Saturday, December 22, 2012

Prime Portable Cabins

Welcome to Prime portable cabins. We are based in Delhi, we specialising in new and refurbished modular buildings and portable cabins solutions throughout the India. We offer an extensive range of portable, modular and prefabricated buildings alongside installation for both domestic and commercial applications. Temporary buildings are the ideal and affordable solution for any company or contractors in need of portable accommodation.

Our latest video about our portable buildings

Check out our latest video below about our portable buildings, if you want to see more of our videos then take a look at our youtube channel.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Developing Your Small Business Marketing Plan

Along with your business plan, your small business marketing plans is only of the most important long-term plans you'll make for your small business. Some small business owners choose to ignore that advice, instead preferring to fly by the seat of their pants, so to speak, to "wing it." While some of those small business owners are successful, they're not nearly as successful as they could be had they laid out a well-defined small business marketing plan.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Juniper takes customer service to the next level with GSA 7.0

Editors note:Today’s guest blogger is Brian Kissel, Business CIO of Juniper Networks, a global producer of digital network solutions and services. Brian’s team is leading a project to improve the findability of useful information for employees across the company, using the Google Search Appliance 7.0.

At Juniper, our ability to manage and access knowledge directly impacts our ability to innovate and deliver value to our customers. However, as at most enterprises, this “corporate knowledge” is contained in various places across the company.

For instance, in a single customer support call, our team might need to consult and filter through more than four different applications to see if similar issues had been solved before, or look for an existing fix. Doing this one by one using the default search tool within these systems was a real time-waster. It also meant we could overlook some of the information needed to make better decisions. And in the meantime, our customer is waiting!

To solve this problem, we recently started using the Google Search Appliance (GSA) across these systems. With the GSA, it was pretty straightforward to provide a single, unified search box, similar to a “ for our business.” As with, we no longer have to ask the question of “which site might have this,” or correlate different ideas from different systems. Google made it possible to connect to our various sources, all while preserving the end-user security we apply to our different content.

Using GSA means one source of truth, delivering highly relevant search results. With our previous solution, employees wouldn’t find what they were looking for, or would have to look through multiple pages before finding it. With the GSA, people find what they are looking for on the first page without having to click back.

This has reduced turnaround time in solving customer problems and improved the level of our service. This saves direct costs, but, more importantly, leads to happier customers. For engineering, it means faster access to relevant information such as technical specification documents, product plans, and customer cases, which helps them design and build innovative products and solutions, better and faster.

Compared to traditional enterprise search solutions, GSA requires less human intervention for configuration, management and optimization, and we estimate that our labor costs have been reduced by approximately 25% as a result. Overall, by deploying Google Search internally, not only have we seen a tremendous boost in employee productivity, but we’ve managed to delight our employees by delivering a search experience that they are familiar with in their personal lives and also scales to the Enterprise.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Garden Fresh empowers employees with Google Apps

Editors note: Today’s guest blogger is Eric Rosenzweig, CIO of Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp. Eric and the Garden Fresh team will be telling their story live via webinar on November 14th. Register to hear them discuss why the time was right to switch and how the change benefited their business.

With 129 restaurants in 15 states, Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp. has grown quickly since we acquired the first two Souplantation restaurants in 1983. Since then, over 300 million guests have experienced the all-you-care-to-eat dining experience at our restaurants, jam packed with fresh, high quality ingredients.

Early in 2012, we found that the upkeep of our email system & servers was becoming unsustainable. It slowed down collaboration and execution of plans across the business. After evaluating various solutions, switching to Google Apps with the help of SADA Systems was a ‘no brainer’.

Introducing shared Google Calendars and Google Docs simplified day-to-day tasks. Before the move to Google Apps, branch auditing, a quality control process, was a particular pain point for us. Auditors would share branch videos with 18 general and district managers via email. Managers often missed key details in the ensuing email correspondence and ended up with many duplicate copies of important documents. Now, the videos are added to a shared Google spreadsheet, on which each branch has its own tab. Analysis & actions items are captured on one live, master document, erasing information duplication and ensuring that important insights are not missed. The new auditing process requires 80% less time on this team’s part to effectively manage.

Our marketing team has also seen the benefits of real-time collaboration. The process to launch new marketing endeavors, such as coupon schemes across multiple locations, has been streamlined. In the past, problems with in-store coupons were surfaced via phone or email, on or after the launch date. Now, prior to a campaign launch, each restaurant receives a Google Form containing test codes. They use the form to report whether the codes are scanning correctly. If they aren’t, they can open the response spreadsheet to see who’s fixing the issue and when it’s expected to be fixed. This allows for speedy troubleshooting that leads to a much better customer experience.

For me, the most important thing about these examples is the lack of IT involvement. The switch to the cloud has empowered Garden Fresh employees to share information & collaborate in ways that suit them, placing very little strain on IT resources. My team now has the time to focus on projects that will move the business forward as a whole, which is exactly as it should be.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Google Apps Vault now available to Google Apps for Government Customers

Since we launched Google Apps Vault, many businesses have adopted it to archive, retain and manage business critical information. Starting today, Vault is available for Google Apps for Government customers. Federal, state and local agencies in the United States can now purchase Vault to help meet their compliance needs.

