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The Road to Food Security

Posted by Roxanna Samii Monday, August 30, 2010 0 comments

by Kanayo F. Nwanze, IFAD President
Recently, I was on a road in the Southern Choma District of Zambia to meet with Rosemary Pisani, a smallholder farmer and mother of eight who struggled to feed her children prior to joining a farmer’s cooperative to raise goats. Thanks to the cooperative and support from other farmers, she now has a thriving business and all of her children are in school.
On the way to meet her, I passed women walking through mud to the market with large loads of fruit and vegetables stacked on their heads. I imagined how I might be on my way to a very different rural community if the road we were on was paved and well maintained.
Often in Africa, the few paved roads that do exist are littered with potholes and lead to unpaved ones that are nearly impossible to navigate without a proper vehicle. Closer to farming communities, roads disappear entirely. This leaves rural areas, which have the potential to feed the more than one billion hungry people, cut off and isolated. In sub-Saharan Africa, almost 70% of all people living in rural areas live more than a 30-minute walk from the nearest maintained road.
Kofi Annan, Chairperson of the Board of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), has acknowledged this isolation: “The average African smallholding farmer swims alone. She has no insurance against erratic weather patterns, gets no subsidies, and has no access to credit. I say ‘she’ because the majority of small-scale farmers in Africa are women.” Indeed, half of the world’s smallholders are women, and we must keep in mind their punishing task of walking long lengths to get their produce to market.
At the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), we believe that farming, regardless of size or scale, must be seen as a business, and smallholder farmers as small-scale business owners rather than poor people who need handouts. There is growing recognition that these smallholder farmers and their rural communities are a major part of the solution to food insecurity and poverty – but only if they have what they need to do their jobs.
The Green Revolution of the last century had a tremendous impact on agricultural yields and food production, transforming the lives of millions of people. Much of this success stemmed from infrastructure that was already in place. India’s road density at the start of its Green Revolution in the 1970’s was 388 kilometers per 1,000 square kilometres. This compares with 39 kilometers per 1,000 square kilometers in Ethiopia today and 71 per 1,000 in Senegal.
New roads bring other essential services to rural communities. In Ethiopia, only 2% of rural people have access to electricity, and telephone communication is more or less absent. Researchers believe that this is because only 17% of rural communities in the country live within one mile of a paved road.
Together with poor infrastructure, many small farmers in Africa have insufficient access to productive assets, such as land, water, and new technologies. As a result, yields are generally too low to allow the millions of rural households to generate marketable surpluses. Even if smallholders are able to produce a surplus, their lack of access to downstream activities, such as processing and marketing, prevents them from selling it easily.
The cause of these missing, but vital, resources lies in the shameful neglect of agriculture in the past two decades. Both developed and developing countries – caught up in rapid economic expansion and technological development – got distracted. They turned off the tap to agriculture, leaving small farmers to rely on basic farming practices and on government and donor handouts.
That tap must be turned back on. In IFAD’s experience, working simply to double the income of a smallholder farmer who scrapes by on less than a dollar a day is poverty management, because at two dollars a day, he or she still remains poor. But supporting that smallholder in launching a farming business that could generate a five-fold increase in income amounts to poverty eradication.
If smallholder farmers are to be given the opportunity to become viable businesses, it is essential that they be connected to markets. Indeed, support for rural infrastructure – including last-mile roads, electrification, post-harvest facilities, support for agricultural associations and cooperatives, and access to land and irrigation facilities – is a crucial element in the value chain.
Each link in the value chain, from the smallholder to the local trade agents and agro-processors to regional and national markets, needs to be strengthened. We need to link food producers with the people who need their product through viable and well maintained infrastructure. In addition, we need to provide them with research and technology to ensure that they can grow the best-quality produce, and storage capabilities so that they can sell at peak prices.
If smallholder farmers have the basic infrastructure they need to get their goods to market, they will not only be able to feed themselves and their communities, but will contribute to wider food security. We just need to put the pavement down so that farmers like those I saw in Zambia can more easily make their way on the road to food security.

