Rural Echoes in Near East and North Africa IFAD

Issue number 6: December 2008/February 2009

Opening remarks by the Director of the Near East and North Africa Division

During 2008, oil price fluctuations, the food crisis and, at year-end, the financial crisis have all taken their toll on the economy of the Near East and North Africa (NENA) region and on the livelihoods of its people. The food crisis has slowed poverty reduction efforts by several years, but has also generated greater awareness of, and new international political will to address, the need for larger investments in agriculture and food production. This is reflected in the outcomes of the High-Level Conference on World Food Security held at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome on 3-5 June and the Follow-up International Conference on Financing for Development held in Doha from 29 November to 2 December. Both conferences affirmed that far more needed to be invested in the agricultural sector than ever before in order to face the challenges posed by the food crisis, which in 2007 alone had generated an additional 75 million undernourished people worldwide, bringing their total number to about  923 million. 

In NENA, where the great majority of countries depend heavily on food imports, ensuring that food is available at affordable prices has become a top priority for policymakers and investors alike. With only 36 per cent of its 198 million hectares of arable land actually cultivated, the region has the potential to increase its own food production severalfold, provided that it takes appropriate steps to tackle a number of challenges, most important of which is water scarcity.

IFAD-funded projects in the region have traditionally focused on helping small farmers adapt to their environment in order to improve their living conditions. Future challenges include adaptation to climate change and linkages to increasingly demanding and interconnected markets. How to face these and other challenges was debated at length at IFAD’s Near East and North Africa Division retreat in October 2008. An objective of the retreat was to identify a medium-term vision for IFAD action in the region, one that was in line with expected regional trends. The retreat also afforded an opportunity to agree on a stronger divisional set-up with a sharper focus on regional priorities and greater capacity to increase field presence; capture, manage and share knowledge, innovation and best practices; and promote an entrepreneurial spirit among staff to further project pipeline development. The results of the retreat, highlighted in this issue of Rural Echoes, will guide the division’s work, enabling it to respond to the needs of the agricultural sector in the region. Moving forward, IFAD is determined to assist countries of the region in redefining the role of agriculture as an engine of growth, food security, rural poverty reduction and natural resources management.

Nadim Khouri
Director, Near East and North Africa Division

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IFAD President visits Qatar for the second time in 2008, and participates in the Follow-up International Conference on Financing for Development in Doha


President Båge (second left) talking to UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon (third left) during the side event.


An IFAD delegation headed by President Lennart Båge visited Qatar from 29 November to 2 December 2008 to participate in the Follow-up International Conference on Financing for Development and hold talks with Qatari officials. 

In a joint statement on behalf of FAO, the World Food Programme (WFP) and IFAD, President Båge called for urgent measures to be taken to reduce the risk that the current financial crisis could slow capital flows to developing countries. The statement examined progress on pledges made in the Monterrey Consensus, and the impact aid could have on rural development. It highlighted the need for greater capital flows to agriculture in low-income developing countries, pointing out that official development assistance could serve as a catalyst for private investment in agriculture and food production. Similarly, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called upon rich donor countries to invest US$30 billion annually in developing-county agriculture to help meet the challenges of the current food crisis and reduce poverty.

Speaking at the end of a side event, organized jointly by the three Rome-based United Nations food agencies, on “tackling the food and hunger crisis: investing in food security, safety nets and smallholder agriculture,” the Secretary-General pointed out that an additional 75 million people had become undernourished in 2007. He underlined the need to support smallholder farmers for the next cropping season. A panel of high-level officials, co-chaired by the Prime Ministers of Mozambique, H.E. Luisa Dias Diogo, and Swaziland, H.E. Absalom Themba Dlamini, addressed the side event, which was jointly moderated by President Båge and FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf, with John Powell, Deputy Executive Director of WFP, acting as the rapporteur. Panellists included H.E. Peter Power, Minister of State for Overseas Development of Ireland; H.E. Soraya Rodriguez Ramos, Secretary of State for International Cooperation of Spain; Stefano Manservisi, Director-General for Development of the European Commission; and Nancy Birdsall, President, Center for Global Development.


President Båge (left) talking to H.E. Al-Midhadhi, Minister for the Environment.


