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Under the cool shade of a tree by the entrance of Hanja Chefa Primary School, 10 women gather around a table, putting final touches to preparations for an exhibition of their Rural Savings and Credit Cooperative activities. The chairperson is calm and ready to receive Queen Maxima and a high level UN-delegation.

The group of women are part of the 62 member -strong Hanja Chefa RuSACCO, formed in 2012. The Chairperson of the Rural Savings and Credit Cooperatives or RuSACCO,   tells us that “our incomes increased since we started participating in this FAO project. We were inspired and organized ourselves to form Hanja Chefa RuSACCO.” Aiming to improve their lives the group saves their earned income to start vegetable gardens or buy small ruminants, such as goats and chickens.

All the women are beneficiaries of the Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Programme supported Purchase from Africans to Africa project, which supports farmers in Boricha Woreda (District) to propagate Haricot bean seeds to increase farming production.  The project gives a package of seeds and fertilizers to farmers, after they received basic training on how to propagate quality seeds. Consequently, they are required to sell 30% of their harvest to multi-purpose cooperative unions, which aggregate produce from members in the region to sell it to the WFP, which then distributes food aid and supports school feeding programmes.  This develops farmers’ engagement with Cooperative Unions giving them the opportunity to pool resources together with other farmers to exploit wider markets and gain a better price for their produce. Farmers who receive seeds eventually make in-kind repayment of the 25kg seed bags, developing a local seed bank for the area.

The women voluntarily saved Birr 15,350 (USD 812) through the sale of Haricot beans. Striving to maintain the groups’ motto “Saving for a better tomorrow” the SACCO has deposited these savings in the National Commercial Bank and started to distribute loans to their members.  So far fifteen of the women have used these loans to establish vegetable gardens and buy small ruminants. Recently, the SACCO also purchased 4,300Kg of Haricot beans, which they will sell to unions at a higher margin. 


Queen Maxima and the UN High level representatives applauded the women’s efforts to develop their incomes while viewing their display. The delegation also had an opportunity to see how Samuel, an agent for Omo Microfinance Institute travels with a donated motorbike to remote rural areas to sensitize the community on the benefits of financial services. 

In Ethiopia, IFAD’s support has catalyzed the financial sector providing credit lines to Microfinance Institutions and developing the capacity of Cooperative Unions and RuSACCOs. The Rural Financial Intermediary Programme (RUFIP) supports Omo MFI to expand its services through a credit loan of Birr 18 million. The MFI now reaches all Woredas within the SNNPR, with 15 branches and 163 sub-branches.  Furthermore the project provided trainings to cooperative promotion agents within implementing regions.

Queen Maxima, in her capacity as the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development, was accompanied by senior officials from the three Rome-based UN agencies during her visit to the farmers exhibition in Boricha. Together they underlined the role that expanding financial inclusion plays in strengthening food security and to enhance access to affordable financial services for the poor. Traveling with the queen on the trip was UN World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director Ertharin Cousin, Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), and Adolfo Brizzi, Director of Policy and Technical Advisory Division and representing the President ofthe International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

WCA/ESA M&E Learning Event -the discussions continue

Posted by Adriane Del Torto Thursday, December 5, 2013 0 comments

Good Morning from Grand Bassam!

It’s been a long night. Discussions, discussions around our grilled fish and attieké in a local maquis (outdoor restaurant). There is a great ambiance even though there is a little heatwave and the generator gave up on us for a little while. The discussions were so interesting that our discussions on RIMS and success stories from Madagascar, Niger, Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire were not interrupted!

Tuesday's theme was  RIMS – the IFAD Results and Impact Monitoring System. The IFAD team gave an overview of some of the difficulties noticed in reports and upgraded some tools to make the monitoring of the RIMS indicators easier. Participants are quite pleased with the developments. In order to have better focus on RIMS, the large group split up to work on three different themes: (i) how to choose level 1 and level 2 indicators; (ii) how to count beneficiaries (men, women, households, etc) to estimate outreach (and make sure there is no double counting! and (iii) how to assess level 2 indicators. It was surprising to see how different projects perceive their work how they chose their indicators. In the group I participated in, Madagascar shared its method of weighting the number of RIMS indicators per component by the financial weight of that component.. This approach was somewhat controversial and created a lot of debate within the group.. The shortcomings of this method were discussed, such as the value of soft investments (ex. capacity building) that are key for a project sustainability. On this topic, the group agreed that a combination of methods should be used to have the best reporting system possible, stressing the necessity of choosing the few  most pertinent indicators.  

As mentioned earlier, Niger, Madagascar, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal shared their experiences in M&E. Although the projects differ largely, the common ideas by the presentations from these countries are proactive solutions to M&E. For example using simple approaches, have a common understanding of indicators by both project team and stakeholders at all levels, constant discussions and involvement, sharing of information and most of all, careful planning of all activities to achieve expected results. A special thanks to these teams for some great M&E work that they were so pleased to share.

Participants especially appreciated the sessions on how to link and follow up on Annual Work Plans and Budget and Logical Frameworks and the necessity for M&E planning not just annually (AWPB), but over the life horizon of the project, with end results in mind, to ensure that activities are thought out and planned for in a logical sequential manner throughout project implementation. 

Group work included preparing an action plan to improve RIMS Reporting for 2013, addressing the three questions raised in the working groups and putting to practice all of the things discussed here in Grand Bassam – especially since a prize is at stake!

Looking forward to tomorrow for the next discussions!

The Congo Team listens: Women Farmers make their requests

Posted by Adriane Del Torto Wednesday, December 4, 2013 0 comments

by Adriane Del Torto and Roberto Longo

The team has left the Maniema Proveince a few days ago, but I still need to talk about the farmers that live live along the RN 31 after we made it there! Luckily Roberto (Longo, Farmer Organisations Technical Advisor) joined the team to better target questions and respond to the queries of our agricultural entrepreneurs.

