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By Naoufel Telahigue and Rami Abu Salman

Organic cocoa farmers in Sao Tome and Principe have benefited from
an IFAD scheme linking them with overseas buyers. PHOTO/IFAD
Next month, we will all gather again in Rio de Janeiro to work out what went wrong 20 years ago and consider solutions that we have dismissed.

Children who were 12 years old during the first Rio summit, in 1992, might now be quickly approaching the end of their life expectancy in some countries. But what if smallholder farmers had been at the centre of the debate 20 years ago?

At the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) – the United Nations’ agency focused on rural development – we believe there can be no green economy without “green” agriculture.

Agriculture is a key economic and development sector in all countries across the globe, recognised by world leaders for boosting gross domestic product (GDP). If done sustainably, agriculture can provide a significant opportunity for the 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty to improve their lives, and cater to the food security needs of the world’s more than 925 million malnourished people.

In addition, climate-smart and simple technologies can help poor smallholder farmers to build their resilience and mitigate risks associated with climate change.

IFAD and its partners have been working to ensure that innovation and investment in agriculture -  and more importantly in the world’s 500 million small farms - lead to long-term sustainability.

Organic fair-trade Cocoa
In Sao Tome and Principe, for example, IFAD has helped turn around the dying smallholder cocoa sector after the collapse of world market prices in the late 1990s.

By setting up public-private partnerships with overseas buyers of organic fair-trade cocoa of high quality, the project helped small farmers establish export cooperatives and achieve stable and significantly improved incomes.

Smallholder families participating in the programme have seen their yearly income increase, on average, from a level 25 percent below the poverty line to 8 percent above it. One particularly successful producer used the profit from organic cocoa production to set up a small roadside shop that his wife runs, generating even greater profit.

This initiative was coupled with organising small farmer groups and training them in organic and conservation agriculture, solar drying, integrated pest management and other environmentally sustainable practices.

Growth potential
Smallholder farmers have untapped growth potential. The message IFAD will take to the upcoming conference in Rio is that we must explore this potential by transforming smallholder farmers into empowered business women and men.

This transformation requires adopting new approaches that are competitive, sustainable, sufficiently diversified and within the carrying capacity of natural ecosystems. By helping smallholders in integrating and developing “green value chains”, we offer them an opportunity to sustainably harvest not only food, but also economic, social and environmental benefits.

For instance, a new initiative in Sierra Leone is aiming to develop markets for high-quality organic, fair-trade cocoa. The project will rehabilitate a cocoa plantation abandoned during the war.

Prices for good-quality certified cocoa are less susceptible to market fluctuations, and this encourages further investment and assures sustainability. In addition to the extra income provided by intercropped plants, cocoa agroforestry systems will support greater biodiversity and avoid land degradation and erosion caused by slash-and-burn farming.

Smallholder farmers have immense potential to contribute to a green economy and to sustainable growth in general. To do that successfully, they need enabling environments and support such as improved access to land, water and markets, financial services, adequate technologies and technical assistance.

In this respect, promoting the role of women and youth as farm entrepreneurs is particularly crucial. We have the means, we have the knowledge, and now we need the collective will. If we don’t act now, we risk going back in another 20 years to acknowledge the failure of choices.

Originally posted on AlertNet blog

Naoufel Telahigue and Rami Abu Salman are Regional Environment and Climate Specialists at the IFAD. IFAD is co-organising Agriculture and Rural Development Day on June 18 ahead of the Rio+20 Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

On day one, participants post their hopes for the outcome ‪
of the land tenure security workshop.
NAIROBI, Kenya – For the past two days, more than a hundred people have packed a mid-sized conference room at the United Nations compound here to grapple with one of the most fundamental questions facing the world’s poorest households: Who owns the land?

Tomorrow, they will come back to grapple some more, in a dialogue conducted in both English and French to accommodate participants from 20 nations across Africa. And when the simultaneous translators stop for their mandatory breaks, bilingual volunteers will jump into the breach so that the conversation can continue. Such is the sense of camaraderie and urgency in the air.

The forum for these discussions is the first-ever joint workshop held by IFAD and UN Habitat, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme. Organized under the auspices of the Global Land Tool Network (GLTN), the three-day workshop aims to deepen understanding of land tenure issues in sub-Saharan Africa. It also seeks to identify ways in which IFAD, UN Habitat and their partners on the ground can cooperate more closely to secure land and natural resource rights for all.

That’s a tall order, to say the least. But the stakes are high, especially for women and marginalized groups whose access to the land is most tenuous. Speaker after speaker in Nairobi has stressed that land tenure security – that is, the ability to control, benefit from and transfer the rights to land and natural resources – makes people far less vulnerable to hunger and poverty.

Land tenure and poverty

Simply put, secure land tenure is the key to the future prospects of millions of impoverished families worldwide. If anyone doubted that notion, the workshop has made it abundantly clear.

Photos from the workshop on display outside the packed
conference room in Nairobi.
The agenda kicked off yesterday with remarks by IFAD’s regional economist for East and Southern Africa, Geoffrey Livingston. “Secure land and natural resources rights are essential for rural poverty reduction, agricultural development and economic growth,” he said, noting that land and its associated resources are the primary assets of the 470 million people living in rural areas in Africa.

IFAD regional land advisor Harold Liversage added that land tenure is more secure when governments’ land administration systems are accessible and transparent. However, he cautioned, the reforms needed to create such systems require sustained political will at the country level – so there is no “one size fits all” solution to securing land rights.

But it was Clarissa Augustinus of UN Habitat and GLTN who made one of the workshop’s most sobering points. Only 30 per cent of all land outside the developed world is registered, she said, leaving 70 per cent without legally recognized ownership or security. Augustinus called this “a huge political and technical challenge” with ominous implications for the poor.

A continuum of rights
Still, it’s a challenge that must be met, amidst population growth, competition for dwindling resources and rapid urbanization in developing countries. In the absence of transparent land management, conflicts over property rights can be endemic. Large-scale land grabs by powerful interests can displace people from their ancestral homes. And smallholders who lack title to their farms can be denied access to the credit they need to move from subsistence to commercial agriculture.

