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by Tom Pesek, Partnership Officer, IFAD’s North American Liaison Office

I must admit that I was surprised when Jim Yong Kim was selected to become President of the World Bank earlier this year. It’s not that he isn’t qualified. After all, he is a trained physician and anthropologist who has spent over two decades in international development, co-founding Partners In Health and serving as Director of the World Health Organization’s HIV/AIDS Department. It’s more that he was far from an obvious choice and his name certainly wasn’t among those rumored to be under consideration. Yet the selection makes perfect sense upon closer inspection, especially if one views the Bank as a knowledge institution. Mr. Kim is the very first President of the World Bank to have previously run a knowledge institution. And as he pointed out today at his first public address since assuming the post, the World Bank has far more PhDs than Dartmouth College, the Ivy League institution he led until recently.

Speaking at the Brookings Institution before an invitation-only audience, Mr. Kim shared some initial insights into his priorities as President of the World Bank. And although he revealed little about what those might be, it was clear that he will promote a robust focus on knowledge management and learning, and on delivering evidence-based results on the ground.

Mr. Kim also signaled that he will continue the Bank’s policy of open access to data, lauding the Open Data Initiative launched in 2010 by his predecessor, Robert Zoellick. Citing his experience in global health, he stressed the importance of making available data sets developed and acquired by Bank staff and from Bank projects. Increasing the availability of official documents, particularly on active projects and actions by the Boards of Governors and Executive Directors, would promote greater accountability, transparency, and knowledge sharing.

Mr. Kim stated that with 1.3 billion still living on less than US$1.25 per day, aggressively addressing global poverty is both a moral and economic imperative.  On numerous occasions, he underscored the importance of building safety nets to protect communities against shocks and to strengthen their resiliency. And while he asserted that the World Bank must evolve to succeed, he repeatedly emphasized that he was only 17 days into his new position and that he has not yet set any definite institutional or sectoral priorities. Although he is currently just “taking the temperature of the organization and visiting the departments,” he did outline four key challenges that will help focus the institution’s work under his leadership:

protecting recent development gains against global economic unrest;
broadening development to those left behind, particularly fragile states;
promoting sustainable economic growth; and
demanding that economic growth is inclusive.

After concluding his formal remarks, Mr. Kim was joined by Kemal Derviş, Vice President and Director of the Global Economy and Development at Brookings, for a Davos-style conversation about the World Bank’s role in international development at a time when the global economy remains highly vulnerable. Mr. Kim stated that while the challenges above are formidable, the recent IDA replenishment and capital increases provide adequate resources for the Bank to increase its lending and investments.

Mr. Kim cautioned that the current euro-zone debt crisis could have far-reaching implications from which no country or region is immune. “To put it starkly, what is happening in Europe today affects the fisherman in Senegal and the software programmer in India. Therefore, it is urgent that European countries take all necessary measures to restore stability." He noted that the crisis could potentially reduce growth in most regions of the world by as much as 1.5 percent even if it is contained. In response, he pledged to increase the Bank’s lending, if necessary, to avoid a reversal of the hard-won achievements of the past decade in the fight against global poverty.

He stated that reforms are needed to sustain high rates of growth even in rapidly expanding economies. Middle-income countries must modernize their economic structures and generate more jobs to meet the growing expectations of their people. "Even as an unprecedented number of people in the developing world are ascending into the middle class, segments of the poorest populations are being left behind, and other segments of the middle class are at risk of falling back into poverty," he said. Mr. Kim urged emerging economies to take on a greater role in financing development as they account for a growing share of global growth. He also pledged to improve the Bank’s engagement in fragile states so that it is “far more responsive than it is today, and capable of delivering the right financial and technical support at the right time.”

