. SMIP will also be collaborating with the Impact Alliance regional office in Nairobi, a global professional network in capacity building.

A meeting was held in Addis Ababa from 4 to 7 September 2006 to review the annual work plan and budget (AWPB) and strategies, to develop further the programme coordination mechanisms agreed earlier, and to define key areas on which SMIP will focus during 2006 and 2007. 

Future activities and timing
Between October and December 2006 SMIP will be convening a ‘learning’ workshop with the SRIs on the managing for impact approach and will widely communicate pro-poor initiatives. Trained service providers will be invited to provide technical support and will have an opportunity to participate in forums to enhance dialogue and stimulate learning. Training of service providers and pro-poor initiatives will begin in 2007 and continue through 2008. During 2008 more emphasis will be placed on practical hands-on learning through activities such as exchange visits and testing of innovative ideas.

Subregional training workshop on Managing for Impact (in French)
Also in the context of SMIP, a training workshop on Managing for Impact for IFAD-financed programmes in francophone countries, organized in partnership with Wageningen University, was organized in Antananarivo/Toamasina, Madagascar, from 10 to 21 October 2006. It focused mainly on the exchange of existing monitoring and evaluation tools between projects to improve the tools and set up comprehensive monitoring and evaluation systems.

For further information, please contact:
Fumiko Nakai, IFAD programme manager
Simone Van Vugt, programme coordinator
Mine Pabari, regional programme facilitator

Useful links:

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Success stories from the field

IFAD project in Madagascar sets up innovative vanilla-growing scheme

Madagascar is the world’s leading vanilla exporter, accounting for half of global production. But it remains one of the poorest countries in the world.  Most vanilla production is concentrated in the fertile area of Sava, in the north-east of the island, where about 70 per cent of the population depends on the lucrative spice. Although the region is relatively wealthy compared to the rest of the island, there are still wide disparities between small-scale growers and larger estates that sell vanilla on the international market.

IFAD’s Projet d’amélioration et de développement agricoles dans le nord-est (PADANE), which has just reached completion, was introduced in the late 1990s precisely to tackle the issue of fairer distribution of economic benefits in the region and to help small farmers learn new skills to improve their revenues from vanilla and better manage their irregular income. Through this project, a more global approach was taken, linking the various aspects of production and the market, from developing commercial production while promoting subsistence farming – traditionally rice growing – to implementing a network of credit unions to give access to financial services to poor farmers who were excluded from the banking system and had to rely on high-interest loans..

Vanilla growers’ associations
VanillaFarmers were encouraged to form vanilla growers’ associations to gain more selling power and negotiate better prices for their crop. They were taught to process vanilla and store it to sell strategically at a better market price. More than 400 local associations of various types were created under the project. The groups include about 10,000 members, and membership is still growing. “Until now, small farmers sold their vanilla green, just after being picked. When fresh, vanilla doesn’t keep, so they had to sell it immediately at a low price, as buyers would come around and collect it straight after harvest”, says Fabien Randriambololona, the project manager.

Access to financial services
At the same time, farmers were given access to financial services through the establishment of a network of credit unions. “This is probably the most successful aspect of the project, linking production and sales to a system of savings and credit”, says Benoît Thierry, IFAD’s country programme manager for Madagascar. Previously small rural producers had no way of saving and would spend their sudden income on disposable goods such as stereos and bicycles, which put them in a dire situation for the rest of the year, as vanilla is sold only between June and October, and they neglected subsistence farming.

A total of 18 credit union branches were created, exceeding the programme’s target of 14. They covered 43 communes, and were implemented in the field by the Canadian finance and development organization, Développement International Desjardins (DID). Savings averaged about US$10 to US$15 million with the OTIV credit union, and the total amount of credit granted amounted to about US$32 million.

Under the project, a budget line of US$1.2 million was earmarked for the credit union programme alone, out of a total of about US$16 million, while the rest was allocated to improving agricultural production, mainly rice irrigation, infrastructure and local organization.

Rehabilitation of staple rice
Rice fieldRehabilitation of the production of rice, Madagascar’s staple food, was a major part of the project, accounting for nearly 40 per cent of the overall budget. Notable results were achieved in that sector, particularly through a programme of irrigation that reinstated about 4,600 ha of 156 small plots (from 10 to 35 ha) for rice growing, and through the introduction of intensive farming techniques and more productive rice varieties. “The proportion of land used for subsistence farming rose from 5 to 30 per cent. That is definitely a success for the project”, says M. Paulin, former project manager and currently regional governor. 