Google Apps Vault helps protect organizations of all sizes from legal and compliance risks through advanced message archiving, retention and eDiscovery capabilities. It provides the ability to quickly search, identify, preserve and export information in response to litigation, investigation, compliance audits, or Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Vault helps organizations cull through their data and find messages relevant to such requests, reducing the associated time, effort, and costs.

Google Apps Vault can also be used to address knowledge management needs. It enables authorized users to search, manage, and review data. For example, if an employee leaves abruptly and the organization needs to understand the status of the employee’s projects, Vault will help find the needed information. Customers using Vault can ensure that data with critical business information are preserved and can be reviewed.

Vault built on the same infrastructure as Google Apps and recently completed an SSAE 16 / ISAE 3402 Type II SOC 2 audit. Visit our Google Apps for Government page where ynu can find more details as well as contact our sales team.

Get started at no cost with a faster, larger Cloud SQL database

(Cross-posted on Google Developers Blog)

You want your applications to be fast, even with millions of users. Anytime your user tries to retrieve information from the app or update settings, it should happen instantly. For the best performance, you need faster, larger databases - especially if you have a growing user base to serve.

Google App Engine is designed to scale. And now Google Cloud SQL—a MySQL database that lives in Google’s cloud—has new features to meet the demand for faster access to more data. With today’s updates, you can now work with bigger, faster MySQL databases in the cloud:

  • More Storage: We’re increasing the available storage on Cloud SQL to 100GB – ten times more than what used to be available.
  • Faster Reads: We’re increasing the maximum size of instances to 16GB RAM, a 4 times increase in the amount of data you can cache.
  • Faster Writes: We’re adding functionality for optional asynchronous replication, which gives the write performance of a non-replicated database, but the availability of a replicated one.
  • EU datacenter availability: Now you can choose to store your data and run your Cloud SQL database instance in either our US or EU data centers.
  • Integration with Google Apps Script: We’re making it quick and easy for businesses using Google Apps to use Cloud SQL. Publish and share data with Google Sheets, add data to Google Sites pages or create simple Google Forms without worrying about hosting or configuring servers. 

Introducing a new trial offer 

Many of you have requested a trial offer to test out Cloud SQL. Today, we’re introducing a 6- month trial offer at no charge, effective until June 1, 2013. This will include one Cloud SQL instance with 0.5 GB of storage. Sign up now and get started on Cloud SQL at no cost.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Hudbay Minerals moves its global team to Google Apps

Editors note: Today’s guest blogger is Joe AbiDaoud, CIO of Hudbay Minerals, a publicly traded Canadian mining company headquartered in Toronto. See what other organizations that have gone Google have to say.

Since 1927, Hudbay Minerals has focused on discovering and producing base and precious metals. From exploration projects in North and South America and our ctrrent operations in Canada, our 2,000 employees depend on technology to work together and make sure our efforts are coordinated across regions. To do this, we really needed a platform that allowed us to easily collaborate, work remotely using our mobile devices, and communicate across teams in different regions and different languages.

We had been using Microsoft® Office for years, with several Microsoft® Exchange servers across the company, but it became increasingly difficult for our IT team to stay up and running with the uptick in support calls due to a dated system. After exploring various options at different price points, we knew we wanted to move to a cloud-based solution to work more efficiently and provide a scalable and reliable solution.

We invited Google reseller, Sheepdog, to conduct a two-day Google Apps for Business workshop for a small group of employees from various levels and departments within the company. During the workshop, employees evaluated Google Apps against our “success criteria,” which included ease of use, efficiency, functionality, speed and cost. We quickly realized that Google Apps was a good fit for our geographically dispersed company and in July we started moving more than 1,000 employees to Google Apps.

Our IT support calls for email plummeted overnight, demonstrating just how easy it is to use Google Apps. For a global company, being able to instantly translate messages in Gmail and use Google+ Hangouts to meet “in person” made the language and geographical barriers easier to overcome. We’ve also estimated that by going Google we will reduce our costs over the long term when compared to the cost of upgrading and maintaining our old infrastructure. As a public company, we’re thrilled with the savings and new ways of working that we discovered by moving to the cloud.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Minimum Wage to $9.50? $9.80? $10?

During the 2008 campaign, President Obama promised to raise the minimum wage to $9.50/hour by 2011. This pledge was made at a time when the economic slowdown was already underway: the recession started in December 2007. The pledge was also made at a time when an increase in the minimum wage was already underway: in May 2007, President Bush has signed into law an increase in the minimum wage, to rise in several stages from $5.15 to $7.25 in July 2009.

