Issue 28 – December 2015

Consolidating ESA's decentralization agenda: an interview with Sana F. K. Jatta, the new Regional Director of the East and Southern Africa Division

After only six months in office, Sana Jatta is already busy visiting countries around the region to meet and engage senior government representatives, IFAD country office staff, staff of IFAD supported projects, and representatives of development partners and other stakeholders. He has also visited and met several Ambassadors from the ESA region based in Rome. His invaluable face-to-face conversations with all these interlocutors concern four key focus areas, namely: making the recent decentralization process in ESA a success in achieving development impact; an active reengagement drive and dialogue with countries in ESA that have tended to drop off the spectrum like Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Namibia; south-south triangular cooperation; and strengthening implementation support to pull problem projects out of their difficult status.

First, on decentralization, he explained "We want to consolidate the impressive work done so far in terms of decentralization, and take it to the next strategic level as IFAD’s most critical paradigm shift in recent years". With the most decentralized country presence of IFAD than any other region, ESA now needs to focus on building stronger country offices that are enabled to deliver all the explicit and implicit functions and responsibilities that country representation demands, some of which have unfortunately been underestimated. It is heartening that in recent conversations with IFAD’s governing bodies, Senior Management of IFAD is slowly making them accept that there is no such thing as cost neutral decentralization.



Sana F.K. Jatta

A key challenge ESA now faces is how to nullify the unintended consequences of the rapid out-posting of all, but one, Country Programme Managers (CPMs) of the region. Many CPMs are noticing that it is making communication and exchange of knowledge more difficult between them. Also, it has complicated subsequent rotation of CPMs between Headquarters and the field.  To overcome this challenge one idea to consider is limiting the number of out-posted CPMs to no more than 50%-60% of the total cohort of CPMs at any given time. In addition, ESA countries could be re-grouped into strategic sub-regional clusters of rural development knowledge hubs to ensure a critical mass of staff units that co-manage multiple country programmes. This will facilitate communication and exchange of knowledge, and strengthen south-south triangular cooperation both within and between the countries and the respective hubs. Such a model must build upon the best practices from the IFAD Regional Office in Nairobi (IRON) that has been successfully managing a group of countries for some time. If the model is adopted it could comprise five clusters/hubs as follows: (a) IRON hub, which already exists will be in charge of the country programme for Kenya, Madagascar and the Small Indian Ocean States plus region wide responsibilities; (b) Pretoria cluster in South Africa, covering the southern African countries; (c) Dar es Salaam hub which will initially comprise Tanzania and Rwanda; (d) the Kampala hub for Uganda, Eritrea and Burundi; and (e) the Addis cluster for Ethiopia, Angola and South Sudan initially, plus Africa wide institutions, like the African Union (AU) and the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), that are in charge of broader regional integration.

The proposed setup must facilitate other divisions of IFAD (PTA and ECD) following the example of CFS in strategically decentralizing some staff so that they can more efficiently carry out their work at regional level. “IRON and the four other clusters will be strengthened to benefit all the departments of IFAD interested in sustainable decentralization" said Sana Jatta.

Second, in the other key area of Director Jatta’s active engagement drive in the ESA region, over the last eight months since April 2015, was the successful reactivation of active dialogue with those countries in ESA that have tended to drop off the spectrum. With persistent focused efforts, there is already good progress in finding ways for the Republic of South Africa to seek and get IFAD’s lending and non-lending support, while major headway has been made in resolving Zimbabwe’s arrears with IFAD that led to the country’s suspension over a decade ago. "In early September 2015, we reached agreement with the Ministry of Finance to reschedule Zimbabwe's debt owed to IFAD, which, if approved by the IFAD Executive Board in December 2015, will enable the immediate resumption of the Fund’s country operations," predicted Sana Jatta.

