Agriculture and Rural Development

The persistence of food crises in developing countries shows that their agricultural sectors need help to grow stronger and evolve. AFD encourages the use of modern farming techniques and the development of new infrastructure, institutions and systems – encouraging better-organized industries, improving coordination between industry participants, and securing land tenure.


Working with farmers on the Altiplano


In Bolivia, poverty is much more prevalent in rural areas, and especially on the Altiplano, an inhospitable plain bordering Peru. Faced with a harsh climate and poor soil quality, farmers struggle to make their livelihood. An initiative led by Secours Catholique and financed by AFD gives small producers the means to recover their food security.


The Bolivian Altiplano is, along with the Tibetan plateau, the highest inhabited region in the world. It is an extreme environment. The small community of Calamarca (“stone village”) lives at about 50 km from the city of La Paz and at an altitude of 4,000 meters. The population has always lived off its land, land which faces a harsh and cold climate, with variable weather conditions and where water is a scarce resource.

But these already difficult conditions are exacerbated by climate change, which is clearly visible there. Instability has grown and disrupted rainfall patterns, bringing long periods of drought. The result? The sustainability of traditional agricultural practices and, therefore, the food security of residents are under threat. Faced with growing poverty, many flee the Altiplano to seek better opportunities elsewhere.

Disseminating sustainable agricultural practices

Secours Catholique is taking action to address the situation by leading a program to support small producers in Calamarca and a neighboring community, Colquencha. It is receiving financial support from AFD and the French Facility for Global Environment (FFEM) . In the field, these communities are being supported by CIPCA (Centro de investigación y promoción del campesinado).

The program targets sustainable natural resources management and agricultural practices. This sustainable management fully integrates the new climate situation… Promoting these initiatives will have an impact on the development of the farming and indigenous economy and also stem the rural exodus.

The support from CIPCA has been a decisive factor: the technical assistance and provision of equipment have already benefited 150 families. The NGO’s action has developed livestock farming for milk production, organic vegetable production in greenhouses, and installed an irrigation system which is more resistant to the impacts of climate change. A solar water pump has also been installed.

“Thanks to the greenhouses, we have been able to diversify our production by growing plants which cannot grow in the open on the Altiplano, such as tomatoes, lettuces or cucumbers”, explains Severo Mamani, a producer and leader of the Caluyo community in Calamarca, “And it ends up on our plates: we have introduced new foods into our diet!”

Challenge of marketing

Farmers have also been able to structure themselves thanks to this support: “We have set up the Agricultural Producers Association of Calamarca, to be stronger on the local market together and better protect our interests”, continues Severo.

Colquencha is located further away, 20 minutes by car: hopes there are based on a dairy project, which is also supported by CIPCA. As in Calamarca, the program has tangible results: more independence and resilience in terms of the changes.

“We now produce milk derivatives like fresh cheese and yoghurts”, explains Justina Mamani, a member of the AIMPROLEM association of women producers of dairy products, “This allows us producers to cope better with developments on the milk market and sell our products locally!”


More responsibility for women

Integrating women and young people into the local farming economy is one of the other challenges to be met. CIPCA has made training women “leaders” a long-term priority. “We must not simply content ourselves with having an impact on the productive sector”, explains Gustavo Clavijo Leaño, Director of CIPCA Altiplano, “We want to take action on socio-political issues. For example, women play a crucial role in the rural economy. They are set to become agents of the change in agriculture and nutrition.”

Face up to. Adapt. Then take up the challenge… Step by step, CIPCA is planting some seeds of hope and change on the highlands. 

Coming to the rescue of La Sierra and La Selva


Help farmers in the most remote areas of Peru tackle climate change and allow them to continue to live off their land. This is the commitment of Agrobanco , the Peruvian development bank for agriculture, via a very ambitious range of financing.


Climate change: The Peruvian paradox

There is a curious paradox in Peru: agriculture and farmers are very vulnerable to climate change – we have all heard about El Niño and La Niña and their trail of destruction, but are also largely responsible for it. Indeed, forests continue to be destroyed to gain more farmable land: over 60% of greenhouse gas emissions are caused by this change in land use.

In addition, as in many countries, intensive agricultural practices cause damage and deplete resources. But how then can these destructive dynamics be reversed, while giving priority to providing smallholder farmers with solutions?

“Following the organization of COP20 in Lima in 2014, there was a marked increase in the interest and mobilization of Peruvians for combating climate change”, explains Eleonore Pocry, project manager at AFD’s agency in the Peruvian capital, “Many realized that it was essential to improve agricultural practices.”