Last summer, some Democratic Congressmen tried to push the issue a bit. In June, 17 House Democrats signed on as co-sponsors of a bill authored by Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois for an immediate rise in the minimum wage to $10/hour--and then to index it to inflation in the future. In July, over 100 Democrats in the House of Representatives signed on as co-sponsors of a bill authored by Rep. George Miller of California to raise the federal minimum wage to $9.80/hour over the next three years--and then to index it to inflation after that point. But while raising the minimum wage was a hot issue in the years before Bush signed the most recent increases into law, these calls for a still-higher minimum wage got little attention.

For background, here are a couple of graphs about the U.S. minimum wage. The first graph shows the nominal minimum wage over time, and also the real minimum wage adjusted to 2011 dollars. In real terms, the increase in the minimum wage from 2007 to 2009 didn't quite get it back to the peak levels of the late 1960s, but did return it to the levels of the early 1960s and most of the 1970s--as well as above the levels that prevailed during much of the 1980s and 1990s. The second graph shows the minimum wage as a share of the median wage for several countries, using OECD data. The U.S. has the lowest ratio of minimum wage/median wage--and given the greater inequality of the U.S. income distribution, the U.S. ratio would look lower still if compared to average wages. However, because of the rise from 2007-2009, the U.S. economy has experienced the largest rise in the minimum wage from 2006-2011. (Thanks to Danlu Hu for producing these graphs.)

So why didn't calls for a higher minimum wage in summer 2012 get more political traction? 

1) The unemployment rate in May 2007 was 4.4%, and had been below 5% for 18 months. The unemployment rate last summer was around 8.2%, and had  been above 8% for more than 40 months. Thus, there was a lot less reason in May 2007 to worry about the risk that a higher minimum wage might reduce the number of jobs for unskilled labor than their was in summer 2012.

2) In summer 2012, average wage increases had not been looking good for most workers for several years, which made raising the minimum wage seem less appealing as a matter of fairness.

3) The increase in the minimum wage that President Bush signed into law that took effect from 2007 to 2009 made it feel less urgent to raise the minimum wage still further.

4) Some states have set their own minimum wages, at a level above the U.S. minimum wage. The U.S. Department of Labor has a list of state minimum wage laws here: for example, California has a minimum wage of $8/hour and Illinois has a minimum wage of $8.25/hour. Thus, at least some of those jurisdictions who favor a higher minimum wage are getting to have it.

5) In summer 2012, the Democratic establishment was focused on re-electing President Obama, and since raising the minimum wage was not part of his active agenda, it gave no publicity or support to the calls for a higher minimum wage.

6) In the academic world, there was a knock-down, drag-out scrum about the minimum wage going through much of the 1990s. David Card and Alan Krueger published a much-cited paper in 1994 in the American Economic Review, comparing minimum wage workers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and found that the different minimum wages across states had no effect on employment levels. (“Minimum Wagds and Employment: A Case Study of the Fast-Food Industry in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.”American Economic Review, September 1994, 84(4), pp. 772–93.). This conclusion was heavily disputed, and for those who want to get their hands dirty, the December 2000 issue of the American Economic Review had 30+ pages of critique of the Card-Krueger paper and 30+ pages of response. I won't seek to mediate that dispute here. But I think that the academics who were driving the arguments had sort of exhausted themselves by the time the 2007 legislation passed, and no one seemed to be slavering for a rematch.

I was lukewarm on the rise in the minimum wage that was enacted in 2007. It seems to me that there are better ways to help low-wage workers. But that said, if the minimum wage isn't very far above the market wage for unskilled labor (and in some places may even be below the market wage for unskilled labor), there's no reason to believe that it will have large effects on employment. However, raising the minimum wage further to the range of $9.50/hour or $10/hour would in many parts of the country push well above the prevailing wage for unskilled labor, especially in a still-weak economy, and so the effects on employment would be more deleterious.

I tried to explain some of the other policy issues raised by a higher minimum wage in my book The Instant Economist: Everything You Need to Know About How the Economy Works, published earlier this year by Penguin Plume.
"Here’s an insight for opponents of a higher minimum wage to mull over: Let’s say a 20 percent rise in the minimum wage leads to 4 percent fewer jobs for low-skilled workers (as some of the evidence suggests). But this also implies that a higher minimum wage leads to a pay raise for 96 percent of low-skilled workers. Many people in low-skill jobs don’t have full-time, year-round jobs. So perhaps these workers work 4 percent fewer hours in a year, but they get 20 percent higher pay for the hours they do work. In this scenario, even if the minimum wage reduces the number of jobs or the number of hours available, raising it could still make the vast majority of low-skilled workers better off, as they’d work fewer hours at a higher wage.

"There’s another side to the argument, however. The short-term costs to an individual of not being able to find a job are quite large, while the benefits of slightly higher wages are (relatively speaking) somewhat smaller, so the costs to the few who can’t find jobs because of a higher minimum wage may be in some sense more severe than the smaller benefits to individuals who are paid more. Those costs of higher unemployment are also unlikely to be spread evenly across the economy; instead, they are likely to be concentrated in communities that are already economically disadvantaged. Also, low-skill jobs are often entry-level jobs. If low-skill jobs become less available, the bottom rung on the employment ladder becomes less available to low-skilled workers. Thus, higher minimum wages might offer modest gains to the substantial number of low-skilled workers who get jobs, but impose substantial economic injury on those who can’t.

