Making a difference in Asia and the Pacific



Issue 25: March-April 2009


In this issue


In this issue


The General Assembly of the United Nations has proclaimed the year commencing on 10 December 2008 as the International Year of Human Rights Learning. The year is to be devoted to activities to broaden and deepen human rights learning based on the principles of universality, indivisibility, interdependency, impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity, constructive dialogue and cooperation (resolution 62/171 of 18 December 2007). It aims to enhance the promotion and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development (United Nations Information Service).

This newsletter provides examples of how IFAD promotes and supports the rights of poor rural people – especially those of women and indigenous peoples – in the Asia and the Pacific Region.

Eleven years after closing the Oxbow Lakes Small-Scale Fishermen Project in Bangladesh, Dev Nathan and Niah Ahmed Apu returned to the project area. They describe how the situation of women’s rights to acquire fish ponds on government land has changed.
In India, IFAD works with the government to support the rights of tribal people, especially their right to land under the Forest Rights Act. Vincent Darlong discusses the rights of upland communities to forest land and other resources that were denied to them over decades.

Virginia O. Verora describes how the formulation of Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection Plans is helping indigenous peoples in the Philippines enforce their rights to self-governance and self-determination.

Pastoralist women in Central Asia play an important role in livestock and natural resource management. Nevertheless, their rights to land are weak, partly because of their limited ability to make decisions in their societies. Sabine Pallas writes about a new initiative that can contribute to empowering pastoralist women and promote their equal participation in decision making.

In Tajikistan, women’s rights are restricted by conservative culture and poverty. Liba Brent describes how an IFAD-supported grant project trains women to produce high-priced, luxury mohair yarns and knitted products for export. By earning income, women are more confident to negotiate for more rights and freedoms for themselves and their daughters.

The work of the Asia and the Pacific Division continues to be guided by the rights-based approach, which integrates the norms, standards and principles of the international human rights system into development projects and programmes. These principles include equality and equity, empowerment and participation, and attention to vulnerable groups. This newsletter describes some of this work.

Martina Spisiakova, Newsletter Coordinator

What is a rights-based approach to development?

A rights-based approach to development is a conceptual framework for human development that is based on international human rights standards and operationally directed at promoting and protecting human rights.

Essentially, a rights-based approach integrates the norms, standards and principles of the international human rights system into the plans, policies and processes of development.

The norms and standards are those contained in the wealth of international treaties and declarations.

For more information on a rights-based approach, its principles and elements, visit the Human Rights in Development website.

Source: Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights - Geneva, Switzerland

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Women acquire rights to fish ponds on government lands in Bangladesh

Two consultants who were involved in the implementation of the IFAD-funded Oxbow Lakes Small‑Scale Fishermen Project (1989-1997) returned to the project in 2002 and 2008. Interested in finding out how the women beneficiaries were doing, Dev Nathan and Niah Ahmed Apu revisited some of the lake and pond groups

The Oxbow Lakes Small‑Scale Fishermen Project was supported by IFAD, Danida and the Government of Bangladesh. One project component was the acquisition of user rights to fish ponds on government lands by women belonging to Fish Farming Groups (FFGs).


Women fishing in their group pond


How did the project start? Fish ponds on private lands are equivalent to property with respect to agricultural and homestead land. As far as women’s economic right to own property is concerned, the Islamic (Hanafi) law does grant daughters a share of parental property. But in practice this inheritance is rarely acquired. Women themselves, requiring the support of natal kin in the fairly frequent event of the breakdown of marriage, rarely press for their share of parental land. Women who do seek to secure their legal rights face both familial and social pressures due to their lack of power in their traditional social system. Consequently, what actually prevails in the villages is what has been termed the “Bengali law of inheritance”, which seeks to retain land within the patrilineage.

The fish ponds that the project helped to excavate were not on private land. They were on silted portions of lakes, which are government (or khas)land. There is no clear law on the settlement of government lands (including lakes). As lakes they were leased out by auction. But the silted portions were usually occupied by those with adjacent private lands or, more frequently, by those with power. Frequent and often bloody conflicts occurred over the possession of these government lands, and those who had the ability to mobilize force usually held sway. The poorer people lost out, and women did not even exist in the process.

It should be mentioned that rights to government lands are only user rights, i.e. the right to manage the resource and to enjoy the surplus from its use, but do not include the right to alienate or sell the resource, which would exist in the case of private land.