As Mr. Kim identifies the Bank’s priorities going forward, one can only hope that he maintains the strong focus on agriculture and rural development championed by his predecessor, Robert Zoellick. It would be unfortunate if the Bank’s focus were to shift away from the sector after it played such a critical leadership role throughout the global food price crisis.  But then again, global crises have a way of stubbornly inserting themselves onto the agendas of global leaders and institutions, regardless of their pre-conceived priorities. This was certainly Mr. Zoellick’s experience as he assumed the presidency in 2007 amid soaring food insecurity and highly volatile global food prices. If recent trends are any indication, agriculture and food security issues are unlikely to disappear from the Bank’s agenda. Food security has become a key feature of G8 and G20 meetings. What’s more, food insecurity remains high in the Sahel and current drought conditions in the US have not been seen since 1956, threatening to significantly increase crop prices and drive up the cost of food.

Leveraging south-south cooperation

Posted by Roxanna Samii Sunday, July 15, 2012 0 comments

by Sir Fazle Hasan Abed and Kanayo F. Nwanze

Rural poverty and food insecurity continue to be serious challenges in many developing countries. But a new thrust for partnerships is providing a key to overcoming these challenges. The potential of South-South cooperation to advance development and poverty reduction is increasingly evident, especially as emerging economies increase their investments in developing countries of Asia and Africa.

While much of the world has been mired in financial crisis, the overall rise in South-South trade and investment flows, as well as the on-going shift from the G8 to the G20 as the primary forum to tackle global economic crisis,indicates that there is more to South-South cooperation than just sharing and learning from the practical experience of others.

This is particularly true when it comes to addressing one of humanity's key challenges for the 21st century: ensuring food and nutrition security in the face of a growing and urbanising global population, and the problems brought on by climate change. Any response must be environmentally and economically sustainable. The need for such a response to the demand for food and agricultural raw materials is most acute in the South, and it is also there that some of the most relevant successes already have been achieved.

Historically, agriculture has shown a capacity to drive economic growth. GDP growth generated by agriculture is at least twice as effective in reducing poverty as growth in other sectors. For countries in a hurry to accelerate poverty reduction, it is a vital element of the development equation.

Agriculture, at whatever scale, must also be seen as a form of economic opportunity if poor rural people are to transform themselves from subsistence farmers into small business entrepreneurs. But it takes the right type of investment for this to happen. Investments -- whether by the international community or developing country governments -- need to be smart, targeting smallholders. Poor rural producers need roads and transportation to get their products to market, and technology to raise yields and to receive and share the latest market information on prices. They also need access to rural financial services so that they are able to establish viable small businesses.

But for this to happen, agricultural markets in the relevant countries and trade policies at the global, regional and sub-regional levels need urgent reform to increase the flow of ideas, technologies, and products between people and across regions. Competition for scarce resources must give way to cooperative ventures ensuring larger pay-offs to both emerging economic powers and those lagging behind.

Based on the distinct but complementary experiences of Brac and IFAD, we are in full agreement that the greatest potential for South-South cooperation lies in knowledge transfer and sharing of know-how between middle income and least developed countries. Particularly important is the introduction of successful technologies and practices into countries where small holder farmers can be assisted to build agriculture businesses that will lead the way to food security and rural development. Middle-income developing countries with adequate experience and technologies can also help other developing countries replicate and scale up rural poverty alleviation projects and programmes.

China, for instance, has made enormous progress on its own in agricultural production and rural advancement over the past three decades. Many of China's agricultural technologies can be of value for smallholder farmers in Asia and Africa that face similar challenges, particularly water-saving and soil related technologies and aquaculture methods. And it is encouraging to see that this is already happening. Domestic factors played a crucial role in reducing rural poverty, as market integration created new opportunities for growth.

Working closely with other development partners, IFAD has found that direct knowledge exchange activities are integral to country programmes and regional cooperation initiatives. An example of this approach is evident in a joint IFAD/FAO programme for "Pro-poor Policy Formulation, Dialogue and Implementation." The programme aims to strengthen the capacities of agricultural policymakers in eight Asian countries (Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Vietnam) to formulate and enforce pro-poor policy choices as a forum for knowledge sharing.

