Issue 2 - January/February 2005
In this issue
Challenging traditional interpretations of women's development in Pakistan
In 1998, the Northern Areas Development Project began operations in one of the most conservative areas of Pakistan. A key objective of the project is to improve household food security and agricultural services by mobilizing local women's organizations. However, the project area is tightly controlled by religious leaders who have traditionally limited women's roles in public life. For years, religious leaders perceived women's development groups as a threat to local norms and culture and did not allow female project staff to meet with local women.
But after extensive dialogue last August, the project manager managed to convince local religious leaders to meet with two renowned Islamic scholars, who explained that Islam does not restrict women's development or prohibit the formation of women's organizations. As a result, local leaders are now supporting the project and have formed a committee to give guidance on religious and cultural aspects of its implementation. The project has since formed 60 women development groups and is working to strengthen the government's partnership with such community-based organizations.
This achievement should now enable a smoother implementation of women’s activities and investment projects by IFAD as well as other donor agencies operating in this area.
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Empowering tribal people in India through innovative legislation
The Jharkhand-Chattisgarh Tribal Development Programme is operating in six districts in the two Indian states to ensure household food security and improve livelihood opportunities among tribal people with limited access to natural resources. The eight-year, US$41.7 million programme is funded by IFAD and the World Food Programme (WFP) and implemented by the respective state governments through two autonomous societies – Jharkhand Tribal Development Society and Chattisgarh Tribal Development Society.
The programme is developed under the institutional framework of an administrative act for tribal areas, known as the Panchayats Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA). This constitutional amendment was created in 1996 and allows for separate laws in India's scheduled tribal areas. In addition to giving villages ownership of minor natural resources, PESA has empowered tribal people to manage and protect community resources, identify local households for poverty alleviation and other government programmes, and weigh in on local development activities.
Linked to IFAD's strategic framework, the programme features a flexible, process-oriented and demand-driven approach, which enables tribal people to select their own priority activities. By forming community-based organizations involving the entire tribal community, the programme allows tribal people to increase their awareness about tribal rights and pursue their own socio-economic development compatible with their identity. Through village assemblies, or gram sabhas, tribal communities are responsible for the preparation of village plans, which are then financed by the programme.
IFAD is also financing the creation of a Legal Defence Fund. The fund aims at assisting the tribal population, for example, to ensure that the tribal people are restored with land that was taken away from them. By defending their rights, the fund is expected to give the tribal population control over natural resources and provide them with incentives to ensure sustainable natural resource management.
According to an IFAD-WFP collaborative study, "Information, education and communication inputs for project implementation", as well as a recent impact study prepared by the Chattisgarh Tribal Development Society, the programme has had the following results:
- Self-help groups are proving to be powerful vehicles for empowerment and development of tribal communities in the programme area. In Chattisgarh, the programme helped create 394 new self-help groups. More than 200 of these groups have managed to mobilize almost RS 2.50 lakhs in member savings. This is important because the programme area has no history of microcredit interventions based on the self-help group model. Moreover, growing social capital and trust within the programme has enabled self-help group members to speak comfortably with staff about social issues, including discrimination against women. As a result, tribal communities' participation in more complicated social and economic issues has grown.
“…one day during our stay in the village Semra
in Sarguja district, we found that several brick structures along
the main road had been destroyed. There was a great deal of commotion
and excitement. On enquiry we were told that a large number of
women belonging to the self-help groups had come en masse and
destroyed these structures” Ms Nisha Srivastava, head of
the Research and Results Based Management Unit, WFP, India said.
“…these shops had been built by outsiders,
who had bribed officials, encroached on prime land and illegally
built their structures. The women argued that if poor tribals
who have no land, built small thatched huts on government land,
these were destroyed and the tribals were left homeless. Why should
outsiders be allowed to encroach on our land and get away with
it?” said Mahamani, the leader of the self-help group in
Semra village in Sarguja district.
- Project and district authorities have mobilized resources to run nine health clinics with the participation of doctors from primary health centres and non-governmental organizations. The combination of food-for-work and primary health care has resulted in the immunization of 90 per cent of about 16,000 women between the ages of 15 and 45 against tetanus, a major cause of female mortality in the region. Basic hygiene and health training, including information about illnesses such as malaria, diarrhoea and water-borne diseases, has led to an increased awareness about local health problems and the restoration of safe, drinking-water sources.
- A large number of villages agreed to take up the construction of community assets by contributing roughly half the cost in the form of unpaid labour. The programme provided the remaining contribution in the form of food grains.
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Influencing policy and institutional development in Maharashtra, India
Despite the relatively small size of its interventions, IFAD has managed to have a high impact on India's policies and institutions. For instance, the self-help group approach widely supported by IFAD to harness social capital is now mainstreamed by the government as a key instrument for rural development.
In addition, the IFAD-financed Maharashtra Rural Credit Project contributed to the development of a state policy on women's empowerment. In March 2001, the Maharashtra Cabinet approved legislation ensuring women's inclusion in every government scheme and programme. The policy supports the establishment of women's organizations and self-help groups in every village in Maharashtra, as well as microfinance schemes and action plans for women's empowerment. The learnings from IFAD-assisted projects also contributed to the development of India's National Policy for the Empowerment of Women.
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Partnership Programme in Sri Lanka
Last September, IFAD's Executive Board approved a US$ 22 million loan and a US$ 339,000 grant for the Dry Zone Livelihood Support and Partnership Programme in Sri Lanka . The seven-year programme will aim to increase incomes and improve living conditions among 80,000 poor households in four dry-zone districts through improved irrigation and rain-fed farming and better marketing for agricultural products.
A key strategy of the programme is its strong coalition of partners. Six external donors and development partners – Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank, WFP and IFAD – will work with both public and private sector institutions, as well as rural poor people themselves. Each partner will focus on a particular niche in the programme. CIDA, for instance, will support microfinance activities by building on their experience with innovative savings and credit products for rural poor people. JBIC will help develop rural infrastructure, particularly roads. UNDP will empower rural communities with its capacity development and technical support and link local developments with the Millennium Development Goals. WFP will provide its food-for-work services during the rehabilitation of local water tanks.
As the initiating donor, IFAD will ensure the overall coherence of the programme, support efforts to increase agricultural production and improve marketing, and launch relevant policy dialogues. The World Bank will assist such activities as the cooperating institution in charge of the loan administration and supervision.
Several innovative features of the programme design include:
- extension delivery by beneficiary-managed Farmer Field Schools based on locally identified needs
- a careful combination of forward contracting, inventory credit and the promotion of organic crops to improve marketing conditions
- infrastructure development with adequate provisions for user-group formation and training
- employment creation through the proposed poverty alleviation fund
- ensuring equitable access to resources as a means to conflict prevention
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Launching IFAD's Seventh Replenishment
IFAD will launch the consultation process for its Seventh Replenishment (2007-2009) during the upcoming Governing Council on 16-17 February 2005. Pledges for the Sixth Replenishment (2004-2006) have been received from 13 of the 29 IFAD member states in Asia and the Pacific. A larger number of country pledges before this upcoming Governing Council would reflect strong ownership of IFAD by the Asia and Pacific countries.