Women fishing in their group pond


IFAD’s Oxbow Lakes Project began to lease out lakes to groups of poor people living nearby. Initially the project design contemplated transferring the rights to ponds to the same groups of fishers who had lake fishing rights. But given that these fishing rights had themselves resulted in substantial increases in income of the men concerned, discussions shifted to ways of increasing the numbers of beneficiaries. Moreover, there was concern that the project was completely male-centered. Since it would be difficult to include women in the main lake fishing activities, attention turned to pond fishing – an activity that could be relatively easily carried out by women, although it was quite novel to women at the time.

If pond fishing as an activity for women was novel, the transfer of government lands to women was virtually unheard of. IFAD and Danida pointed out that such a move to grant women user rights to government lands was in line with the government’s overall policy of promoting gender equality. The relevant ministries/departments of the Government of Bangladesh agreed to it.

Opposition to the handover of ponds to women came from two groups of men:

  • members of Lake Management Groups (LMGs) who had been given lease rights over lake fishing
  • better-off men living in the village who were used to monopolizing government-owned resources.

However, in a number of cases these obstacles were overcome through frequent meetings with male members of the LMGs and village authorities.

The women were given user rights to the ponds, which were renewable for a period of 10-50 years at a time. The transfer of user rights on government-owned land to poor women is a form of redistributive land reform, and the importance of women being given these rights cannot be undervalued.

Another step to be taken was the actual management of pond fishing operations by the women. Facilitation by project officials, including those of the Department of Fisheries, and training on relevant systems of pond aquaculture, enabled women to effectively take up the various pond fishing operations.

In several cases, the project formed joint pond groups of men and women. But the women complained that the men monopolized the important functions such as buying fingerlings and selling harvested fish. Subsequently, groups were formed of just women.

A study conducted by the two consultants in 1998 noted that women took up most functions, except for harvesting fish, for which they did not have the necessary nets, and serving as night guards, which was done by men from their families. But the women were able to interact confidently with officials and traders. They were aware of the independence and higher income-earning capacity they were acquiring.

Taslima’s story

In 1996, Taslima had just married and moved to her husband’s house. She was the youngest of all the women who belonged to an FFG formed by the project in the village of Hamidpur. Taslima’s interest in building an asset for herself inspired many other women to join the project. With the income she earned from producing fish, she first bought a goat. By 2002, she managed to increase her stock to four goats and three cows. She earned additional income by selling goats and milk.

In 2008, Taslima moved from her father-in-law’s house to her own house, which is close to the dike of the pond that the group of five women operate. The 28 decimal (about 0.1 hectare) homestead land has been registered jointly in her and her husband’s name. She is now a mother of three children, two of whom are at school. Taslima increased her livestock to 22 goats and six cows. In the last three years she received about Tk.12,000 (US$ 175) from pond fishing.

Taslima’s husband proudly admits that all this would not have been possible without his wife having access rights to the pond.

Source: Dev Nathan and Niaz Ahmed Apu, Bangladesh

Women compelled to lease out the ponds

In some villages, ponds were leased out, even when women had legal user rights. How and why did this happen?


A woman participating in a training on fish culture


When the project ended, there was an intense conflict over control of the ponds. All of the women managing the ponds belonged to very poor families. Many of them were single, abandoned by their husbands, or widows. Standing up against the men of the LMGs and the village elite was difficult. In Bukbara and Bahadurpur, some women’s groups were compelled to lease out the ponds to locally influential people. In Porapara, women leased out the ponds to the LMG itself. In most cases, in 2002, women only received BDT 1,000 (US$ 14) per year for leasing the ponds while the net income from carrying out fish culture on these ponds would have been about BDT 4,000 (US$ 58) per pond per year. That the women in every case were able to establish some form of legal right is borne out by the fact that even where they did not carry out fish culture, they nevertheless received a share in the form of an informal lease fee, which acknowledged their legal right to possess the property.

Political commitment as a key to success


Women participating in one of the fish culture training sessions


In Bangladesh, the party that wins the national elections often assumes that it has a right to the spoils. This results in pressure to change lists of pond (and lake) users or looting by party supporters. Fortunately, this did not happen after the recent election. One hopes that 15 years of struggle have led to women’s rights being more settled and acceptable in the local community. 