As for the Republic of South Africa, IFAD and the Government are working on preparing for a two-day national dialogue on smallholder agriculture, to be held during the first quarter of 2016. "We have accepted the Government of RSA’s request for IFAD to review their draft Integrated Development Finance Policy for Smallholder Farmers and provide expert advice on an appropriate policy for the smallholder sector, as well as to facilitate a study visit of senior government officials to P.R. China, the Philippines, and Kenya focusing on agricultural/rural financial services for agribusiness and small scale enterprises promotion," explained Sana Jatta. "My aim is to bring back before end 2016 these two countries, and eventually Namibia, into spheres of active involvement for IFAD."

Third, IFAD being a global knowledge institution providing seed money to generate innovations and broad knowledge on smallholder agriculture, the ESA Director sees the need to reinforce IFAD’s non-lending activities in the region. In particular, IFAD must provide a neutral South-South and triangular cooperation platform for countries in the region to dialogue and share knowledge, upon which can be built sustainable development and regional integration. This will be a new area of focus during the next years in combination with the decentralization agenda.

Fourth, the Director is also working with the Country Teams and the ESA Portfolio Advisor Group in putting renewed energy and focus into providing target support to projects with problems of implementation. Thanks to the serious efforts of the concerned country teams the number of Problem Projects (Actual or Potential) has already dropped considerably from 17 to 8 since 2014, there are still some issues to be addressed. For ESA these are related to poor management and high staff-turnover, identification of service providers, and poor knowledge sharing. "All the country teams are mobilized not to shy away from problems, but instead attack with partners the root courses of the problems, albeit some of these are beyond the control of ESA staff," he added.

2014-2015 Portfolio Performance Review - a summary

The latest Portfolio Performance Report for the East and Southern Africa Division (ESA), covering the period July 2014 to June 2015 and published in August 2015, shows a positive performance overall for the region in spite of the ongoing challenges. In particular, the proportion of problem projects has been reduced from 32% to 22%. “Although there remains room for improvement, the increased country presence in the ESA region has significantly increased the ability of country programme management teams to identify and respond to implementation issues”, says Henrik Franklin, ESA’s Lead Portfolio Advisor.

Generally, projects have achieved significant results particularly as regards the intensification of agricultural production and expanding access to financial services among the rural poor. The portfolio features a number of innovations and partnerships. In Uganda, for example, the EU and IFAD have partnered in the establishment of the Small and Medium Agribusiness Development Fund (SMADF). In Kenya, a partnership has been established with Equity Bank to implement an electronic payment platform to facilitate access by farmers to agricultural inputs in Kenya. Progress has also been made in mainstreaming climate change measures into the design of projects as well as their implementation.



Cow insurance is a major innovation in Rwanda
© IFAD/D.Magada

Current state of ESA portfolio

The current portfolio includes 48 projects, of which 44 are ongoing. The value of approved IFAD financing in the region has grown by eight per cent since last year to US$1.395 billion, representing a 27% growth over the past four years. Out of the total amount, US$1.035 billion (74%) is loaned on highly concessional terms, and US$36 million (3%) is provided on Blend, Intermediate or Ordinary terms while the remaining US$323 million (23%) is provided as grants.

Overall, Ethiopia remains the region’s largest country programme absorbing 20% of total financing, followed by Tanzania (14%) and Uganda (11%). Portfolios registering the largest annual growth include: Swaziland (100% growth), Lesotho (61%), Angola (46%), Kenya (35%), Uganda (9%), and Rwanda (8%). Most projects in the current portfolio were approved between 2005 and 2015. The average age of the portfolio (4.4 years) has remained unchanged over the last two reporting periods and the average project life is 7.4 years. About half of the projects in the current portfolio have already had a mid-term review, and about one quarter of projects is within three years of entry into force.



Buusaa Gonofaa Micro Finance offices in Chencha, Ethiopia.

The average project financing size appears to have stabilized at US$29 million (US$28.75 million in 2013/14), following significant year-on-year growth since 2008/09. However, further increases in both the total portfolio size and average project financing amounts can be expected under the next replenishment of IFAD resources (IFAD 10) due to start in January 2016.

