News No 5 / 05 (November 2005)
and forestry: their combined potential under
discussion in Africa
Of current interest
farms: A secure future through rural-urban transition?
hidden side of rain
market integration could boost Africa's economy
paragraphs on integrating minorities in MDG planning
steps of marginalised communities towards securing their rights
search for advanced training opportunities worldwide
pay for what you get
projects learn from their own experience
rural enterprises ensuring their survival
stories to analyse the impacts of projects
Biotechnology and forestry: their combined potential under
discussion in Africa
is not solely concerned with the production of genetically modified
crops. The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) defines
it as “any technological application that uses biological systems, living
organisms, or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or processes
for specific use”. Thus, according to this definition, biotechnologies
can be classified into three groups: ancient (breeding), traditional
(industrial fermentation processes, chemical processes used to create
medicines and synthetic products) and modern.
In the context of forestry in Africa, and in particular in the Congo
Basin, the use of biotechnologies to improve resources can cover several
- identification of genetic resources
- multiplication of species
- the genetic modification of tree species
- the production of organic fertilisers and the search for antagonist
The identification of genetic resources
primarily enables us to go beyond traditional morphological descriptions
so as to arrive at more reliable results. The conservation of natural
resources, which is usually based on species composition, could greatly
benefit from more precise information on the genetic diversity within
each species. For example, recent in situ work carried out in an Eastern
Cameroon forest has revealed the wide genetic variability of sapelli,
a tree species that is currently logged there. This type of information
could also be applied to species selection, through the quantification
of certain ecological and economic attributes. Here, the authors view
biotechnology as a complementary instrument to, and not a substitute
for traditional selection programmes.
Forestry programmes could use the vegetative multiplication
of forest species to increase the given genetic material
and to stock it appropriately. Somewhat paradoxically, it could also
help to ensure the availability of a substantial base of genetic material
and the gradual introduction of new clones to maintain the genetic variability
of the species concerned. In vitro selection and cellular tissue cultures
benefit certain techniques already in use in Cameroon (hevea, cocoa,
and coffee) and in the Democratic Republic of Congo (multipurpose trees,
such as Acacia auriculiformis and Leucaena leucocephala). Cryoconservation
and in-vitro conservation help to reduce the risk of diseases which
threaten gene banks.
Many specialists are interested in the genetic modification
of trees, particularly fast-growing species which lend
themselves to intensive production. However, a concomitant risk is possible
cross-pollination with natural species, particularly those close to
the centre of origin of the given species.
Finally, biotechnologies could also be a benefit for the less common
areas of forestry resource management, such as the search for antagonist
microorganisms of harmful insects that can fertilise the soil and enhance
Despite these many advantages, most African countries suffer from severe
shortages in terms of the material and specialist skills needed to apply
these technologies. The use of modern biotechnologies especially in
Africa, a continent with great biodiversity, should be debated openly
and involve local specialists with relevant and sound information on
contributions of biotechnologies in the management and conservation
of forest resources of the Congo basin. D.J. Sonwa … [et al.]. In: International
Forestry Review vol. 7, no 1, 2005. p. 59 – 62
Further information: Forest
Genetic Resources Nº 31, FAO, 2004, 80 p. ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/008/y5901e/y5901e00.pdf
Small farms: A secure future through rural-urban transition?
Small farms certainly do have a future, also in sub-Saharan Africa
- this opinion was upheld at a workshop on the future of small farms.
The majority of the rural population in sub-Saharan Africa is engaged
in agriculture. The size of farming operations in this region is decreasing,
in many cases down to smallest-scale subsistence farming. As a result,
efforts towards food security are severely hampered even by smallest
changes in the environmental conditions. Models that promise growing
income are hardly applicable in the rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa.
The Asian “Green Revolution” cannot simply be copied due to different
crops and cultivation methods. The author, who is rather sceptical about
agriculture, believes that agricultural optimists underestimate the
negative consequences of market liberalisation and the phenomenon of
decreasing farm sizes. He agrees that strategies for reducing poverty
in rural sub-Saharan Africa must continue to be based on yield increase,
but in addition he emphasises that they should also build on accelerated
rural-urban transition, i.e. on more trade and services. In his view,
human mobility is the most important factor for economic growth: Poverty
reduction efforts are most effective where growth, infrastructure, transport
and communication are already established.
Source: Small-Farms, Livelihood Diversification
and Rural-Urban Transitions: Strategic Issues in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Frank Ellis. Overseas Development Group (ODG), University of East Anglia.
Paper prepared for the Research Workshop on: The Future of Small Farms,
organized by IFPRI/ODI/Imperial College, London 26 – 29 June 2005. 18
The hidden side of rain
Water is not always the same and there is more of this resource than
development policy makers and hydro specialists have so far acknowledged
in their supply concepts. How is this possible? The “blue water” we
see in rivers and aquifers is not the only form of water. There is also
“green water”, made up by the 65% of precipitation that first remain
in the soil in the form of humidity, are then stored in plants during
their growth, and are finally released back into the atmosphere through
Seventy percent of the world's rural poor live on rainfed agriculture.