What is clear is that the lack of political commitment, rather than economic weakness, forces women to lease out their ponds on relatively unfavourable terms. When it comes to women’s rights to ponds, two issues are particularly important:

  • ‘good governance’ in the form of transparent functioning of state institutions, particularly political parties
  • setting up of norms of economic functioning based on access to resources (ponds in this case) according  to law at the micro-level, rather than the deployment of non-market forces of local elites and gangs.

Should we just wait until good governance has been instituted in Bangladesh before attempting a redistribution of productive assets to poor women? The fact that women could establish their user rights in about two-thirds of government ponds (57 out of 86 ponds) certainly shows that it is possible to transfer user rights on government land to women, even in the relatively difficult situation of Bangladesh. But the fact that women could not establish their user rights on the remaining third shows that something more needs to be done to increase the rate of success.

Dev Nathan, IFAD Consultant and Niaz Ahmed Apu, Knowledge Facilitator for Bangladesh

Read more:

  • Improving benefits for poor, landless fishers, Bangladesh
  • Nathan, Dev and Niaz Ahmed Apu, 1998, “Women’s Independent Access to Productive Resources: Fish Ponds in the Oxbow Lakes Project,” in Gender, Technology and Development, 2(3): 397-413.
  • Oxbow Lakes Small-Scale Fishermen Project
  • Rahman, Md. Mahbubar and William van Schenkel, 1997, “Gender and Inheritance of Land: Living Law in Bangladesh,” in Jan Breman, Peter Kloos and Ashwani Saith, (eds), The Village in Asia Revisited, Oxford University Press, Delhi.

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Making rights real: securing land-forest rights for tribal people in India


A farmer demonstrating the use of a simple tool that removes weeds and moves the soil, creating organic matter and airing the plan roots (Jharkhand, India)


Tribal communities in India, also called Adivasi (first/ancient inhabitants), comprise some of the most marginalized people in India.This is despite special rights guaranteed to them in the Constitution of India as well as a number of tribal development programmes that the government has implemented. Securing their rights, particularly their right to socio-economic development and their socio-cultural distinctiveness, remains largely ineffective and unfulfilled for many tribal groups. Through two programmes, IFAD is working with the Government of India to address tribal rights, especially the right to land.

The Indian Constitution guarantees six fundamental rights to every citizen:

  • The right to equality – social equality, equal access to public areas, and equality in matters of public employment
  • The right to freedom of speech and expression, freedom to move freely throughout the territory of India, freedom to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India, and freedom to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business
  • The right against exploitation – with the abolition of human trafficking for the purpose of slave trade, prostitution and begging or forced labour, and  employment of children below the age of 14 years
  • The right to freedom of religion – every citizen is free to preach, practice and propagate any religion of his/her choice; religious communities can also set up charitable institutions of their own
  • cultural and educational rights – no citizen can be discriminated against for admission in state or state-aided institutions; any religious or linguistic minorities can set up their own educational institutions in order to preserve and develop their culture
  • right to constitutional remedies – any citizen can revert to a court of law should any of the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution be denied.

While tribal people represent only 8 per cent of the Indian population, they have the highest proportion of poor people in the country.

Tribal people

Tribal people are a specific group of indigenous people in India whose status is acknowledged to some formal degree by national legislation. The Constitution of India has listed or scheduled a total of 645 distinct groups as tribals or tribes (hence, also termed “Scheduled Tribes”). They have their own distinct culture, tradition, language and lifestyle. They live in relative geographic isolation.

The Government of India has been allocating a significant amount of resources for tribal development. But the impact remains rather limited, and the investment benefits only a small minority of tribal people. This is because the approach used by the government has focused more on welfare development rather than empowerment.

Over the years, IFAD has been focusing on Adivasi communities as one of its priority groups through several programmes in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa, and in the North-eastern regions. At present,  two IFAD-supported tribal development and empowerment programmes are being implemented:

  • Jharkhand-Chhattisgarh Tribal Development Programme (JCTDP)
  • Orissa Tribal Empowerment and Livelihoods Programme (OTELP).

More than 50 per cent of people living in the programme areas are tribal people. The programmes are designed to address the issues of tribal rights, particularly the right to land, including rights of women and landless people to own land. The programmes also work to improve livelihood support systems, and respond to the challenges arising from a lack of basic needs, infrastructure, resources and governance.

Land has been a central question in the contestation for rights in most tribal areas, particularly on issues of land alienation. A major cause of land alienation is by acquisition of tribal land for industrial development such as mining and hydroelectric power projects.