Roads not handouts for farmers

Posted by Roxanna Samii 0 comments

by Kanayo F. Nwanze, IFAD President

Smallholder farmers need roads and financial services not handouts.

If words and good intentions could feed people, there would be no hungry children in the world. But as those working in development know all too well, malnutrition, hunger and poverty are bound tightly together in a Gordian knot that requires collective action to cut.

The June G8 and G20 meetings in Canada focused on children's and women's health. World leaders must take care not to fall into the trap of seeing these things as a single resolvable issue. You cannot guarantee good health without a nutritious diet, you cannot ensure a nutritious diet without freedom from poverty, and you cannot free most of the world’s poorest people from poverty without taking a systemic approach to improving the lot of small farmers. Most of the world’s 1.4 billion extremely poor people live in the rural areas of developing countries and depend on agriculture for their livelihoods.

Helping developing countries to address food security and to become major food producers is the key focus of a public-private partnership meeting in Accra, Ghana, on 2-4 September. The African Green Revolution Forum is trying to build a consensus to grapple with agricultural deficiencies in Africa.

Feed children, feed their minds

The land farmed by poor people in developing countries is rarely bountiful. Less than 2ha of productive land is the norm for farms in Asia and most of Africa. In rural areas, many poor people do not produce enough food to feed themselves and their families. Instead, they are net buyers of food. With incomes of less than $1.25 a day, they cannot afford to buy much.

It is one of life’s ironies that three-quarters of Africa’s malnourished children live on small farms. In Asia and Latin America, farm children also often go hungry. Children who suffer from malnutrition early in life are forever deprived of their full physical, mental and social development potential.

Think small

But what if households could boost their productivity, gain access to new markets and ensure the kind of financial returns that would have demonstrable impact on development?

To break the link between malnutrition, hunger and poverty, rich and poor countries must support the poorest smallholders, creating the conditions for the transition from subsistence to commercial farming.

Numerous studies show that GDP growth generated by agriculture is at least twice as effective in reducing poverty as growth in other sectors. Experience repeatedly shows – in China, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Ghana, Burkina Faso and elsewhere – that smallholders can lead agricultural growth.

Small farms are often more productive, per hectare, than large farms, when agro-ecological conditions and access to technology are similar. Small farmers have a strong incentive to get the most from their land and their own labour. Indeed, there is ample research to show that there are few economies of scale in the production end of farming. Family farms have very low management costs and are labour intensive, while large farms are either heavily mechanised – offering few employment opportunities – or have high costs for managing the workforce.

Creating a green revolution also means not treating poor rural people paternalistically by doling out handouts. Smallholders need financial services to pay for seeds, tools and fertiliser. They need the protection of insurance. They need secure access to land, water, roads and transportation to get their products to market. They also need agricultural research and technology to improve their resilience to rapid economic and environmental changes. These are all things that governments and the donor community, with the support of the private sector, can put into place for small farmers.

Don’t stop now

A public policy environment that appeals to investors, combined with new commitment from the private sector, will lay the ground for a better agricultural sector for Africans and a route away from poverty.

Creating the conditions for rural poor people to develop profitable businesses, by reducing the cost of finance and by fostering their entrepreneurial spirit, will help to establish a vibrant rural sector across the value chain.

A dynamic rural sector will generate demand for locally produced goods and services. This will spur sustainable non-farm employment in services, agro-processing and small-scale manufacturing. With better access to higher quality food in childhood, young people will be able to contribute more to their societies. And with a greater range of rural employment options, rural youth will have an incentive to become the farmers of tomorrow instead of looking for work in the cities.

In recognition of agriculture’s power to improve developing economies and the need to grow enough food to feed the 9.1bn people who will be living on the planet 40 years from now, G8 leaders pledged around $20bn towards food programmes and sustainable agricultural development at the L’Aquila summit last year.

At a time when budgets are tight, countries may mistakenly think it prudent to cut back on investments in sectors such as agriculture and development. This would lead to greater world food insecurity and slower economic growth.