Unwinding at a reception after day two of the three-day
IFAD-UN Habitat land tenure workshop.
One approach to solving this quandary involves rethinking the very definition of land ownership. As UN Habitat’s Axumite Gebre-Egziabher reported at the workshop, “a global paradigm shift” on ownership is already under way. Rather than focusing exclusively on statutory tenure, she said, more and more advocates and institutions are recognizing a continuum of land rights. These may range from traditional or customary rights to communal ownership of forests and grazing lands, as well as other intermediary forms of land tenure.

Significantly, the African Union Commission, the UN Economic Commission for Africa and the African Development Bank have endorsed just such an expansive vision of land tenure as part of their African Land Policy Framework and Guidelines, issued in 2009. The framework and guidelines also support participatory land policy processes as a prerequisite for long-term sustainable development on the continent.

Continued collaboration
Translating such declarations into effective land policy and governance is another matter, of course. Yet the participants in the Nairobi workshop – most of whom are practitioners working on development projects at the grass roots – appear determined to give it their best shot. To that end, they split up into small thematic groups, both yesterday and today, to concentrate on some of the most complex aspects of land management, including:
  • Documenting small-scale farmers’ land and water rights
  • Advocating for recognition of group land rights
  • Strengthening women’s equitable access to land and natural resources
  • Using remote sensing and mapping technology to promote land and resource rights
  • Securing land and resource rights through inclusive business partnerships between small-scale farmers and outside investors.
Each of these areas warrants exhaustive study in itself. For present purposes, suffice it to say that the land rights workshop has made a solid start on tackling each of them through Africa-wide collaboration and knowledge sharing. If the charged and serious atmosphere in the conference room is any indication, that collaboration will continue long after the workshop wraps up tomorrow, and the participants return to the lands they call home.

By Geoffrey Livingston

Yesterday in Nairobi, Kenya, IFAD Regional Economist for East and Southern Africa Geoffrey Livingston opened a joint IFAD-UN Habitat workshop on land and natural resources security with remarks on the challenges and opportunities at hand. Excerpts follow.

Smallholder farmers in the Haute Matsiatra region of
Madagascar. ©Rindra Ramasomanana
Secure land and natural resources rights are essential for rural poverty reduction, agricultural development and economic growth more generally.

In sub-Saharan Africa, about 470 million people are located in rural areas, agriculture employs 65 per cent of the labour force and the sector drives 32 per cent of GDP growth. Land and the associated natural resources are among the main assets that poor rural women and men have in Africa, along with their labour and creativity.

But land is not just an economic asset. It also has great cultural and social significance. For many Africans, land is owned on behalf of their ancestors and future generations. In general, poor people and marginalised groups have less access to land and weaker land rights – and, typically, women do not enjoy the same land rights as men.

Growing recognition
IFAD has learnt that the lack of secure land and natural resource rights is often a major obstacle to economic development and poverty reduction; is often a major cause of social instability; and often undermines good land use and land management.

In recent years, there has been a growing recognition in Africa of the importance of land and natural resource tenure security. There is also a greater recognition of the need for active citizen participation in the formulation and implementation of land and natural resource management policies. There is an opportunity to learn from an increasing number of experiences – both positive and negative.

The African Union Commission, UN Economic Commission for Africa and African Development Bank-led process of developing the African Land Policy Framework and Guidelines is exemplary. It provides us with an excellent opportunity for raising the profile of the importance of land and natural resource tenure security for long-term sustainable development – not only in Africa but throughout the world.

Collaboration with partners
But the real challenge now is in developing and implementing practical approaches for securing land and natural resource rights and, linked to this, building community and decentralised capacity to implement these approaches.

Often without realising it, IFAD-supported initiatives in the region have a wealth of experience in supporting local institutions to manage land and natural resources – and through this, to secure the rights of poor rural men and women. Typically, IFAD-supported projects and programmes are implemented by ministries responsible for agricultural development and natural resource management. And often, the lessons learnt on securing land and natural resource rights in these projects and programmes do not feed directly into land policy development.

In this regard, our collaboration with UN Habitat and other partners, under the auspices of the Global Land Tools Network, provides us with an excellent opportunity for strengthening the engagement of various IFAD-supported initiatives in sharing their experiences.

IFAD is very pleased to support this initiative. We recognise land and natural resource tenure security are key for poverty reduction and economic growth, and we welcome the opportunity to learn from others on how to better integrate measures that can strengthen tenure security into initiatives that we support.

Expertos internacionales resaltan nuevas oportunidades para la reducción de la pobreza rural 
Con el objetivo de discutir herramientas innovadoras para cerrar las brechas de oportunidades que afectan a los 25 millones de campesinos pobres en América Latina, reconocidos expertos internacionales se reunieron la semana pasada en Antigua, Guatemala, en el seminario “Desarrollo rural en América Latina: preguntas, perspectivas y desafíos”.

El Fondo Internacional de Desarrollo Agrícola (FIDA), en coordinación con la Asociación de Investigación y Estudios Sociales (ASIES), llevaron a cabo el seminario para crear un espacio de reflexión y debate acerca de las tendencias y retos del desarrollo rural que enfrenta la región actualmente, y el papel que distintos actores pueden jugar en su abordaje.

Todos se aproximaran al desarrollo rural latinoamericano desde diferentes temas: gasto público y equidad, financiamiento rural e inclusión financiera, política social y productiva, y procesos de innovación en intervenciones rurales.

Videos de los discursos del evento


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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been speaking out about gender equality in the international arena since at least 1995, when she delivered a forceful message on women’s rights as human rights at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women. So it was no surprise that the rights of rural women figured prominently in her remarks last week at the Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security.

Webcast image of Hillary Clinton speaking at 18 May
symposium in Washington, DC.
Organized by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and held in Washington, DC, the symposium preceded this year’s G8 summit of world leaders. It provided a forum for high-level discussions of sustainable agricultural development and the setting for President Barack Obama’s announcement of a G8 initiative – the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition – which aims to reduce hunger and lift 50 million rural people out of poverty in the next decade. 