© Agrobanco


Agrobanco to the rescue of La Sierra and La Selva

One of the main actors in this revival is called Agrobanco . It is the public development bank for Peru’s agricultural sector. Its range of loans focuses on farmers who have the most difficulty accessing credit in the Andean region (La Sierra) and Amazonian region (La Selva). These farmers have huge needs.

“To help them”, points out Céline Bernadat, project manager for financial institutions at AFD, “Agrobanco offers competitive financial solutions, but that is not all, because to change production model, farmers also need advice. The bank consequently works with intermediaries who have trained as engineers and are able to play a dual role: prepare the loan application and help farmers launch their projects. This is a constructive and highly innovative approach in Peru.”


Banco Verde

Agrobanco has been experiencing very strong growth for the past three years. It is even destined to become the bank for innovative and “climate-compatible” rural development. In 2015, the Banco Verde (Green Bank) plan was adopted. However, to stay on course with its objectives, it needs support. The meeting with AFD came about through the dynamics of the COPs and the Franco-Peruvian bilateral dialogue on climate change and has happened naturally. “We believe that the environmental aspects are key to our activity”, points out Carlos Ginocchio, Chief Executive Officer of Agrobanco, “And our objectives and those of AFD for the fight against climate change are aligned.”

In practical terms, this loan involves making a EUR 50m credit line available to Agrobanco. The objective? Increase the number of green projects from 10 to 25% of the portfolio by 2019. The first loans allocated concern investments by coffee, cocoa, organic banana and ginger smallholdings. Most are “long-term” loans (between 3 and 8 years), allowing perennial crops to be planted, with a grace period before the arrival of the first produce.


Helping more those who innovate more

Banco Verde’s objectives do not end there. A second phase, and for at least 40% of the credit line, will concern new innovative projects: silvopastoralism, compost, biomass production, improving irrigation

The criteria are currently being defined and fine-tuned thanks to technical assistance financed by a EUR 5m grant from the European Union Latin America Investment Facility (LAIF). “It involves establishing suitable bases for indicators and a risk management system so that we can implement sustainable investments”, adds Claude Torre, “It is a promising and structuring approach which can be replicated elsewhere!”

Focus: Land tenure security in Madagascar


Land is a vital resource in any society. However, access to land remains unequal in the South and undermines local communities. AFD is focusing on securing land tenure in Madagascar, with the aim of increasing producers’ incomes, securing their plots and reducing land-related conflicts.


Land tenure security: Key to agricultural development?

Land is a source of food, housing, income and identity. Access to land is therefore a vital issue in rural societies, especially in countries where there is an extremely high level of competition and pressure over land.

This is the case in countries where agriculture and livestock raising play a major role in the economy.
Land pressure is exacerbated by challenges such as population growth, climate change, the depletion of soil fertility, and the need for global food and energy security.

Land tenure security fosters the economic development of a country and thereby improves living conditions for its population. It does so by providing a set of measures and tools which allow land rights holders to enjoy these rights and be protected against any disputes. Owners can subsequently invest in their land. 

Urban demand for food products unmet

As in many other sectors, the political crisis which ended in 2013 increased the level of poverty of people in Madagascar.

Two regions have been hit particularly hard: Analamanga and Itasy, where there is the largest number of poor households among the country’s 22 regions.

Rice-growing plot in the Itasy region


These are two particularly important regions, as they are highly agricultural and their proximity to the capital means that they are subject to urban demand for agricultural products. However, supply does not meet demand: the supply of food products falls short of urban demand.
This leads to inflationary pressure on retail prices. 

Towards more equitable and sustainable land management
In addition to agricultural development projects or best practices to increase yields, land tenure security is an aspect which is not adequately addressed and on which AFD has been focusing efforts for over 10 years.
Back in 2004, AFD had already financed Madagascar’s first land tenure window in Amparafaravola, in the Alaotra Mangoro region.
Land tenure security is a recurrent problem which adversely affects agricultural development. The micro-fragmentation of peri-urban agricultural areas, difficulties and slowness of procedures to obtain titles, or lack of access to land certificates hold back investments and hamper agricultural intensification initiatives.

