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Terra Madre Youth – #WeFeedthePlanet - Day 1: Making connections

Posted by Roxanna Samii Sunday, October 4, 2015 0 comments

By Andrea Listanti

Immortalizing departure for "Terra Madre Youth"
Photo credit: R. Samii
On Friday 2 October, 40 young enthusiastic and passionate IFAD colleagues left for “Terra Madre Youth”. They are reporting live so that all of us can follow their extraordinary experience .

We are proud to be IFAD young delegates, even if our badge just says “participant”. We are bringing our voices to Milan, to “Terra Madre Youth” which is taking place in Milan from 3-6 October. The event, organised by Slow Food and Slow Food Youth Network with the support of IFAD, has brought together 2000 young people from all over the world who are engaged and work in food production industry so that together we can find innovative solutions to address global hunger. 

Our mantra - “We feed the planet” - is omnipresent. You see it everywhere... It is prominently displayed in the “Superstudio Più” and “Mercato Metropolitano” - the venue for seminars, workshops, public events and shows. We are trying to make the most of all of this, with passion, enthusiasm and the awareness of being part of a present that works for and needs to shape the future.

Getting up close and personal
Photo credit: Andrea Listanti
The first day focused on making connections and meeting people. Everyone was encouraged to connect with other fellow participants and start sharing ideas about sustainable models for future food production systems. IFAD’s fellows, many of whom are interns, had the opportunity to meet young farmers and food producers — our companions - who have benefitted from IFAD-funded projects and programmes in Africa, Asia and Latin America. 

To get things going and to break the ice, Joris Lohman, representative of Slow Food Youth Network and member of the Executive Committee of Slow Food International, reminded us that we had all gathered at “ Terra Madre Youth” to “find a new vision and new projects to feed the world”.
We made it..... Registered IFAD delegates
Photo credit: Andrea Listanti

During the Europe Meeting in the Red Room (the main hall of Superstudio Più), a fellow participant from Australia stood up and asked him what can we practically do to achieve this while we are here. Considering that all of us can and are reporters, a good starting point is to share our thoughts and listen to those of others. “As reporters  you are collecting bits and pieces from everyone’s experiences to make a story”, Lohman reminded us. This is what we will be doing on a daily basis!

We took advantage of a break to have a look around. There are people from all over the world, different cultures and traditions, indigenous peoples, farmers and more. Some of them are dressed in their traditional costumes. Their colourful outfits beat Milan’s grey weather and give us a sense of relief and excitement. 

Food is perhaps one of the best connectors in the world and has the power to bring people together not only in Italy, but globally.  So, at lunch, which was rigorously vegetarian, we had an opportunity to get up close and personal with our companions and “twins”. 

"We Feed the Planet"
Photo credit: Andrea Listanti
We met Gladys, a 26 year old young lady from Tanzania; Solomon from Ghana and Lywa from Senegal. Gladys has beautiful braids and as we engaged in conversation, we shared with her that we’ve heard Tanzania is an enchanting place, she indulged with a smile and confirmed. 

As Italians we consider Parmigiano cheese as one of the most nutrients foods. But to our biggest surprise and chagrin, we discovered that parmigiano was not as appreciated as we would have expected. Many of our companions did not eat it, even though it was perhaps the most nourishing part of our meal. 

We got our share of consolation when we saw Solomon and Lywa  appreciating Italian coffee! We took a selfie together. “Post it and tag me on Facebook”, they told me.  To which I replied, “Will do, don’t worry”. 

Solomon, a member of the IFAD-funded Global Youth Innovation Network (GYIN) knows a lot about IFAD-funded activities s in Ghana. “IFAD-funded activities are  well designed, the challenge is to engage directly with the beneficiaries, especially young people. A good example is Ghana Agriculture Sector Investment Programme (GASIP), which has a full component on rural young people”, Solomon told us.
Let's get the show on the road
Photo credit: Andrea Listanti

In the afternoon the 'stars' went on stage. The first to speak was Raj Patel. He talked about how the quest to make profits in the food production system has had devastating impact on the environment. “We live in the era of cheap food. Since 1990 food is becoming cheaper, and this food is the industrial food. Food industries make large profits out of it and this has an adverse impact on rural people”. 