"There are alternatives to price floors, and economists often tend to favor such alternatives because they work with the forces of supply and demand. For example, if a government wants to boost wages for low-skilled workers, it could invest in skills-training programs. This would enable some of those workers to move into more skills-driven (and better paying) positions and would lower the supply of low-skilled labor, driving up their wages as well. The government could subsidize firms that hire low-skilled workers, enabling the firms to pay them a higher wage. Or it could subsidize the wages of low-skilled workers directly through programs such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, which provides a tax break to workers whose income is below a certain threshold. This policy increases the workers’ net income without placing any financial burden on the employers."
What I didn't point out in the book is the political dynamic that raising the minimum wage allows politicians to pretend that they are helping people at zero cost--because the costs don't appear as taxes and spending. But pushing up the minimum wage substantially now, after the recent increases and in a still-struggling economy, does not strike me as wise policy.

Addendum: Thanks to reader L.S. who let me know that my argument here--a minimum wage law can play a useful redistribution function under certain labor market assumptions, but in general it is better for the government to move to a lower minimum wage and higher government support for low-wage workers--is quite similar to the more formal case made by David Lee and Emmanuel Saez in their recent Journal of Public Economics article, "Optimal minimum wage policy in competitive labor markets."

Monday, October 29, 2012

Learning to not send all your money home – a financial literacy course

At the opening ceremony of the World Food Day on 16 October, where our President, Kanayo F. Nwanze, delivered a statement, remittances was one topic of focus.  The President said:-

“Working with farmers through their organizations is the best way of ensuring enduring and sustainable economic growth and poverty eradication. This includes working with agricultural cooperatives such as SIDC in the Philippines, which has a scheme for Filipino workers here in Italy to invest in agriculture at home. The remittances are creating jobs in the rural Philippines and providing a good rate of return for the migrant workers on their investment.”

As the communication focal point for Rural Finance, amongst the many aspects of rural finance, I have been following the topic of remittances. I have been reading up on the various projects and activities. One of the topics that really interested me was financial literacy.

You never stop learning: Ever heard of financial literacy?
The remittance team briefed me on the ‘Mobilizing Migrant Resources Towards Agri-based Cooperatives in the Philippines’. This a project that helps migrants from the Philippines who came to Italy as domestic workers and helpers to save and invest in agri-based cooperatives back home.

Over the past many years, these migrants faced serious financial difficulties but now, with the help of financial  counsellors, they are helping the next generation of migrant workers to be aware of steps they need to take  to be able to manage their funds and be financially independent. This project was implemented by the Atikha Overseas Workers and Communities Initiative (Atikha). They joined hands with  the Filipino Women’s Council who provides financial education to more than 5000 domestic workers and helpers in Italy.

Thanks to the training received,  over 1,000 migrant workers have invested in the Soro-soro Ibaba Development Cooperative (SIDC), the largest cooperative in the Philippines.

SIDC, Athikha and the Filipino Women’s Council launched the SIDC Investment Program. One of the many projects of this programme is the SIDC Egg Layer Program which has already raised 220,000 Euro for investment in agriculture. This amounts to 59% of all investment in SIDC in 2011. As investors, the migrant workers have a guaranteed return of 6-7%, considerably more than from any bank account. I wish they would allow me to invest as well… !

Recently I had the pleasure of attending the first Filipino Europe-wide Diaspora 2 Dialogue (D2D) Conference held in Rome. Minda Teves, the leader of financial literacy courses in North Italy, who I met in June when I participated in a financial literacy course invited me to this conference. My IFAD colleague Pedro de Vasconcelos, Programme Coordinator for the Financing Facility on Remittances (FFR),  gave a presentation on ‘ Best use of Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) Remittances: Community, National and International Development Programs’.

A recent video that was filmed in the Philippines ‘Lily’s Story’ was shown as part of his presentation. Pedro gave IFAD’s perspectives on remittances, highlighting the programmes and success stories and explained how the FFR  is helping to support developing rural investment opportunities for migrants and community based organizations.

Meet Minda Teves – a powerhouse of hope
I met Minda Teves earlier this year when I participated in the financial literacy seminar, she introduced me to  Jocelyn, Marjorie, Nerisa, Rhodora, Rosalie, Gina and Kristine who are her fellow trainers and believe me it was an honour to meet these remarkable women – they are a group of industrious and intelligent women who came to Italy from the Philippines . They left their villages many years ago hoping for a better life for their families. Today these eight women live and work in Torino. They have full time jobs as domestic helpers but they also each have another important  job: they are financial counsellors or trainers, teaching other migrant women how to manage funds and work towards their dream future.

Teves is is a powerhouse. When she first came to Torino over 20 years ago, she was supporting 26 family members! She was working seven days a week  and yet  could not earn enough money to send home. As the pressure mounted on her, although she was feeling hopeless, she decided to turn her life around and went for a training course on financial literacy, eventually becoming a trainer herself.