Progress at the African Green Revolution Forum in Ghana could set a good example for other regions. If the leaders of nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America take the necessary steps to create vibrant rural economies and the international community assists those countries that are making real efforts to help develop, they will be able to cut the ties that bind malnutrition, hunger and poverty.

Trash to treasure

Posted by Greg Benchwick Friday, August 20, 2010 0 comments

IFAD funding in Guatemala transforms neighborhood dump into a lush garden

In the Guatemalan community of Laguna Los Achiotes, a small grouping of houses just 20 minutes from the regional capital of Jalapa, the stench of rotting refuse is a thing of the past.

Thanks to an innovative project funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the community took a trash heap that was literally ten feet from several homes and transformed it into an organic garden, where they are now cultivating radishes, carrots, onions and other fresh vegetables for the community.

The people of Guatemala have lived on beans, chili and corn since the days of the Maya King 18 Rabbits, and these new crops are allowing for improved overall health for the 30 families sharing the new garden. And the numbers are adding up quickly, especially when you figure the average Guatemalan family in the countryside has anywhere from five to eight children.

“Most of the food we are eating today is coming from this garden,” said Ana Maria Morales, a community member who welcomed IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze on his recent visit to Laguna Los Achiotes with a veritable cornucopia of interesting new dishes that the women are preparing for their families. These inventive offerings included lip-smacking radish-skin pancakes and a bedazzling carrot compote that could have easily made it onto any menu in Paris and New York’s tony eateries.

“We used to just throw the radish skins away,” said Morales. “But we brought in a consultant that taught us these dishes, now we are eating better. And the children love the new food.”

Better yet, with community members using compost to fertilize their garden, virtually everything they are eating is organic. And a new drip irrigation system is ensuring year-long planting and highly efficient water consumption.

“Most importantly, the trash heap in the backyard is a thing of the past," said Josefina Stubbs, Director of IFAD’s Latin America and the Caribbean Division. “This is an area where food security is key. By working together with the World Food Program, who are providing staples such as wheat and rice that cannot be easily grown in this region, we are helping make healthier homes. And a healthy home means a healthy future.”

Photos by Santiago Albert/FIDA

Que piensan los jóvenes de ALC y que nos toca hacer

Posted by Roxanna Samii Thursday, August 19, 2010 0 comments

A los jóvenes de escasos ingresos en América Latina y el Caribe cuando se les pregunta si se sienten pobres responden que no¡ y cuando se les pregunta por lo que es la pobreza; ellos suelen indicar tres grandes características: i)la falta de medios materiales (dinero, vestido, equipamiento mínimo/ por ejemplo celular, ordenador, herramientas, etc.) , ii) la carencia de respeto (maltrato, discriminación racial y cultural, violencia, rechazo de ser escuchados y atendidos), ii) la falta de accesos (en particular a medios de comunicación masivos: bienes públicos como carreteras, transporte barato, celular, internet, etc.).

Hay diferencias de percepción entre los jóvenes urbanos y rurales, también entre chicas y chicos, entre países y colores de piel pero todos parecen coincidir en que quieren ser escuchados, bien tratados y tener igualdad de oportunidad para acceder a la modernidad, al ejercicio de sus derechos y al desarrollo de sus propias iniciativas económicas y culturales.

Para entidades como el FIDA, concentradas en la lucha contra la pobreza rural, este mensaje nos debe hacer cambiar de Ruta. Hoy no tenemos respuestas específicas a las necesidades de los distintos grupos de jóvenes y a los temas centrales para ellos. Tenemos que hacer un enorme esfuerzo para dejar de escucharnos a nosotros mismos y sentarnos respetuosamente a escucharles, a aprender de ellos y a ver en cuales de sus demandas podemos darle un apoyo relevante. Probablemente no serán a todas, ni quizás a las mas sustantivas (empleo seguro, eliminación de la violencia callejera y la guerra, etc.) pero seguramente si podemos influir en que accedan:

