In this Exchange  


Rural Development for Poverty Reduction in Pune, India

Mulshi Talka is one of the most poverty-stricken areas of the 14 “Talukas” in Pune, India. Around 73% of the residents are farmers, but most are small-scale, and farm without irrigation or machinery. In 1998, the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA) Japan carried out an afforestation program in the district to alleviate soil erosion. Since then, ICA Japan has installed an irrigation system with pipelines and carried out pilot projects of agroforestry and biodigesting in Khamboli. In 2005, an irrigation and biomass expert conducted research in the same area, with a view to spreading irrigation systems and livestock.

Through research and work in the area, it has become clear that these lands are low in productivity and that farmers are often faced with a choice between continuing to struggle on the land, or selling the land and becoming migrant workers in the hope of generating income through urban employment. Increasingly, younger generations are choosing to sell their lands and move to the cities, only to find life not as they envisioned it. Meanwhile, the local economies and social systems in the rural areas are collapsing. As a result, projects that combine local knowledge and appropriate technology in order to reinvigorate rural areas are needed now more than ever.

ICA Japan, in collaboration with ICA India, and with financial support from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), is currently conducting an innovative rural development project in India aiming to ensure a new source of income through technology transfer in rearing dairy cows, the establishment of a cooperative and the demonstration of an alternative energy source through biomass from manure. The project is also aiming to both expand the cultivable land and enhance its productivity through technology transfers in irrigation and agroforestry. The project is expected to increase income from milk sales and to decrease expenses on natural gas and fertiliser, with these gains being achieved through technology transfer, the supply of equipment, the creation of effective producer cooperatives and the establishment of biogas plants. It is also expected to increase income with fruit trees and medicinal plants, and to increase productivity through agricultural support: irrigation systems, dispersion of newly acquired knowledge from trainings, site visits, and forums. The project will contribute to increased rural incomes and improved local food security.  Importantly, the project will also contribute to longer term human development through leadership training for local government staff and the enhancement of communication and strengthening of ties between rural communities and the government.

This exciting rural development project is currently in the first year of activities; the project is a three year project, with activities continuing into 2011. The project directly targets approximately 500 farmers in four villages in Mulshi Talka: Khamboli, Katarkhadak, Andhale and Jawal. Over 3500 people are expected to benefit indirectly through improved livelihood security, knowledge of new farming techniques, and strengthened local cooperation.

Kayo Goda
ICA Japan


Support for the Reintegration of Former Combatants in the
Sub-prefectureof Brobo, Côte d’Ivoire

The political and military crisis that began in Côte d’Ivoire on September 19th 2002 lasted five years and pitted the Ivorian army (FANCI) against rebel forces (FAFN) in a bloody struggle for power. The crisis was finally resolved through the Political Agreement of Ouagadougou established between the parties on March 4th 2007. However, the crisis strongly disturbed the economic and social fabric of the country and left many former members of the opposing groups without means to secure their basic livelihoods.  In response to this situation the Côte d’Ivoire State and the United Nations Mission in Côte d'Ivoire (MINUCI) have expressed a strong desire to provide meaningful opportunities to the former members of the self-defence groups and the former members of the forces nouvelles démobilisées through the initiation of 1000 micro projects that would enable their reintegration in the social and economic fabric of the country.

With its commitment to taking an active role in the rebuilding of society, the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA) Côte d’Ivoire has recently obtained financing from MINUCI, managed by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), for the implementation of a project of reintegration of former members of the self-defence group in the sub-prefecture of Brobo, a locality situated in the centre of Côte d’Ivoire. In Brobo, the main beneficiaries of the project are youth at risk, who used to be part of the self-defence group: a total of 356 young women and men. This project will take place over a three-month period. The first phase of the project will enable the creation of 100 jobs for former group members, while a further 256 jobs will be created during the second phase. The jobs created will provide the former armed forces members with an occupation and contribute to their financial autonomy. Also, the projects will enable the training of these individuals in management and basic accounting, further contributing to their independence. The main objective of this project is to contribute toward social cohesion and to establish a return to peace through the reintegration of these former self-defence group members in the Ivorian socio-economic fabric. Specific project activities include agricultural projects (chicken husbandry, tomato and rice production), and small enterprise development (oil, meat, sugar and drink commerce; cement and hardware commerce, and moto-taxi businesses).

ICA Côte d’Ivoire is proud to have gained the trust and support of the UNDP for this project, following their successful implementation of earlier projects promoting solar energy and agroforestry.