He continued to tell us that the production of cheap food means exploiting the environment. Patel’s crie de coeur was: “There is no way industrial food can be sustainable. We need to change the global food production system, and in order to do that we need to confront capitalism. We are powerful when we address the powerful”.
After Patel, Carlo Petrini, the Slow Food founder, took the stage. Carlo is an inspiring and passionate speaker . He walked on stage and said : “when I entered this hall and saw all of you, I had the extraordinary feeling that our ideas, our projects and our future is in good hands.” 

Carlo’s message to us was while Expo is coming to an end, Milan finally is experiencing engagement. If we join forces, we can bring about change and advocate for an alternative and better food culture. 

Our vegetarian lunch
Photo credit: Andrea Listanti
Carlo challenged us and told us: “Our food production system does not work because industrial production asks more than our Mother Land can give. Many people are exploited in order to produce more, and the only people who suffer from the ‘free-market food system’ are smallholder farmers, whose rural communities can no longer sustain themselves. Using the network you care building, YOU must change this productive system”.

The first day ended at “Mercato Metropolitan” with the Disco Soup, a dancing dinner with leftovers of vegetables that would have been wasted otherwise. Music finished what food had started. As the night came to an end, we took stock of the connections made on our first day. And tomorrow we are looking for more inspirations and new connections so that we can start bringing about change.

By Ilaria Firmian

Last week in Addis Ababa IFAD organised together with GEF and partner agencies a 3-day workshop on the Integrated Approach Programme on Fostering Sustainability and Resilience for Food Security in Sub-Saharan Africa.

This is a major programme of $116 million to support twelve countries (Burkina Faso, Burundi, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Swaziland, United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda) targeting agro-ecological systems where the need to enhance food security is linked directly to opportunities for generating global environmental benefits. The 12 country projects will be supported by a regional ‘umbrella’ project for coordination, capacity building and knowledge services. (see: http://ifad-un.blogspot.it/2015/06/ifad-lead-agency-on-new-gef-programme.html )

The overall purpose of the meeting was to finalize the results framework for the umbrella project and agree on its functions and its interactions with the country projects.
The first day of the workshop aimed at building a common understanding on the priorities of the GEF IAP, as well as on the main features of the umbrella project. The three guiding principles of the GEF IAP are Engage, Act and Track (EAT), reflected in the three core components of each of the 12 country projects.

The presentations shared by the country design teams were very interesting, and despite the distinctness of challenges addressed showed a number of common aspects, such as the focus on up-scaling (providing hierarchical support to institutions, or Engage) and out-scaling (facilitating farmer to farmer knowledge diffusion, or Act)  good practices, the adoption of landscape approaches and the complementarity between value chains approaches (bringing incentives) and landscape approaches (ensuring environmental sustainability) and tools for monitoring and assessment (Track).

An entire session of the workshop was dedicated to discussing resilience, with presentations from different stakeholders (Bioversity International, GEF-STAP, ICRAF) showing a range of different perspectives, that only partially took on board the social aspects of resilience – still too ecologically focused.

‘Resilience is a value-laden concept: each group of stakeholders (environmentalists, climate experts, local households) takes resilience in its own way. Each project will inevitable have a different definition of resilience which is based on project context and actions,’ said Steve Twomlow, Climate Adaptation Specialist. 

A general agreement was reached on the fact that the IAP needs to provide evidence that sustainable agriculture is good for food production system and the environment, and that this evidence has to reach policy makers.

In order to do that, many concrete actions have been proposed for  the umbrella project, including:
  • Providing support on knowledge management and cross learning among countries;
  • Building capacity of the country projects on measuring Global Environmental Benefits, including using tracking tools,  earth observation/satellite data and other Monitoring & Assessment (M&A) tools;
  • Managing inter-sectoral engagement  and facilitating policy dialogue to influence policy change
On the theme of M&A a Share Fair was organised on the afternoon of Day 2 to allow all participants to familiarise with methodologies developed by the  different agencies. Among many others:  the FAO Ex-Ante Carbon-balance Tool to estimate GHG emissions, changes in carbon stocks and enhancement of carbon sequestration; the ICRAF Land Degradation Surveillance Framework to check the Status and trends of ecosystem health; IFAD Multi-Dimensional Poverty Assessment Tool to measure poverty impacts, improvement in farmers’ livelihoods and food and nutrition security; and Bioversity International Diversity Assessment Tool for Agro-biodiversity and Resilience.