A period of highly volatile prices
Despite its success, the project had some drawbacks, particularly because it coincided with a period of highly volatile vanilla prices, which soared to between US$450 and US$500 per kg at their peak in 2003 before plummeting to the current level of US$25 to US$70 per kg (which was their level when the project started in 1998-99). The price surge was partly the result of a devastating cyclone in 2000, which destroyed part of the plants and created a shortage. When prices surged, it was less attractive for farmers to focus on rice production, but after prices collapsed they refocused on the new small-scale rice schemes to be able to feed their families.

Use of income/revenues
On the other hand, only half of the borrowed amount in the OTIV scheme was used for investments, the rest being spent on improving quality of life, highlighting even more the need to educate farmers to better manage their income and use the financial facilities put in place for long-term investment.  Now that the project has come to a close, the situation remains difficult because vanilla prices remain low, and it does not help that other tropical countries (India, Uganda) began to grow vanilla after the 2003 price hike, increasing international tonnage and keeping prices down. Still, the project managed to increase the proportion of revenues small farmers received from vanilla and to rehabilitate rice production to make them self-sufficient, reducing the number of families considered poor. But now it will need to be followed up at local level. Farmers’ associations will have to continue their activities and extended them to a larger proportion of the population, production will have to be diversified further to rely less on volatile vanilla, and the network of credit unions will have to attract more members and be used more for savings than for credit alone.

The introduction of an international fair trade certificate for vanilla, which, like those for other commodities, has the aim of guaranteeing a better income for small-scale farmers, will also help improve life for small growers in Madagascar.

For further information, please contact:
Benoît Thierry, country programme manager
Haingo Rakotondratsima, IFAD liaison officer

Useful links:

Un système innovant de culture de la vanille mis en place à Madagascar grâce à un projet du FIDA

Madagascar, premier exportateur de vanille au monde, assure la moitié de la production mondiale, mais le pays reste l'un des plus pauvres de la planète. La production est essentiellement concentrée dans la région fertile de la SAVA, au nord‑est de l'île, où environ 70 pour cent de la population dépendent de cette épice lucrative. Mais bien que cette région soit relativement riche par rapport au reste de l'île, il existe des disparités importantes entre les petits planteurs et les grandes commerçants qui récoltent la vanille et la préparent pour la commercialiser sur le marché international.

Le projet PADANE (Projet d’amélioration et de développement agricoles dans le nord-est) financé par le FIDA, qui vient juste de s'achever, a été mis en place à la fin des années 90 pour justement remédier à ces disparités et favoriser une répartition plus équitable des avantages économiques dans la région. Il visait à aider les petits paysans dans l’acquisition de nouvelles compétences qui leur permettraient d'augmenter les recettes tirées de la production de vanille et de mieux gérer des revenus irréguliers.

Dans le cadre de ce projet, une approche globale a été adoptée pour mieux lier les différents aspects de la production et du marché; c’est à dire développer la production commerciale tout en encourageant l'agriculture de subsistance (traditionnellement la riziculture) et en même temps mettre en place un réseau de caisses de crédit mutuel afin de donner aux paysans pauvres, jusqu’ici exclus du système bancaire et condamnés à souscrire des prêts à  taux élevés, un meilleur accès aux services financiers.

Associations de transformateurs de vanille
VanillaCes paysans ont été encouragés à se regrouper au sein d'associations de planteurs de vanille afin d'être en meilleure position pour négocier les prix de vente de leur production. Ils ont appris à transformer la vanille et à la stocker afin d’attendre le moment stratégique où le prix de vente est au plus haut. Dans le cadre de ce projet, plus de 400 associations locales ont été créées sous une forme ou sous une autre; pour l’instant, elles regroupent environ 10 000 membres, et ce chiffre est appelé à augmenter encore.

"Jusqu'à présent, les petits paysans vendaient leur vanille verte juste après l’avoir cueillie. Lorsqu'elle est fraîche, la vanille ne se conserve pas, ce qui les contraignait à la céder immédiatement à bas prix, lorsque les collecteurs venaient la récupérer tout de suite après la récolte" explique M. Fabien Randriambololona, le responsable du projet.