Women beneficiaries, Chattisgarh, India


Industrial development has displaced large populations, of which nearly 40 per cent are tribal people. In addition, with the enactment of forest laws, many tribals who have been living on forest land for generations have became ‘encroachers’ as their rights were not settled. In 2006, the Government of India approved the ‘Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act, 2006. Also called ‘Forest Rights Act’ (FRA), it addresses the rights of forest-dwelling communities to land and other resources that were denied to them over decades as a result of prevailing forest laws in India. The Act grants four types of rights:

  • title rights – the right to live in the forest under individual or common occupation for habitation or for self-cultivation for livelihoods (ownership to land that is being farmed or cultivated by tribals or forest dwellers as of December 13, 2005, subject to a maximum of 4 hectares per family)
  • use rights – primarily access to, or use or disposal of, forest products (also including ownership), to grazing areas, to pastoralist routes, to traditional seasonal resource access, etc.
  • relief and development rights to rehabilitation in case of illegal eviction or forced displacement and to basic amenities
  • forest management rights to continue to protect, regenerate, conserve or manage any community forest resource.

When the FRA was approved, IFAD began working with the state governments to help implement it effectively as well as to secure the desired benefits. In this regard, JCTDP and OTELP engage in the following:

  • raising awareness of communities and peoples’ institutions on various provisions of the act
  • facilitating the establishment of Forest Rights Committees (FRCs) in programme villages. (FRCs are comprised of the institutions formed by villagers known as Gram Panchayats, and assist in the preparation/receipt/verification of claim applications for forest rights at the village level)
  • helping FRCs understand how to access and secure rights to forest land
  • assisting in the preparation and submission of claims for recognition and vesting rights over forest land being formed or cultivated under the FRA
  • lobbying with the sub-divisional and district committees involved in accelerating claim application processing and allotment of land.

In addition to securing land rights under the FRA, OTELP cooperates with the Revenue Department of the Government of Orissa in identifying and surveying government revenue land that can be allotted to landless people. About 27 per cent of the households in OTELP communities are landless people. To accelerate the processes of land survey and allotment, OTELP is also procuring land survey equipment to be used by the Revenue Department.

The process of land allotment is a continuous task in the programme areas of JCTDP and OTELP. Two of the indicators for programme success are the numbers of landless families or households that have been allotted revenue land and the number of families securing land rights under the FRA.  


Women beneficiaries, Chattisgarh, India


Although the process of securing land rights is slow, theinitiatives taken for securing land rights are yielding some results. For example, 2,685 landless households in Orissa and 132 in Jharkhand have been allotted revenue land for agricultural purpose. The numbers of households allotted forest land under FRA in Chhattisgarh is 3,926 (out of 4,122 claim applications submitted from the programme areas so far). As many as 156 of these allotments are in the name of women. In Orissa, OTELP has facilitated the preparation of 8,696 applications from the programme areas for claiming land rights under the FRA.

The allotment of land to landless people from the revenue land and under the FRA brought various benefits, including:

  • creation of a tangible asset base in the name of men and women (or husband and wife)
  • enhanced social standing as an owner of land
  • sense of security in times of distress and disaster
  • improved household food security, which in turn enables households to engage in other income-generating activities
  • decreased seasonal migration due to distress situations as there is land to cultivate
  • reduced conflicts between the landless and the landowners on whose land they cultivated crops on a share-cropping basis
  • improved relationships with members of the Forest Department, who no longer view them as encroachers.

Most significantly, land has been allocated in the names of women, establishing their right to own land and property, even thought this is not easily recognized or accepted in traditional tribal and rural societies.

Based on the experiences of JCTDP and OTELP in securing land rights for landless people, two critical areas require further attention:

  • The Act should not only recognize individual rights over forest land but also community rights. Currently, all claims are for individual rights. There is a need to encourage and assist communities in ‘community claims’.
  • There is an urgent need to improve the quality and productivity of allotted land, since many of these lands have low fertility.

Strengthening of land rights, particularly ‘community rights’, under the FRA, would indeed be one of the practical ways to respond to the impacts of climate change in many tribal areas of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Orissa – in particular, decreasing rainfall and increasing incidence of drought, which are affecting agricultural activities beyond forest regeneration.
Securing ‘community rights’ over forest products, particularly non-timber forest products (NTFPs), would encourage communities to protect forest in order to ensure a sustainable income. Improved forest protection measures would also benefit the agricultural land in the low-lying areas.