In practicing hands on South-South partnership, Brac has branched out from Bangladesh to countries in Africa and Asia. In Liberia, Brac's seed testing and multiplication farm has produced high-quality rice seeds to improve agricultural yields. In Uganda, a large number of women farmers have been trained as community agriculture promoters, and grow seeds for nutrient rich food crops.

But the concern remains that while growing incomes and demand for food have led to substantially larger investment flows to agriculture, the benefits to small holders and others in some of the poorest recipient countries remain uncertain. Small farmers, who manage up to 80% of the farmland in parts of Asia, are critical to achieving global food security. It is imperative that investments are geared toward serving local needs and strengthening the small farmer's production capacity.

Knowledge transfer needs to extend to the policy level as well. Policymakers need to share their successes and failures with each other and, most importantly, set guidelines that allow for investments to directly feed into development assistance. With such an impetus, the benefits of South-South cooperation can gain momentum and bring enormous hope and opportunity for close to a billion people living in poverty.

The writers are Founder and Chairperson BRAC, and President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), respectively.

As posted on The Daily Star.

Failing Forward

Posted by RimaAlcadi Wednesday, July 11, 2012 0 comments

by Rima Alcadi

On the 10th July, Ashley Good, Head of Failure and Learning at Engineers without Borders (EWB), led a 90-minute workshop to explore how failures can be used as a tool for learning, rather than hide them away out of fear and shame.

EWB was founded in Canada by engineers who wanted to provide solutions to real problems, i.e., alleviating poverty opposed to increasing the efficiency of photocopying machines. EWB is committed to ensuring that the projects they implement work – and part and parcel of that is to make sure they do not repeat the same mistakes. So along with their Annual Report, they publish a report called the “Failure Report”. EWB does not consider this merely an internal learning document, but also as a tool for changing the entire international development sector.

What does “Failing Forward” mean? Look at the Admitting Failure site that was founded by Ashley Good, and you will find failing forward defined as:
1. Operating in a safe environment for testing risky innovative ideas
2. Recognizing failures early
3. Admitting failures openly and honestly
4. Learning from these failures
5. Adapting actions based on the learning in order to improve upon risky innovative ideas

The workshop was interesting, and it made me reflect on a few things related to the notion of failure. Firstly, we discussed how there are both blameworthy and praiseworthy failures (although perhaps it all depends on your perception). There is a spectrum of causes of failure – ranging from exploratory testing, uncertainty, task challenge, inability, process inadequacy, inattention to deviance – some causes have very positive and others very negative connotations. When we were asked to share our failures in smaller groups, I found that actually failures are mostly shared. However, the hot potato blame game is often performed: “it’s not my fault, the environment wasn’t enabling.” In complex projects, it is usually several concurrent things that cause the failure, and not only one thing. If failure is a state – a snapshot of a negative moment in time – to fail forward implies a process: for internalizing and admitting the failure, and then creatively and constructively identify the lessons learnt and ways to ensure that in the future that failure is less likely to materialize. I think that whether a person fails or not does not depend on the outcome, which is often beyond her control, rather on whether the person did her best (i.e., on her own input). Once bona fide is ascertained, then admitting failure should be easy.

What stops us from sharing our failures? Several things, depending on the context, and ranging from lack of trust, difficulty in expressing feelings, reputational risk, fear of damaging your organization’s reputation, implications on others and on your work environment and so on. So you need a specific organizational culture to promote failing forward. Creating a safe space means looking at the individual, interpersonal and institutional levels of the organization.

See also
• Admitting Failure website: http://www.admittingfailure.com/
• EWB Failure Reports: http://www.ewb.ca/reports/

By Katie Taft

The American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Our best thoughts come from others.” This resonates with what I have heard in China during the Fourth South-South Cooperation Workshop on rural development and poverty reduction.
Attendees at the Fourth South-South Cooperation
Workshop, held in Beijing, China.
While the workshop in Beijing has focused on countries sharing experiences and highlighting solutions for agricultural development, many of the participants say they are also taking away a new mind set.