Accès aux services financiers 
Parallèlement, les paysans ont pu avoir accès aux services financiers grâce à la mise en place d'un réseau de caisses de crédit mutuel. Selon M. Benoit Thierry, le chargé de programme du FIDA pour Madagascar, "il s'agit sans doute du volet le plus probant du projet; l’objectif consistait à lier la production et la vente, à un dispositif d'épargne et de crédit." Auparavant, les petits producteurs ruraux ne disposaient d'aucune solution d'épargne: et dépensaient les sommes gagnées pour acheter immédiatement des biens de consommation, chaîne stéréo ou bicyclette par exemple, et se retrouvaient dans une situation extrêmement difficile le reste de l'année, puisque la période de commercialisation de la vanille ne s’étend que de juin à octobre, et qu’ils négligeaient l'agriculture de subsistance.

Au total, 18 agences desservant 43 communes ont été mises en place contre les 14 prévues au départ, allant bien au-delà des objectifs du projet. L'organisation canadienne spécialiste de la microfinance, Développement international Desjardins (DID), s’est chargée de la mise en œuvre sur le terrain. Les dépôts des épargnants se chiffrent entre 10 et 15 millions de USD selon les époques, tandis que le montant total des prêts accordés depuis le démarrage du projet s'élevait à environ 32 millions de USD.

Pour ce qui est du projet, sur un total d'environ 16 millions de USD, une enveloppe de 1,2 million de USD a été exclusivement consacrée au programme relatif aux mutuelles de crédit, le solde se répartissant entre l'amélioration de la production agricole (irrigation rizicole essentiellement), les infrastructures et l'organisation locale.

Réhabilitation de la riziculture
Rice fieldLa revalorisation de la production de riz, qui constitue la base de l’alimentation à Madagascar, était aussi un volet important du projet, puisque près de 40% du budget total lui étaient consacrés. Des résultats remarquables ont été obtenus dans ce secteur, en particulier grâce à un programme d'irrigation qui a permis de remettre en culture environ 4 600 hectares de petites exploitations , et grâce à l'introduction de techniques de culture intensive et de variétés de riz plus productives.

"La proportion des terres affectées à l'agriculture de subsistance est passée de 5 à 30 pour cent. C’est un succès incontestable à mettre au crédit de ce projet," indique M. Paulin, ancien responsable du projet et actuel Gouverneur pour la région.

Un marché international spéculatif 
Toutefois, en dépit des bons résultats obtenus, le projet a eu à affronter un certain nombre de difficultés, en particulier parce qu'il a coïncidé avec une période d'extrême instabilité des prix de la vanille, lesquels se sont envolés pour culminer entre 450 et 500 USD le kilo en 2003 avant de s'effondrer à 25 à 70 USD le kilo (soit leur niveau au tout début du projet, en 1998-1999). La flambée des prix s'explique en partie par le cyclone dévastateur de 2000, qui a détruit une partie des plants, entraînant une pénurie de vanille.

De fait, il était moins intéressant pour les paysans de se consacrer à la riziculture tant que les prix de la vanille s’envolaient, tandis qu'après leur effondrement, ils ont éprouvé des difficultés à rembourser les emprunts contractés auprès du réseau de caisses de crédit mutuel (OTIV), surtout en raison d'une épargne insuffisante.

Utilisation des revenus 
D'autre part, les paysans n’ont consacré que la moitié du produit des prêts aux investissements, et ils ont dépensé le reste pour améliorer leur qualité de vie, ce qui met d'autant plus en évidence la nécessité de leur apprendre à mieux gérer leurs revenus et à utiliser les dispositifs mis en place pour financer des investissements à long terme.

Maintenant que le projet est achevé, la situation reste difficile car les prix de la vanille sont toujours au plus bas; pour ne rien arranger, d'autres pays tropicaux ont renforcé leur capacité de production de vanille après la flambée des cours de 2003, ce qui se traduit par une augmentation de la production mondiale interdisant toute remontée des prix.