The World Bank continues to be ESA’s largest co-financing donor partner, accounting for 43 per cent of total international co-financing. The OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) remains an important partner, providing US$77 million of co-financing to six projects, primarily for infrastructure development. Likewise, the European Union (EU) is a growing co-financier and has currently committed about US$57 million to seven projects. The Spanish Fund (US$64 million) and the African Development Bank (AfDB) (US$71 million) are also important co-financing partners.

The ESA grant portfolio includes six active large regional grants, four small regional grants, eleven large country grants, and two small country grants. Key thematic focus areas of the regional grant programme include land access, natural resource management, rural finance, market access, and alternative livelihoods for food and nutrition security. 

A focus on agricultural production and financial services

The 37 projects that report results indicators through the Result Impact Management System (RIMS) cumulatively benefit about 10 million households in 16 countries. In terms of activities, agricultural production continues to dominate in many projects, followed by financial services. The smallest share is in fisheries and livestock. With the expanding size of Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP) financing and the corporate commitments on mainstreaming climate change adaptation and mitigation measures into project design, it is likely that projects dealing with natural resources management and climate change will figure more prominently in the near term.

So far, ten projects report a cumulative achievement of almost 180 000 hectares under improved land management practices and development of irrigation schemes covering 62 000 hectares. More than 1 000 community groups involved in natural resource management have been supported including through training in maintenance of irrigation schemes and development of environmental management plans and in natural resource management in general.

Equally, a large number of projects report on the number of people trained in crop production practices and this seems to be the most ubiquitous activity in ongoing ESA projects. Twenty-one projects report having trained a total of over 385 000 people in crop production, although a third of the total stems from just a single project, namely the PRICE project in Rwanda which focuses on improving quality of coffee, tea, horticulture and sericulture for export and has a remarkable outreach.



Irrigation accounts for a great share of IFAD’s development projects
© IFAD/D.Magada

Strengthening access to financial services in rural areas is integrated into the focus of at least 14 projects with support provided to rural community banks, microfinance institutions, and savings and credit cooperatives, with the aim of expanding rural outreach, improving products relevant to the IFAD target group as well as management and operational sustainability. In many cases, support is also provided to higher level government institutions with a view to strengthening the policy environment for rural finance.

A total of over three million people are reported to have accessed credit (are active borrowers) through 12 projects whilst over four million people have been supported in engaging in formal savings operations. Ninety percent of this achievement pertains to just one project, RUFIP II in Ethiopia, which is the second phase of a national project supporting over 10 000 rural savings cooperatives as well as 31 microfinance institutions. The microfinance institutions alone report a clientele of almost seven million people.

In general, projects seem to be lagging behind on aspects related to marketing and enterprise development as well as on the development of roads and community action plans.

Management challenges

In spite of their overall success, projects are still facing a number of challenges which have come in the way of maximum efficiency. In particular, the failure to secure adequate staffing arrangements in terms of skills and numbers, combined with turnover of key positions has been among the most frequently mentioned hindrances to effective project implementation.

In addition, excessive bureaucratic constraints have often been cited as creating implementation bottlenecks that generate delays and a wide incoherence between planned and actual activity year on year. Likewise, the poor utilization of Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) as a tool for results-based management is salient, and is one factor that contributes to limiting the effectiveness with which project teams are able to coordinate the multiple private and public sector partners and service providers typically involved in project execution. Weak project management capacity translates to ineffective and often unrealistic planning, procurement delays, disrupted flow of funds, inadequate follow-up on project activities, and ultimately a suboptimal return on investment.  

Lessons learnt

A few key lessons in connection with project management can be drawn from ESA’s experience. First, continuity in project management arrangements within country programmes can foster efficiency in project implementation, reduce transaction costs, minimise start up delays, and enhance learning as was the case in Rwanda. Second, competitive salaries that are aligned with other donors in-country, contribute to strengthened staffing of project teams and reduced turnover as happened in Rwanda, Burundi and Madagascar. Finally, ESA’s experience has shown that projects with implementation arrangements mainstreamed within government institutions have often fallen short of achieving appraisal targets (Botswana, Eritrea, Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania). Close to 75 per cent of ongoing projects with management arrangements that are fully mainstreamed in government institutions have been classified at risk in at least one of the last two reporting periods.