Secretary Clinton’s speech at the event covered a range of issues on investing in global agriculture to solve the problems of malnutrition and extreme poverty. Perhaps its most passionate section dealt with the largely untapped potential of rural women to help feed the world, a topic that is also central to IFAD’s recently adopted gender policy. Excerpts from the Clinton speech follow.

I’m sure it’s no surprise to anyone that I am convinced women are critical to our success in every field of endeavour. And this is not a matter of sentiment or personal interest on my part. This is also actually a fact-based, evidence-based statement. It has been said that the modern face of hunger is often a woman’s face, because in many parts of the world, women still eat last and eat least.

The face of a farmer is often a woman’s face as well. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, women comprise nearly half of the agricultural workforce across Africa. So if we want to support farmers, we also have to support women farmers. And that is not something that happens automatically. It has to be part of a deliberate, determined strategy that takes gender equality into account across everything we are doing.

And the results speak for themselves. The FAO estimates that if women farmers had the same access to productive resources as men – seeds, credit, insurance, land title, and so on – they could increase yields on their farms by 20 to 30 per cent. And that, in turn, could raise total agricultural output so much it could reduce the number of hungry people worldwide by up to 150 million.

Now the obstacles that stand in the way of women’s equal access to resources in agriculture or anything else are, unfortunately, formidable. They include laws, deeply held traditions, lack of information, plain old inertia, and we have to overcome each and every one of them. We can’t just hope that women get the support they need as a side effect of our work. We have to push for it. And it’s not optional. It’s not marginal. It’s not a luxury. It’s not expendable. It happens to be essential, or we will never reach our goals….

When we liberate the economic potential of women, we elevate the economic performance of communities, nations and the world.

How to save Bangladesh?

Posted by Roxanna Samii Sunday, May 20, 2012 0 comments

An interview with Thomas Rath, IFAD Country Programme Manager for Bangladesh
Originally posted on New York Times Green blog

A woman prepares a fishing net for mending in Hamidpur, Bangladesh.
©IFAD/Alexandra Boulat
In just over a month, policy makers from around the world will meet in Rio de Janeiro for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. The meeting has been called Rio+20, reflecting the two decades that have passed since a landmark conference on the environment and development was held in Rio in 1992. This time the main themes are energy, sustainable cities, food security, water shortages, the health of oceans, disaster readiness and assuring people a livelihood.
Bangladesh is a prime example of a vulnerable developing nation that faces formidable challenges in all these areas, and it will be directly affected by the decisions that are made — or not made — at the conference. Firm commitments have often been elusive on the international level.
We asked Thomas Rath, the country program manager for the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development project in Bangladesh, about the development obstacles the country faces, some of which are linked toclimate change and environmental degradation. Following are excerpts, edited for brevity and clarity.
How would you describe Bangladesh’s agricultural picture?
Bangladesh, bordering India, Myanmar and the Bay of Bengal, is in the subtropical zone, very wet and flat and dominated by agriculture. Three large rivers from the Himalayas flow through the country, all ending in the bay on the southern coast. It’s a beautiful, fertile tropical delta.
The New York Times
About 150 million people live here, and the population density is one of the highest in the world after places like Singapore and Hong Kong. That’s 1,200 people per square kilometer (about four-tenths of a square mile). By comparison, in Mongolia there are only three or four people per square kilometer.
This density means that many farmers have very small land plots on which they struggle to feed their families. About 35 percent of the population lives under the poverty line of $1 a day, and about 40 percent, or 60 million people, are completely dependent on agriculture. Many people are landless or have less than an acre or half an acre to live on. It makes you wonder what they are surviving on.

Rice is the principal crop and, for those with very little land, the only crop they grow. Forty percent of children are malnourished, either because they don’t get enough calories or because they can’t develop healthily only eating rice.
How is climate change affecting the land, people and economy?
Bangladesh sits at the end of the cone of the Bay of Bengal. The country is infamous for natural disasters. Every year there are typhoons. The coastal zones routinely get washed away, and the farmland is destroyed: people lose animals, crops, everything they have. They are very exposed: most of the land is flat and just above sea level, every storm sweeps across the country without any obstacles, and tidal surges pound the coast.
Fishermen begin their work at dawn in Dhopadanga Boar, Bangladesh.
©IFAD/Alexandra Boulat
If you go further north, there is an area in the northeast that is essentially a large depression in the land. When the monsoon season starts, the water comes down from the mountains and floods the whole area. It fills up with water and takes months to drain. Vast areas are underwater half the time, so farmers can’t go into their fields or grow anything then; they have to rely on something else for most of the year.
These things have always happened in Bangladesh, but with climate change it is expected that these flash floods will occur more frequently, and rainfall will be more intense and erratic. Farmers are already trying to adapt to these changes by sowing their rice earlier and using varieties that mature more quickly so they can get the harvest in before the rains come and they are left with nothing to eat or sell.
In the coastal areas, storms are expected to come earlier and be more frequent and severe. In the last two decades, 500,000 people have been killed in storms, and we should expect that this will increase.
And then of course, the sea level will rise, and the ocean will come in over what dikes have been built. It is very likely that about 30 percent of land in Bangladesh will frequently be underwater and the soil will be saturated with salt and useless. Many, many people will lose their farmland, crops and livestock and homes and become climate change refugees. Where do these people go then, when there is already not enough land in the country?
What are your thoughts on Rio as the conference approaches? Are you hopeful? Cynical?
I am not cynical — there are too many cynics already, and how does that help?
But I do think it’s important that people act instead of just talking.
It’s really sad that there are still politicians and governments out there who don’t believe that climate change is fact. It’s very sad. I don’t know what their motivations are, but they should come to Bangladesh and meet the people who won’t have homes or land or any way of supporting their families.
“Many, many people will lose their farmland, crops and livestock and homes and become climate change refugees. Where do these people go then?”
If we don’t do anything, then the problem will come to us: these won’t be problems in our backyard, we will have climate refugees in our front yard, knocking on our door.
These people have a right to live, just as we who by chance were lucky enough to be born in comfortable North America and Europe have the right to live.
Rio was and is a fantastic thing, but we have no time to waste.
The planet cannot afford for us to continue the mistakes we made during industrialization: rooting our economy in fossil energy and polluting the atmosphere as much as possible. We need to help one another.
What are the biggest challenges for Bangladesh?
It’s not enough for us to help people become better farmers; we need to help transition the economy to something that does not depend on the availability of land. I know farmers who grow rice before the monsoon season and then, when the rains come, they stock their flooded fields with fish fingerlings and crabs and sell these in Dhaka. It is a strange sort of crop rotation, but it works in some areas.
Agriculture will still be a very important sector in Bangladesh — it has to be, given so much food insecurity. But food insecurity can only be tackled by sufficient food production, and expanding agriculture — livestock, rice cultivation — contributes to climate change, which in turn leads to greater food insecurity through flooding, etc.
We need to find ways to help countries all over Asia to reduce carbon dioxide emissions while at the same time producing enough food to feed their people.

IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze is in impressive company today at a high-level symposium on agricultural development and food security. Held in Washington, DC, and organized by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, the all-day session takes place in connection with this year’s G8 summit of world leaders.

Planting maize seeds in Mswagini village, Tanzania.
©IFAD/Mwanzo Millingan
Like the summit itself – which President Barack Obama will host tomorrow at Camp David – the symposium is taking a serious and long overdue look at how the G8 nations can most effectively advance food and nutrition security in the developing world.

Among the other participants in the event are President Obama and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Presidents of Benin, Ghana and Tanzania, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, the Administrator of USAID, the Executive Director of the World Food Programme, the pop star and activist Bono, and many more.

Their presence reflects a growing international consensus that, as Nwanze said today, “food security is the foundation for global security.”

New Alliance for sustainability
In a keynote speech at the symposium this morning, Obama echoed that sentiment. “Food security is a moral imperative, but it’s also an economic imperative…and it’s a security imperative,” he said. “Reducing hunger and malnutrition around the world enhances peace and security.”

Obama went on to announce a G8 initiative, the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, which he called “a major new partnership to reduce hunger and lift tens of millions of people from poverty.”

Rather than relying inordinately upon emergency aid to address cyclical crises, Obama said, the alliance will honour the commitments to global food security that the G8 made at their 2009 meeting in L’Aquila, Italy. Beyond those commitments, the G8 governments and their partners will also launch substantial new programmes in support of sustainable agriculture, with a special focus on Africa.

“No empty promises,” Obama said, adding that the New Alliance will begin with projects in Ethiopia, Ghana and Tanzania – “but this is just the beginning.” Over the next decade, the initiative aims to help 50 million rural people overcome poverty.

Africa’s potential
IFAD, WFP and the Food and Agriculture Organization welcomed the launch of the New Alliance, and the Rome-based UN agencies will remain engaged in its rollout. At a symposium panel on trade and food security, IFAD’s Nwanze shared his thoughts on the need for such an undertaking, especially in many African nations.

“Africa is the last frontier,” Nwanze said, explaining that the continent holds greater potential for agricultural development than any other region – if only because it has under-produced for so long. To realize that potential and compete internationally, he said, Africa’s smallholder farmers need “sound, vibrant and sustainable domestic markets.” Strong domestic markets, in turn, hinge upon adequate infrastructure, technology, innovation and investment.

The New Alliance is slated to be active in all of these areas.

‘An enabling environment’
Of course, small-scale farmers are, themselves, central to the agricultural private sector. As rural entrepreneurs, they must be full partners in any effort to make a mass transition from subsistence to commercial agriculture.

Therefore, Nwanze said today, “we need to have strong farmer organizations. Where farmers are organized, particularly women farmers, they begin to thrive.” By creating “an enabling environment for smallholders,” he concluded, the partners in the New Alliance can bring lasting, positive change to rural Africa and beyond.

As the G8 leaders grapple with a host of thorny economic and political issues at their summit this weekend, let’s hope they remain focused on the imperative to end hunger and food insecurity worldwide. To do anything less, as the US President so aptly put it, would be “an affront to who we are.”

Below: Watch an IFAD video on increasing  food security in African countries based on increased private sector investments in agriculture, in line with the current G8 agenda.

By José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP) 

Agriculture is a powerful tool for reducing poverty and hunger. Events of recent years – such as food price increases, droughts, growing climate change impacts and other emergencies – have put agriculture high on the international agenda. We should be clear that agriculture is the solution. Economic growth generated by agriculture is more than twice as effective in reducing poverty as growth in other sectors. Agricultural development is also an effective means of assisting developing countries in building capacity and infrastructure as well as introducing innovation and technology.

Future food and nutrition security and the eradication of poverty will be profoundly influenced by the steps we take today to support the 2 billion people in developing countries who depend on small-scale farms, herding, fishing and other forms of agriculture.

The past year has seen a food security crisis in the Horn of Africa and a developing emergency in the Sahel region of West Africa, where we are just entering the peak hunger season. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme have responded in a variety of ways, from immediate humanitarian relief to building the capacity of smallholders to grow more food, increase their livelihoods and feed their families and communities.

But it is clear that much more needs to be done at every level. Far-reaching partnerships, broader consultation in the formulation and implementation of country-led development processes, as well as long-term commitments, must be made and maintained. In order for development efforts to be successful, is essential to have the participation of civil society, farmers’ organizations and the private sector at every stage.

Beginning with the L’Aquila summit three years ago, the G8 has led a serious and sustained process to mobilize support for greater aid to food and nutrition security. At the L’Aquila Summit, US$22 billion was pledged over three years. The Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) trust fund that emerged from the L’Aquila commitments is a new vehicle to ensure accountability in the implementation process for aid for food security and agriculture to some of the poorest countries in the world.

This financial commitment to support country-owned plans can help to make a big difference, but official development assistance alone has not and will not solve the problem. A favourable climate for investment must be created to attract other resources and partners in the framework of established development plans.
For example, in Africa, the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), with its national compacts and investment plans, provides a key platform for public and private efforts  to converge towards agricultural development and food security.

Governments are primarily responsible for providing public goods and services that underpin and facilitate private investment, as well as the governance mechanisms that ensure socially and environmentally sustainable benefits from private investment. Farmers and their organizations must also be supported to benefit from increased investments, and they must be engaged from the outset in real, meaningful partnerships from public policy and programme design onward through evaluation.

