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. 

Combating erosion: Smallholder farmers on the front line!


In Ethiopia, nine in ten inhabitants live off the land. But the country is hard hit by drought. There is a real threat of famine, with farmers who are unable to produce basic foodstuffs and struggle to feed their livestock.
The NGO Inter Aide works at grassroots level with smallholder farmers. The objective? Give them new sustainable methods to both combat land erosion and produce fodder to feed the animals. And ensure their own food security. And it works!

Eroding land, food security threatened

The foothills of the Rift Valley in Southern Ethiopia are home to populations of farmers and livestock raisers. More and more land is being cleared due to the increasing population density and constant search for new plots. Cropland now spreads across steep hills and the heavy rains wash away the fertile topsoil.

Cropland areas have been reduced from generation to generation, to 0.3 to 0.5 hectares per family farm, due to the severe soil erosion and rapid population growth experienced by the region.


© Inter Aide

Farmers were for a long time able to maintain their production thanks to their technical and cultivation skills. Yet this has transformed the landscape into small garden spaces where each square meter of land is farmed.

However, this fragmentation has now reached an extent whereby human and animal food security has deteriorated dramatically.


Combating erosion

In such a constrained context, the resilience of micro-producers has improved thanks to a key innovation of the projects led by Inter Aide, in partnership with the Ethiopian organization RCBDIA in the context of an agreement with AFD: the combination of a simple method to combat erosion and an associated fodder farming technique. These sustainable practices contribute to maintaining soil fertility.

Farmers fight against erosion by building lines of ditches-bunds: the earth removed to dig the ditch is used to build the adjacent bund. Together they create a barrier which retains sediments and slows run-off.

This work is both essential and grueling. It is not very popular among farmers, who are consequently not too keen on doing it. 


Fodder harvesting: A revolution

But the real revolution lies in the idea of growing highly-productive fodder species (plants which will be used to feed animals) on the bunds.

Local communities previously knew nothing about this crop and resorted to harvesting wild grasses to feed their animals as best they could during the dry season. News of the possibility of producing fodder has consequently spread like wildfire in the project areas, at the same time triggering a contagious keen interest in the lines of ditches-bunds.


© Inter Aide


What is the unique advantage of fodder production? It benefits all categories of farmers! The better-off farmers see it as a solution to feed their animals and thereby improve their health and performance.
For the poorest families, who have no cash reserves and are therefore at the mercy of the slightest hazard, fodder crops provide an invaluable source of liquidity, with 3 cuts a year which generate a substantial and immediately available income.


Gender objective

And what about women in all this? While they never own land, over half of them have exclusive or shared ownership of the animals. They are traditionally responsible for feeding the livestock and managing animal by-products.
Fodder production is consequently a crucial sector where gender and poverty reduction issues come together.


Inter Aide – Supporting family farms in Sub-Saharan Africa

Since 2011, AFD has been supporting a program led by the NGO Inter Aide in four African countries (Ethiopia, Madagascar, Malawi, Sierra Leone).

This initiative is implemented in very remote areas dominated by small-scale family farming and targets small producers who are marginalized and vulnerable (particularly single women and young people). The aim is to improve agricultural production and the structuring of sectors, building on the good technical and economic results of the previous phases.

This new phase will continue and extend the support to agricultural production, by disseminating technical innovations tailored to the different contexts. It will strengthen the support to producers’ organizations and for structuring sectors and will build Inter Aide’s internal competencies for evaluating and capitalizing on results.

The project directly benefits 56,600 families: 12,300 new families by direct technical assistance, 4,300 families by increasing incomes and 40,000 families for poultry vaccination services.

Methods spreading

This innovation has been so successful that officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, despite focusing very much on a sectoral policy based on high productivity in Ethiopia, largely contribute to disseminating these methods.

These methods have now been adopted by some 20,000 families in the targeted districts and sometimes even transform the landscape of certain watersheds.

Consequently, soil conservation, moisture retention, biomass production and plot hedging are all part of approaches to improve fertility and sustainably manage natural resources.

A study conducted by CTA (Technical Center for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation), with support from AFD and technical assistance from ILRI (International Livestock Research Institute), is highly informative in terms of the perception of climate change.

It presents the method implemented by Inter Aide and its partner RCBDIA, with adoption, sustainability, change and impact measures


Read the study (in French) 


In Algeria, the Joussour gateways


Since 2007, the Joussour program has been bringing together over 130 Algerian and French members, associations, local authorities and institutions to work on concrete projects in the fields of childhood and youth. This concerted approach has proved its relevance on both sides of the Mediterranean.


Joussour, an investment in people

A multi-stakeholder concerted program… MSCP. Behind this apparently strange concept and its acronym lies one of the most ambitious cooperation projects. It is a project which aims at nothing less than strengthening civil society action to help the most vulnerable. It is also a project which aims to enhance the dialogue and exchanges between the citizens of two countries linked by history.