Stand-alone Project Management Units (PMUs) has been the de facto default implementation arrangement in ESA. Seventy-four percent of total ongoing projects and 90 per cent of recently approved projects are implemented by stand-alone PMUs. In almost all cases these PMUs cease to exist after project closure and as such can only be expected to make negligible contributions to nurturing the institutional memory of the lead implementing agency. ESA realises that sustainability would be assured to a far greater extent by working directly through existing administrative institutions, however, IFAD’s disbursement and results targets do not mirror realistic expectations in line with the current implementation capacity within government agencies.

Looking ahead

To further improve the portfolio performance and the effective delivery of results, ESA will focus on the following five areas:



A water point in Tanzania
© IFAD Country Office in Tanzania

For more information, please contact:

Henrik Franklin, Lead Portfolio Advisor, ESA

Reflections on changes in the ESA Division: 2008-2015, an Interview with Geoffrey Livingston, Regional Economist

Geoffrey Livingston has been working as the Regional Economist in the East and Southern Africa division for the past seven years. He has been at the core of the changes that took place in the Division, both in terms of management re-organisation and programme assessment. In this interview, he shares his views about working in this fascinating region.

"We've seen a lot of positive developments in recent years in the Division. Perhaps first and foremost, decentralization which has brought programme managers much closer to the projects. There has also been an increase in the number of very experienced Country Programme Managers (CPM), Programme Officers and Assistants with good interpersonal skills," said Geoffrey Livingston. "All these aspects are very important for the success of managing a programme."



Geoffrey Livingston © A. Livingston    

Enhanced performance through decentralization

He believes that the decentralization will improve the performance of the programmes, mainly because of the continuous supervision of projects, the daily human contact between IFAD staff and their local counterparts, a deeper understanding of the country situation as well as increased opportunities for partnership. In his view, it is too early to see a consistent impact on results, but over the long term it will. "The decentralization hasn't been in place for long enough to see it reflected in the Project Status Reports (PSR) scores, but intuitively, I believe it is already making a difference," he added.

However, no great change can be implemented without its share of teething pains and with the decentralization comes the challenge of communication and information sharing. "Given that all but one fulltime CPM is outposted, ensuring effective communication between HQ and the field is a real challenge. " explained Geoffrey Livingston. "It is a limitation created by the decentralization. To rectify the problem, the Director has put in place quarterly meetings within the region, so CPMs can meet and discuss issues directly." In addition to these gatherings, staff in the Division are trying to make greater use of the latest video conference equipment technology.

He also believes that the recent decline in projects at risk, or problem projects, as shown in the latest Portfolio Performance Report, is a good reflection on the effort made in the Division to improve performance. "It reflects well on the Division," he said, "Out of the 17 projects initially at risk, three of them have closed down, but still a real effort has been made to address the issue."
In particular, more emphasis was put on addressing problem projects with a high level of pro-activity on the part of the country programme management team and where needed, action plans were developed to focus the government's attention on the need to rectify the situation. "It is important that we don't take on more than we can chew," he added. "If a CPM alone has to be responsible for 8 or 9 projects at once, the same level of focus and attention cannot be given."

More emphasis on technical support and expertise

He also believes that IFAD can have a direct positive impact on project performance through providing the right level of technical support. "We need to mobilize expertise to help projects with more technical support," he said. "We do have the in-house expertise within our technical Division, and we need to maximize its use." Also, in his view, IFAD regularly works with technical consultants and experts who could be put to the service of programmes and projects during both the design and implementation phases. In many cases, projects and governments do not know where to seek specific technical advice and knowledge to solve the problems arising. "Often the expertise is not available in the country," explained Geoffrey Livingston, "that's why we need to do our utmost to mobilize technical assistance from our operations budget and our complementary sources.

A focus on innovation

In his view, IFAD needs to put innovation at the forefront of its projects and focus more on agricultural mechanization which is lagging behind in Africa. "We are kidding ourselves to think that farmers using a hand hoe as a primary agricultural tool will get out of poverty," he said, "especially if we want to engage youth which is already a difficult exercise, we need to have a better proposition than working the land by hand."