During his stay in Doha, President Båge was received by Her Highness Shaikha Mozah, Chairperson of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, and H.E. Abdullah bin Mubarak bin Aaboud Al-Midhadhi, Minister for the Environment.  The talks focused on means of enhancing cooperation between IFAD and Qatar in a number of areas of common interest. They also touched on the ongoing Consultation on the Eighth Replenishment of IFAD’s Resources, the preparations for the forthcoming session of the Fund’s Governing Council, and the inauguration of the new IFAD headquarters in February 2009. The inauguration ceremony will include the opening of IFAD’s new information centre sponsored by the State of Qatar and renamed the Qatar Information Centre. H.E. Al-Midhadhi and President Båge also discussed various other operational issues, including:

President Båge concluded the discussions by commending Qatar for its continued support to IFAD and expressing satisfaction with their consolidated partnership and cooperation in the fight against hunger and rural poverty in developing countries.

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Regional themes

IFAD’s regional response to the food prices crisis lays emphasis on short- and medium-term assistance to small farmers


One of many poor rural women who managed to start their own micro enterprises with the help of an IFAD supported project in Latakia region, Syria.


Despite increased production in 2007 and 2008 (forecast), food and commodity prices in the mostly imports-dependent NENA markets are still much higher than in pre-2006 periods. It is not yet clear to what extent the production rise affected the Arab imports bill in 2007. In 2006, however, the bill had risen sharply as a result of soaring food prices and farm supply shortages.

According to the Arab Organization for Agricultural Development (AOAD), the value of food imports jumped to nearly US$39.7 billion in 2006 compared with US$23.3 billion in 2005. The incremental Arab food gap (the difference between farm imports and exports) has exceeded US$200 billion over the past 15 years. Much of this has been attributed to the region’s extremely dry environment and scarce water resources.

Yet, because of the low level of public and private-sector investment, the Arab Authority for Agricultural Investment and Development has calculated that only 36% percent of the estimated 198 million hectares of arable land is used – and even within that low percentage, farming efficiency does not exceed 60 per cent of the world efficiency level. This means the Arab world is facing a real problem not only because of its low exploitation of available arable areas but also because of low efficiency in the cultivated land and its productivity.

Cereal crop production, which is mainly rainfed, has very low productivity in NENA. For example, wheat, the preferred crop (occupying 29 per cent of the total cropped area), has average yields of 2.26 tonnes per hectare. This is 22 per cent lower than the world average and results mainly from the nature of the farming systems, which suffer from water scarcity, poor soils, and inadequate management practices, infrastructure and know-how. Productivity improvement in the agriculture sector is therefore crucial to increasing the food security of millions of poor rural people who depend mainly on agriculture for their livelihoods.

In fact, the food gap is set to grow further in the coming years unless effective efforts are made to curb imports through various short- and medium- to long-term investments in agriculture that would ensure a substantially higher degree of food self-sufficiency. In the short term, it is essential to help farmers increase food production for the next cropping season. In the medium and long term, a steady increase in investments in agricultural development, particularly in the smallholder sector, is crucial to achieving a substantial and sustainable level of food security.

Higher food prices represent both opportunities and challenges for poor rural people. The higher cost of food can set back poverty reduction efforts by many years and devastate the livelihoods of poor people, many of whom spend as much as 80 per cent of their income on food. Poor people in rural areas are especially hard hit. And, despite the obvious opportunity that higher prices offer smallholder farmers to produce and sell more food stuff, most cannot benefit from this situation because of increasing climatic stress (droughts, water scarcity, flash floods, etc.), lack of access to the now more expensive inputs, limited access to markets, and underdeveloped rural infrastructure.

IFAD’s investments in the NENA region have traditionally focused on supporting the medium-term efforts of governments to increase food production and to help small farmers adapt to drought, water scarcity and climate change. Since 2006, and building on its past experience, IFAD has supported NENA countries in their efforts to address climate change and has fully integrated the objective of reducing vulnerability to climate change into the agricultural and rural development programmes it supports.

Moreover, IFAD has promoted agricultural investment options that reduce such vulnerability. It has accorded high priority to, among others, improved water demand management and water use efficiency, conservation and agroforestry technology, and agriculture diversification. It has also supported supply chain development, market linkages for water-efficient high-value crops, and rural financial services, thus enabling poor rural people to surmount barriers to adaptation measures.