  • a plena ciudadanía ( documentos de identidad individuales, personerías jurídicas colecticas , reducción de trámites y costos para formar asociaciones, empresas y ampliar sus emprendimientos)
  • a co- financiamientos para sus perfiles y planes de negocios
  • a servicios de telefonía celular e internet a costos razonables
  • a pasantías, viajes de aprendizaje, entrenamientos in situ, etc.
  • a fortalecer sus organizaciones y generar redes auto gestionadas

y seguramente muchas cosas más. Como de hecho ya lo vienen haciendo varias operaciones del FIDA en la Región a pequeña escala. Para pasar a una escala mayor, más relevante, el primer paso será escuchar y entender bien sus enfoques y propuestas, apoyarlos en construir sus innovaciones e instituciones, co financiar sus iniciativas, atraer a otros socios que faciliten los accesos a lo que el FIDA no pueda tender y compartir con ellos los crecientes riesgos que significa hoy ser campesino, pobre, discriminado y joven.

R. Haudry de Soucy

Investing in young farmers

Posted by Roxanna Samii Thursday, August 12, 2010 2 comments

Youth are often one of the most vulnerable segments of IFAD’s target group, both in terms of access to assets and services and in terms of opportunities and capacities to engage in decision-making processes that determine their livelihood prospects.

Farmer organizations are a key channel for young rural people to develop activities, get access to services and natural resources, and make their needs and concerns heard in decision-making processes.

The Farmers’ Forum was created in 2005 by IFAD, the International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP), La Via Campesina and the Network of Peasant and Agricultural Producers’ Organizations of West Africa (ROPPA). It was designed as process of consultation and dialogue between farmers’ and rural producers’ Organizations (FOs), IFAD and governments focused on rural development and poverty reduction. A global meeting of the Farmers’ Forum was held in February 2010 at IFAD Headquarters where the participants stressed the urgent need to address young farmers in the following way: “Our family agriculture needs to be remunerative and give dignity. Young women and men farmers’ access to production assets – land, credit, and training – has to be ensured”. 

In this regard, the participants recommended that IFAD mmainstreams youth in all IFAD policies and programmes, with a gender balance and an emphasis on developing capacity-building and enhancement programmes for rural youth to engage in sustainable food production and agriculture and rural employment.

They particularly recommended that IFAD:

  • Map young farmer and rural youth organizations and their networks (national and regional).
  • Hold a Farmers’ Forum event similar to the one held for women this year, and ensure more representation of young people in subsequent Farmers’ Forums.
  • Designate within IFAD a focal point for youth.
  • Hold a global workshop on youth involvement in Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development during this year (UN Year of Youth).
  • Mainstream youth in all IFAD policies and programmes, with a gender balance and an emphasis on developing capacity-building and enhancement programmes for rural youth to engage in sustainable food production and agriculture and rural employment. 
  • Launch pilot projects supporting rural youth.
  • Organize youth exchanges for experience-sharing on best practices and learning”.  

To start responding to that request, a specific programme to map key actors, specific issues and success stories in the different regions of IFAD operations is under preparation  by MIJARC (International Movement of Catholic Agricultural and Rural Youth), in close collaboration with the Farmers’ Forum Steering committee members, and FAO and CTA.

The programme will develop collaborations with the various on going initiatives within IFAD to address youth issues (for example, the collaboration with the ILO to review strategies and programmes for promoting decent and productive employment of young people in rural areas and projects and grants in regional divisions supporting young people’s activities).

Regional workshops will be organised to define ways of promoting active participation of the young in FOs and in the definition of FOs’ agendas that respond to young peoples’ needs; to improve capacity of FOs to advocate for young rural women and men in gaining access to farming activities; identify tools and methods to support young men and women farmers’ interests in agricultural development programmes through their organizations.

The programme will lead to recommendations in terms of policies and projects to help FOs support young people, women and men, enter and invest sustainably in farming activities. They will be discussed during the next global meeting of the Farmers’ Forum in February 2012.

By Philippe Remy

Many of IFAD’s programmes target young people. Yet when we talk about involving “youth” in our programmes we often seem to forget that young women and men lead very different lives and have different needs.