But I forgot to tell you, how we get to the RN 31…. No commercial planes or crazy roads, this time it’s MONUSCO (United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) airplanes. MONUSCO provides safe flights to major cities in DRC with a regular flight schedule.
Check in 6 am at MONUSCO Air Terminal. Departure time: when the passengers have all checked in and the plane is ready to go. We actually took off at 7:45 am. First stop: Kisangani, 1h45 minutes flying time. The flight went well. Connecting flight from Kinsangani to Kindu: when the plane arrives from Entebbe or around 4 pm, to arrive in Kindu around 5:30 pm.

I recall that an IFAD mission was in the Maniema Province, in the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo for the Interphase Review of PIRAM (Integrated Rural Rehabilitation Programme in the Maniema Province). Aside from working on roads (see my last bog article) PIRAM’s main component is to rehabilitate agriculture in the Province in a post conflict situation. Until now, the project is already supporting over 500 farmers organisations throughout the Maniema Province .

Back to our farmers and their organisations in the Kasongo and Pangi production areas.  The IFAD team met a women’s group, in Kituta, who shares a community field where they tested the properties of the rice seed received from PIRAM. The women’s group received 100kg of "NERICA 4" short cycle rice, commonly known as “biscuit”  or cookie for its sweet taste.  The women decided to test this new variety which has a short cycle of 3 months (instead of 4 months like traditional varieties of rice) allowing them to cultivate the second rainy season (season B) typical to the Southern hemisphere. The first rainy season in the Maniema Province has a planting season mid-September/early October with a harvest in end of December,  January and February. The Second season or Season B plants in end of February/March to  harvest in May/June. Since traditionally the B season is not cultivated, the hungry seasons runs from June to mid-December, of course with PIRAM this trend is changing quickly and rice prices have become more stable, even though they are still cheaper right after the A season harvest in December/January. The tests have been quite positive, whereby yields have at least doubled compared to their traditional varieties and the women will be cultivating the B season next year.

After discussing how the women are organised, the methods they used and the like, the team concluded have concluded that what keeps this association of 23 women’s groups together, is the charisma and leadership of their President as well as the bonding factor brought in by having common fields where women have more time to socialise together even if they are working.  The IFAD team asked the women what it is they would like as support for their group. Incredibly enough, what marked the women’s group from many others is that their request was Knowledge! The women asked for training to better manage their resources and to be able to acquire credit to buy a rice processing unit. This is becoming a pressing need because production is increasing and surpluses have a much higher value if already dehusked. This was really an encouraging group!

Thanks to PIRAM, farmers have been proud to say that they have more disposable income, allowing them to buy things such as small tools for their farms, cellular phones, new cloths (pagne) to sew clothing, uniforms for children for school, small solar panels allowing them to have basic lighting and to charge their phones and in some cases, televisions and satellite antennas for international channels. Encouraging results for a programme that still has 6 years to go and that will be targeting 84 000 farmers by the end of 2019.

Monitoring and Evaluation: WCA/ESA Learning Event

Posted by Adriane Del Torto Tuesday, December 3, 2013 0 comments

by Adriane Del Torto

West and East have joined efforts once again for an important learning event, this time providing a platform to share experiences in Monitoring and Evaluation for Francophone Countries in West and Central Africa (WCA) and East and Southern Africa (ESA).  This morning (2 December), IFAD had the honour of His Excellency Mr Mamadou Sangafowa Coulibaly, Minister of Agriculture of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire opening the Monitoring and Evaluation Workshop held in Grand Bassam (suburb of Abidjan, Historical City of Côte d’Ivoire and UNESCO Heritage site) at the N’SA Hotel.

In his opening statement, the Director of the West and Central Africa Division of IFAD underlined the importance of M&E for results based management to for a “ better chance at reaching development objectives” while assuring us that “there is a direct link between good management and project performance.” His Excellency the Minister of Agriculture was very proud to personally open an IFAD workshop as IFAD has always had quality activities in Côte d’Ivoire, but most importantly because “IFAD never left our sides even during the most difficult we have gone through. IFAD continued to save lives by  continuing to support agricultural production in areas where even nationals would no longer set foot.”

In his welcoming words, Mr de Willebois underlined the importance of M&E in projects so as to better report on real impact on the field, learn from mistakes and design better agriculture development programmes, truly aimed and helping the rural poor.

The objective of a workshop with a cross-cutting theme such as M&E is to ensure that there is a common understand of M&E, its concepts and requirements of IFAD in terms of RIMS (Results and Impact Monitoring System), by giving projects time and space to discuss and share experiences to build on to improve M&E systems, tools, reporting and in the longer term improve results and impact of development projects.

After setting the scene with our M&E specialists and facilitators from WCA’s 3SL Grant with IED Afrique, the participants approximately 120 from some 20 countries in Sub-Saharan African (coordinators, M&E officers, CPMs, CPOs etc)  broke up into groups to discuss their logical frameworks and results chains.
The day was filled with heated but cordial and sometimes funny debates on this apparently passionate topic. At the end of the day, it was clear, however, that concepts are not always as straight forward  as we believe and that there is plenty of room for interpretation…So we will continue discussions in the coming 4 days, with emphasis on exchanges  of experiences among practitioners .

Do feel free to comment on this post to contribute to this discussion. You can also follow the workshop on Twitter #ifadme @adeltorto or through @IFADnews, your opinions and contributions are most welcome in the debate.

The workshop will be running until Friday 6 December 2013. Please stay tuned for some interesting material on workshop content and discussions in the days to come.