“The size of the fruits and vegetables we saw on the field visit represents not just high yields, but for me, it represents the commitment of the Chinese Government to support their rural areas,” said Syed Bilal Khisro, who works with Pakistan’s Planning and Development Department. “This is not just an event but something we want to continue, so that we can see our own fruits from these exchanges,” he added.

Food security and markets
Workshop participants came from 12 countries across Africa and Asia to learn about how China has been able to pull more than 500 million people out of poverty over the past 30 years by developing its agriculture sector.

“The world has an interest in seeing countries like China feed themselves,” said Adolfo Brizzi, Director of IFAD’s Policy and Technical Advisory Division, which supported the workshop along with China’s Ministry of Finance. “At a time when food security and agricultural commodity prices have become an international issue, it is important that large countries like China can ensure their own food security and be a stabilizing factor in international markets.”
Adolfo Brizzi, Director of IFAD’s Policy and Technical
Advisory Division, speaks at the South-South Cooperation
Workshop. © IFAD/Katie Taft

During seven days together, workshop attendees engaged with leaders from the government and the private sector, as well as researchers and academics, to explore how China is organizing small farmers into cooperatives and linking them to local and national markets. Many of the participants presented their own country experiences, describing best practices for rural development in Indonesia, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Sri Lanka.

‘An idea whose time has come’
As Wu Jinkang, Deputy Director General of the International Department at China’s Ministry of Finance, told me, this kind of sharing is exactly what south-south cooperation is about. It is a mutually beneficial exchange. And it goes beyond technical issues, to advance thinking and learning from the realities that national governments face as they work to properly support smallholder farmers.

“We learned a lot from the participants,” he said, “like the participant from Nigeria who shared how his country’s focus on oil production has hurt its agricultural production, which is important for China to remember.”

IFAD’s Country Programme Manager for China, Sana Jatta, agreed. “I believe it was Victor Hugo who said that ‘even an army cannot step on an idea whose time has come,’” Jatta noted. “The time has come for south-south cooperation. We must gather together and use this process as a way to promote smallholder farmers as businesses. I have seen this in China, and I look forward for this idea to grow.”

By Katie Taft

“It’s like Disneyland for agriculture,” one of the participants in the South-South Cooperation Workshop commented to me as we left the Fengrunze Agricultural Technical Centre in Shanxi Province, China.

A member of a farmers’ cooperative in Shanxi Province
checks on tomatoes that are soon going to market.
© IFAD/Katie Taft
In more than an hour at the centre, we had seen food being grown in unusual ways. From a small planter with little soil, cherry tomatoes were growing on a vine hanging from a wooden gazebo. Lettuce was growing inside Styrofoam pots without soil, fed by liquid nutrients in a small amount of water. We saw chilies being grown in a simple, homemade incubator. Pumpkins and gourds were growing large and numerous, suspended from the ceiling and walls.

The Disneyland comment reflected my own thoughts during a four-day field visit that ended yesterday. At times, it felt more like a package vacation than work.

The visit was a part of the south-south workshop on rural development and poverty reduction, which opened today in Beijing – the fourth meeting of its kind supported by IFAD and China’s Ministry of Finance. For the past four days, workshop participants from 12 countries were shuttled around Shanxi Province, which sits south-east of Beijing and is home to more than 35 million people. Known more for its coal mining than farming, the province still produces much of the country’s maize and small grains, such as millet.

On paper, that doesn’t sound much like a tourist attraction. But during the visit we saw amazing achievements in modernizing and, yes, even attracting people to agriculture.

Intensive agriculture
Mao Zedong once honoured Dazhai village for its intensive farming methods. By creating a cooperative, and pooling funds and human resources to improve irrigation schemes, the village’s then 500 farming households were able to increase their yields and incomes at a time when most small farms were struggling. Now, Dazhai is a historic attraction, which sees up to 300,000 visitors from around China each year.

Students make liquid plant food in lab at the Jinzhong
Technical Institute. © IFAD/Katie Taft
As we toured the village and accompanying museum, workshop participants took photographs of themselves with monuments and displays highlighting how, through intensive agriculture, the villagers went from owning donkeys to owning cars in a 30-year timespan.