What is youth exactly? Traditionally, it is the transition from childhood to adulthood. The United Nations defines youth as all individuals aged between 15 and 24. In reality, being young has changed over time and varies considerably from one region to another. There is a big rural urban and gender divide. Rural children in developing countries grow up quickly. Early marriage and childbearing marks the transition for young girls. In many countries, girls marry before age 15 and many 15 to 19 year olds cannot read or write. Boys help out on the farms or drop out of schools because there is no secondary education or they do not see the point of it.

When we travel to distant rural areas to visit the project sites, it is often striking to see hordes of young men and adolescent boys hanging out in front of shops or on main squares, playing cards or just idly watching the coming and going of traffic and people.

Girls and young women are kind of less visible or they are in constant movement. We see them walking to school or back home in their colourful uniforms, carrying their grocery shopping or fetching water, or going for visits with their girl friends. They seem not to stop, often having babies and younger children in tow.

When we look closer and listen to these young men and women, we discover a different reality. The young men sitting in front of the village café could be a 35 year old farmer, who is still a second hand to his father and has nothing to decide about farming and marketing. The young women with the toddler could be a 17 year old mother who did not finish schooling and lives now with her in-laws, with little time and skills.

Rural development programmes that target young people need to take into account the different gender needs. For boys and young men, programmes can get them off the street and help put them to stand on their own feet, by learning new skills or finding employment.

For girls and young women, skills development or income generating activities help them to break up a circle of isolation and chores, gets them out of the house and meet other girls. These programmes help them to socialize, to increase their education and skills, including knowledge about health, nutrition and finance. Expanding girl’s education is the most obvious lever to change the situation of young women. These programmes can also contribute to delay marriages and child birth.

By Maria Hartl

The International year of Youth begins today. “We must not fail these young women and men,” said IFAD President, Kanayo Nwanze. “The International Year of Youth is an opportunity to raise awareness and galvanize action”. This should be the year when IFAD develops a strategy and action plan on rural youth. The challenge is how to promote  employment and income-earning opportunities – in particular in the agricultural sector – which are gainful and attractive to young people. Otherwise, as the Farmers’ Forum 2010 participants asked, ‘who will feed the world tomorrow?’

There are some interesting experiences in IFAD-funded operations, but they have tended to be piecemeal – they need to be scaled up and systematised.  And it isn’t just about creating new and more profitable economic opportunities, in and around agriculture, as well as in non-farm employment and services. It’s also about rural areas being better places to live, of being (far) better equipped in terms of services and infrastructures, less isolated and better connected (roads, radio, internet, telecommunications and more.  And not being the backwaters that young people just want to run away from.  Life in rural areas needs to become better for women for whom city life means –more often in their dreams than in reality – escaping from the daily drudgery of fetching water and fuel, hard work in the fields which is largely unrewarded, headloading produce to distant markets….. Basic services for rural development and wellbeing,  schools and health centres,  often suffer from chronic difficulties in recruiting an retaining staff, who also find living in rural areas difficult and/or unattractive…

There will simply be no future for rural economies unless rural development efforts manage to use and retain the talents and energy of young people. This we realize fully here in IFAD. But the challenges are many - and interconnected. Apart from the general situation of rural areas which I recalled above, factors which specifically affect rural youth include:

  • scarcity of land;
  • high mobility of rural youth (within rural areas and between rural and urban areas);
  • lack of conditions for young people to access sufficient capital to invest in gainful enterprises with a future;
  • infrequent consultation of rural youth in programming and policy-making;
  • lack or low quality of skills and vocational training, also poorly matched with labour demand;
  • low investments in the kinds of services that young people seek (internet connectivity, recreation, sports…);
  • limited voice and representation of the young in farmer organizations;
  • cultural norms and intergenerational conflict which limit and delay the autonomy of the young…and many more.

As in the case of women,  empowering young people socially, politically and economically is an issue of profound social change, which is not without tensions.

Let’s use the International year of Youth as an opportunity to listen to young people, to share learning on what works, to strengthen partnerships that can carry forward a new action agenda for rural youth.

