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Knowledge for investment

From 23 June 2016 to 23 June 2016

In June 2016, FAO hosted the launch of the FAO-IFAD Knowledge for Investment series, showcasing the latest geospatial tools and participatory resilience measurement apps for assessing the impact of FAO and IFAD operations. 

The event which was held on 13th June, the first this series, underscored the benefits of periodic knowledge sharing between like-minded partners and project implementers, especially those focused on improving operations and scaling up investments in agriculture and rural development.

The idea is to have a creative space where the two Rome-based agencies – both supporting rural communities in eliminating hunger, fighting poverty and ensuring nutritious diets – can share the latest thinking and practices on the design, implementation and monitoring and evaluation of investment programmes. They can also share newly developed tools and technical approaches, reflect on experiences from recent projects and establish a ‘community of practice’ on investment-related matters.

Sharing tools and knowledge 

The launch featured presentations on remote sensing and geographic information system (GIS) tools that enable users to assess the situation ‘from the sky’, as well as a self-evaluation app on climate resilience that allows for ‘ground checking’ with rural communities. Applying them to FAO and IFAD initiatives can help improve project implementation and ensure more concrete impact assessments on a larger scale. 

Colleagues from FAO’s Forestry Department provided some valuable insight on how three Google tools could be used for current and potential investments. Earth Engine, Google Earth and Collect Earth are all user-friendly applications that allow land surface monitoring over time. In addition to monitoring physical progress during project implementation, the imagery produced by these tools can better accompany quantitative impact assessments on FAO and IFAD agricultural, pastoral and forestry operations on the ground.  

Of particular relevance to the visual understanding of changing landscape dynamics is Collect Earth, a free, open source tool based on Google Earth and developed by FAO’s Forestry Department. It helps convey land use change, deforestation, crop management and agricultural expansion, among other functions.

IFAD’s West and Central Africa Division presented the second tool, sharing case studies where remote sensing and GIS technology were used to design and monitor climate change adaptation and mitigation interventions.

Finally, colleagues from FAO’s Plant Production and Protection Division presented the third diagnostic tool – the Self-evaluation and Holistic Assessment of Climate Resilience of Farmers and Pastoralists (SHARP). SHARP is an approach to designing, implementing and monitoring rural development projects, and is already in use in some joint FAO-IFAD projects. SHARP, along with the complementary Holistic Household Baseline Assessment Tool (HH-BAT), enables farmers and pastoralists to assess their own climate resilience and improve their livelihoods accordingly.

Improving efficiency

Such technologies provide real-time information and offer easier and more efficient methods for collecting, aggregating and processing data, providing more reliable and cost effective monitoring and evaluation of rural development interventions.

“Although information and communication technologies are not new to rural development, their availability, access, affordability and ease of use are growing fast,” said Carlo Bravi, FAO Investment Officer and the event’s organizer. “Development thinking needs to adjust quickly to avoid lagging behind.”

Adolfo Brizzi, director of IFAD’s Policy and Technical Advisory Division, noted that these diagnostic tools could also support a results-oriented monitoring and disbursement system, a tendency that is being mainstreamed in all major development organizations.

Participants also suggested key topics that they would like for discussion during future sessions. Topics such as  rural youth employment interventions and nutrition-sensitive value chains to food safety and climate change resilience initiatives, projects in these policy areas can greatly benefit from the tools presented.

In speaking of the challenges ahead for IFAD, FAO and other actors across the development spectrum, Périn Saint Ange, IFAD’s Associate Vice-President, Programme Management Department, highlighted the importance of focusing on both the returns to investments on the ground and the results obtained in redressing humanitarian imperatives.

“The modern world has never been through so much, challenging development capacities, humanitarian needs and human security,” he said. “We need a good balance between development ventures and concrete, tangible development results.”

Benefiting from partnerships

Increased awareness of each other’s expertise can make development work more efficient and effective. This is especially true for this partnership, with FAO serving as one of the largest technical knowledge organizations specializing in food, agriculture and rural development, and with IFAD managing one of the largest rural investment portfolios among international financing institutions, with the potential to scale up innovations through its financed projects.

IFAD will host the next knowledge-sharing event in early autumn, focusing on value chain development and public-private policy dialogue, with examples from two partner institutions the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the World Bank.

Go to event page.