Vincent Darlong, IFAD-ICO, New Delhi
Deepak Mohanty, Programme Director, OTELP, Orissa
S.K. Singh, State Programme Director, CTDP, Raipur
Prakash Oraon, State Programme Director, JTDP, Ranchi

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From paper to practice:  promoting and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples in the Philippines


Coalition of Manobo customary law holders and professionals. The young man and a women (standing) in front of the customary law holder symbolize unity of the tribe


The Philippines’ Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (or IPRA Law) was promulgated in October 1997. The law protects the indigenous peoples’ rights to self-governance, self-determination, social justice, and protection and preservation of indigenous knowledge, systems and practices (IKSP). To promote and protect their rights to self-governance and self-determination, indigenous peoples have embarked on the formulation of their Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development and Protection Plan (ADSDPP). One IFAD-supported project is helping Filipino tribes formulate their ADSDPP.

The ADSDPP is a binding document containing four parts:

  • Ancestral Domain Database –  including the history of the tribe, ancestral domain and community situations, cultural heritage and IKSP, the indigenous justice system and customary laws, an inventory of basic services, programmes and projects, and development needs and challenges
  • Development Framework –  including the vision, mission, goals, objectives, development strategies and approaches, and major programmes and projects
  • Investment Plan – including long-, medium- and short-term sustainable development plans, and an annual development plan
  • Implementation Policies and Mechanisms – including an ancestral domain management structure, monitoring and evaluation systems and an enabling resolution (which provides the mechanics for implementation).

The document is prepared by the majority of the tribal households and elders, together with supporting agencies and institutions. The investment plan section of the ADSDPP is adopted by local government units and integrated into the Barangay (Village) Development Plan. The investment plan is also integrated into the Municipal Development Plan, which then becomes the source for the preparation of the Annual Investment Plan of the barangay and the municipality for resource or budget allocation.

When the IFAD-supported Northern Mindanao Community Initiatives and Resource Management Project (NMCIREMP) started in 2003, ancestral domain areas did not have any ADSDPPs because the indigenous peoples in the area did not know how to formulate them. The absence of an ADSDPP resulted in a long disenfranchisement of indigenous peoples from any forms of resources, since they did not have any development plans and were thus inadequately recorded in government registry books.

Since the project was launched, the scenario has been changing. The project, along with local government units and the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), has been helping indigenous peoples formulate their the ADSPP, thus making them visible in government plans. This has been coupled with the IPRA Law establishing the necessary legal instrument. Through the capacity-building efforts of the project, indigenous peoples have been ‘re-awakened’ and have started claiming what they lost through the many years of government failure to recognize their rights and IKSP.

The positive impacts of the ADSDPP on human rights are significant. Here are a few glimpses of what the tribes have expressed:

Common principles – a binding force

The ADSDPP includes principles agreed upon by all members of the tribe and which can be invoked by any tribal member when necessary. A girl member of one tribe refused her father’s decision to have her marry a man he had chosen because she was only 14 years old. Her refusal was only possible because the tribe’s ADSDPP states that women and children/youth have a right to express their views and opinions. The incident reached the Department of Social Welfare and ultimately the girl was not given in marriage to the man her father had chosen.

Culturally sensitive approaches

The ADSDPP includes a provision for indigenous cultural approaches and traditions, IKSP, and tribal policies defining implementation of their investment plan. A tribe needed a school that would be anchored in their cultural practices and traditions, and responsive to their needs for education based on tribal perspectives. The Department of Education in the Municipality of Impasug-ong declared that, based on the ADSDPP, it would mainstream and accredit the curriculum of the School of Indigenous Knowledge, Arts and Traditions.

Locally developed investment plans

The ADSDPP includes a provision for an investment plan in which tribes need to  articulate the type, purpose and location of investment needed in specific ancestral domain sites. Before any land-use planning is undertaken, the ADSDPP has already incorporated the location of particular investments needed. For example, farm-to-market roads were built in appropriate locations because they had been pinpointed in their ADSDPP.