Annina Lubbock,
Senior Technical Adviser, Gender and Poverty Targeting, IFAD

Bye Bye King Corn

Posted by Greg Benchwick Saturday, August 7, 2010 1 comments

Guatemalan farmers look to new crops for increased incomes

The Maya people of Guatemala were made from corn - at least that’s how the story goes as recorded in the “Maya Bible,” the Popol Vuh. But while corn may provide just enough for a smallholder farmer to feed a family of seven (yep, families are big in this part of the world), it is not enough.

All this is starting to change, with the IFAD-funded programs in the highlands of Western Guatemala allowing these people made from corn to look beyond the cob and open up new markets for an amazing variety of crops, including onions, carrots, peas and more.

Pedro Tun, President of the IFAD-supported ADIES producers association, met with IFAD’s President Kanayo F. Nwanze in the remote village of Magdalena La Abundancia on August 6 to share the successes of the new production models for the region.

“We used to plant corn, but now we are mostly planting onions,” said Don Pedro. “With corn, we were only able to harvest our crops once a year. Now with onions, and our new irrigation system, we are able to harvest three times a year.”

The numbers tell the story in black and white. One hectare of corn can bring in around US$624 per year, while a hectare of onions yields about $1900 yearly (no tears there!).

But what good is it having a quality product if you don’t have a market? By working with private-sector alliances through organizations such as the Guatemalan Exporters Association (Agexport) the smallholder farmers of the region were able to open new markets and sell their onions to large chains like Wal-Mart.

For Don Pedro and many small-scale producers like him these new revenue streams are not just reducing seasonal migration to work in the sugarcane harvest, it’s also making for a better life.

“We have suffered much in our life as campesinos,” said Don Pedro. “But now, thanks to these new projects our children are able to go to school, we have new jobs, and the people here are healthier.”

Throughout his career in agricultural development, President Nwanze has been a staunch supporter of looking to farming as a business, and the successes of smallholder farmers like Don Pedro in accessing major markets and increasing their incomes indicates that this pro-poor, pro-market model is working.

“Every farmer in every village wants to make money, wants to send his children to school, wants to eat three meals a day,” said Nwanze. “By providing them with better access to markets, tools, and training, they are starting to achieve these goals.”

Photos by Santiago Albert

One goat, two goat, red goat, blue goat

Posted by Roxanna Samii Friday, August 6, 2010 1 comments

Haitian organizations leveraging the power of procreation to create better lives

Who knew a simple goat could give so much. In Haiti, they are a prime source for savings, for risk management (after all, farmer’s insurance is essentially non-existent in the Haitian countryside), and, perhaps most importantly in country where most people live on less than US$5 per day, a source of income.

On his recent mission to the Haitian countryside, the President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Kanayo F. Nwanze, took a morning journey along the jostling roads of the nation’s Central Plateau to visit with the women and young people living in the area. Along the way, Nwanze, and the rest of the IFAD mission – the Director of IFAD’s Latin America and the Caribbean Division Josefina Stubbs was riding shotgun for the journey – found that the goats of Haiti (not to mention the oxen and pigs) are yielding rich dividends that extend well beyond personal wealth.

The Women’s Association of Laskawobas Bwapen is just one of the many goat-herders collectives that are receiving IFAD funding in the region. Rather than simply give goats to the women of the region, the program is working with a pyramid-style model that allows for exponential growth.

The project started with 45 participants in October of 2009. Each participant was given a goat. When these goats produced their offspring one baby goat went back to the collective to be given to a new family, the other offspring stayed with the project participants to be sold for a profit. The project now has around 60 participants.  It’s not AMWAY, but it’s pretty good.

“Before the project the women in this community had no income-generating activities,” said Modeline Joseph, Coordinator of the Laskawobas Women’s Association. “But now we have new income coming in.”

The project has had a unique push-on effect as well, with recently arrived refugees who had moved to the countryside to escape the chaos in Port-au-Prince now receiving literacy training. The literacy coordinator for the Women’s Association said that at least five newly arrived refugees were now in her class.