At the Jinliang Agriculture Development Company, which contracts with local smallholder cooperatives to breed and raise pigs, we watched in amusement as the pigs played and ate in their well-maintained pens. Sitting in the clean and odourless comfort of the company’s conference room, we learned about their breeding system through a computerized system of remote-controlled cameras.

And at the agricultural institute in Jinzhong city, we toured the college’s pristine classrooms and laboratories, and heard how many of the graduates go on to support rural communities around the country. At the end of our tour, we were treated to an ice cream social – with ice cream made by the students in the food lab.

A clear understanding
But all this fun was underlined by a more serious issue.

IFAD Country Programme Manager Sana Jatta (centre) and
Director of Policy Adolfo Brizzi get more information about
a ‘model village’ in Shanxi Province.  © IFAD/Katie Taft
“As both a donor and recipient of development assistance, China brings a unique perspective on the agricultural development process, as a source of expertise and as an incubator of innovative ideas,” said Adolfo Brizzi, Director of IFAD’s Policy and Technical Advisory Division. “Whatever model each country adopts for itself, it is important to know what is going on in China, because it is such an important player in international markets.”

The gap between the wealthy, located mainly in the cities, and the poor, situated mostly in rural areas, is wide and vast in China. The aim of the field visit, for the government, was to show that when smallholder farmers have the know-how and tools to organize themselves, they can create quality products. And when small farmers have good infrastructure such as better roads, they can connect with markets regionally and, eventually, internationally.

“From the visit, we clearly understand the effective link between policy, research and marketing implementation for the agriculture sector, and the ultimate impact on poverty reduction,” said one participant, Nurjahan Begum, Joint Secretary of the Bangladesh Ministry of Finance.

Beyond sightseeing photos and bellies full of ice cream, I thought, that understanding was the most important souvenir we would take away from our visit to Shanxi.

Where: Stockholm, Sweden
When: 26 August 2012
9:00 – 12:30
Seminar event

Key message
Untold stories of forgotten stakeholders and project implementers from India, Guatemala and Madagascar will highlight the importance of dimension change in pro poor development through the introduction of micro-irrigation systems (MIS).
MIS  are effective tools for addressing rural poverty and improving the lives of smallholder farmers.
The Scampis project (2009-2012), has changed the lives of 30.000 vulnerable farmer households which have adopted low-cost,  user-friendly MIS technologies. This innovative technology has seen farmers embrace other strategies such as organic fertilization (Vermiwash and compost), natural pesticides, more appropriate agricultural practices (extended growing seasons, lower application rates of agro-chemicals and (re)introducing native species and different crops),  and changed knowledge and behaviour on nutrition and health. At organisational level, women and youth have formed strong livelihood groups to explore the manifold impacts.
An holistic development chain from the manufacturer through the retailer shop (with pre- and post-sales service ) to the farmer and sales of vegetables exceeds to local markets has been put in motion by the Scampis project.
Sustainability is a matter of affordability of choice –hence use of subsidies, accessibility of extension and rural finance services, as well as availability of marketing linkages. Together with policy dialogue they lead to scaling-up in the 3 Scampis countries. 