Minda often says “I have to realize that our situation as a migrant is just like a … “bird in a cage… with the head outside.

The bars imprisoning us are the work conditions that we have to follow, the responsibilities towards our family back home and to the family here, the cultural shock, language barriers, low self-esteem, fears, etc.
The head outside the cage symbolizes the desire to know the world, to be part of the bigger space, to participate in community life, our curiosity, waiting and willing to Live….”

I am so pleased to have attended this event, as I realized that Financial Literacy is a worthwhile activity. One of the participants told me, ‘it gives us the possibility to analyse our financial condition and create our dream map for the future and keep our family together in spite of the distance that separates us.’

The financial trainers are in the right place and at the right time, many of the migrant women who are earning money in Italy are eager to learn from them about the concepts of savings, investments, budgeting and financial planning.

Since the training is delivered by members of the community, they  take into account their own social and cultural backgrounds. It was so moving to see the loyalty to their community and country, especially when they sang their national anthems with their heart at the beginning of each day. Another impressive fact was their solidarity. The trainers shared their delicious home cooked food with the participants  The participants received  complete information material and workbooks. I was so impressed on their meeting facilitation techniques… They used icebreakers at the beginning and energizers during the breaks. They had put together a well-structured programme that  covered all aspects of financial planning.

Teves has created a Facebook page called Northern Italy Financial Counsellors with over 500 members and it serves as their meeting point. Teves has a full-time job as a ‘helper’ . This means she only has Sundays to dedicate to the Filipino community.

 Apart from being a financial counsellor, in 1996 she established an association called ACFIL ‘Associazione Culturale Filippina del Piemonte’. This organization aims to strengthen solidarity among Filipinos in the region, promoting their native culture, , organizing work and social activities. Teves manages ACFIL’sa monthly newsletter and acts as the focal point for all the activities in the community.

On a personal note
It was an overwhelming show of solidarity and human bonding between people who had come a long way away from their homeland to support their families. I came away from this one-day seminar admiring their strength, at the same time feeling humbled. The trainers are not only professional and skilled, their dedication to their community and country is extraordinary. These trainers themselves had their share of negative experiences when they were in great difficulty after having ‘sent all their money home’. They didn’t know then what financial literacy meant . These women have a strong sense of community and want to ‘give back’ by sharing their experiences and teaching participants that while remittances provide a life line for their families, they are also essential for the development of their communities and country. And the migrants need to learn that taking care of their own needs is equally important as the families’ needs. This was a valuable message emphasized by the trainers. Too often being so far away makes it difficult for them to turn down requests from our families and the challenge is to set priorities and learn to say ‘no’ to meet their own goals.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Linking small producers with the world

Slow Food and Terra Madre videos shared at the Salone del Gusto Internazionale and Terra Madre Event in Torino highlight the opportunity to connect family farmers, local chefs and regional cuisine with the rest of the world.

Edwin Viña, a young chef from Tarija, Bolivia (left), had the honor of carrying his country's flag into the event. Edwin is taking part in the Paths of Excellence Program. The young entrepreneur represents Tarija Aromas y Sabores, a public-private initiative designed to promote the rich gastronomic offerings from the Tarija region - including agro-tourism, hams, cheeses, wines and Bolivia's signature grape brandy Singani. The Tarija Aromas y Sabores Program is part of a program supported by Discovering Territories through Products and People Program, Rimisp, the IFAD-supported Scaling-up of Rural Innovations Program that is working in Bolivia and Peru, IDRC-Canada and the Ford Foundation.

Juliette Taco Viza is a young enterpriser from the Colca Valley in Peru. Juliette also participated in the Scaling-Up Rural Innovations Program. Also in this photo, Dario Fo, Nobel Prize winner in literature, Carlo Petrini, Slow Food President, and FAO President José Graziano da Silva. (Photos Slow Food)

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Paths of excellence

Small producers highlight their work at the Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre event in Turin
By Terra Madre
Etson is a young Peruvian from the Colca Valley. Edwin is a chef in southern Bolivia. Fernando collects a sought-after shellfish, the loco, in Chile. Saleheddine cultivates fields in a northern Moroccan biosphere reserve. What do these four have in common?

They are all working to try to guarantee sustainable and socially inclusive development based on the value of biological and cultural diversity in their countries, a huge challenge. They all believe in the value of the natural and cultural heritage that makes their land, their history and their way of life unique, a heritage that is the result of thousands of years of interaction between nature and migrating populations, millennia of overlapping and integrating people, products, customs and beliefs.

They all want to preserve this identity, and above all to promote it. They want to turn the uniqueness that originates from diversity into an economic and social resource.

Regina, who promotes social gastronomy in Rio de Janeiro, and Pavlos, whose family has been producing excellent olive oil in the hills of Thrace for centuries, have the same objectives. They have joined many other farmers, fishers, cooks, food experts, young leaders and representatives from local organizations in setting out on an ambitious and innovative path, leading towards local development and the spread of fair work conditions.