Private sector investment, particularly through small- and medium-sized enterprises, is a critical factor for reaching the goal of a hunger-free Africa. However, the quality of this investment is of key importance. In this regard, Voluntary Guidelines for the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests, in the Context of National Food Security were endorsed earlier this month by the Committee on World Food Security (CFS). Implementing these guidelines, which have been agreed upon by governments, civil society and the private sector, will help ensure that responsible governance of tenure contributes to responsible investment, enabling sustainable social, economic and environmental development around agriculture and towards food security.

The United Nations Rome-based agencies welcome the G8’s renewed commitment to keep food security high on the global agenda and the creation of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.
The New Alliance complements ongoing activities and processes, starting from the CAADP itself, and is a tool that can accelerate progress in eradicating hunger and poverty in Africa. These efforts can and will succeed if they support smallholder production and market integration. This includes ensuring that technologies and inputs are adapted to local conditions, and promoting environmentally and socially sustainable farming practices to boost local economies. Stakeholders at the national and local level must drive and own the process from the start.

The New Alliance should avail itself of the opportunities to build upon, and further foster, truly participatory processes involving the G8, African countries, and the private sector, including first and foremost agricultural producers. In this way, it will respond to the needs of rural families and communities, and to the broader needs of African societies.

At the same time, we need to ensure that environmental sustainability is squarely addressed in the type of agricultural investments that are promoted, and that safety nets are in place and emergency preparedness is sustained to protect vulnerable people from the consequences of drought and other shocks.

Together, our agencies have been working with national governments, non-governmental organisations and civil society to help build resilience in developing countries. This includes targeted productive safety nets, such as school meal programmes, and other efforts that ensure that when the next disaster occurs, poor people are better equipped to feed themselves and protect assets such as livestock and property.

We welcome that the New Alliance is promoting a set of enabling tools related to markets and finance, risk and insurance, and science and technology, that can address gaps and strengthen smallholders’ position in the value chain.

We would, however, like to draw particular attention to the need to support women’s empowerment. Women make up nearly half of farmers in sub-Saharan Africa but face disproportionate barriers in access to resources and markets. The New Alliance must also address the aspirations of rural youth, who are key to long-term sustainability and the viability of rural agricultural communities.

Ending hunger and achieving food and nutrition security for the people of Africa is a pressing issue that cannot wait. Smallholders and rural people, who face the daily threat of food insecurity, urgently require access to science, technology and the most basic tools and services that would allow them to invest in their farms and businesses. With these benefits and a renewed commitment across all sectors we have an opportunity to reduce poverty, solve hunger and strengthen food security.

Cross-posted on Food for Thought blog

President Obama keynote address

One of the exciting things about training that cuts across divisions is that you get to learn stuff from colleagues with very different experiences of IFAD’s work. The gender training that’s been running this week was an excellent opportunity for this because the sessions I attended involved a lot of group work and discussion, as well as giving guidance and insights on the challenging business of gender mainstreaming.
Women and men work together on a
 building in a village market in Bangladesh
That’s how I learnt that poor women in isolated areas in rural Bangladesh build better roads than outside contractors. And I admit that I was pretty surprised. I was ready to think that this was yet another example of women being exploited and doing most of the work for the least of the money.
But Monica Romano, who knows the project and others like it, explained to us that road-building and other community infrastructure works are an effective way of enabling very poor women to earn sorely-needed income. Many of them head households without the support of a man. Food and cash are in very short supply and opportunities to earn money are practically non-existent.
The Haor Infrastructure and Livelihood Improvement Project will be building about 350 km of roads and developing 78 village markets. About 80% of the labourers are set to be women.
Workers are employed through Labour Contracting Societies, which give priority to poor women and men. In the Haor project, about 960 such societies are expected to have about 29,000 members. The project will generate about 2.25 million days of labour.
Monica explained that employing a majority of local women to construct the roads also makes good sense. Experience in other projects has shown that the roads they build are more resistant and better constructed than those built by outsiders with no personal investment in connecting the community to the outside world.
This may also be because lack of roads limits women’s lives more than it does men’s. They find it more difficult to travel by boat when the flood waters are high, or to walk along muddy tracks. If the women are able to save some of their earnings, they will also be encouraged to invest in micro enterprises and to use the roads they’ve built to take their goods to market.
It would be great to hear from others who attended the gender training about what they took away. I hope it was the beginning of an ongoing conversation throughout the house about how to make sure that a full half of the 80 million people we aim to reach during IFAD9 are women. Oh yes.

by Prof. Andrea Riccardi, Minister for International Cooperation and Integration Policies of the Italian Republic and Dr. Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of IFAD

Italy has long stressed the importance of tackling poverty and hunger and today it is host to the three major U.N .food agencies, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

It was in Italy, at the L'Aquila G8 summit in 2009, that food security and agricultural development were finally put back at the top of the international agenda after decades of neglect during which governments and the international community turned their attention away from agriculture. Now we must make sure that they now stay at the top of the agenda, and that the commitments made at L'Aquila are fulfilled.

Investing in agriculture in developing countries is the single most effective method of improving food security for the world's poorest people while also stimulating economic growth. Growth generated by agriculture is at least twice as effective in reducing poverty as growth in other sectors. And there is evidence that every dollar spent on agricultural research produces $9 worth of additional food in developing countries.

More than 95 percent of agricultural holdings in developing countries are less than 10 hectares, and in sub-Saharan Africa about 80 per cent of farmland belongs to, or is cultivated by, smallholders. And experience in developing countries repeatedly shows -- in Burkina Faso, China, Ethiopia, India, Thailand, Viet Nam and elsewhere -- that smallholders can lead agricultural growth.

In many countries we have seen how successful small and medium-sized farms can transform rural landscapes into vibrant economies, resulting in local demand for locally produced goods and services that also spur non-farm employment in services, agro-processing and small-scale manufacturing. This demand, in turn, leads to a dynamic flow of economic benefits, and the cultivation of new relationships between rural and urban areas.