Capacity-building for implementing these priorities and risk management strategies are essential dimensions of the Fund’s support to adaptation efforts. IFAD is also focusing attention on countries in the region that are specifically vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including Djibouti, the Sudan and Yemen. In addition, it is pursuing new opportunities to provide support to adaptation and mitigation in the entire region, not only through the projects and programmes it supports, but also within the framework of its technical assistance programme for agricultural research.

In this context, IFAD’s Near East and North Africa Division will sharpen its approaches towards more systematic, rather than ad-hoc, linkages of its strategic development priorities and interventions in facing the “triple scourge” of poverty, soaring food prices and climate change in both the near and more distance future.  

In the short term, the division will continue to make use of IFAD’s US$200 million initiative, launched in April 2008, to assist poor farmers that have been hardest hit by high food prices. The initiative consists of a loan reallocation facility designed to provide an immediate boost to agricultural production in low-income developing countries facing low food stocks. The facility allows for the reallocation of non-disbursed balances from existing loans and grants to meet the immediate needs of small farmers and thereby ensure higher production in the next cropping season. Farmers in the world’s poorest countries will therefore be able to rapidly increase their short-term agricultural output to help ease the impact of high import prices. The division has already used this facility as a short-term measure to address the crises in the Syrian Arab Republic and Yemen.

In the Syrian Arab Republic, the Government has established an agricultural support fund within the Ministry of Agriculture to assist small farmers and herders. IFAD has provided support for this initiative through the reallocation of funds from its loan for the Badea Rangelands Development Project. These funds will now cofinance some activities of direct benefit to small producers, such as the provision of improved seeds, fertilizers and feed for animals at an affordable price. The ultimate objective is to assist small farmers and herders in coping with soaring input prices so as to enhance food production and security at household and national levels.

In Yemen, the Government has reallocated – following IFAD’s approval – US$1.5 million of the long-term development resources of the Dhamar Participatory Rural Development Project to help small farmers maximize their production over the 2008-2009 cropping seasons. The initiative will start with the distribution of packages of improved seed and fertilizer in 133 villages, sufficient for the areas to be seeded with grain, forage, pulses, fruits and vegetables. The project will supply veterinary extension workers with equipment and medicine, provide fee-based veterinary services to livestock raisers, and use proceeds from the sale of medicines to create and manage revolving funds to ensure a continuing supply of medicine. It will also provide 76 village beekeeping extension workers with equipment and materials, centrifuges, drugs and hives to enable them to offer extension services and training to beekeepers. In addition, 45 savings and credit associations, already formed by poor rural women in 31 villages under the project, will receive capital grants of up to five times the amount of their savings. This will allow them to strengthen their loan operations and direct the loans towards investments in improved agricultural production, processing and marketing.

The initiative is expected to alleviate, during the coming months, the food problems that poor rural people are facing, both in terms of availability and high prices.  

In the medium and long term, IFAD’s interventions in the region will focus increasingly on improving the management of land and water resources, reducing vulnerability to water scarcity, and building resilience to climate change. With an annual 10 per cent increase in its work programme over the next five years, the division will also focus on expanding small farmers’ and rural communities’ access to rural finance, encouraging rural youth employment and linking small growers of non-traditional crops with domestic and international markets to generate added income.

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The First Arab Water Forum held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia paves the way for the development of a joint Arab Water Strategy


One of several dams in Taiz Governorate. IFADA’s interventions from 2000-2007 supported the construction of 75 dams, dykes and surface water reservoirs and provided safe drinking water to some 120,000 households.


Water scarcity was the main focus of the first Arab Water Forum and exhibition, held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, from 15-19 November 2008. The forum was held concurrently with the third International Conference on Water Resources and Arid Environments (2008). Both were inaugurated by His Royal Highness Prince Khaled Bin Sultan Al-Saud, Assistant Minister for Defence and Aviation and High Commissioner for Military Affairs.