Raising awareness, lowering discrimination


Customary law holders of Higaunon tribe discussing traditional laws and agreements on self-governance with the other tribes


When the history of a tribe and its IKSP are incorporated into the ADSDPP, certain misconceptions about the tribe are rectified. For example, the entitlement of the rank of “Datu” or tribal leader was a title coined by non-indigenous peoples and was discovered not to be the traditional title. Hence, the IKSP in the ADSDPP corrected this and a more culture-appropriate language was put in place.

The incorporation of the customary laws into the ADSDPP created awareness among non-indigenous peoples, which resulted in a reduction in discrimination and conflict with respect to indigenous peoples’ traditional systems and practices For example, one of the Department of Education District Supervisors stationed in Impasug-ong initially questioned why students did not answer respond to him when he asked them the name of their father. Through the ADSDPP he soon learned that customary law forbids the children to utter the name of their father, which is a highly revered name, especially if the father is of a noble rank.

Participation and trust


Customary law holders of Banuwaon tribe clarifying and revitalizing their customary laws on governance


The activities leading to the formulation of the ADSDPP engaged a large majority of indigenous peoples’ households. This active participation helped clarify the identity of genuine traditional leaders. When customary laws were discussed, it was soon discovered that the indigenous peoples’ leaders chosen by the government were not the genuine leaders as they could not elaborate on  their customary laws. The genuine leaders emerged and were recognized and accepted by the government. When the government began to work with leaders respected by the tribe, the trust on the part of indigenous peoples grew: the number of customary law holders who have been coming from their ancestral domain areas and joining government-initiated activities has increased significantly. 

The ADSDPP has become a tribal ‘constitution’ for indigenous peoples, a binding document which will uphold, protect and promote their human rights; preserve their ways of living; and ensure their rights to self-governance and self-determination.

Virginia O. Verora, Community Development/Gender Specialist and Chief of Operations, Northern Mindanao Community Initiatives and Resource Management Project 

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Strengthening women’s rights to land – the first Asia regional gathering of pastoralist women


Pastoralists in Chitrakoot district, Uttar Pradesh (India)


Despite being well-adapted to the drylands environmentin which they live, pastoralists are among the most vulnerable people in many countries. In drylands, pastoralism is often not only the best way to manage natural resources, but also the only way to make a living from the land. Pastorals play a positive role in natural resource management. However, this role is undermined by inappropriate policies and strong competition over resources. Pastoralist women are further marginalized by their limited ability to make decisions within their societies, and to date their participation in global pastoralist initiatives and gatherings has been minimal.

To contribute to the empowerment of pastoralist women and promote their equal participation in decision making within their communities and local government, and in regional and global pastoralist initiatives, the Maldhari Rural Action Group (MARAG) is applying for an IFAD grant. MARAG will use the funds to organize the First Asia Regional Gathering of Pastoralist Women, to be held in the state of Gujarat (India) in early 2010.

The regional gathering seeks recognition of the contribution women make to pastoral livelihoods and their role in sustainable resource management.

The gathering, with an estimated 100 participants from countries throughout Asia, will provide an opportunity for pastoralist women to exchange experiences, discuss their needs and jointly identify how to face challenges to their equal participation in decision making. The gathering will contribute to their empowerment by strengthening their organizational and leadership capacities and creating linkages between organizations and individuals. This is a highly “process-oriented” event in which the preparatory meetings and support to pastoralist women representatives from communities is at least as important as the gathering itself.


Pastoralists in Chitrakoot district, Uttar Pradesh (India)


MARAG, a voluntary organization established in 1994, works to educate, organize and empower the Maldharis – a marginalized community practicing animal rearing in Gujarat. In 2007-08, MARAG participated in an international study and workshop on Organization of Pastoralists to Defend their Land Rights organized by the World Initiative for Sustainable Pastoralism (WISP) and supported by the International Land Coalition (ILC). The study documented advocacy for sustainable rangeland management. Building on this study, MARAG approached WISP and ILC to be partners in developing the idea of a gathering of pastoralist women and to support its implementation.

IFAD recognizes the important role that pastoralist women play and is supporting several projects that are working with pastoral communities in Asia and other regions. In collaboration with the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), IFAD is providing two research grants to promote the recognition of the key contribution of pastoralist women to livestock production and processing. The grants aim to rehabilitate the livelihoods of rural women living in marginal areas, including women pastoralists in Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Sabine Pallas, Programme Officer Women’s Access to Land, International Land Coalition

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Women produce mohair yarn and enhance their rights in Tajikistan


Visit the website


Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, rural women in Northern Tajikistan have rights to equal treatment under law, liberty, freedom of movement, freedom of opinion, ownership of property, education and equal pay, among others. In practice, however, their rights are restricted by conservative culture and poverty.