The workshop ended with the official launch of the Programme in the presence of experts from existing dry land and food security initiatives from African Union, European Commission, UNDP, French Embassy, DfID, Great Green Wall initiative, and others. They presented their respective experiences in a panel session and welcomed the IAP coming to join forces with existing efforts. 

With support from IFAD, the Government of São Tomé & Principe has promoted public/private partnerships to further rural economic development and poverty reduction.  These efforts produced partnerships with four companies: KAOKA (France), which imports organic cocoa; Cafédirect (UK), which imports Fairtrade certified cocoa; Hom&Ter/Agrisud International (France), which imports organic pepper; and Malongo (France), which imports organic coffee. In addition, more than 5,500 smallholders are involved in these partnerships. In this context geographic indications are being set up for cocoa, coffee and pepper. Efforts are also being taken to develop sustainable agro-tourism packages linked to the three value chains.

Visit to local market in Bedonia @IFAD/S.Jonckheere 
A selected group of people involved in the Smallholder Commercial Agriculture Project in Sao Tome and Principe, who were in Italy for EXPO Milano 2015, participated in a study tour to learn from Italy’s experiences with organic agriculture, geographic indications and agro-tourism. Italy presents a success story in organic fruit and vegetable production, taking advantage of favourable climate and agronomic conditions and close geographic access to major markets. Organic farming growth in Italy is rapid and the domestic organic market is taking off. The Sao Tome delegation visited an organic horticulture farm and an apricot farm in Bedonia (Emilia Romagna) and exchanged experiences with the producers on issues related to certification and market access. Further, they visited the local market where the organic produce is being sold and learned about local economic development.

Visit to company making parmigiano reggiano cheese
Geographic Indication (GI) labelling is used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin. In order to function as a GI, a label must identify a product as originating from a given place. GIs are typically used for agricultural products, foodstuffs, wine and spirits, handicrafts, and industrial products. Goods carrying the GI designation benefit from special protection rights. A GI right entitles those who possess it to prevent its use by a third party whose product does not conform to the applicable standards. Italy is very much on the forefront of setting up geographic indications. Some of the most famous ones areParmigiano Reggiano cheese and Prosciutto di Parma ham. The Sao Tome delegation visited a company making parmigiano reggiano and another one making prosciutto di Parma and talked about the challenges of effectively managing a GI, the long-term benefits for those directly involved and its impact on the territory it refers to.

Visit to local mushroom fair @IFAD/S.Jonckheere 
Agrotourism is the form of tourism which capitalizes on rural culture as a tourist attraction. It is similar to ecotourism except that its primary appeal is not the natural landscape but a cultural landscape. If the attractions on offer to tourists contribute to improving the income of the regional population, agrotourism can promote regional development. To ensure that it also helps to conserve diversity, the rural population itself must have recognized agrobiodiversity as valuable and worthy of protection. Agrotourism is very much rooted in Italy and is formally regulated by state law since 1985. The Sao Tome delegation visited a so-called agriturismo in Bedonia and a local mushroom fair in Borgotaro. They also exchanged with the local tourism office on how to integrate tourism, local identity and local economy.

Children playing the Sao Tome national
hymn @IFAD/S. Jonckheere
São Tomé and Principe is a small country consisting of two islands, located off the western shore of the African continent. Its primary economic activity is agriculture, with cocoa constituting its principal item of exportation. The isolation of Sao Tome and Principe created a biological diversity within the country that is composed of diversified ecosystems, forests, plains, savannah, and fens. The wealth of the biodiversity of the Islands is recognized by scientists worldwide. The sustainable exploitation of the biological diversity of Sao Tome and Principe is directly related to its conservation, so that it can also generate revenue for the local communities and thus reduce poverty.

Representatives from IFAD-supported project at
the Sao Tome Pavilion @IFAD/S. Jonckheere
By participating in the Cocoa Cluster at Expo Milano 2015, Sao Tome and Principe aims to show to the world that it is possible to find a balance between cocoa production and conserving  biodiversity, while at the same time improving the living conditions of local communities. Sao Tome’s experience demonstrates the vast potential of collective action and public/private partnerships to further rural economic development and poverty reduction. Sunday 27 September 2015 was the  São Tome and Principe day at Expo Milano 2015 and a number of events were organised, such as seminars, concerts, plays and food tasting.