In his opening statement, HH Prince Khaled underlined the importance of the three-day event in strengthening knowledge and exchanging environmental information across the region. This would help develop appropriate approaches to dealing with the current challenges, most important of which being water scarcity under global warming conditions. Over 400 delegates were present. These included ministers or deputy ministers for water, irrigation or environment of NENA countries; experts and representatives of governmental institutions from Germany, Italy, Japan, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Viet Nam, the United Kingdom and the United States; and international organizations such as IFAD. The Fund also organized a stand at the forum’s exhibition to illustrate its experience in addressing water issues in the rural areas of the NENA region.  The stand was visited by HH Prince Khaled, participating ministers and delegates.

HE Dr Abdullah Al-Hussein, Minister for Water and Electricity of Saudi Arabia, said his country was devoting enormous efforts to rationalizing and making best use of its unrenewable underground water resources. At the same time, it was developing alternative solutions that would maximize benefits from seawater, other saline water and grey water.

The forum was also addressed by HE Dr Mahmoud Abu Zeid, Minister for Water and Irrigation of Egypt and President of the Arab Water Council. Dr Abu Zeid emphasized the need for a comprehensive Arab water policy and better policy frameworks that would enable more investment in the water sector and greater technical cooperation and exchange of knowledge across the region. Participants could attend three sessions, the first of which featured several presentations by high-level experts on water policies. It also included presentations on the “nuclear option” for seawater desalination in Arab countries, the effects of political borders on sustainable management of aquifers resources shared by Arab countries, and the need for a bold water strategy for Arab countries and for an Arab water sustainability index. Issues related to governance of water resources in the Palestinian territories, a prerequisite for peace and stability, were also discussed.

At the second session, dedicated to water resources management, presentations were made, among others, on the sustainable use of non-conventional water resources; a group decision support system for ranking water resources projects; the evaluation of the economic aspects of “virtual water” in the Middle East and North Africa; public-private partnerships in basic irrigation services; and the role of research for the sustainable development of wadi systems.

The third session focused on the regional process of the Fifth World Water Forum to be held in Istanbul in March 2009, with introductions by the World Water Forum Secretariat, the World Water Council and the Arab Water Council. Presentations addressed the many issues to be discussed in Istanbul on each of the five thematic chapters of the regional report to the World Forum.

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At a retreat outside Rome, Near East and North Africa Division renews its consensus on key regional priorities


Keven Cleaver, Assistant President Project Management Department (left) next to Nadim Khouri, Director, Near East and North Africa Division at the opening session of the retreat.


IFAD’s Near East and North Africa Division (PN) held a two-day retreat in Frascati, a village outside of Rome, from 23 to 24 October 2008. All staff of the division participated, including field presence officers from Egypt, the Sudan, the Syrian Arab Republic and Yemen. The retreat aimed to renew the division’s consensus on which actions should be given priority in Central and Eastern Europe and the Newly Independent States (CEN) and NENA countries, and to determine the steps required for their implementation. 

Specific objectives of the retreat included:

The retreat was opened by Kevin Cleaver, Assistant President, Project Management Department, who underlined the importance of using the event as an opportunity to work collectively on outlining a clear vision and setting concrete and achievable objectives for the division over the next couple of years. PN Director Nadim Khouri, who chaired the opening session, outlined the objectives and explained the preparatory process, which included a “visioning” exercise conducted to gain a better understanding of PN’s outcomes and future perspectives. He also praised a preliminary retreat session, conducted on 16 October 2008 by Mylene Kheralla, Regional Economist at IFAD, which focused on current trends and opportunities in the NENA and CEN regions, and discussed the divisional thematic priorities and related integrated approaches.
In Frascati, the retreat was conducted in six main sessions, during which a number of topics and follow-up actions were discussed, including:

In addition to Kevin Cleaver, special guests were invited to address the retreat and update PN staff on corporate issues of interest to the division and affecting its key operational and administrative work. Participants interacted over the two days with Matthew Wyatt, Assistant President, External Affairs Department, on the regional implications of the Consultation on the Eighth Replenishment of IFAD’s Resources;  with Liz Davis, Director of the Human Resources (HR) Division, on the latest HR reforms and specific issues related to PN division;  with Annina Lubbock, Technical Advisor, Technical Advisory Division, on gender and household food security aspects; and with Roxanne Samii, Manager, Web, Knowledge and Distribution Services, on knowledge management (KM) strategy implementation and KM tools and techniques.