Malgré tout, grâce au projet, la proportion des revenus que les petits paysans tirent de la vanille a progressé et la production rizicole, qui leur permet d’être autosuffisants, a été relancée, ce qui s’est traduit par une diminution du nombre de familles considérées comme pauvres. Toutefois, il faudra désormais que le projet trouve des prolongements au niveau local: les associations de paysans doivent continuer à fonctionner et regrouper une part plus importante de la population, il faut poursuivre la diversification de la production afin d’atténuer la dépendance à l’égard de la vanille, dont le prix est instable, et le réseau de caisses de crédit mutuel doit attirer plus de membres et développer non seulement l’activité de prêt mais aussi le volet épargne.

Par ailleurs, la mise en place d'une certification internationale de commerce équitable pour la vanille contribuera elle aussi à améliorer les conditions de vie des petits planteurs de Madagascar: comme pour les autres produits, cette certification vise à assurer aux petits exploitants de meilleurs revenus.

Pour informations contacter:
Benoît Thierry, Chargé de programme de pays
Haingo Rakotondratsima, Liaison Officer FIDA à Madagascar

Liens sélectionnés

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Coffee from Rwanda: savouring a dream

After the coffee is washed, it is put out to dry on large tables, as seen here at the Sakara washing station. Credits: IFAD/M. Millinga, 2005 From April to the end of June, the Sakara coffee washing station in Rwanda’s province of Kibungo bustles with activity. Coffee growers in the nine surrounding areas come to weigh their crops. For the 845 members of Iakab, the association that manages the washing station, it is the beginning of a fruitful season. "We got together in 1999 to reactivate coffee as a cash crop. Coffee cultivation has a long history in the region", says Efrem Ndengabaganizi, president of Iakab. "Many coffee plantations whose owners were killed or displaced by the 1994 genocide were abandoned, and we lost many members. We decided to join forces to get better prices for our product, but also to bring the community together after the hard times of the war".

The history of the Iakab association is by no means unique. Many communities have resumed cultivating the crops grown before the genocide, and all communities are trying to heal the still-painful wounds of the past. However, Iakab, in particular, got a push in the right direction in 2005.

Making a cash crop profitable
The Smallholder Cash and Export Crops Development Project (PDCRE) was launched in 2003 by IFAD and Rwanda’s Ministry of Agriculture in support of the poorest coffee and tea producers. The project helps producers organize into cooperatives, building or rehabilitating washing stations and giving them access to fair trade distribution channels, which are much more advantageous than traditional sales networks. Work began in 2005 on the coffee production chain, and in 2006 on tea.

The project’s major partner is Twin Trading Ltd. (TWIN), an NGO specializing in fair trade, and OCIR-Café, the public coffee agency, whose role is to train producers, perform quality control at its tasting laboratory and manage the project’s nurseries. TWIN organizes producers into cooperatives and enforces standards to ensure access to the fair trade market. "Seasonal workers at the washing station are paid a minimum wage and there are health regulations that must be met", explains John Wasambla, TWIN Rwanda’s officer in charge of coffee. "The station is also required to recycle processing waste to protect the environment". Nothing is left to chance in fair trade! Although TWIN oversees washing station management, it is the association’s members who are formally responsible, and they will take over once they have become more independent. Coffee growers pay an initial membership fee of 1,000 Rwandan francs (about US$2) and are required to sell their entire production to the washing station to make the best use of the facility and amortize its operating costs.

Organization is strength
The association’s members are scattered over nine areas adjacent to the station, and some of them have long distances to travel. Producers living near the washing station take in their own coffee cherries, on foot or by bicycle. Those located far away go to collection points where their cherries are weighed and transported to the station. Operations are impeccably run and producers wait no more than a week for payment.  Work at the washing station is organized as efficiently as possible. The cherries are weighed upon arrival, then taken to a machine that removes the fruity pulp. Cherries are then washed in large vats and sorted and dried on drying tables. To protect the environment, waste water is diverted to earthen gutters that act as filters, and the pulp is used to make fertilizer.

"We used to do everything by hand, at home. It was very hard work and we didn’t have the training to produce quality coffee", says Efrem Ndengabaganizi. By early July, calm has returned and there are just a few seasonal workers busy preparing bags of coffee for sale. "We produce mostly Arabica beans for resale in Europe", explains John Wasambla. "We are also surveying the South African market and plan to look into opportunities in Asia so that we can give Rwandan producers as many market outlets as possible".

