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Donors should buoy creativity of rural poor

Donors should buoy creativity of rural poor, speakers tell UN agriculture meeting

By tapping into the creativity and innovation of rural farmers, development agencies can more effectively improve the lives of the rural poor, said officials gathered at an annual meeting of the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in Rome this week.

“Poor people are innovators for life,” Olaseinde Arigbede, a representative of a Nigerian farmers group, said during a panel discussion that was part of the IFAD’s annual Governing Council meeting. “How can the developed world better support the everyday creativity that farmers are showing?”

Mr. Arigbede, of the Union of Small and Medium Scale Farmers of Nigeria, was one of several speakers assembled at a panel called “Innovation challenges for the rural poor.”

Reema Nanavaty, Director of Economic and Rural Development for the Self-Employed Women’s Association in India, said donors need to have trust and patience as they promote innovate programs among the rural poor.

“For the poor, innovation is vital for survival,” said Ms. Nanavaty. “Innovation blooms when provided with the right resources. Innovations are new, different and unique and therefore not part of bureaucratic systems.”

Other panel members spoke of the importance of building networks, for example among small farmers, large farmers and multinationals, and scaling up successful innovative programs so they can have a long-term impact on rural poverty reduction.

Lennart Bage, president of IFAD, said his agency recognized the importance of supporting and promoting innovation among the rural poor.

“We are not the prime innovators. The way that we support our partners in innovation is what is important,” he added.

One recent innovation was a session of the first Farmers’ Forum, held alongside the Council meeting this year. The Forum gathered leaders from more than 50 farmers’ organizations around the globe to talk about rural development and poverty reduction.

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