The Project Convergence on Value Chain Enhancement for Rural Growth and Empowerment (ConVERGE) was this year’s host for the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) 13th Annual Country Programme Review (ACPoR), an annual event for all IFAD-funded projects and partners in the Philippines. The main stage was in Butuan City, and having a “blended” set up, it catered to some 200 more participants from across the country who attended live via Zoom.

The Country Programme Review amid Pandemic

With the pandemic still a concurrent issue across the world, events mostly had to be cancelled or postponed to ensure everyone’s safety and protection. Not being able to conduct activities in full capacity has hindered the development work scene — as doing evaluations and going to the field is part of the heart of the programs.

But adjusting to the new normal has been the way to go since the past year, as numerous meetings via Zoom, Google Meet, or Teams have surfaced. The pandemic may still be here, but the work in the development scene supporting agriculture never stops.

Finding ways to communicate is one of the solutions to adjust to the new norm, and a major IFAD event like the ACPoR has experienced its first ever blended approach to reach out and interact with its projects, beneficiaries, and implementing partners in the agricultural sector.

The 13th ACPoR assessed the programme performances in 2020, identified operational challenges and solutions, showcased best practices and lessons learned, and recommended further interventions that will sustain the gains and further gear up the agricultural value chain to be more competitive, inclusive, and resilient.

Almost 200 beneficiaries, implementers, partners, and IFAD staff have participated in exhaustive and interactive discussions surrounding the year’s theme of Supporting delivery systems of competitive, inclusive, and resilient agricultural value chains in the time of the pandemic.

IFAD Country Director Alessandro Marini emphasized the importance of documenting he wealth of lessons and experiences in the implementation of projects. “Let us organize the lessons emerging from the various on-going projects for policy and sharing to other projects initiated by government. There is a huge potential for learning, linking this learning for scaling up and policy engagement,” he said.

DAR Undersecretary for Mindanao Affairs and Rural Development Atty. Ranibai Dilangalen hoped that strategies will be gathered during the activity.” We have to double our effort to strengthen and fortify our agricultural sector and respond to the hurdles of this unprecedented time to have inclusive, competitive and resilient agricultural value chains.” she said.

Also present were Country Programme Officer Jing Pacturan, Consultant Yolando Arban, National Project Director Faisar Mambuay, and Project Manager Gomer Tumbali along with ConVERGE’s staff from Regions 9, 10 and CARAGA. Other IFAD-Philippines projects include: BFAR-FishCoral, DA-CHARMP2, DTI Rapid Growth, NIA and DENR-INREMP, SEARCA, among others.

Insights gathered

Pacturan presented the result of the PHL-RB COSOP review and hosted both days’ interactive talk show that centered around insights and lessons in agricultural development in the time of the pandemic, and policies and programs that support and strengthen competitive, inclusive, and resilient agricultural value chains.

Representatives from IFAD-funded projects have raised that even with the setbacks from COVID, there still are silver linings. Some have noted that the lockdowns challenged staff to think creatively in their decision-making. Local managers were also empowered to hold off independently. Lastly, while connectivity is an issue, offices have also aided to help others adjust to the digitalization.

Workshops have also been conducted on both days to gather essential insights from all stakeholders that centered around the theme. Actions for improving IFAD performance have also been tackled to further improve the progress of the funded projects of IFAD in the days to come.

Going above and beyond — in online events

The success of the event was commended by all as the ACPoR included lively exchanges, thorough discussions, and overall was a break from the monotony of one-way Zoom rooms. Even amid pandemic, no one was left behind on the fun as both participants onsite and online enjoyed the cultural presentations and interactive games. The smooth-flow of the sessions was also one of the highlights of the entire production.

The moderator Yolando Arban commended Project ConVERGE’s innovation by saying that “ConVERGE is the trailblazer for the next Annual Country Programme Reviews to come.”

To close, NPD Mambuay left a heartfelt message of hope to the participants: “We have generated bountiful lessons, learned from group discussions and gained instructive presentations from service providers and policy-makers. It would be a pity if we will leave this forum without making use of the outputs,” he said.

Mambuay also thanked IFAD for the opportunity to host. “ Thank you IFAD, for giving Project ConVERGE the opportunity to show how to implement the programme review of this scale at this time when the pandemic still prevents us from gathering this number of participants in one venue,” he ended.

About Project ConVERGE

The Project Convergence on Value Chain Enhancement for Rural Growth and Empowerment (ConVERGE) is a six-year project implemented by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), funded by the Philippine government and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). Its goal is to improve and sustain the gains of the agrarian reform program by supporting the services of the Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARBs) in the different clusters of the Region through various interventions such as farm input provisions, training, and establishing partnerships with new markets. Region 9’s enterprise commodities are rice and rubber.

About IFAD

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is a specialized agency of the United Nations, dedicated to eradicating poverty and hunger in developing countries. It works in remote rural areas of the world to help countries achieve the millennium development goals. Through low-interest loans and grants, IFAD develops and finances projects that enable rural poor people to overcome poverty themselves.

 

By: Jullienne Tuazon, Katrin Arcala

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