A post-retreat evaluation revealed that, while there was consensus on the retreat’s success in achieving its third objective, there were some reservations on whether it had fully achieved its first two objectives. The CEN vision had been clarified and significant progress had been made on the KMC and direct supervision agendas. Many felt, however, that more still needed to be done in terms of follow-up and action. Nonetheless, the majority of participants (21 out of 32) considered that the clearer vision and better understanding of key priorities, concerns and constraints achieved during the retreat would benefit their work.

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Country Programme features

To help the Palestinian Authority resume implementation of a halted project, IFAD converts the balance of a loan to grant funding


A cucumber farmer near Jericho receiving credit for agricultural inputs under the Ministry of Agriculture's' Crop Diversification Programme.


IFAD has transformed the undisbursed balance of its loan to fund the Participatory Natural Resource Management Programme in the West Bank and Gaza to a US$4.98 million grant. The decision was made by IFAD’s Executive Board at its ninety-fifth session in December 2008.

The loan was extended to the Palestinian Authority in 1998 on highly concessional terms. The primary objective of the programme was to raise the incomes and living standards of small-scale farmers by developing and managing land and water resources, allowing them to conserve and enhance their productivity. The programme became effective in 2000 but was halted in 2004 as a result of the Intifada. Over the next three years, the programme will focus on land reclamation and improvement, crop production and rural finance.

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In response to the food price crisis, IFAD invests more in Yemen’s highland agriculture and food production


A water reservoir in Raymah Governorate, where some 48,000 households are benefiting from IFAD project interventions for the construction of water supply systems.


IFAD will increase financing to its Pilot Community-Based Rural Infrastructure Project for Highland Areas, in Yemen, by US$3.50 million, in the form of a loan and a grant, each of about US$1.75 million. This brings IFAD’s loan financing to US$10.76 million and grant financing to US$2.15 million. The decision was made by IFAD’s Executive Board at its December 2008 session in response to the food price crisis, and the Board approved changes to the financing agreement accordingly.

This supplementary financing will help the country cope better with the current food price crisis by allowing for the upgrading of infrastructure related to agriculture and food production and marketing, to the benefit of about 140,000 rural inhabitants. Approved in 2005, the project was originally designed to benefit over 300,000 poor rural people in the highland areas by empowering communities to address their infrastructure constraints and be proactive in reducing their isolation.

Boosting Yemen’s ability to face the food price crisis was discussed during a visit by HE Dr Mansour Al-Hawsahbi, Minister for Agriculture and Irrigation, to IFAD headquarters on 6 June 2008. During his meeting with President Båge, the minister said that the global food crisis had had a severe impact on Yemen, a country that imports nearly 90 per cent of its food needs. He requested IFAD to consider extending additional help through new funding for projects identified in the 2007 country strategic opportunities paper, but with a sharper focus on the strategic objective of improving the food security of small farming households.

The President reconfirmed the Fund’s willingness to consider urgent short-term support for improving the food production and productivity of small farming households within the framework of its ongoing loan operations. He advised that IFAD had already agreed to a programme of action to this effect for the Dhamar Participatory Rural Development Project and would be willing to take similar action in other ongoing projects.

The Minister advised that the Government of Yemen greatly valued IFAD’s assistance, and, in recognition of this, intended to increase its Eighth Replenishment contribution to US$1 million. The President expressed IFAD’s appreciation for this substantial increase in Yemen’s contribution, nearly double its contribution to the Seventh Replenishment of US$0.6 million.

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IFAD donates US$13.5 million to boost food production, peace and stability in Southern Sudan 

IFAD extended a grant of US$13.5 million to help boost food production and incomes of poor rural communities in Southern Sudan. The Southern Sudan Livelihoods Development Project will be implemented in six counties of the states of Central Equatoria, Eastern Equatorial and Jonglei. Rural poverty in Southern Sudan has been linked to the prolonged conflict situation, population displacement, poor service coverage, inaccessibility, low labour availability and low productivity.

