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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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.

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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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