Eugène Konan Kouame
ICA Côte d’Ivoire


The underlying causes of deforestation and forest degradation  in Cameroon:
ICA Cameroon’s contribution to integrative research on appropriate solutions
within the global strategy for  sustainable forest management

Cameroon’s forests are part of the Congo Basin, which is home to the second largest region of tropical forest on the planet, after the Amazon.  In Cameroon, forests span across 17.5 million hectares, of which 86% is public land, and the forest sector accounts for 6% of the country’s GDP. Throughout recent years, sustainable management of forest ecosystems in Central Africa, and specifically in Cameroon, has seen a prodigious evolution: various initiatives have been put into place in order to achieve effective and equitable management of forest resources.

However, while many of the efforts that have been directed to forest management in Cameroon have been well meaning, most of these efforts have, during the last decade, targeted certain issues related to forest governance, neglecting other factors.  As a result, it became imperative to deal with the issues of illegal forest and faunal exploitation, certification, and more recently, voluntary agreement partnerships which have been established between the wood-producing tropical countries and the wood-importing countries of the European Union.

Research on the realities of the forest sector in Cameroon highlight a number of facts: first, despite various actions that have been initiated to slow deforestation, forests continue to be exploited at a estimated rate of 120 000 hectors per year; second, inshore local populations have battled mightily with the State and forest companies, but largely as a result of grossly unequal power relations they have only received a meagre portion of the gains from forest exploitation. These and other facts clearly suggest that a fundamental understanding of the underlying causes of deforestation in Cameroon - including the key human development dimension – was, despite being a fundamental theme of sustainable forest management, largely absent from the discussion of solutions.

Responding to this fact, ICA Cameroon decided to contribute toward knowledge and understanding to help ensure that no issues would be neglected in achieving better integrated and more sustainable management of Cameroon’s forests. In 2008, with the support of the Global Forest Coalition, the organization initiated a research-to-action project on the underlying causes of deforestation and degradation of the forests of Cameroon. In addition, in September of 2008, a national initiative was launched, during which the results of the research conducted in the south-west and east regions of Cameroon were discussed. Representatives from the different parties involved in Cameroon’s sustainable forest management, including national and international organizations, local communities, research institutes and State officials from the Ministry of Forests and Fauna, took part in this initiative. The results allowed ICA Cameroon to put in place an action plan aiming to sensitize the concerned parties to the impact of deforestation and degradation of Cameroon’s forests, in order to actively contribute to the recognition of the underlying causes in the actions taken towards sustainable forest management in Cameroon. ICA Cameroon continues to engage in the long and difficult process of achieving sustainable management of forests that is equitable and contributes to the development of local communities and the country as a whole.

Benoit Ndameu
ICA Cameroun


The Impact of ICA Peru Leadership Training on Rural Productivity:
A Recent Example of ICA’s Methods Applied in the Field

An international NGO had been working in rural agricultural development in three departments of Peru for a number of years, but with limited results. The projects were going well, although the local people were letting the technical staff run the work and were not assuming leadership, nor were they extending these projects onto their respective communities. The NGO asked ICA Peru to assist in building the local people’s willingness to take the full responsibility of their projects, and also to involve members of their communities. 

In this context, ICA Peru suggested to work directly with the local people from projects in Cajamarca, La Libertad and Cuzco, three departments of the Sierra region. In each department, it recommended to work with three production guilds, and in nine different communities, thus covering a wide variety of guilds, communities and regions of Peru, in order to demonstrate the effectiveness of ICA Peru’s methods under various conditions. In Cajamarca, the three guilds were of guinea pigs husbandry; in La Libertad two guilds were for milk production and one was for handicrafts; and in Cuzco there was a milk production guild, an amaranth production guild and a flower growing guild. The ICA program was initiated with the 3-week Avanza Peru leadership training program in Azpitia, and then continued through the 4-month implementation program in the field.

The NGO selected 10 leaders from each department representing the three guilds in each location, and sent them to the residential ICA training center in Azpitia for their Avanza Peru leadership training in December 2008. They received intensive training in self-esteem and leadership methods, in consensus facilitation methods for group leadership, as well as a wide exposure to many sustainable technologies related to their guilds’ interests. By the end of the three weeks, they were very different people with much self-confidence, unified as a team, and with a strong desire to take charge of their guilds and make a broader impact in their communities.

Beginning in January, 2009, two ICA staff members began a series of four monthly visits to each of the three departments in order to support the new leaders in implementing their new knowledge and skills in their guilds and communities.  Each visit was structured around a special theme, organized in advance by the local guild leaders and then conducted with the support of the ICA staff. Through these events, the local leaders did all of the facilitation with no direct assistance from the ICA staff, which was there to review the plans and roles ahead of time, and to coach and support during the events. During the first month, the leaders organized and conducted an information fair for the whole community to communicate what they had been doing in their guilds, their results to date, what they had learned at the Avanza Peru leadership training, and what their plans were for the future.  During the second month, the new leaders conducted a planning forum for the whole community to develop a vision and implementation plan to improve the general conditions in the community.  The third month was focused on a large community work day to engage many community people in making a major impact on the appearance of the community including tree planting, cleaning of public areas and improvement of public parks. In the final visit, ICA staff worked with all of the members of the guilds to plan their next 12 months of activities which they would be implementing fully on their own. They also documented the situation and the progress achieved in the course of the five months of work with this NGO.