Unlike their husbands, brothers and sons, Tajik women are constrained by conservative social norms from travelling freely, working outside of their communities, receiving education and training, socializing with strangers or even joining men in an open discussion of issues that concern the household and the family. They are expected to be obedient, subservient and focused on childcare and household duties. 

Most women in Tajikistan also have few earning opportunities and depend on their husbands and male relatives for their livelihood. This situation brings to the fore the discrepancy between the rights outlined in the Declaration and the limited rights that Tajik women, as well as women in many other countries and communities, can exercise in their daily lives. The question then becomes how to translate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into actions that promote specific cultural and economic changes and in the process increase women’s rights. 

The IFAD grant project Community Action in Integrated and Market Oriented Feed-Livestock Production in Central and South Asia, implemented by ICARDA in Tajikistan and other countries, is promoting women’s rights by helping increase their access to skills, information, global markets and income. The three-year project (2006-2009) is training groups of women to produce high-priced, luxury mohair yarns and knitted products for export and works on developing marketing channels for these products. The women can spin and knit in their homes, whenever they have free time, and use locally produced mohair. In this way, they can earn income without compromising their household and family obligations, thus avoiding potential conflicts with their husbands and other family members. 

Based on realistic estimates, a proficient spinner will be able to earn about US$ 240 per month (nearly US$ 3,000 per year) from producing luxury mohair yarns and products for the American and European markets. This is considerable in a country with a per capita income of US$ 60 per month.   

The sales of yarn and products will not only provide much needed income for the women and their families but will also increase the women’s status within their households and communities. Higher status and greater earning power can increase women’s self-confidence and encourage them to demand and negotiate for more rights and freedoms for themselves and also for their daughters. 

If enough women in a community manage to improve their skills, earnings and status, and demonstrate that they can successfully compete in the global marketplace, the perception of women is likely to change, leading to greater respect and rights for women at the community level.

Liba Brent, Project Coordinator, International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA)

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Martina Spisiakova
Tel: 3906-54592295

Making a Difference in Asia and the Pacific

Issue 24: January-February 2009
Country responses to the food crisis

Issue 23: November-December 2008
Public-private-people partnership

Special issue: October 2008
Supporting agricultural research through grants

Issue 22: August 2008

Issue 21: June-July 2008
Food security in the context of increasing commodity prices

Issue 20: January-February 2008
Rural infrastructure

Issue 19: January-February 2008
Rural finance

Issue 18: December 2007

Issue 17: September-October 2007

Issue 16: June-July 2007
Managing risks and reducing vulnerability to natural hazards

Issue 15:
March/April 2007

Energy for sustainable development

Issue 14: January/February 2007 - Sustainable natural resource management

Issue 13: November/December 2006 - PBAS: looking beyond the resource allocation system

Issue 12: September/October 2006 - Communication for poverty reduction and rural development

Issue 11: July/August 2006 - Working with UN agencies at the country level

Issue 10: May/June 2006 - Indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities

Issue 9: March/April 2006 - Access to land

Issue 8: January/February 2006 - Agricultural Technology Management

Issue 7: November/December 2005 - Pro-poor policies

Issue 6: September/October 2005 - Gender & MDGs

Issue 5: July/August 2005 - Partnership

Issue 4: May/June 2005 - Rural Finance

Issue 3: March/ April 2005 - Donor Harmonization

Issue 2: January/ February 2005

Issue 1: November/ December 2004

Upcoming events and missions:

The 96th Session of IFAD Executive Board, 29-30 April 2009, Rome

The following projects/programmes in the Asia and the Pacific Division will seek the Executive Board’s approval:

Afghanistan: Rural Microfinance and Livestock Support Programme

China: Sichuan Post-Earthquake Agricultural Rehabilitation Project

India: Convergence of Agricultural Interventions in Maharashtra’s Distressed Districts Programme

Pakistan: Country Strategic Opportunities Programme (COSOP)


Concept mission – Protecting and Enhancing Livelihoods on Newly Accreted Charland, late April – May 2009

Loan negotiations – Participatory Small-Scale Water Resources Development Project, 18-22 May 2009


Detailed design missionMarket Access and Growth Intensification Project, 15 May – 5 June 2009