They are all the protagonists of a pilot project run by Slow Food and the Rural Territorial Development with Cultural Identity program of Rimisp – Latin American Center for Rural Development.

The project, run by Slow Food and support of the Ford Foundation, is called “The paths of excellence: Discovering Territories through Products and People”. It will be presented at the Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre in Turin, the first stop for a traveling exhibition about the project.

The exhibition will present 12 different areas often characterized by inequality and marginalization, in both developed and developing countries in Latin America, North Africa and Europe. The public will be able to meet the custodians of each area’s gastronomic and cultural traditions, taste their excellent products and experience a true journey of discovery via images, sensations and flavors.

From October 25 to 29, the people who live and work in these areas will be sharing the beauty of their land and the wealth of their culture with the visitors and producers of the Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre.

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An IFAD delegation is attending the event in Turin. Wish you were there? Follow the proceedings via Facebook and Twitter.



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Rivers of Knowledge in the Greater Mekong Region

Rivers of Knowledge in the Greater Mekong Region
Self-reliance and self-sufficiency are the ground philosophies of rural development programmes in Thailand. A cutting edge policy strategy stressing the role of local talent wisdom, in a frame of inclusive competitiveness, gives room to sustainable public private approaches.

It’s been three days since practitioners of Cambodia, India, Laos, Madagascar, Thailand and Vietnam started their learning route. Mrs. Tram Mihn Tam, from the Vietnamese team already took note about how if the right measure of public and private interest is located, capacity enhancement and market opportunities will arise for the rural poor families with an increased impact.

The Route participants visited Sri Muang Agricultural Central Market at Ratchaburi Province, which is an initiative established in 1994. A multi stakeholder strategy with the involvement of public actors allowed the building of a strong quality control system, which is today the support of a service cluster. Farmers and middlemen are engaged today in a specialized market niche value chain.

The Chao Phya Abhaibhubejhr Foundation also hosted the participants of the learning route, and is willing to engage with the Laos’ participant Mr. Bounheng Amphavanh on a technical assistance contract. This experience, localized in the Prachinburi Province, portrays a successful initiative on local knowledge retrieval and valuing of traditional medicine, with an extended supplying network of small farmers supported on fair trade practices.

The knowledge exchange between participants and the AIT-E scholars and government officers already created a good ambiance for innovation. In the upcoming days participants will arrive to Nakhon Ratchasima province to meet Siam Organic and PDA PPP experiences.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Learning Route Nicaragua

‘Passion rebuilds the world for the youth. It makes all things alive and significant.’ -
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Advantages, challenges and lessons learned from Latin America’s young rural talents

By Adolfo Castrillo

As we continued on our learning route in Nicaragua, the passion and potential of youth took the forefront. 

This learning space was presented to us by Procasur with the support of the Ministry of Family Economy, the implementing agency for the IFAD-funded PROCAVAL and PRODOSEC projects that we visited along the route. 

Some questions come to mind from the interesting discussions fostered along the way. How can we empower young rural talents to rebuild our world? How can we invest resources, know-how and manpower to ensure long-term sustainability, peace and progress?

First off, we must understand the context that frames the issue. According to Procasur, there are 120 million young people in Latin America and the Caribbean today, if we define “youth” as people between 15 and 29. Of these, about 30 million live in rural areas, with boys outnumbering girls (53 to 47 per cent). In the countryside as a whole, young people comprise about 25 per cent of the population today.

Their access to opportunities, education, assets and the such will be a deciding factor in the future of food security, economic development and environmental sustainability not just in Latin America but across the globe.

The stakes are high, indeed. As we learned during the presentations by Procasur and from the young people themselves, besides having an abundance of passion, energy and ambition, there is a competitive advantage of this new generation of rural talents. If we look at the region as a whole, young people have higher levels of education than their parents, they know how to use new technology and are open to innovation.

Perhaps most importantly, young people stand at a crossroads. In the next few years, these rural talents will choose to stay in their communities, leave for the bigger cities (or mid-sized rural hubs that are growing exponentially in the region). They will decide to follow the road of peace and inclusion into the society as a whole or they will fall into a non-virtuous cycle attached to the drug trade, gangs and easy money.

It’s not going to be easy making these choices. And while there are numerous comparative advantages to being young, there are tons of disadvantages, too. 

With complex inheritance systems and relatively high levels of population growth, we simply don’t have the land, assets, institutions or policies in place to empower these youth.

If we continue on the path we are on today, most of Latin America’s young people will remain an invisible majority. 

So what can we do to make it better? 

Four clear themes are emerging from this Learning Route and our work with youth in the region over the past several years. 

Young people need

•    Access to technical and business development assistance

•    Insertion into labor markets

•    Access to land and productive capital 

•    Access to financial services

Young Rural Enterprisers Program

The IFAD-supported Procasur Corporation is running this Learning Route along with similar learning spaces across the Global South. Procasur started looking at rural youth in the region in 2008 with the Young Rural Talents Program. The program sought to identify problems and needs, challenges and opportunities. 