Mechanization needed in Agriculture
© IFAD Country Office in Tanzania

A big reason why agricultural productivity in Africa remains low is due to the lack of agricultural mechanization. It takes 60 hours of human labour to plough a field using animal traction against 500 hours if done by hand only. "The figures speak for themselves," he said. "Without improved mechanizations options, returns to labour will remain low and farmers will not get out of poverty”.

Through its programmes and projects, IFAD needs to make better use of the latest technologies available and have them embedded into the projects. "We're doing well on including women and youth in project design, we also need to equip them with the technology they need," he added.

Soil conservation a top priority

Another aspect of great importance when working in agriculture in Africa is the issue of soil conservation. "This is really a burning issue," said Geoffrey Livingston," a small farmer's biggest asset is the fertility of the soil where s/he is trying to make a living, and yet the region has poor and depleted soils where a large percentage of nutrients and micro-nutrients are gone." IFAD is already working extensively on including climate change adaptation and mitigation measures into its projects, but soil fertility management needs to be further improved. "For instance, we need to help governments select better seed varieties with a high moisture tolerance and which are drought resistant," he added. Projects already use a number of options to reinforce soil fertility and prevent erosion, however, in his view they have to be an integral part of the project design. "It's probably one of the biggest challenges. And the clock is ticking," he concluded.

For more information, please contact:

Geoffrey Livingston, Regional Economist, ESA

Madagascar, star of 2015: the universal Expo in Milan

Madagascar was one of the star countries at the 2015 Universal Exposition in Milan, the largest international event ever organised on food and nutrition, which focused on feeding the planet. As part of the Expo's international competition on best sustainable development practices in food security, Madagascar, where rice accounts for 50 percent of agricultural production, was selected for the system of rice intensification it has developed over the last two decades. A photo installation is presented in the Expo’s Pavilion Zero.



Madagascar team at the 2015 Universal Exposition in Milan
© M.Moroli

The System of Rice Intensification (SRI), which aims to increase rice productivity through a set of good practices that question traditional farming methods, was first discovered in Madagascar in the 1980s, but it wasn't until the end of the 1990s that the system was introduced with IFAD's support. Following the food crisis which hit the country at that time, IFAD started to introduce SRI in the Upper Mandraré Basin Development Project (Projet de Mise en Valeur du Haut Bassin du Mandraré-PHBM), which successfully rehabilitated the Mandraré valley lowlands by improving rural infrastructure and promoting the adoption of SRI practices. From a quasi non-existent production, rice fields were set back to production with surprising results. IFAD and the Malagasy non-governmental organization (NGO) Tefy Saina, founded by SRI’s pioneers, started to promote the new set of practices among farmers and facilitated its dissemination through training visits through the country and across borders. Between 2005 and early 2012 more than 45,000 farmers in the country adopted SRI recommended techniques.



Farmers plant rice seedlings near Andranomahavelo village, Madagascar.
© IFAD/Robert Grossman

SRI is an innovative concept. This new system cannot be considered a “technique”. SRI is more of a philosophy based on good management of the rice plant, the soil and the water conditions. It is also an on-going innovation. The system is not a standardized methodology, but gives guidance to farmers who are willing to search for new and more productive ways to cultivate rice. Therefore farmers living in different regions with different soil, water and weather conditions can identify different cultivation methods by adapting the general SRI practices to their needs. In particular, with this new system, fields are not kept flooded. The soil is kept alternately dry or wet, allowing the plants’ roots to take oxygen from the ground surface. In this way less water and fewer seeds are needed to produce the same quantity of rice. Seedlings are transplanted while very young from the nursery to the field, one by one, in square patterns to allow spacing between rice plants.

SRI emphasizes the revival of the natural growth potential of rice, which has been affected by traditional cultivation techniques, particularly where these rely on using and “recycling” traditional seeds, which leads to their gradual loss of productivity. This new system originated in civil society in the 1980s from the fieldwork and studies of Henri de Laulanié, a French Jesuit priest and agronomist who lived in Madagascar and worked closely with Malagasy farmers and friends to increase food security in the country by improving the production potential of rice, the staple food in the country.