And the IFAD funding is also benefiting several young people’s organizations. One such IFAD-supported group, the Association of Young Farmers, decided to buy oxen that would allow them to plow their fields more efficiently. They are now hiring out their oxen. Not only has this increased crop yields for these young farmers, but it has also provided new diversified assets in their portfolio.

“The project allowed us to have income to survive and send our children to school,” said one of the young farmers in the association, Wesner La Paix. “Before the project, we were jobless, and life was difficult. We were obliged to immigrate to the Dominican Republic to work in the farms under very difficult conditions.”

With these new opportunities, project personnel are reporting a decrease in immigration to the neighboring Dominican Republic. A good sign for a region that has long depended on its neighbor for food imports as well as low-paying back-breaking seasonal jobs.

“Development in this nation needs to begin in the countryside,” said President Nwanze during his meeting with the young producers and women’s associations. “Perhaps most importantly, Haiti needs to invest in its young farmers. These will be the people that feed Haiti 20 years from now.”    

By Greg Benchwick and David Paqui

Transforming Haiti from the countryside

Posted by Greg Benchwick Thursday, August 5, 2010 6 comments

IFAD President Nwanze visits Haiti in search of lasting mechanisms for food security

Haiti is strong. Haiti is hopeful. Haiti is a country with nowhere to go but up. It’s also a country in transformation – a country healing from the wounds of natural disasters, and a proud but rather overbearing history that has depleted the nation’s soils and limited its very ability to feed itself.

Focusing on providing lasting mechanisms for food security in this hard-hit Caribbean nation, and with an eye on transforming the Haitian countryside into a viable economic engine for progress and rehabilitation, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is currently assessing its projects on the ground.

Leading the IFAD mission is President Kanayo F. Nwanze, who met with Haitian Prime Minister Jean Max Bellerive to discuss food security and long-term investments for the people of the Haitian countryside.

“I come here on behalf of IFAD in solidarity with the people of Haiti after the tragedy of January 12. We were here before the quake, and we will be here afterwards. IFAD does not have projects in Haiti, rather, we finance the projects proposed by the people,” said Nwanze in his meeting with the Prime Minister. “My presence here is also to discuss with the government of Haiti the need for sustainable rural development.”

Moving into the countryside later that day, President Nwanze met with the IFAD-funded Rural Credit and Savings Association, where local farmers are leveraging small loans (of anywhere from US$10 to $100) to build their businesses and truly transform their work into a genuine business enterprise.

President Nwanze encouraged the rural business people who were in the meeting (about 20 all in all) to continue their good work and reinvest in themselves.

The small rural bank is also following one of the most essential and simple rules of lending: know your customer. They only lend to people within the community, thus minimizing risk, and maximizing the potential for intensive investment in local farms. And it’s working, with a repayment rate of upwards of 96 per cent.

But transformation extends beyond simply looking for new credit and new markets. Transformation is also about creating value-added products. And later that day, Nwanze had a meeting with the Progressive Women’s Producers Organization of Mirebalais to learn about how this innovative group of women is taking simple fruit to make marmalades, liquors and juices that they are selling in local markets at a profit.

“We found somebody that gave us the training to transform the fruit. We used to waste a lot of fruit, with our transformation project we can make sure that the fruit lasts longer,” said Lisebette Gaston, Coordinator of the producer’s organization. “My hope is that we can be able one day to export our products at a national and international level.”

The Director of IFAD’s Latin America and the Caribbean Division, Josefina Stubbs, was especially interested in the work of this strong women’s group.

“Women need to be the key drivers in organizations like the Rural Credit and Savings Association, as well as for this group of women’s producers,” said Stubbs. “Our experience teaches us that the best investment in rural areas is an investment in the women. After all, they are the ones that nurture and develop these communities.”

To finish up their first day in Haiti, President Nwanze and Director Stubbs met with the project coordinators from the IFAD-co-financed projects in Haiti to discuss their progress and look for new ways to address key initiatives in rural development in Haiti, namely transforming the countryside into the entrepreneurial engine that will power the nation for the next 20 years.