Rebates: a real advantage for members
Although the purchase price for coffee cherries at the station is the same for all, members are paid twice. Once the coffee has been sold and operating expenses have been covered, as well as any loan repayments, profits are redistributed among association members at a ceremony to which all are invited, including buyers’ representatives. Although the rebate ceremony is planned for the end of the year, it is a constant topic of conversation from early in the year, and projections are optimistic. In 2005, the first year of station operations, the cooperative produced 30 tonnes of coffee. For future years, plans call for a quadrupling of production by starting operations earlier and attracting more coffee growers.

"With the profits we make, we will build schools and clinics. After that, we’ll buy a vehicle for coffee collection", says the president of Iakab. "We would also like to set up a small bank in our sector, a small microfinance institution. At the moment we waste a lot of time and money borrowing from banks in Kigali. The rates are favourable, but the process takes too long".

Results still uneven
Not all the associations have been so successful. In Kibuye, construction of the washing station began very late, and many producers, including many members of the Kopakama association that manages the station, did not have the confidence or patience to wait until it was finished. They sold their cherries to local bulkers, and the facility got what was left over.

"Probably there will be no rebate this year", says Janvier Gasasira, the project’s provincial coordinator in Kibuye and national leader of the coffee component. "They didn’t have the patience to wait even though they knew they were losing money by selling to bulkers, and they don’t work hard enough to bring in new members. So even though they had planned to produce over 50 tonnes of coffee in 2005, they have produced only seven!"

To guarantee employment for the station’s permanent staff and to diversify the association’s revenues, Janvier Gasasira tries to come up with ideas for using the station outside the coffee season: a coffee tasting room, a store or a little bar, perhaps. "We could breed rabbits there", suggests Jean Damassène Truagireasu, a Kopakama member. "Or plant a vegetable garden with tomatoes and onions", says Samuel Ndekezi, another member. 

The ideas take shape little by little, and everyone promises to increase production the following year and take their crops to the station.

For further information, please contact:
Benoît Thierry, country programme manager,
Reine Anani, senior programme support officer
Eric Rwabidadi, IFAD country officer

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News and events

Recent staff movements in the Eastern and Southern Africa Division

Full listing of country assignments in the Eastern and Southern Africa Division

Interim country programme assignments in PF

Awaiting the recruitment of new country programme managers for the division, the following senior programme support officers have been assigned interim functions:

IFAD co-produced documentary on Burundi wins award!

In the wake of warThe Burundi documentary In the Wake of War was chosen as the best documentary at the XII Cinema for Peace, Solidarity and Development film festival held in Genazzano (Rome, Italy) from 3 to 7 July 2006. Moreover, MK2, the French distributor of films by renowned Iranian film director Abbas Kiarostami, will include the documentary as a special feature in an upcoming French release of Kiarostami’s film ABC Africa, which will be distributed in France and across francophone Africa.

In the Wake of War was co-produced by IFAD and the Television Trust for the Environment (TVE), and originally broadcast on BBC World as part of its documentary series, Life.

For further information, please contact:
James Heer, IFAD manager, Video, Radio and Visual Media

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In the Wake of War

IFAD has been working with rural poor populations in Burundi for more than two decades. During the country's ten-year civil war, IFAD was one of the few international financial institutions to keep its operations going. IFAD Policy on Crisis Prevention and Recovery was approved at the Eighty-seventh Session of IFAD Executive Board, held in Rome on 19 and 20 April 2006.

For further information, please contact:
Abla Benhammouche, country programme manager

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Two new COSOPs approved in the Eastern and Southern Africa Division

The Country Strategic Opportunities Programme Papers (COSOPs) for Eritrea and Swaziland were approved at the Eighty-eighth Session of IFAD Executive Board, held in Rome on 13 and 14 September 2006.

For further information, please contact:
Abla Benhammouche, country programme manager for Eritrea
Louise McDonald, country programme manager for Swaziland

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Innovation grant approved for Kenya

A grant for US$100,000 was recently approved by IFAD’s President within the context of the Initiative for Mainstreaming Innovation (IMI). The proposal seeks to operationalize work on an initiative in the Tana river basin area in Kenya, through which private sector payments are made to smallholder farmers in return for provision of ecosystem services such as silt removal upstream of the local energy plant. The grant supports IFAD’s Strategic Framework by improving management of natural resources at farm level and in terms of conservation of water at national level.

For further information, please contact:
Marian Bradley, country programme manager
Tom Mwangi Anyonge, senior programme support officer