Agriculture has been identified as the main engine of economic and rural development. At a total cost of US$25.9 million, including cofinancing from the Embassy of the Netherlands in Khartoum, the Government of Southern Sudan and beneficiaries, the project will improve agricultural productivity and marketing through support for productive activities such as farming, herding and fishing. This support will be directed towards rural households, in particular woman-headed households and returnee households. It will help increase the average income of some 38,000 beneficiary households by US$170 per year from the sale of crops, livestock and fish. The project will also rehabilitate potable water systems, rebuild market infrastructure and repair rural feeder roads among other infrastructure projects. Furthermore, it will enhance managerial capacity and accountability at the county level and build county capacity to resolve resource-based conflicts.

This approach is consistent with the 2009-2012 United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) strategy, whose overarching goal is consolidated peace and stability in the Sudan. In fact, thanks to the efforts of its country presence officer, IFAD has been active in UNDAF preparation. Drawing on its comparative advantages, achievements, lessons learned and strong mandate to reduce rural poverty, the Fund has contributed, in particular, to the livelihood and productive sectors. These sectors afford ample opportunities for sustainable income-generating activities that can benefit the Sudanese people, especially young people, women and conflict‑affected vulnerable groups.

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Voices from the field: A loan, a lamb and a livelihood in Tunisia


Siham feeding her animals


Siham, a 37-year-old single woman, lives with her father and siblings in Jradou, a mountainous rural area about 30 kilometres from the city of Zaghouan. Her father farms a parcel of land of some 4 hectares. Ever since she left primary school, Siham has wanted to help her father provide for her eight younger brothers and sisters.

In 2002, the IFAD-supported Integrated Agricultural Development Project in the Governorate of Zaghouan asked the Self-Development Support Society, an NGO, to work with local communities in developing a plan to help needy community members set up microenterprises. The society held a number of meetings with residents to discuss their needs and suggestions, and to help them find solutions that were realistic, both economically and technically.

Community development plans were then drawn up, but local participation did not stop there. Each plan called for community residents to form a development committee, in order to ensure that residents were actively involved in planning, carrying out and managing the outlined activities.

Siham was elected women’s representative of her local committee. To help her fulfill this role, the project trained her to mobilize residents, especially women, to become involved. The project had a microfinance component, with support from the National Solidarity Bank of Tunisia, which specializes in microcredit. Consequently, Siham also learned the procedures for obtaining and repaying a loan.

When the project offered a technical training session on sheep-rearing, Siham realized that this would give her an important opportunity to improve her social and economic status. After completing the training, she applied for a loan to start a sheep-fattening business. The project facilitator helped her prepare the necessary documents. The loan was approved, and she about US$650 to start her business.

In November 2004, Siham purchased four ewes and a ram. The project provided her with a 10-cubic-metre water tank to save time in water collection. Within 12 months, Siham was able to repay the loan and had five ewes as net profit. She decided to take out another loan to expand her business. Having proven herself creditworthy, she had no trouble obtaining a second loan of about US$815. Her profit from this loan was six ewes.

Siham had become a microentrepreneur. In June 2005, she received a third loan of almost US$900 and bought another five ewes. After this third loan, the herd size increased to 16 ewes and one ram. Siham usually sells the rams to repay the loan and keeps the ewes to increase the size of the herd, thus earning more income. To secure a good profit, she sells the rams just before Eid Al-Adha (Immolation Day – celebrated by Muslims worldwide), when market prices are at their highest.

Siham's experience showed other women in the area what they could achieve. Many attended the training sessions, and 100 women in and around Jradou obtained loans to start their own microenterprises. Officials of the Self-Development Support Society confirmed that the credit recovery rate is 100 per cent.

This good credit performance is mainly attributed to the successful experience of Siham and her efforts to urge women clients, in her capacity as a committee member, to repay their loans. She visited women in their houses and even walked long distances to evaluate their situations and offer advice. Siham herself claims that her success can be traced back to the efforts of the project management unit. The facilitators visited her weekly, helped her treat sick animals and encouraged her to use the veterinary service regularly. "I will not talk to you about money,” Siham says, “but I will tell you about the change in the lifestyle of a simple human being like myself, who became more effective. I feel as if I have been reborn."

Siham now earns about US$2,450 a year from her small enterprise, which goes a long way towards meeting the needs of her father’s household. Her business has expanded to include wool production for the manufacture of blankets. She has paid to have an additional room built onto the family house and ensured that her diabetic brother receives proper health care and her sister can continue vocational training.