In order for these small farms to thrive -- and to help lead the way to a more successful, profitable agricultural sector -- smallholder farmers need better linkages and access to markets, technology and information. They need mechanisms to manage the inherent risks of farming, particularly at a time of exceptionally volatile weather and prices. They need domestic and international investment in rural areas that is sustainable -- economically, environmentally and socially. This includes significant improvements in basic infrastructure and services, access to water, and better governance. They need legal empowerment and protection of their rights to the land they farm. And they need support in forming farmers' organizations and co-operatives to give them more bargaining power.

When rural small farmers are connected to markets they can sell more and better-quality food at higher prices, eat a more diversified diet, and improve household food and nutrition security. With increased income they can pay for essential medicines, send their children to school and improve their lives. Gender equality is important here as well: we know that giving women equal access to agricultural resources and inputs is one of the most powerful ways of reducing poverty and hunger.

Recognizing small farmers and their organizations as primary stakeholders in development means more than paying lip service to them in global meetings. Truly acting upon this recognition requires genuine collaboration and inclusive processes, which cannot be an afterthought but need to start from the very design of responsible investments in agriculture.

We have high hopes that this year's G8 meeting will lead to tangible support for smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. As the current crisis of hunger and malnutrition in the Sahel shows, we cannot wait. We must act decisively and we must act now. It is our responsibility to make this investment now, for the sake of future generations.

Originally posted on Huffington Post and Italian version in Il Sole 24 Ore

Watch an interview with Minister Riccardi on the occasion of IFAD's 2012 Governing Council (In Italian)

What can G8 leaders do differently to ensure food security: An interview with IFAD President

by Prof. Andrea Riccardi is Minister for International Cooperation and Integration Policies of the Italian Republic and Dr. Kanayo F. Nwanze is President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), an international financial institution and a specialized UN agency based in Rome.

Tomorrow IFAD President, Dr Kanayo Nwanze will be leaving for the States to attend the symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security - Advancing food and nutrition security at the 2012 G8 Summit.

The symposium takes place on the eve of 2012 G8 Summit and brings together senior global leaders to discuss new G8 efforts on food security and the opportunity and benefits of private sector investment in African agriculture and food sectors.

There is already quite a bit of buzz on social media about this event (#globalag), and everyone is looking forward to the live webstreaming and keynote addresses by President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

IFAD President will be participating in a panel discussion on "Farm futures: Increasing trade to drive economic growth".

Earlier this afternoon, IFAD social reporting team met with the President and asked Dr Nwanze to share his views on the progress made since the G8 summit at l'Aquila and what he would like the G8 leaders to do differently.

It was heartening to hear that the glass is half full and that there is a renewed emphasis and commitment to the l'Aquila Food Security Initiative. "Food security is fundamental for global political stability", said Nwanze.  

Those of you following IFAD social reporting blog are familiar with the President's contributions and probably are not surprised hearing him ask the world leaders gathered for the G8 summit:
  • not to make new commitments and not to make new declarations
  • rather, look at what has worked in the previous initiatives and reinforce their commitments and put in additional resources
  • to bring private sector into African agriculture focusing on domestic indigenous private sector
  • to call upon developing countries to demonstrate political commitment 
We can only hope that these messages will be heard, endorsed and put to practice by the world leaders gathered for the 2012 G8 Summit.

What are you expectations from 2012 G8 Summit? Share your ideas and views. Do not miss the live webcasting and follow the conversation on Twitter #globalag

Territorial development, inequality and new green initiatives
By Josefina Stubbs
On a recent mission to Mexico in which we launched a wonderfully detailed and incisive report by the RIMISP – Latin American Center for Rural Development on inequality and territorial gaps across the region, I was talking with a Senator from the Mexican state of Oaxaca, Heladio Ramírez López, about our dreams, responsibilities – and yes even our deficiencies – when it comes to rural empowerment, social inclusion, targeting and policy dialogue.

“IFAD allows us to dream,” the senator told me.

I couldn’t agree with him more. But, while we need to dare to dream, we also need to dare to innovate, target and drive territorial development approaches that reach the poorest sectors of Latin America, and drive new policies and initiatives that will ensure continued, responsible and sustainable rural poverty reduction across the region well into the 21st century.

While we’ve taken important steps in reducing poverty in Latin America, surprising – and at times astounding – territorial gaps remain. To begin with, Latin America still has the highest inequality in the world. And within large middle-income countries like Brazil and Mexico, you’ll see socio-economic gaps that are as pronounced as those that exist between the richest and poorest countries in the world.

In Mexico for instance, nearly 60 per cent of the nation’s extreme poverty is concentrated in rural areas, according to the new “Poverty and Inequality 2011: Latin America Report,” and the rural illiteracy rate is 15.6 per cent, while it’s only 4.3 per cent in urban areas. Latin America’s poorest rural territories also have limited access to healthcare. The report – made possible through funding from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the International Development Research Centre - Canada (IDRC) – highlights the causes of extreme inequality, territorial achievement gaps and lack of opportunities in Latin America’s rural sector, analysing socio-economic indicators in health, education, economic dynamism and employment, income and poverty, citizen security, and gender equality from 10 Latin American countries, including Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua and Peru.

The dream for dialogue
One of the first steps in “dreaming this impossible dream” is to look toward policy dialogue as a catalyst for change. In Latin America, IFAD is actively funding policy dialogue platforms to ensure farmers, politicians, intellectuals and business leaders are given the forums and tools to engage, debate and advance smart policies that will benefit poor rural people.

Looking at the data from Mexico, I see that despite strenuous efforts poverty and inequality in rural Mexico have increased. Just look at Mexico’s ten richest municipalities, where the average per capita earnings are around US$32,000. Head to the poorest municipalities, and you will see earnings of just US$603 per year.

One of the first steps in counteracting this phenomenon is to support policy dialogue platforms. The ‘Knowledge for Change’ Rural Dialogue Groups are bringing key stakeholders together to discuss rural development issues and push them to the top of national agendas. The Rural Dialogue Groups program is working in Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador and Mexico, and is starting to yield results. One need only look at the pro-active dialogue we had recently in the National Autonomous University of Mexico, where leading academics and thinkers converged to launch the new publication and discuss new ways forward.

