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Investing in empowering rural women

14 July 2014, Rome/Accra -- Initiatives to mobilize resources aimed at combating poverty and empowering rural communities – especially women – have made marked progress since the start of the new millennium.

Dominique Di Biase, Senior Programme Officer for FAO’s Donor liaison and Resource Mobilization Team and focal point for Belgium, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and United Nations and multi-stakeholder partnerships, describes how.

Why is it important to mobilize resources at FAO?

It is crucial to mobilize resources through voluntary contributions it provides additional funds to FAO assessed contributions in the implementation of the strategic framework as decided by its member countries. Mobiliz­ing resources enables FAO to intervene on the ground by implementing projects and programmes answering to the needs of com­munities. These are selected through country programming framework involving both gov­ernments and FAO in those countries.

FAO’s integrated Budget 2014-15 totals USD 2.43 billion, out of which USD 1.4 billion is to be raised through voluntary contributions which represents 60% of FAO total integrated budget. These projects and programmes funded by voluntary contributions are fully aligned with the regional initiatives and the strategic objectives results to be delivered over the biennium.

This way of aligning field programmes with national, regional and global priorities is quite recent. Before, there was a divide between the programme of work and budget voted by member countries and the field programme. National projects or programmes were not necessarily related to global priorities and were largely treated on an ad-hoc basis. When our Director General, Mr Graziano da Silva took office, there was a complete rethink. The dif­ferent levels (global, regional and national) are now in line with the needs expressed by countries at national, regional levels and by the member countries at global consultations.

How has FAO managed to mobilize resources so as to help empower rural communities, especially women?
 
In the new framework, we have a strategic objective of combating poverty. So we had to identify which donor countries had priorities that were consistent with this objective and which one might therefore be prepared to make a contribution. Take the example of Belgium, which is a long-standing partner. Its approach developed in a significant manner at the start of the millennium, moving from a project approach to a programme approach, aimed at allocating resources directly to the goal of eradicating hunger and poverty. This issue has always been of key importance to us, especially when it comes to gender parity. Belgium was a forerunner, adopting a cross-cutting approach to gender awareness, in all sectors. Through its multilateral aid, and taking FAO as a privileged partner, Belgium opted to allocate substantial resources, making it possible to intervene in pilot countries such as the Republic of Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where women and men needed support to help them gain better access to markets, products and services, play a bigger role in decision-making for food security and nutrition, and informa­tion on price policies, emergencies, etc.

Is it mainly a case of a change in approach or in resources?

It’s both! It is a development, which has moved from a project approach towards a programme approach for land management, culminating in a global programmatic approach for pov­erty reduction. Belgium now offers support to the organization’s core resources, in so doing enabling technicians, regional and country offices to plan interventions directly with rural communities and especially with the most dis­advantaged women.

Are the current resources sufficient?

It is always desirable to increase the funds allocated, given that the needs are so mas­sive. We consider that this Belgian allocation, which amounts to almost 11 million euros over a period of twelve years, has served as a catalyst in attracting other resources at field level, especially with other partners such as United Nations agencies, as was the case in DRC, where a partnership with IFAD made it possible to have a wider scope. That was also the case in Niger, as part of a partnership with UNICEF.

Aside from the initiatives that have been imple­mented, these days everyone at FAO is account­able for gender, as a cross-cutting issue. Integrating the gender dimension must be planned from the outset and it must be present at all levels, even in joint programmes run with other actors. 

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For further information: Dominique Di Biase, FAO Senior Programme Officer for Belgium/Switzerland/United Kingdom/United Nations.
Email: Dominique.DiBiase@fao.org