Seminar programme
Section 1. Micro-irrigation: tackling the complex web of poverty
09:00 Context and achievements of the project. Mr Rudolph Cleveringa, IFAD     
9:15 Interest of private sector in micro-irrigation for food security – Ms Sibyl Anwander Phan- Huy Coopernic Group, Switzerland                  
9:30 Understanding numbers through stories: the Scampis monitoring evaluation and learning process. Ms Cecilia Ruberto, IFAD    
Section 2. Untold stories about micro-irrigation… and much more
10:00 Story-telling
·         Guatemala Group
Project strategy adaptation. Introduction of school garden for MIS. Story. Mr Santiago Guadalupe Girón de Leon, Project Coordinator, Funcafè, Guatemala
Empowering groups of women and youth through correct nutrition health, hygiene. Story.  Ms Magalì Avila Chosco, Educadora, Funcafè, Guatemala
·         India Group
Use of promotion strategy for introducing the MIS innovation. Story. Mr Tapan Pattanayak, Chief General Manager, Regional Office Bhubaneswar, IDEI, India.
The promotion strategy and involvement of tribal farmers. Story. Mr Bijaya Kumar Rout, Scampis MIS Promoter, IDEI, India
·         Madagascar Group
Establishment of micro-irrigation market chain, the strategy. Story.  Mr Feno Andriamanalina, Scampis Madagascar project coordinator, AVSF, Madagascar.
How and why a small entrepreneur started the business on micro-irrigation and future opportunities.Story, Mr Lova Randriambelo, Innovagri, Madagascar
11:00 Coffee break
11.15 Story-telling
·         Scaling-up group
(7) Overall scaling up of integrated strategies for micro-irrigation and scaling up with coffee producers. Story. Mr Mynor David Maldonado Mazariegos, Funcafé Executive Director, Funcafè, Guatemala
(8) Scaling up MIS – Integrating MIS in Indian national programme for livelihood improvement, complexity and opportunities/ Story. Mr Susanta Nanda, Programme Director, OTELP, India
(9) Scaling up MIS – Integrating MIS in Madagascar national programme for livelihood improvement, complexity and opportunities. Story. Mr Christin Ramaroson, AD2M and CapFIDA, Madagascar
12:00 Section 3: Integrated strategies for scaling up micro irrigation systems: key messages

What is Scampis?

Additional info:

By Clarissa Baldin & Zachary Bleicher

“The private sector increasingly is the engine of growth in rural areas. And growth in the agricultural sector is twice as effective in reducing poverty as growth in other sectors.” – IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze, 18 June 2012, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze and UN Global Compact
spokesperson Tim Wall at the forum in Rio.

The United Nations Global Compact hosted the Rio+20 Corporate Sustainability Forum from 15-18 June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro. Under the theme, ‘Innovation and Collaboration for the Future We Want,’ the event brought together representatives from the private sector, governments, the UN system and civil society to discuss how to strengthen the private sector’s contribution to global sustainable development.

On 18 June, IFAD held a side event – ‘The Sweet Spot: Cocoa’s Promise of Sustainability, Equity and Profitability for Smallholders and Businesses’ – which explored the dynamics of partnerships between the private sector and smallholder farmers. To jumpstart the conversation, IFAD shared its experience with supporting small-scale cocoa producers in São Tomé and Principe, and linking them up with high-value global markets for organic and fair trade cocoa. 

Uon Sophal, Asian Farmers
Asociation for Sustainable
Development, at the Rio forum.
Smallholders and the private sector
IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze opened the event. “Our experience has shown us that every farm, no matter how small, is a business,” he said, “and that smallholder farmers are already part of the private sector. In Africa, for example, small farmers are the most important actors and investors in agriculture.”

A fruitful panel discussion followed. IFAD’s Edward Heinemann said a key factor in the cocoa project’s success was the decision to bring in the private sector very early in the process. The project linked some 5,000 to 6,000 smallholders with high-value markets, even though the farmers had little market experience.

The challenge, said Heinemann, is to change agriculture from being “what people do when they can’t do anything else” into a business activity that allows smallholders to live with dignity and get a fair price for their products. IFAD has been working toward this changed reality for the past 35 years.

Communities transforming
The cocoa experience in São Tomé and Principe showed IFAD – and all of us in the audience – that once the value chain is set and working, communities start transforming. Children are no longer pulled out of school, for instance, and youth stop migrating out from rural areas.

The discussion at the side event included representatives of PepsiCo, the Fair Trade Foundation and the Asian Farmers Association for Sustainable Development. It reflected the idea that success in a business should be defined by its sustainability, which, in turn, should be understood in three dimensions: social, environmental and economic. This means economic benefits for smallholder farmers, environmental benefits to the land under production, and social returns through strengthened communities and empowered individuals.

Such approaches and new partnerships can transform rural communities into the dynamic and vibrant business centres they are ready to become.