“In the mid 2000s, Algeria’s network of associations was unstructured and not sufficiently connected”, explains Agnès Belaïd from the French Committee for International Solidarity (CFSI), a development NGO based in France, “It was weakened, like the entire country, by the dark decade of the 1990s”. Yet Algerian associations are convinced that they have an essential role to play, especially with children and young people, in a country where almost two in three inhabitants are under thirty. In addition, with French associations, they find a shared desire to take action together and create synergies.

CFSI and the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, from which AFD took over in 2009, offer Algerian associations an MSCP – a simultaneous capacity building program for associations. The idea is to initiate a concerted approach by bringing together civil society organizations (CSOs) and public authorities and mobilizing local authorities from both countries. Joussour, the “gateway” in Arabic, has come into being.

There is a commitment to pool resources and share experiences from concrete projects. “An MSCP is an investment in people”, explains Martin Pericard, project manager at AFD’s NGO Partnerships Division, “The important thing is the dynamics… The program certainly has an intangible side, but it obeys a clear rule: form a community between the two shores of the Mediterranean, with the aim of both fostering the emergence of actors and promoting intercultural dialogue and citizenship. This is right in line with the Sustainable Development Goals !”.




Just under ten years later, Joussour has developed into an essential coordination structure for Algerian civil society. “A key and leading actor”, according to Abderrahmane Arar, head of the Algerian Children’s Rights Network (NADA). “A crosscutting structure”, adds Agnès Belaïd, “which makes young people actors in their own projects and no longer beneficiaries of mechanisms”.

A total of over 150 projects have been supported nationwide via the fund to support or assist the program. The sectors of operation always target youth and children and are very diverse: development of youth advisory councils, management of autism, schooling assistance, discovery and preservation of the cultural heritage through hikes or rehabilitation projects, training in livestock raising and beekeeping techniques for young people who are excluded from the school system… From Oran to Bejaia, and including Constantine or El Oued, over 80 Algerian CSOs have developed their capacities and fields of operation. 

“Joussour is a core investment for us all!”, points out Abderrahmane Arar, “Associations have become professional at all levels: they are now capable of providing strong responses… There is a huge difference compared with the initial situation.” “CSOs are firmly established at all levels”, adds Martin Pericard, “at the same time, as correspondents for the definition and application of public policies, as promoters of citizenship, and as entrepreneurs for services of general interest for the benefit of populations.”


Common values and identity

Joussour now has 133 members: in Algeria, associations, people’s assemblies of Wilaya (equivalent to Departmental Councils in France)  and in France, associations and local authorities, including the towns of Bordeaux, Aubervilliers and Nanterre. 

Certain programs are conducted through a direct partnership between Algerian and French actors, such as with the cooperation between Oran and Bordeaux via two associations, Santé Sidi El Houari and the Association des Centres d’Animation des Quartiers de Bordeaux and the Universities of Oran and Bordeaux Michel de Montaigne (see map). “Algerian and French actors think about how to move forward together in both reflection and action on care for children and young people”, explains Abderrahmane Arar, “It is a real Algerian-French network which is at work”. “The associations have learnt to dialogue and build together”, adds Agnès Belaïd, “Local and international partnerships have been formed and a real dialogue has been initiated with public authorities.”

Joussour has adopted an original governance in order to promote exchanges and the participation of actors of the program. Its 133 members constitute a plenary assembly which recognizes common values set out in a charter, such as consultation or equal opportunities. They meet once a year. An Algerian-French steering committee elected by its peers ensures implementation. 

The day-to-day development of activities is handled by an Algerian team under contract with the Algerian Children’s Rights Network (NADA) and supported by the CFSI team based in France, which ensures overall responsibility for Joussour. Its budget stands at approximately EUR 1m a year, 75% of which is financed by AFD with a grant. The other donors include the RATP Foundation and the Delegation of the European Union to Algeria. The projects of Algerian members are also supported by decentralized State services, local authorities and companies.




Securing the future

In 2016, Joussour entered into its last phase. 80 Algerian associations are going to develop initiatives for 30,000 direct beneficiaries: children and young people, people with disabilities and victims of social exclusion. But the challenge of this third phase of the program lies in stepping up the dialogue between civil society and public authorities via territorial consultative bodies. “There is a dialogue at local level and the dialogue with public authorities is already extremely promising”, points out Agnès Belaïd, “Local authorities are already involved in Joussour and have taken over certain initiatives. It shows that they are relevant and ensures they are sustainable.”

“How to move from a local success to a regional success?”, asks Martin Pericard, “The aim of Joussour is now to work on scaling up, in harmony with public policies. This program is a laboratory for Algerian and French civil societies. Many things have already been accomplished… The aim now is to extend towards other actors and territories.”

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