In these arid regions, improved management of “blue water” will not
be sufficient to secure food and water supply. On the contrary: the
approach will have to be extended, and the focus of all efforts shifted
to centre on the significance and the management of “green water”. A
new policy document by the Stockholm International Water Institute uses
easily understandable water cycle diagrams and geographic overview maps
to illustrate the importance of the “green” water cycle for humanity.
Some research associations (International Fund for Agricultural Development
IFAD and Global Water Systems Project GWSP) are already working on “green
Source: Rain: The Neglected
Resource. M. Falkenmark, J. Rockström. 2005. Swedish Water House
Policy Brief Nr. 2. Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI).
Regional market integration could boost Africa's economy
Despite the region's comparative advantages, such as low salaries,
products from the sub-Saharan countries cannot compete on the globalised
markets. The advantages are outweighed by low productivity, high marketing
costs and the continued existence of trade barriers.
At the same time, the demand in Africa, particularly for food products,
is rapidly increasing. Already now, 25% of the continent's cereal supplies
are bought on the international markets. Among other things, this means
that Africa imports maize worth the total value of African coffee exports.
A study by the International Food Policy Research Institute shows that
many African countries import products from overseas that are produced
at a low cost by their own regional neighbours. The authors suggest
that African countries should begin to develop their regional markets.
This would mean removing trade barriers within Africa. Model simulations
show that this measure could enable the continent to increase its total
agricultural exports by as much as 19 percent.
Coordinated investments in regional agricultural productivity, infrastructure,
research and the strengthening of regional institutions, could further
increase the region's economic growth and competitiveness.
Source: Africa Without Borders: Building
Blocks for Regional Growth. Xinshen Diao, Michael Johnson, Sarah Gavian,
and Peter Hazell. Issue Brief No. 38. International Food Policy Research
Institute (IFPRI), July 2005. 4 p. www.ifpri.org/pubs/ib/ib38.pdf
89 paragraphs on integrating minorities in MDG planning
Even in disadvantaged societies, minorities usually account for a disproportionately
high portion of the poorest and most severely marginalised population
groups. Since the current specific targets for achieving the Millennium
Development Goals (MDGs) do not explicitly require integration of minorities,
most programme formulations to date do not include any special mention
of minority rights. This gives rise to the fear that the poorest of
the poor will continue to be further disadvantaged. Five years after
the UN Millennium Summit, the Commission on Human Rights has examined
the 8 MDGs and attached articles with a special focus on minority protection
and human rights.
The working paper suggests three entry points for improved integration
of minority rights in national MDG processes: implementation planning,
country reports, and advocacy. The paper provides a broad and well-founded
range of arguments for the specific inclusion of the three key pillars
of minority rights – non-discrimination, protection of identity, and
participation. It offers both food for thought and concrete suggestions
on how to integrate minority rights.
Source: The Millennium Development Goals:
Helping or Harming Minorities. Working paper. Commission on Human Rights,
Sub-Comission on Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, Working Group
on Minorities. 3 June 2005. 47 p.
First steps of marginalised communities towards securing
Marginalised communities have few means to draw attention to the disparities
between the rights which national legislation affords them and the day-to-day
application of such laws.
“Good, average and bad (GAB)” is an instrument to evaluate and, where
necessary, to improve the impact of existing legislation on communities.
The key steps in this process are identification of legal provisions,
investigation of existing implementation mechanisms, and the identification
of evaluation criteria. For this reason, it is essential that good,
average and bad cases are subjected to comparative analyses.
A study aimed at improving negotiations between forestry concessionaires
and local communities in Mozambique has thus identified six ways to
adapt the legislation to secure the intended rights and benefits of
the poor who earn their livelihood from the forest.
The main strength of this instrument is that it allows for all issues
relating to the actual application of the law to be scrutinised. However,
it is highly complicated and requires the involvement of third parties
familiar with both the methodology involved and with the specificities
of the community in which it is applied.
Source: Good, average & bad: law
in action. IIED, 2005. 12 p. Also available in French, Spanish and Portuguese
at the following address:
Easy search for advanced training opportunities worldwide
Development projects are continually confronted with new questions
and problems. Advanced training can help enable project staff to react
successfully. But which courses are offered where? When are they offered,
and how much do they cost?
The new, thematically enhanced version of the InfoAgrar Training Directory
offers useful guidance. It has a global focus with a particular emphasis
on courses in developing countries. In addition to normal courses, it
also contains a list of distance learning offers. The directory is freely
accessible on the Internet and lists around 350 courses on rural development,
covering both technical and methodological/conceptual topics, such as
project management, health issues, market access, biodiversity conservation,
livestock production, and many more.