Photo story on the cocoa value chain
@IFAD/S. Jonckheere
On Friday 25 September 2015, two seminars were held to present the work the Government has done, with the support of IFAD, on developing innovative and sustainable agricultural value chains and promoting responsible agro-tourism. The Participatory Smallholder Agriculture and Artisanal Fisheries Development Programme (PAPAFPA) has set up partnerships between the São Tomé government, IFAD, the Agence Française de Développement and European companies, aimed at developing entire value chains (from production to final markets) within an ethical framework. These partnerships enhance returns on investments in traditional cocoa, coffee and pepper value chains through the use of organic and Fairtrade certification and by linking to European markets. In addition, geographic indications are currently being piloted for the three commodities. Smallholder families participating in the programme have seen their yearly income increase, on average, from a level of 25 per cent below the poverty line to 8 per cent above it. Many producers have invested in home improvements and items such as bicycles, generators, radios, refrigerators and television sets. Some successful producers have used the profit from organic cocoa production to set up small roadside shops, run by women, generating further profits for families.

Seminar on sustainable agro-tourism
in Sao Tome @ICEA/P. Sciurano
At the same time, PAPAFPA has also supported the development of sustainable agro-tourism. Agro-tourism offers the opportunity for tourists to participate in the process of food production, to learn more about the lives of the rural people, and for local communities to generate additional income generation. The project facilitated the setting up of a platform which brings together a range of public and private stakeholders at national and regional level (tourist operators, eco-lodge and hotel owners, agricultural cooperatives and international certification bodies) and develops common tourist packages. As such, a “cocoa route” has recently been inaugurated, which allows the visitor to familiarize him- or herself with the production and processing of cocoa and to engage with local communities. The work is now being continued under the Smallholder Commercial Agriculture Project.

Food and identity: local recipes on the grill

Posted by Beate Stalsett Tuesday, September 29, 2015 0 comments

Written by Bertrand Reysset 

Participants at the congress in Milan. Photo credit: Bertrand Reysset
The VI World Congress of Agronomists, held in the Expo conference room, started on Tuesday 15 September in Milan. 500 agronomists from all around the world were gathered to discuss the connection between food and identity.

I participated in the opening session together with the president of the World Association of Agronomists, Mrs María Cruz Díaz Álvarez, officials from Italian authorities, agronomists from all over the world, as well as representatives from FAO.

It was an opportunity to recall IFAD's strong support for rural smallholders for nearly 40 years, and that working with agronomists and using agronomical science is a part of IFAD’s DNA.

The conference topic, Food and Identity, was also an opportunity to highlight a recent IFAD campaign that celebrates the local recipes of rural people. Local recipes are at the crossroads of nutrition, culture, food systems and climate challenges. Climate change is putting local recipes and products at risk, and this is affecting local identities and tradition. In Lesotho the change in rainfall and snowfall patterns are challenging rangeland management, threatening the future of their traditional mutton stew (Sechu Sa Nku). In Vietnam sea level rise threatens rice paddies and freshwater pond fisheries in coastal areas, lands that yield two staple ingredients that go into sweet and sour catfish soup. In Rwanda and Guatemala, higher temperatures will reduce kidney bean and black bean yields, which are used in traditional sauces. These examples of local recipes threatened by climate change show concretely how our climate affects the future of local and nutritious cuisine, and thus impact not only food security but also cultural assets.

IFAD invests in building climate resilience for these distinguishing food systems, to sustain rural development and cultural assets even under a changing climate. In Lesotho, an IFAD project to improve rangeland management and quality is being supported. In Vietnam, salt tolerant rice and catfish species are being developed. In Rwanda and Guatemala, climate resilient farming practices help to buffer higher temperatures. We call these actions our "Recipes for Change". All this and much more is made possible through the support of our Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP). These concrete investments resonated with the agenda of the World congress of Agronomists, and there is valuable knowledge to draw from this event.

The event also reflected the orientation towards sustainability taken by the agronomists’ community. After having launched the Green Revolution over 50 years ago, the community is now aware of the challenges ahead to sustain food for an increasing population, while having a lower environmental footprint. The concept of a new green revolution is today gaining currency: agriculture today needs to sustainably intensify production, reduce agrochemical and food waste, and play a multifunctional role (combat climate change, ensure nutrition, landscape management, social support, etc.). The Congress will bring its message to political leaders in all parts of the world.

This trip to Milan was an excellent opportunity to share views and meet technical experts in the field of agronomy. I had the chance (and the time) to visit the Expo and UN pavilion before leaving and I highly recommend it. The scenery is amazing, our colleague Giacomo is an enthusiastic guide, and the UN team has done an incredible job. If you pass by the Expo, don’t miss this pavilion! And you can even enjoy low carbon transportation: there are direct trains from Rome to the entrance gate of the Expo.