More than 1,000 women benefited from the project’s credit services. In its efforts to enable poor rural women to overcome poverty, IFAD has learned that well-organized communities are essential if development is to be effective and sustainable. Participation is the catalyst in developing and strengthening local leadership. Development efforts work best when members of communities can articulate and negotiate their needs and mobilize their own resources to manage solutions. Unfortunately, women are still underrepresented in many local economies and, more often than not, they are not aware of their full potential to contribute to their households and communities. Initiatives such as the Zaghouan project are a step in the right direction.

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Knowledge management and capacity-building

IFAD and IDRC organize a training workshop on capacity-building in effective communication in Fez, Morocco


Participants during one of the working sessions


IFAD and the International Development Research Center (IDRC) organized a three-day workshop on capacity-building in effective communication in Fez, Morocco, from 28-30 October 2008. The workshop, which was opened by Nadim Khouri, Director of IFAD’s Near East and North Africa Division, and Chantal Schryer, IDRC’s Director of Communication, aimed to develop the strategic communications capacities of managers and communication officers of development projects and research centres operating in the region. In his opening remarks, Nadim Khouri underlined the importance of communication as a crucial tool for knowledge transfer and hence effective development. He said that, from IFAD’s point of view, communication was essential for capturing the results of its projects, including the unsustainable ones, so that it could draw lessons, recognize what worked and what did not, and develop best practices. He added that such well-captured knowledge assets would then need to be effectively disseminated and widely shared in order to improve IFAD’s development work and to ensure that targeted communities were benefiting.

Attended by 32 participants from 10 NENA countries, including 10 participants from Morocco, the workshop sought to sharpen skills for developing appropriate and dynamic messages, tools and channels to reach various audiences, ensuring that project outputs and research results were effectively communicated and efficiently used. The participants were from IFAD-supported rural and agricultural development projects, research organizations and development NGOs. Their profiles also differed, ranging from communications officers and administrative assistants who also did communications work in their institutions, to researchers, project directors and managers.

In addition to Chantal Schryer, training at the workshop was conducted in eight sessions by three other resource persons: Taysir Al-Ghanem, Senior Communications Officer, IFAD, Rome; Moncef Bouhafa, Director of the Centre for Development Communication, Washington D.C.; and Rawya El-Dabi, Regional Outreach Officer, IDRC’s MENA Regional Office in Cairo. Most sessions were interactive, with working group sessions and role play in addition to presentations. The training had two components: building communications strategies and building bridges with the media by understanding their dynamics and what they were looking for.

The workshop was one of 16 conferences held as side events to the 5th Congress of Scientific Research Outlook & Technology Development in the Arab World (SRO5) organized by the Arab Science and Technology Foundation.

Dedicated to scientific innovation and sustainable development, SRO5 was held under the High Patronage of His Majesty The Monarch of Morocco, King Mohammed VI, from 25-30 October 2008. It was organized in cooperation with the Moroccan Ministry of Ministry of Higher Education, Executive Training and Scientific Research as part of events marking the 1,200th anniversary of the establishment of Morocco and the royal city of Fez. Over 1,000 participants attended, representing the Arab science and technology community, including more than 60 Arab universities and research centres, as well as national and regional research and development organizations and Arab media outlets. The event was also supported by the United Arab Emirates and Gulf Cooperation Council.

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In brief

IFAD President participates in the Arab Economic Summit in Kuwait

At the invitation of HE Amre Moussa, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, IFAD President Lennart Båge will attend the Arab Economic Summit and Pre-Summit Forum in Kuwait from 17 to 20 January 2009. President Båge has also been invited to address the food security session of the Pre-Summit Forum.

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An ICBA delegation visits IFAD headquarters in Rome

The four-year programme, launched in early 2005, seeks to increase local forage and animal feed production to replace forage imports. The approach involves introducing improved technologies for using saline water in the mass cultivation of salt-tolerant forage crops and horticulture in West Asia and North Africa. Saving freshwater resources through salt-tolerant forage production in marginal areas represents a new frontier in agricultural research and a substantial contribution to food security in the region.

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