Delegates from various states and countries visited the beautiful hills of Shillong, Meghalaya in India as the 3rd Partners’ Meeting of the Food Resilience Through Root and Tuber Crops in Upland and Coastal Communities of the Asia-Pacific (FoodSTART+) project was held from 4 to 7 September 2018, hosted by the Meghalaya Basin Development Authority (MBDA).
On the first day, the event gathered project partners, donors, policy makers, and guests to participate in the launch ceremony of micro-enterprises established by farmer groups who participated in the FoodSTART+ Farmer Business Schools (FBS). Products made out of potato and cassava were showcased in the event, with the aim of promoting them, receiving feedback from relevant stakeholders and engage with potential support agencies. The FBS groups also presented their respective business pitches through songs and dance to demonstrate how they would promote their products to the public. This was followed by a panel discussion on available business development services that can be accessed by the farmers. The farmer groups were composed of ethnic minorities from East Khasi Hills and West Garo Hills of Meghalaya, India. The FBS in these districts are implemented by FoodSTART+ in collaboration with the Meghalaya Livelihoods and Access to Markets Project (Megha-LAMP) of the MBDA.
The business launch was also graced with the presence of Shri. Prestone Tynsong, Honourable Deputy Chief Minister of Meghalaya, as he inaugurated the event. In his speech, he recognized the importance of FBS in increasing income and improving the livelihood of farmers. He supports the approach and is willing to upscale it to more communities in Meghalaya. Furthermore, he suggested to rename the approach as Farmer Business and Livelihood School.
The second day of the event involved the FoodSTART+ project team, CIP senior staff, and representatives from the partner IFAD investment projects, namely: Megha-LAMP; Smallholder Livelihood Development Project (SOLID) from Indonesia; Fisheries, Coastal Resources and Livelihood Project (FishCORAL) and Integrated Natural Resources and Environmental Management Project (INREMP), both from the Philippines; and the Sustainable Rural Development for the Poor Project from Vietnam (SRDP). Furthermore, delegates from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), led by Mr. Jerry Pacturan, Country Program Officer and Task Manager for FoodSTART+, were present to conduct the supervision mission of the project.
Representatives from the new IFAD investment project, Fostering Climate Resilient Upland Farming Systems in the Northeast (FOCUS) attended the meeting to learn from the FBS and likewise explore possible areas of future collaboration with FoodSTART+.
Dr. Diego Naziri, Project Coordinator of FoodSTART+, provided an overview of the completed activities of the project, some examples are the publications on the scoping study in all project sites, value chain studies, research and technology demonstrations, and capacity development activities which mainly involve the FBS. Country facilitators provided more details on each activity through their respective presentations. Specific presentations were delivered on the project’s cross-cutting areas, including gender, resilience studies and GIS mapping. Much has been accomplished, but there are still some more work to be done before project’s end, which Dr. Naziri also discussed during the meeting.
In addition to presenting projects’ accomplishments and outputs, the Partners’ Meeting aimed at discussing the collaborative dynamics between IFAD investments and a grant project (FoodSTART+), with a focus on opportunities and challenges of the partnerships. The main objective was to draw lessons and recommendations for adoption, adaptation and scaling of the FoodSTART+ (FS+) partnership models. Accordingly, two panel discussions were conducted to, first, receive and discuss the feedback of partner IFAD investment projects on the collaboration with FoodSTART+, and second, get the insights of the FoodSTART+ team on the benefits and challenges of these collaborations. All panelists identified timing as a major challenge for the collaboration, that is, the investment project and FoodSTART+ may have engaged in their collaboration too late or too early, which has implications on the implementation of project activities. Despite this, all parties were very much satisfied with the collaboration where, as mentioned, trust and respect were key aspects.
To complement this discussion, an additional panel was held on the third day of the meeting with IFAD representatives, where they shared their views and recommendations on establishing successful collaborations between IFAD investment and grant projects, and linking the intended beneficiaries to the right organizations, including the private sector.
The participants also visited the Central Potato Research Station (CPRS) to understand the various research that the institute is conducting and how this is helping small-scale farmers in north-eastern India access better potato varieties and good planting material. Participants had also the opportunity to appreciate and discuss the trials for extending the shelf-life and quality of seed potato established by FoodSTART+ in CPRS facilities.
On the last day of the meeting, the participants visited one of the FBS sites in Nongwah Village in Tyrsad to see the organic potato field and storage trials set up under the guidance of FoodSTART+ pathologist, Dr. Shahid Ali, and interact with the FBS group. They were warmly welcomed by the women of the Nongwah FBS group who shared how happy they were to be part of the FBS. Although there were challenges along the way, attendance being one of the primary concerns, LAMP staff encouraged them to continue with the modules and they eventually understood the FBS’ potential to help their livelihoods. The group looks forward to upscaling their enterprise by producing more quality seed potato for the market.
The FBS approach, first developed by CIP in Indonesia, is currently being scaled out in the Philippines, Indonesia and India through the FoodSTART+ project led by CIP and implemented in collaboration with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and relevant IFAD investment projects in the region. Funded by the European Union and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), FoodSTART+ aims at promoting the role of RTCs in reducing food vulnerability and enhancing resilience of poor male and female agricultural producers and consumers.
Written by Camille Joy Enalbes, Communication Specialist, and Dr. Diego Naziri, Project Coordinator, CIP-FoodSTART+
Photo Credits to Guada Babilonia, Camille Joy Enalbes, and Ashim Borah