Joint ADB/IFAD second fact-finding mission – Tonle Sap Poverty Reduction and Smallholder Development Project, April 2009

Annual review – COSOP, May 2009

Implementation follow-up mission – Community-Based Rural Development Project in Kampong Thom and Kampot, May 2009

Implementation follow-up mission – Rural Livelihoods Improvement Project in Kratie and Ratanakiri, May 2009

Implementation follow-up mission – Rural Poverty Reduction Project in Prey Veng and Svay Rieng, May 2009


Logframe and Annual Work Plan and Budget training – Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region Rural Advancement Programme, 16-30 April 2009

Start-up workshop and training – Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region Modular Rural Development Programme, 7-15 May 2009

Mid-term review – Environment Conservation and Poverty Reduction Programme in Ningxia and Shanxi 11 May – 6 June

Supervision mission – Rural Finance Sector Programme in Shaanxi and Chongqing, 19-30 May 2009

Final design mission – Dabieshan Area Poverty Reduction Programme, 25 June – 11 July 2009


Gender Core Group Meeting, 14-16 April 2009

India portfolio review workshop led by the Department of Economic Affairs, 17 April 2009

Procurement training, 19-21 April 2009

Start-up workshop – Mitigating Poverty in Western Rajasthan, May 2009

Project completion workshop – National Microfinance Support Programme, June 2009

Implementation support mission – Jharkhand Tribal Development Programme, 5-7 June 2009

Seminar on Adivasis (tribal communities), 7-10 June 2009

Join review mission – Chhattisgarh Tribal Development Programme, 12-25 June 2009


Start-up mission – National Programme for Community Empowerment, June 2009

Concept mission – Smallholder Agriculture Productivity Improvement Programme in Eastern Indonesia, June 2009


Supervision mission – Southern Federally Administered Tribal Areas Development Project, May 2009

Supervision mission – Community Development Programme, May 2009

Supervision mission – Programme for Increasing Sustainability and Outreach in Microfinance, June 2009

Project completion mission – Northern Areas Development Project, June 2009

Country programme review, June 2009


Fact-finding mission – Integrated Natural Resources Management Programme,
15-24 April 2009

Annual country programme review,
4-8 May 2009

Field trip – Northern Mindanao Community Initiatives and Resource Management Project,
11-17 May 2009

KM awareness workshop, 1-5 June 2009

Philippines and Sri Lanka

Negotiations of IFAD grant – Medium-term Collaboration Programme with Farmers' Organizations in the Asia and the Pacific Region, Bangkok (Thailand),
12-13 May 2009

Sri Lanka

Design mission – National Agribusiness Development Programme, 4-25 May 2009

Knowledge management awareness workshop, 1-3 June 2009

Mid-term review – Dry Zone Livelihood Support and Partnership Programme, 8-20 June 2009

Viet Nam

Supervision mission – Decentralized Programme for Rural Poverty Reduction in Ha Giang, 30 March – 9 April 2009

Supervision mission – Decentralized Programme for Rural Poverty Reduction in Quang Binh Provinces, 12-20 April 2009

Supervision mission – Programme for Improving Market Participation of the Poor in Ha Tinh, 4-12 May 3009

Supervision mission – Programme for Improving Market Participation of the Poor in Tra Vinh, 12-22 May 2009

Supervision mission – Programme for Developing Business with the Rural Poor (Ben Tre), 25 May – 2 June 2009

Supervision mission – Programme for Developing Business with the Rural Poor (Cao Bang), 8-17 June 2009


About IFAD

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is a specialized agency of the United Nations, dedicated to eradicating poverty and hunger in developing countries. Its work in remote rural areas of the world helps countries achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Through low-interest loans and grants, IFAD develops and finances projects that enable rural poor people to overcome poverty themselves.

IFAD tackles poverty not just as a lender, but as an advocate for the small farmers, herders, fisherfolk, landless workers, artisans and indigenous peoples who live in rural areas and represent 75 per cent of the world's 1.2 billion extremely poor people. IFAD works with governments, donors, non-governmental organizations, local communities and many other partners to fight the underlying causes of rural poverty. It acts as a catalyst, bringing together partners, resources, knowledge and policies that create the conditions in which rural poor people can increase agricultural productivity, as well as seek out other options for earning income.

IFAD-supported rural development programmes and projects increase rural poor people's access to financial services, markets, technology, land and other natural resources.

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