Hence, SRI is a set of “good practices” to increase rice yields, derived from careful observations, with adjustments made according to needs and conditions. In line with the core idea of SRI, the same practices initially developed by de Laulanié evolved according to the actual environment in Madagascar. For example, in the beginning, SRI relied on chemical fertilizers to complement the set of practices to manage the plant, the soil and the water. The context changed as the government of Madagascar removed subsidies on fertilizers, making them unaffordable for smallholder farmers. Organic compost was then introduced as a cheaper alternative to enhance the soil’s nutritional composition, and the results were very positive. In fact, the use of organic fertilizers combined with other SRI practices enhanced yields even more than when chemical fertilizers were used.

In light of its success, SRI was brought from Madagascar to Rwanda and Burundi, where it is in use in a number of regions. In Rwanda, where SRI was first introduced in 2006 under the Support Project for the Strategic Plan for the Transformation of Agriculture (PAPSTA) co-financed by IFAD, new SRI practices are expected to contribute significantly to the food security and income of the local population. In Burundi, SRI was introduced only in 2009, however it is estimated that around 18 000 farmers have already adopted it within IFAD’s projects. The SRI philosophy is now spreading rapidly across other IFAD’s programmes and projects in East and Southern Africa, even if it is still an innovation in progress, provoking debates and challenges, in particular on how to face the challenges of adoption in different contexts and ensure its success in the long term.

For more information, please contact:

Haingo Rakotondratsima, Country Programme Officer, Madagascar, ESA

ESA grants in support of development work in the region


Regional grants can make a significant contribution to IFAD's programme of work, by supporting complementary activities and initiatives which add value to the loan portfolio. In ESA alone, there are currently 10 regional grants which include themes for knowledge management, market access, land and natural resource management, alternative livelihoods for food and nutrition security, and rural finance. In 2015, so far three new regional grants have been approved for a total amount of US$2.3 million.

These grants can foster strategic partnerships with important regional institutions, such as the African Rural and Agricultural Credit Association (AFRACA); they can provide an arena to test and adapt new innovations which may be scaled up into a loan programme; they can (and do) provide technical assistance for project design and supervision which in effect extends the organisation's limited supervision budget; and they can play a key role in policy dialogue on issues of relevance to IFAD's mandate.

Following the evaluation of IFAD's policy on grant financing by the Independent Office of Evaluation in 2014, which highlighted the significant gap between the potential of grants and the actual achievements and the weak linkages between grants and the loan portfolio, ESA took steps to mitigate these challenges. During the past year, ESA has strengthened the relevance of the grants to the loan portfolio by focusing on cross-cutting thematic issues. These include a sustainable livelihoods initiative through beekeeping in the Indian Ocean countries in partnership with the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), partnership with Heifer International to support Dairy Hub model Integration in Rwanda, Tanzania and Zanzibar, and the development of efficient linkages for smallholders to regional markets and trade in the East African Community (EAC) implemented by the Kilimo Trust.

Grant management innovations – CPOs in the lead

To strengthen supervision and implementation support, the ESA division has also decentralized the task management of grants. Today a significant portion of ongoing grants are supervised by out-posted task managers. In addition, to strengthen linkages with the loan portfolio and as part of ESA’s commitment to empower Country Programme Officers (CPOs), the design and overall task management of some new grants has been assigned to CPOs. This promotes cross-country engagement, stimulates professional growth and facilitates closer supervision, given the proximity of Task Officers to both loan projects and grantees. ESA stands out as the only division for which the task management of grants has been assigned to CPOs. The champions of this pilot initiative are the CPOs of Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya. By building the capacity of not only the staff of IFAD-supported projects but also external institutions and individuals, ESA hopes that the regional grants will have a larger impact on project activities and also on the environment in which they function.

