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Ending poverty: learning from good practices of small and marginal farmers

Since 2009, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Self- Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) of India have been collaborating in an interactive and mutual learning process: the Exposure and Dialogue Programme (EDP). The EDP comprises a short home stay and a sequence of reflections and exchanges between FAO and SEWA, the host organization, over a five-day period. It offers a unique opportunity for FAO staff to learn experientially and directly from the foodinsecure populations, especially women that it seeks to serve. It also offers an opportunity for poor rural stakeholders to engage directly in a dialogue with FAO staff about the specific development challenges they face. This type of learning contrasts with more formal training courses and learning by reading which are more conventional methods for capacity development within FAO and other international organizations. In the context of FAO’s reform process, the Economic and Social Development Department (ESDD)1 piloted this innovative approach for the technical capacity development of its staff. The EDP methodology, conceptualized and designed by the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) and Dr Karl Osner in 1991, represents a novel attempt to bridge the gap between the macrolevel policymakers and microlevel “beneficiaries” of development programmes through a direct and shared living experience of poverty, exclusion and marginalization. Since its establishment, the EDP methodology has been used extensively by various organizations such as the World Bank, the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD), Cornell University and the Grameen Bank (Fig. 1.1). EDPs lead to personalizing the “abstract and often disconnected relationship” between “donor” and “beneficiary” by bringing staff from donor agencies into direct contact with their beneficiaries, the hosts.2 In other words, participants internalize the hard realities of the poverty-stricken hosts and their survival strategies amidst social and economic vulnerabilities. This enables the participants to examine their decisions from the perspective of their hosts and to frame policy decisions with reference to the actual experience of the poor. The exposure is followed by reflections and an exchange of ideas, which ultimately strengthens participants’ commitment to poverty reduction strategies and thus hopefully influences future policies focused on the poor elsewhere. In this way EDPs reduce the distance between policy-makers and the field and provide participants with a single reference point against which to evaluate the potential impact of their decisions in the fight against poverty.

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