The offers can be searched by topic, by country, by institution, or
using free keywords. For each course, a detailed view provides information
on qualification requirements, content, duration and costs, along with
a contact address.
Information: Click on the link at the
bottom of the following webpage:
You pay for what you get
should donors in development projects not approach their partners in
the role of buyers of a product? Starting from this provoking question,
the Swiss NGO Helvetas has in several projects begun to implement the
principle of “Results Based Payments”: A purchaser (i.e. the donor)
mandates a contractor with a certain task, for which the two parties
jointly determine the results to be achieved. The contractor is paid
according to the results that are actually achieved.
This system has been introduced, for example, in a project for the improvement
of agricultural extension in Kyrgyzstan. The regional consulting institutions
are no longer paid for their expenses, but according to the number of
demonstrations carried out, the number of farmers who were able to increase
their income, or the degree to which innovations were adopted.
So far, experiences have been largely positive. Compared to the previous
system of expense-oriented budgets, the efficiency and the effectiveness
of projects have clearly increased. However, the new system can only
work if the mandate and the results to be achieved are negotiated in
a transparent manner and if their effects are of a sustainable nature.
Another crucial element is a thorough and effective monitoring of results.
With small adaptations, the concept can be transferred to a broad range
Source: You pay for what you get. From
Budget Financing to Result Based Payments. Markus Arbenz. Experience
and Learning in International Co-operation, Helvetas Publications, No.
4. Helvetas, Zürich, August 2005.
Development projects learn from their own experience
projects and programmes work with ever more local partners who are often
widely dispersed geographically. Hence, the clear need for a strategy
which would enable participants to learn from the experiences of the
other project/programme areas, and to structure them in such a way that
these could prove beneficial for future work.
In Bangladesh, the Livelihoods, Empowerment and Agroforestry project
(IC-LEAF) considers experience capitalisation as a process of continual
learning and change, which is driven by different project members based
on their own experiences. LEAF defines the product of experience capitalisation
as capital to be re-invested. This project is innovative in terms of
its interest in and handling of “how” and “why” an objective was achieved,
rather than “which” objective was achieved. It is this feature which
differentiates experience capitalisation from success stories.
The article explains how experience capitalisation is implemented, setting
out each stage and the structure of the process. For leaders of development
projects, it will serve as a helpful knowledge management guide.
Source: Experience capitalisation:
Elements for a strategy in dispersed projects. Compil. Elisabeth Katz.
LBL. In: Rural Development, No 2/2005, p. 21 – 25. www.lbl.ch/internat/services/publ/bn/2005/02/
Associative rural enterprises ensuring their survival
In Latin America, some small producers in the agricultural sector
(crops/livestock rearing) join forces to create companies that are better
able to compete with their larger rivals. This is made possible by assistance
provided by the state and by international cooperation.
A case study analysed 35 rural associative companies in seven Latin
American countries. The same methodology and selection criteria were
applied across the board. Conclusions were first drawn at country level
and then at the regional level.
10 success factors could be deduced from the experiences of companies
in the Andean region. These included proximity to the given market,
the company being run according to democratic principles, the ability
to develop alliances with assorted market agents, and a favourable entrepreneurial
climate. In addition, the study aimed to examine the issue of balancing
the social accumulation of the company, the benefits accrued by the
individual partners and adequate conditions for producers.
These conclusions should assist with the future direction the region
will take, and help to ensure the involvement of all stakeholders: producers,
company owners, private development bodies (NGOs and projects) as well
as representatives from the public sector associated with this issue.
Source: Estudio regional sobre factores
de éxito de empresas asociativas rurales. Informe síntesis
regional en base a los informes nacionales. Patricia Camacho, Christian
Marlin, Carlos Zambrano. Ruralter, 2005. 47 p. Acessible from december
Collecting stories to analyse the impacts of projects
article describes a new approach to participatory project impact monitoring
called the Most Significant Change (MSC) technique. Using open questions
as entry points, stories are collected from the involved population
that describe as adequately as possible the changes that the project
activities have brought about in the local context and how these changes
are perceived by the people. In a participatory process, the most significant
among the total of collected stories are selected and then systematically
analysed. Analysis focuses on intermediate outcomes and impacts.
The guide is divided into two sections. The first five chapters introduce
the method and can be used as a manual, while the second five chapters
provide the theoretical background and additional information. Unfortunately,
the text only gradually reveals that MSC is not a complete monitoring
and evaluation method, but rather a tool to complete existing approaches.
The analysis procedure is only lightly standardised and leaves ample
space for discussion and interpretation by users. It is therefore also
particularly well-suited for stakeholder discussions and processes of
learning and consensus-building within user groups.
Sources: The “Most Significant
Change” (MSC) Technique. A guide to its use. Rick Davies and Jess Dart.
April 2005. 104 p. www.mande.co.uk/docs/MSCGuide.htm