Impact and Outcomes

In the past couple of years, grants have also provided valuable technical assistance for design and implementation support. For instance, the AFRACA - Knowledge Management Partnership for Rural Finance (KMPIII) grant has worked extensively with IFAD rural finance projects in the region to ensure the integration of knowledge management in the project cycle.

The small grant to ILEIA was particularly successful in providing training to the country teams in Ethiopia, Swaziland and Zambia on how to identify, analyse and document lessons in project implementation. The training helped them develop criteria and indicators that could be used to understand the key factors contributing to successes and failures. The ‘learning by doing’ approach resulted in the publication of three booklets documenting their experiences and lessons learnt from various IFAD-funded projects.

Some very positive results regarding the introduction of innovations in IFAD-supported projects were also seen in the closed grants, especially the one to PROCASUR. The ROUTESA grant project implemented by PROCASUR has been one of the most successful in the dissemination of innovations and best practices through the learning routes (LR) methodology resulting in tangible outcomes at the project level. The grant documented 68 case studies and 8 impact case studies focusing on host cases of the LRs and Innovation Plans implemented. Throughout the cycle of the project, 205 innovation plans were designed and 32 innovation plans co-funded between PROCASUR and the projects. 872 local champions participated in building and sharing knowledge and 90 knowledge champions enabled to provide training services in different thematic areas. The most tangible outcomes were seen in Uganda through the District Livelihoods Support Program (DLSP) with the piloting of the Household Mentoring Methodology and the Gender Action Learning Systems (GALS) and Rwanda where LR triggered the spread of the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) under PAPSTA and Community Innovation Centres (CICs).

Another very successful grant initiative was the second phase of the network for Improved Management of Agricultural Water in East and Southern Africa (IMAWESA). This grant was implemented by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) between 2010 and 2014 which developed a learning alliance on agriculture water management. The learning alliance provided a platform for information and experience exchange between IFAD projects and other relevant stakeholders such partners as Ag Water Solutions, African Groundwater Network, government research institutions in Sudan, Mozambique, Ethiopia and Uganda and other IFAD supported grants, including the Spate Irrigation Network and the Smart ICT project. Four ESA projects including Ethiopia (PASIDP), Swaziland (LUSIP, LUSIP-GEF), and Tanzania (ASSP & ASDP-L) participated in the full learning process. 

New Grants Policy and Implementation Procedures

Beyond 2015, IFAD has recently developed a new policy for grant financing and a new strategic guidance which is very much IFAD driven. The new guiding principles include (a) a drastic reduction in the number of grants, thus increasing the average size of each, (b) the planning and allocation of budget for supervision, (c) a preferred selection of grantees via competitive process, better interdivisional/departmental collaboration and (d) the leveraging of co-financing. Under the new arrangements, IFAD management will announce annually the priority areas for grant financing.

What is new in the new IFAD Policy for Grant Financing and Implementation Procedures?

  • Senior management guidance - EMC provides an Annual Strategic Guidance note on the priorities for that particular year.
  • Option for Competitive selection of grantees at both Concept Note and Design stage  
  • Streamlined process - All grants concept notes to be approved by OSC. Only 2 sessions are dedicated to the approval of grants per cycle.
  • Greater efficiency - focus on fewer but larger grants up to USD 3.5 million.
  • Supervision - implementation and supervision plans that are adequately resourced.
  • Knowledge management - capitalize and disseminate more systematically the experience and knowledge gained in grant-funded operations.
  • Partnerships - Co-financing by partners of IFAD grant-funded projects is strongly encouraged, including cross divisional co-sponsorship
  • Recognition – Annual award for best IFAD grant of the year
© IFAD Policy on Grant Financing 2015

In 2016, EMC guidance for Global and Regional grants specifies the following priority themes:

Country grants need not necessarily align with the priority areas.

On this basis, IFAD staff will prepare three page concept notes addressing one or more of these priority themes which will be submitted to the Operational Strategy and Policy Guidance Committee (OSC) for approval. The Committee will only sit twice to consider grants - in mid-December 2015 and February 2016. There is also limited scope to directly award grants to preferred strategic partners.

For more information, please contact:

Bernadette Mukonyora, Programme Analyst, ESA