Makati City, Philippines -12 September 2015 - The European Union (EU) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) are pouring in fresh support to a capacity building programme that is helping improve the livelihoods and food security situation of smallholder farmers and rural producers in ASEAN countries.

This was announced by Hoonae Kim of IFAD Asia Pacific and Franck Viault of the EU Delegation at the 37th Meeting of the ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF) on September 10, 2015 at the Manila Peninsula, Makati City, Philippines following IFAD and EU regional programme joint presentation to the ASEAN Ministers.

Hoonae Kim, IFAD Director emphasized the success of ASEAN and the current IFAD investments in 8 of the 10 member countries (20 projects amounting to USD 2 billions and dedicated to agriculture development). She indicated that "80% of agriculture investments are done by smallholders who provide 80% of food supply, and they deserve support from Governments and international finance institutions".Ms Kim presented two areas for cooperation with ASEAN: a policy grant support to ASEAN common market integration to ensure smallholders are not left behind; and farmers' organizations support with EU and Swiss Cooperation Agency: https://youtu.be/S2a93Jf0P00

The ASEAN Farmers' Organizations Support Program (AFOSP) is an EUR 16 million programme of which EUR 15 million are provided by the EU. AFOSP aims at strengthening Farmers' Organisations (FO's) institutional and operational capacities; enable FOs at different levels to have their interests better taken into account in regional, national and provincial policies on smallholder priority subjects; and improve FO's services to their members through entrepreneurial capacities and participation in value chains.
The program is helping ASEAN FOs to evolve into stable, professional, accountable organisations capable of providing effective and sustainable services to their members and of influencing policy and corporate processes on agriculture and food security issues at local, national, ASEAN regional and global levels.

AFOSP consists of two highly complementary Components -- (i) support to the Medium Term Cooperation Programme phase II and regional policy dialogue in ASEAN region – MTCP ASEAN and (ii) Farmers Fighting Poverty – Food Security Initiatives of Farmers’ Organisations in a Regional Perspective programme (FFP ASEAN). The two components share the same objectives and activities although both the approach and the level of intervention are different but complementary.
MTCP2 ASEAN will be managed by the consortium of the Asian Farmers' Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA) and La Via Campesina (LVC), while the FFP ASEAN will be managed by the AgriCord network of agri-agencies.
Since 2013, MTCP2 operates in Asia Pacific at regional and national levels, supporting FOs platforms at regional, sub-regional and national levels and to create institutional linkages between these platforms and ASEAN Secretariat, while FFP ASEAN mainly involves local FOs and value chains specialised FOs from the local to the national level since 2007. MTCP ASEAN would primarily focus on those activities that can benefit all members’ platforms towards building common agenda for policy dialogue and joint action both for economic and political actions, while FFP ASEAN would tailor its support to the specific needs of individual FOs in terms of organizational strength and inclusiveness, institutional development, business development (economic services), policy elaboration and advocacy.

Franck Viault, Head of Cooperation EU Jakarta, highlighted the enhanced ASEAN-EU partnership including notably increased EU development assistance to ASEAN both at regional and bilateral level, notably support for agriculture sector in Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar; AFOSP will be fully complementary to these bilateral programs. He also mentioned that "the ASEAN Secretariat, ASEAN Sectoral Bodies and the ASEAN Foundation are the shareholders of AFOSP program and this will ensure the stronger and mutually beneficial links with Farmer Organisations and other stakeholders": https://youtu.be/8tJh4TAPQ5Y

The feedback from six ASEAN Ministers and their representatives on the presentation and purpose of AFOSP was very positive. They highlighted in particular the diversity of challenges their smallholders farmers are facing, importance of marketing and interaction with the private sector, knowledge dissemination and need for incentives for young generations to stay and succeed in the agriculture sector.
The program will run for 5 years from June 2015, and its implementation is monitored on www.asiapacificfarmersforum.com

Women and agricultural biodiversity – from the seed to the table

Posted by S.Sperandini Friday, September 25, 2015 0 comments

By Maria Hartl, Senior Technical Specialist - Gender and Social Equity

EXPO Milan has definitely given us the space to talk – with a calendar of occasions for exchange about topics that often do not make it into the headlines, including for example the core mandates of the Rome-based agencies and their collaboration.