The results achieved by this program were well beyond the expectations of the NGO and ICA staff as well. The new leaders in the guilds remarkably improved their skills and their operating methods which engendered a large impact in the productivity of each of the guilds as well as their communities. Most of the guilds in all three locations have added new members and integrated them successfully into their operations, with more people in the process of being added. This expansion makes the guilds more viable and sustainable for the long term and therefore less dependent on the NGO sponsor. In addition, a total of four new guilds have been formed and are starting their operations, with others in process. Finally, the NGO has contracted for another Avanza Peru and implementation program to be conducted in September to move another group of guilds in adjacent communities towards self-sufficiency.  Also, the impact of the ICA program on the field technical staff of the NGO has led them to request the same training for themselves.  In response to this request and several more from other clients, the ICA staff is designing a special 3-week program for professional staff who work directly with communities in implementing projects in the field.  This program, which will be conducted from November 29th to December 19th, 2009, is aiming to help these employees to understand and use the power of the wisdom and voluntary labor of the residents of the communities they seek to serve in order to double the long-term results of their projects. ICA Peru has filled its calendar for 2008: at that pace, ICA Peru will facilitate a transformation of about 15% of the rural communities in Peru over the next ten years!

Ken Hamje
ICA Perú


ICAI and the United Nations Forum on Forests

Though governments agreed on authoritative principles for sustainable forest management during United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992, many are of the view that it was not enough for ensuring sustainable forest management. A process was therefore launched by governments to establish an intergovernmental process that would develop policy and implementation guidelines at the international level in order to guide governments in undertaking sustainable forest management of all types of forests, under the guidance of United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. As a result, the open-ended ad hoc Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF) was established in 1995. This was succeeded by the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests in 1997. After its work in 2000, the United Nations Forum on Forest (UNFF) was established under the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

NGOs have been very active in all these processes, and in fact were among the most ardent advocates calling for raising the profile for sustainable forest management within the UN system. The involvement of the Institute of Cultural Affairs International (ICAI) dates back to 1997 when the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA) Ghana became involved in the process and hosted the Underlying Causes of Deforestation and Forest Degradation for the Africa Region, in support of the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests. The Africa regional meeting was one of a series of regional workshops led by NGOs around the world that culminated in a global workshop a year later in Costa Rica. The involvement of ICAI intensified when, in 2004, the global network restructured to strategically position itself to enhance its engagement in international development issues.

As a human development organization that stresses active participation, equity and sustainability, ICAI’s contribution in UNFF hinges on the following: participation and governance of local communities and Indigenous Peoples; equity and benefit sharing; rights; sustainability, and role of indigenous knowledge in sustainable forest management. Many of its members work to support the development aspirations of Indigenous Peoples and local communities. As their development aspirations and livelihoods are directly linked to forest resources, ICAI advocates for those policies that do not undermine their interests, but that rather alleviate poverty within their cultural context.

Apart from the involvement in organizing workshops on underlying causes of deforestation and forest degradation at regional and international levels, ICAI has established a strategic relationship with the Global Forest Coalition resulting in facilitating several country level workshops organized by national ICAs over the past two years on underlying causes of deforestation and forest degradation. Such country-level events have already taken place in Ghana, Cameroon, Bangladesh and Nepal, and further workshops may be organized by other national ICAs in the future.

At the international level, ICAI is particularly concerned with ensuring the active and meaningful participation of the ‘Major Groups’ - the major stakeholder groups recognized by the UN, including NGOs, Indigenous Peoples, Scientists, Women, Local Forest Users, etc. At the recent UNFF meeting in New York in April, 2009 (UNFF 8), Major Groups participating in the meeting expressed their displeasure about the reduced involvement of Major Groups in UNFF activities and thus agreed to organize a global workshop of stakeholders to reverse this alarming trend. The international workshop will be held in Ghana in May, 2010, and is intended to enhance the participation of Major Groups in UNFF and to develop policy recommendations for governments for the next meeting of the UNFF (UNFF 9). It is expected to welcome approximately 120 participants from around the world. At the initial meeting of Major Groups to create the initiative – a meeting which occurred at UN headquarters in New York on the fringes of UNFF 8 - Major Groups unanimously selected ICAI to be the co-coordinating organization, and the Secretary General to be the convener of the international steering committee set-up to manage the event.

Through these means, ICAI will continue to involve its members in influencing international development policy with the view of addressing the needs of the constituency that it serves while at the same time collaborating with other stakeholders to achieve sustainable forest management around the world.   

Lambert Okrah
ICA International


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