The Young Rural Enterprisers Program builds on this work, promoting innovation and focusing its energies on meeting the unique demands of today’s rural youth. The project will achieve this goal and work toward reducing rural poverty by using knowledge as a key driver for change, by fostering political dialogue and by co-financing innovative youth-run micro-enterprises. 

This venture funding will invest at least half of its resources in women-run enterprises, also providing the means to share these lessons between a new network of tomorrow’s rural leaders.

Procasur presentations

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Certified sustainable products offer new opportunities for smallholders

Markets for certified sustainable agricultural products are outpacing conventional markets and are expected to continue to grow globally in the coming years. This expansion offers opportunities for small-scale farmers in developed and developing countries to produce food sustainably and cost-effectively.

Yet sustainable production is mainly concentrated in developed countries. Our challenge is to open up the same opportunities to smallholder farmers in developing countries.

At IFAD, we see enormous promise in certified sustainable agricultural products. To label these products as sustainable, an independent certification programme must make inspections and determine that growers use environmentally and ethically sound farming practices.

Over the last 10 years, IFAD has funded 43 programmes focusing on value chain development for commodities that are eligible for voluntary certification. The programmes cover a wide range of crops in different parts of the world. As the map below indicates, there is significant potential for growth.

While such programmes can help smallholder farmers, they also raise questions and challenges. For example, how will smallholders learn how to produce sustainably? What does sustainability imply for them? How will they obtain certification for their products? And once certified, will their products be marketable?

SAMCERT puts smallholder farmers first
Answering these questions requires active learning on the part of smallholder farmers and strong linkages with markets, which public-private partnerships can provide. To foster such partnerships and strengthen smallholders’ access to markets for certified sustainable products, the IFAD Technical Division and the West and Central Africa Division have launched a programme called Strengthening Smallholders' Access to Markets for Certified Sustainable Products, or SAMCERT.

Ø  Assessing the certification potential of target smallholder producer groups
Ø  Identifying and promoting sustainable certification schemes to develop market access for smallholder farmers
Ø  Increasing knowledge about organic agriculture, Fairtrade and other sustainability certification programmes
Ø  Building the capacity of smallholder farmers to produce sustainably and manage the certification process
Ø  Developing relationships with key market actors to support certification-based partnerships along the supply chain.

So far, SAMCERT has focused on IFAD projects in West and Central African nations, including Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea Conakry, and São Tomé and Principe. It will soon expand to one more country in West Africa,  one in Latin America and another in the Asia and the Pacific region.

In São Tomé and Principe, SAMCERT supports the Participatory Smallholder Agriculture and Artisanal Fisheries Development Programme (PAPAFPA), an ongoing IFAD project. Its objective is to improve poor rural farmers’ and fishers’ access to national and external markets. Smallholder families participating in the programme have seen their yearly income increase, on average, from 25 per cent below the poverty level to 8 per cent above it.

PAPFPA’s success is linked to the development of strong ties with key partners, such as Kaoka and Cafédirect for organic and Fairtrade cocoa, Malongo for organic coffee, and Hom & Ter for organic white pepper. The project shows that smallholder farmers can produce high-quality products in a sustainable manner – and that market barriers can be overcome.

In Sierra Leone, SAMCERT is engaging with the Rehabilitation and Community-based Poverty Reduction Project (RCPRP), which supports efforts to certify cocoa as Fairtrade and organic for export. Following up on a February 2012 scoping mission, SAMCERT facilitated a September training session on preparing for Fairtrade inspection in the country. Three Sierra Leonean cooperatives will be certified Fairtrade before the end of 2012. They will also receive support from SAMCERT on internal control systems (ICS), a key element for voluntary certification. An ICS training session is planned for early 2013.

Smallholders connect with suppliers, distributors and buyers
Representatives of the projects in São Tomé and Principe and Sierra Leone participated in the 24th exhibition of organic and natural products, SANA 2012, which took place 8-11 September in Bologna, Italy. There, they shared experiences involving access to markets for certified commodities, and discussed the benefits of certification for smallholders.

The project participants also met with suppliers, distributors and buyers, some of whom were interested enough to request samples of their products in order to carry out quality tests. These tests represent a first step in the marketing of certified sustainable products. SAMCERT is keen to have producers attend events such as SANA, in hopes of opening up concrete opportunities for smallholder farmers and paving the way for new public-private partnerships. IFAD can play a strategic role in supporting such partnerships.

For its part, SAMCERT is bringing together the key actors involved in the sustainability certification process: producers, the private sector, standards bodies and consumers. While certification is not an end in itself – and is not the solution for all poor smallholder farmers – it can be a viable option to improve and diversify market access, and develop longer-term commercial relationships.

On 12 September, right after SANA 2012, a SAMCERT seminar was held at IFAD. Participants analysed the role of suppliers and other value chain actors, and talked about how to build effective and sustainable partnerships. The seminar was extremely well attended by representatives of IFAD, ICEA and SCI, as well as Cafédirect and many other private-sector partners. The seminar is over but the discussion continues, and SAMCERT welcomes your input.