The dream for social inclusion
The lessons we are taking from the data and analysis of the Latin America Report are helping us to form a new generation of projects that seek to remedy the variegated territorial gaps we are seeing in the region. In the case of Mexico, IFAD’s executive board recently approved the US$47.5 million Rural Development Project in the Mixteca Region and the Mazahua Zone. One of the project’s central goals is to improve the quality of life in the target area by strengthening the social inclusion mechanisms for local rural development institutions. An investment in building the capacity of these institutions is not just an investment in the rural people living in this oft-overlooked part of Mexico – projections point to a US$6.30 increase in daily earnings for project participants – it is also an investment in the very social fabric that inter-threads every aspect of rural life in Mexico, working to promote lasting systems, capacities and mechanisms for long-term peace and sustainability.

One thing my 20-plus years in rural development has taught me is that there’s no silver bullet for poverty reduction. And projects need to be scoped, designed and targeted to meet the local context. In Colombia, we are scaling up our work with a new national project recently approved by IFAD’s Executive Board that will invest directly in local capacity building for businesses. The US$70 million “Trust and Opportunity Project” will reach some 160,000 families. “The project looks to improve food security, facilitate access to financial and community services, improve the competitiveness and incomes of small-share producers in the zone, and create mechanisms to include these very producers in the systems of government,” says our Country Program Manager for Colombia, Roberto Haudry.

Further south, the Inclusive Paraguay Project works to create public-private alliances that will facilitate access to specialized technical assistance and markets, create new jobs, and close territorial gaps. Interestingly enough, Paraguay’s economy grew by 14.5 per cent in 2010. Nevertheless, 1.3 million rural Paraguayans are considered poor, of which around 60 per cent are considered extremely poor. As we saw in Mexico, these territorial gaps become more pronounced in indigenous communities, which have a mortality rate three times higher than the national average.

The dream for a greener future
Many of the new projects funded by IFAD in Latin America are looking toward community forestry, climate-change mitigation and adaptation, and sustainable natural resource management as a mechanism for poverty reduction and rural empowerment. In this edition of Rural Perspectives we examine these mechanisms in-depth.

No matter how you shape it, the future of IFAD funding for Latin America must move toward ever-greener pastures, improved discourse and dialogue, smarter market access and value-chain strengthening, and differentiated territorial approaches that take into account the nuanced differences between territories, societies, economic corridors and local economies.



Read More
Check out the latest articles from the new edition of Rural Perspectives.

Environmental governance and agro-ecological systems in Mexico
Carlos Edgar González Godoy is the Director of the IFAD-funded Sustainable Development Project for Rural and Indigenous Communities of the Semi-Arid North-West of Mexico (PRODESNOS)...
Read more 

Integrated farms, green value chains, environmental governance – The Honduran experience with Victoria Flores Aguilar
How can we create and implement sustainable agricultural systems that benefit the rural poor? How can we strengthen value chains in a sustainable and green manner? How do we define environmental governance, and how can we insert small farmers in environmental payment programs, such as REDD+? In this revealing interview,Victoria Flores Aguilar, Honduran expert on community forestry, REDD+ and agro-ecology, highlights the road ahead, where we are at today, and the challenges and threats facing us along the way.
Read more 

Protecting Mother Earth in Bolivia
In Bolivia's high valleys and Chaco region – a remote corner of the world where reverence and respect for Pachamama (Mother Earth) is an integral part of everyday life – climate change and land degradation are making family farming a very risky business.
Read more 

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Desarrollo territorial, desigualdad y nuevas iniciativas verdes 
Por Josefina Stubbs 
En una misión reciente a México, en la que presentamos un informe maravillosamente detallado y revelador preparado por el Rimisp-Centro Latinoamericano para el Desarrollo Rural acerca de las brechas de desigualdad y territoriales en toda la región, conversé con un Senador del Estado mexicano de Oaxaca, Heladio Ramírez López, acerca de nuestros sueños y responsabilidades (e incluso de nuestras deficiencias) en lo relativo al empoderamiento rural, la inclusión social y la selección y el diálogo de políticas.

“El FIDA nos permite soñar,” me dijo el senador.

No podría estar más de acuerdo con él. Sin embargo, aunque necesitamos atrevernos a soñar, también necesitamos atrevernos a innovar, seleccionar e impulsar abordajes de desarrollo territorial que lleguen a los sectores más pobres de América Latina y a promover nuevas políticas e iniciativas que aseguren la reducción de la pobreza rural de forma continua, responsable y sustentable en toda la región hasta bien entrado el siglo 21.

Aunque hemos dado pasos importantes en la reducción de la pobreza en América Latina es sorprendente (y a veces pasmoso) que las brechas territoriales permanecen. Para comenzar, América Latina todavía tiene la tasa de desigualdad más alta en el mundo. Y con países con economías de grandes y medianos ingresos como Brasil y México, las brechas socio-económicas serán tan pronunciadas como las que existen entre los países más ricos y más pobres del mundo.

Por ejemplo en México, casi 60 por ciento de la pobreza extrema en la nación está concentrada en áreas rurales, según el reciente informe “Pobreza y Desigualdad: Informe Latinoamericano 2011”, y la tasa de analfabetismo es de 15.6 por ciento, mientras que en áreas urbanas la tasa es de solo 4.3 por ciento. Los territorios más pobres en América Latina también tienen acceso limitado al cuidado de la salud.

El informe —hecho posible por la financiación del FIDA y del Centro de Desarrollo–Canadá (IDRC, por sus siglas en inglés)— destaca las causas de la extrema desigualdad, brechas de logros territoriales y la falta de oportunidades en el sector rural de América Latina. Analiza los indicadores socioeconómicos de salud, educación, dinamismo económico y empleo, ingresos y pobreza, seguridad ciudadana e igualdad de género en 10 países latinoamericanos que incluyen a Bolivia, Brasil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, México, Nicaragua y Perú. 