Air layering of lychees in Ambarikely, Itasy

It is for this reason that AFD, alongside the European Union, is supporting a project to assist the reform and land tenure security: the ARSF project.
This initiative is in line with AFD’s strategy for both agricultural development and environmental protection by promoting agroecological practices and reforestation.
This project was launched in 2016 and plans to establish mechanisms for land rights security, land management and property taxation in 75 rural municipalities. 
Results already visible 
Results were clearly apparent in December 2016:

  • Some of the 4,000 land certificates and titles have been issued;
  • 11 new municipal windows have been officially declared open;
  • 22 mayors have been trained in order to ensure there is effective decentralized land management.

During the ceremony, some of the 2016 people received their land certificate
These encouraging figures should be followed by other economic, social, environmental and institutional results. A law on private property is also under preparation and AFD will continue to be fully mobilized on this issue.

Plan Sierra: Seeds of hope in the Dominican Republic


Since 2001, AFD has been financing a unique program combining reforestation, soil protection and natural resources development in the Cordillera Central. Fifteen years on, the lives of the residents of the Sierra region have been changed.

In the mountainous regions of the center of the Dominican Republic, logging, slash-and-burn farming and intensive farming had a devastating impact in the 20th century: deforestation, eroded soils and depletion of water resources. Here, like elsewhere, there have been inevitable consequences: rural exodus and loss of economic activity in the territories. In a context of agrarian revolutions, governments took measures in the late 1960s. Land was informally invaded, but with no real support, a response was necessary.

Pine trees and coffee trees to recover land
Plan Sierra is a public-private partnership which came about in 1979 in the watershed region of the Yaque del Norte River in the Northwest of the country. It was launched by a group of emigrants in the USA and local leaders and has been supported by AFD since 2001. “Before”, explains Juan Rodríguez, a forester, “a lot of land had been cleared here because we, as residents who lived here, worked on the conucos (family slash-and-burn farming) and illegal logging”. “Mentalities have changed”, adds Victor Tolentino, one of his neighbors who is mainly a herder. “With support from Plan Sierra, we started by sowing pine trees. But, like me, the vast majority of herders now also plant trees. In addition to being beneficial to the environment, it is also a commercial activity… Thanks to this, we have brought comfort to our animals and life to our countryside!”.
Pine trees, coffee trees, fruit trees… It involved covering soils in order to recover the territory in an ecological way. “We sought alternatives to mitigate the impact of livestock raising in the Sierra region”, explains Eddy Peralta, Executive Director of Plan Sierra, “And we succeeded in setting up sylvopastoral systems in which there is a harmonious combination of trees, pastures and dairy farming”.

Economic and social renewal in the Sierra region
Fifteen years on, it can be said that the results speak for themselves: production has risen from 700 liters of milk a day to over 20,000 liters. The sustainable intensification via sylvopastoral systems is driven by strong demand and is a major success. The Sierra region now has the most modern tree nursery in the country. To date, Plan Sierra has allowed the reforestation of over 7,400 hectares. 89 sylvopastoral systems have been set up, with a total surface area of 329 hectares. After experiencing a strong rural exodus, particularly with emigration to the USA, the region is undergoing a real economic and social renewal. 591 families have benefited from the creation of supply systems with technical assistance from Plan Sierra. 3,780 participants have attended 183 awareness-raising activities (workshops, conferences and lessons) conducted by Plan Sierra.

Holistic approach to environmental conservation
Plan Sierra is not, however, a program just about improving agricultural practices. Sanitation, waste management, access to rural credit and even tourism… everything is integrated. “Right from the start, the idea was to manage both the ecosystem and the socio-system”, points out Grégory Villeneuve, AFD’s Director in the Dominican Republic. “All the strengths and originality of Plan Sierra lie in the fact that it is a truly holistic plan to preserve a rural territory. In order to give communities the guarantee that they can permanently stay in the region, the challenge involved creating wealth-generating mechanisms that take environmental conservation into account”. 

Access to good quality water for residents
Finally, water supply is a major aspect of the project. In the Sierra region, many families used to live 2 to 3 km away from water points… In addition, both the availability and quality of this essential resource were adversely affected by ancient farming practices. In the context of the plan, supply and irrigation systems were developed via local management organizations. The aim was not only to ensure that a pipe was connected to each household, but also to ensure that good quality water came out of it.

Taking things further…
“A number of successes can be put down to Plan Sierra”, adds Inmaculada Adames, President of Plan Sierra. “They need to be built upon… With AFD, we are drawing up the guidelines for a possible Plan Sierra III, which could involve local authorities more. We are also holding discussions with the Dominican Government to see how we can extend and improve this experience, not only in the Yaque watershed, but also with the other seven major watersheds which make up the Dominican territory.”

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