That was my first thought, when I was invited to speak at a round-table on “Agricultural biodiversity, value chains and women’s empowerment”. The event was organized by Bioversity International and supported by the Italian Development Cooperation. The focus was on the strategic role of women in managing and conserving agricultural biodiversity and the challenges and opportunities they face.

The round-table was skillfully moderated by Barbara Serra, news presenter and correspondent for Al Jazeera English. It brought together many key players on gender and biodiversity, including representatives from FAO, IFAD, Oxfam Novib, to Slow Food, Fair Trade and the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSFR) in India.

In fact, to me it felt like the extended IFAD family.  It was certainly not a coincidence that many of the programmes that were presented kicked off with IFAD grant support. It was a great opportunity to learn about long-term results and impact. And it was really gratifying to see that all the programmes integrated a gender perspective and contributed to women’s empowerment, in particular for indigenous women.

Ann Tutweiler (Director General, Bioversity International) and Stefano Padulosi (Theme Leader, Marketing Diversity, Bioversity International) spoke about the result of years of research on neglected and underutilized species (NUS), which started with IFAD grant support.  They had also invited Sebastiana Choque, a custodian farmer from Bolivia, to give a testimonial about her management of many varieties of native potatoes, cañihua, oca and barley. Choque also spoke about the important work she has been doing in support of the Bolivian National Agricultural and Forestry Research Institute in its cañihua germplasm collection.

Bioversity’s support of the Andean “lost grains” of Quinoa in Bolivia and Peru led to the development of practical and safe processing machines which combine both traditional and modern technologies and significantly reduce women’s burden of labour. The machines slash the time required to thresh grains from 2 hours to 6 minutes per kilogramme. Another key process, the removal of saponin, the bitter coat around the grains, takes only 1 minute per kilogramme with the new machines, where before it took half an hour – a truly fantastic reduction of drudgery. (Remember that the third strategic objective of IFAD’s gender policy focuses on reducing workload – and that’s because it makes a huge difference to women’s lives.) The programme also facilitated strategic alliances with private companies to develop over 40 new food products, including fortified cookies and dairy substitutes with an Andean grain base which the government is now making available to breastfeeding women.

Putting Lessons into Practice: Scaling up People’s Biodiversity Management for Food Security” is an Oxfam Novib programme in Peru, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe supported by IFAD.  According to Gigi Manicad (Senior Programme Manager, Oxfam Novib), more than the 60 per cent of the participants were indigenous women who were actively engaged in seed management and in participatory varietal selection and breeding. (To find out more about this, take a look at the women’s video diaries, where indigenous women speak for themselves)

In 2014, the programme expanded into eight countries, using the innovative Farmer Field Schools method to preserve the seeds of neglected and under-utilised species that are a priority for women and food and nutrition security.

Oxfam Novib has submitted a report on the programme to the upcoming Sixth Session of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture with recommendations on farmers’ rights and inclusion of women.

Another joint IFAD-Biodiversity International project was introduced by E.D. Israel Oliver King, the principal scientist at the MSSFR (India) and coordinator of a programme strengthening the resilience of poor rural communities in the face of food insecurity, poverty and climate change through on-farm conservation of local agricultural biodiversity.  He was accompanied by Malliga Seerangan, a recognized custodian farmer and Jaya Eswaran, representative of a women’s self-help group, who described their involvement in varietal selection, community seed banks and value addition.

In my presentation, I put the spotlight on IFAD’s support to indigenous peoples, in particular women and their holistic approach to biodiversity. The link between biodiversity conservation and empowering rural people to improve their lives and strengthen their resilience is a leitmotiv for grant and loan-financed operations, leading to better nutrition and food security, and increased income and economic empowerment. Women are a key link in the chain that starts with seed selection and preservation and ends with putting nutritious food on the table.

In the discussion that followed, one participant asked about the collaboration between the many organizations present. There are indeed so many ongoing partnerships, often invisible to the public eye.  As Ann Tutweiler (Bioversity International) replied, a diagram showing all the different partnerships and collaborations among the organizations present in the room would consist of hundreds of lines running from one organization to the other.

The event concluded with a demonstration and tasting of delicious Indian snacks made out of millet and other neglected species, the final statement about women’s important role in the food chain, leading to the kitchen and filling hungry stomachs.

Related links
Stewards of biodiversity adapt to a changing climate