El sueño del diálogo 
Uno de los primeros pasos al “soñar este sueño imposible” es recurrir al diálogo de políticas como catalizador del cambio. En América Latina, el FIDA financia activamente las plataformas de diálogo de políticas para asegurar que los agricultores, políticos, intelectuales y líderes de negocios cuenten con foros y herramientas para participar, debatir y hacer avanzar políticas inteligentes que beneficien a los pobres rurales.

Al ver los datos de México es evidente que a pesar de los esfuerzos intensos, la pobreza y la desigualdad rural en México han incrementado. Tan solo vea las diez municipalidades más adineradas de México, en donde las ganancias promedio per cápita están en los alrededores de USD32,000 dólares estadounidenses. Si ve a las municipalidades más pobres, verá que las ganancias son de apenas USD603 al año.

Uno de los primeros pasos para contrarrestar este fenómeno es apoyar las plataformas de diálogo de políticas. Los Grupos de Diálogo Rural ‘Conocimiento y Cambio’ reúnen a las partes interesadas para discutir temas de desarrollo rural y llevarlos hasta que figuren en los primeros lugares de las agendas nacionales. El programa de los Grupos de Diálogo Rural funciona en Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador y México, y ya está comenzando a producir resultados. Basta con ver el diálogo proactivo sostenido recientemente en la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, en donde académicos y pensadores convergieron para lanzar la nueva publicación y discutir los caminos a seguir.

El sueño de la inclusión social 
Las lecciones que tomamos de los datos y análisis del Informe Latinoamericano nos ayudan a formar una nueva generación de proyectos que procuran remediar las abigarradas brechas territoriales que vemos en la región. En el caso de México, la junta ejecutiva del FIDA aprobó recientemente USD47.5 millones para el Proyecto de Desarrollo Rural en la Región Mixteca y la Zona Mazahua.

Una de las metas centrales del proyecto es mejorar la calidad de vida en el área seleccionada al fortalecer los mecanismos de inclusión social para las instituciones de desarrollo locales rurales. La inversión para fortalecer las capacidades de estas instituciones no es solamente una inversión en las personas rurales que viven en esta parte frecuentemente olvidada de México —las proyecciones indican un incremento de utilidades de hasta USD6.30 diarios para los participantes en el proyecto— es también una inversión en el tejido social mismo que entreteje cada aspecto da la vida rural en México y que trabaja para promover sistemas, capacidades y mecanismos duraderos para la paz y sustentabilidad a largo plazo.

Algo que me han enseñado mis 20 y tantos años en el desarrollo rural es que no hay una bala de plata para la reducción de la pobreza. Los proyectos deben definir su alcance, diseño y objetivo para adaptarse al contexto local. En Colombia, estamos ampliando nuestro trabajo con un nuevo proyecto nacional aprobado recientemente por la Junta Ejecutiva del FIDA que invertirá directamente en el fortalecimiento de capacidades locales para negocios. Los USD70 millones del “Proyecto Confianza y Oportunidad en Colombia” llegarán a unas 160,000 familias. “El proyecto busca mejorar la seguridad alimentaria, facilitar el acceso a servicios financieros y comunitarios, mejorar la competitividad e ingresos de productores de pequeña escala en la zona y crear mecanismos que incluyan a estos mismos productores en los sistemas de gobierno,” dice nuestro Gerente de Programa de País en Colombia, Roberto Haudry.

Más hacia el sur, el Proyecto Paraguay Inclusivo trabaja para crear alianzas público-privadas que faciliten el acceso a la asistencia técnica especializada y mercados, creen nuevos empleos y cierren las brechas territoriales. Resulta interesante que la economía en Paraguay creció 14.5 por ciento en 2010. Sin embargo, 1.3 millones de paraguayos rurales son considerados pobres, de los cuales 60 por ciento son considerados extremadamente pobres. Como vimos en México, estas brechas territoriales se hacen más pronunciadas en las comunidades indígenas, que tienen tasas de mortalidad tres veces más altas que el promedio nacional.

El sueño de un futuro más verde 
Muchos proyectos nuevos financiados por el FIDA en América Latina tienen la mirada en bosques comunitarios, mitigación y adaptación al cambio climático y la gestión de recursos naturales sustentables como mecanismos de reducción de pobreza y empoderamiento rural. En esta edición de Ventana Rural examinaremos estos mecanismos a profundidad.

 Sin importar cómo lo quiera ver, el futuro de las financiaciones del FIDA para América Latina deben avanzar hacia pastos más verdes y ecológicos, discurso y diálogo mejorado, acceso mejorado al mercado y fortalecimiento de la cadena de valor, y los enfoques territoriales matizados que consideran sutiles diferencias entre territorios, sociedades, corredores económicos y economías locales.


Gobernanza ambiental y sistemas agroecológicos en México
Carlos Edgar González Godoy es el director del Proyecto de Desarrollo Sustentable para las Comunidades Rurales e Indígenas del Noroeste Semiárido en Mexico (un proyecto apoyado por el FIDA)
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Fincas integrales, eslabones verdes, gobernanzas ambientales – La experiencia de Honduras con Victoria Flores Aguilar
¿Cómo podemos crear e implementar técnicas agrícolas sostenibles que beneficien a la gente pobre rural? ¿Cómo podemos fortalecer las cadenas de valor en una forma sostenible y verde? ¿Cómo definimos la gobernanza ambiental, y cómo insertar a los pequeños campesinos en programas de pagos ambientales, como REDD+? En esta entrevista relevadora, Victoria Flores Aguilar, experta hondureña en la forestaría comunitaria, REDD+ y temas agro-ecológicos, resalta cómo avanzar, dónde estamos y cuáles serán los retos y desafíos en el camino. Leer más

Protección para la Madre Tierra en Bolivia
En Valle Alto y la región del Chaco de Bolivia –un área remota del mundo en donde la reverencia y el respeto hacia Pachamama (Madre Tierra) es una parte integral de la vida diaria – el cambio climático y la degradación de la tierra están convirtiendo...
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Próximos eventos 
21 de mayo de 2012. Sintonice la transmisión web interactivo de nuestro seminario acerca de ‘Desarrollo rural en América Latina: Preguntas, perspectivas y desafíos’ 

• Mapas interactivos, gráficas, datasets y más del informe latinoamericano están disponibles en www.informelatinoamericano.org.