Food for thought
Here’s some food for thought to encourage that input. Please use the comments section below to respond to these questions:

·         Public-private partnerships, or PPPs, usually involve a larger number of stakeholders than traditional commercial arrangements. With more participants comes more complexity. How can this complexity be minimized?
·         PPP stakeholders have different backgrounds and different ways of communicating. How can they best overcome communication barriers?
·         PPP stakeholders often have different project timeframes. How can they find the right balance in order to move forward together?
·         PPP stakeholders may have different perceptions of risk. How can they develop a common approach to risk management?

Your comments are greatly appreciated. Where there’s a will, there’s a way – to build strong partnerships together!

Monday, October 22, 2012

How to build a communications toolkit from scratch

IFAD COM team assembles communications toolkits.

When I sat down at the computer to write this blog, I had to admit to myself that I’m not an experienced blogger. I didn’t really know how to start. Then I remembered that the new Toolkit for IFAD communications includes a whole section on writing a memorable blog post! Following the tips offered in the toolkit – which will be rolled out at IFAD today –  I started to type. And with that my story unfolds.

When I was asked to coordinate development of the toolkit, I jumped at the opportunity. Little did I know what a learning curve I was in for.

How do you build a communications toolkit from scratch? I wasn’t sure, but my first thought was simply to start with a vision. As the person in the Communications Division who takes care of the budget and other corporate processes, I’m aware of all the areas of expertise that COM has to offer, but I’m not an expert in any of them. So I decided that what we needed was a practical guide for non-experts like me who want and need to know how to use communications more effectively.

With that vision in mind, my next step was to collect tips, best practices and guidelines from my colleagues, the communications professionals. I turned to the COM team to share their many years of collective knowledge and expertise. Their contributions were then compiled into a living document, which can be updated on the basis of changing needs and feedback from toolkit users.

The toolkit is a practical guide for
effective communications.
That all sounds simple, right? Not really. Coordinating a publication such as the Toolkit for IFAD communications involves receiving and reviewing content, then working with writers to put it all in context and editors to give it a consistent voice. Tracking the edited versions and keeping up with the most current documents can be downright dizzying. When all the written pieces start to fall into place, the design process begins. So many questions! What will the cover look like? How will the pages be laid out? And how will the contents be visually organized? No sooner are these design questions answered than the toolkit goes into production, with multiple rounds of proofreading to check every word, comma, link and reference. Finally, it goes to the printer.

At the end of this process, I took a deep breath and felt a sense of great satisfaction.

Of course, developing the toolkit has been very much a team effort. As I worked on the project, I shared my vision and ideas with colleagues, both at IFAD headquarters and in the field, who provided valuable feedback. Their enthusiasm kept me motivated at times when it all seemed overwhelming. Now that the toolkit is ready to roll out, I want to thank all those who helped in so many different ways. You know who you are.

And to anyone at IFAD who is faced with a communications dilemma: Help and support are always available from COM, but if you just don’t know where to begin, you can also reach for your copy of the Toolkit for IFAD communications. May all your visions come true!

Download IFAD communications toolkit

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Rural enterprisers take the lead

Nicaragua learning route brings young rural talents from across Central America together to ‘weave networks for the proactive inclusion of young people in rural development’

By Adolfo Castrillo
“The youth of today and the youth of tomorrow will be accorded an almost unequaled opportunity for great accomplishment and for human service.” - Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler

The potential of youth is outstanding.  Today’s young people will feed the world tomorrow. They will lead nations and build bridges. They will work toward peace and hopefully engineer a world that is greener, cleaner, friendlier and more inclusive.

Yes, there is great potential here. But for most young people living in Latin America’s countryside, there simply aren’t the opportunities to access the land, education, capital and other assets needed to achieve this great potential. 

Will this be a lost generation of young rural talents? We hope not.

With the goal of sharing experiences, building trust and empowering young rural people to be the central protagonists in their own development, we are gathering young enterprisers from across Central America for a Learning Route in Nicaragua from October 17 to 21.

During the learning route, participants will have the chance to see first hand how micro-enterprise development in Nicaragua is enabling young people to continue their studies, make more money, build their assets, create alternatives to the violence that has become pervasive across the region, and play a proactive, leading role in our society, culture and economy.

In all, some 39 young people will take part in the Learning Route, run through the IFAD-backed Procasur Corporation. The learning route begins with three days of visits to IFAD-sponsored enterprises in the Nicaragua countryside, and is followed by workshops, where young people will work to shape their futures. The potential of youth, it seems, is truly unequaled.

Illustrations of young entrepreneurs in the IFAD-supported Artefina Artisans Cooperative. Photos and illustrations by Greg Benchwick.

Watch videos
Ladislao Rubio is IFAD's Country Program Manager for Nicaragua. In this video, he looks at IFAD's funding for the Central American country, and how innovations in funding for rural micro-enterprise development are making a difference. 

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