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IFAD intensifies fight against rural poverty

20 April 2007 at 21:08 | 69236 views

The Executive Board of IFAD approved US$63.5 million in loans and US$59.2 million in grants to fight rural poverty in eight developing countries: Burundi, Cambodia, Comoros, Ethiopia, Kenya, Paraguay, Sierra Leone and Syria according to a press release from the organization issued today.

The Board met at IFAD’s headquarters in Rome on 17-18 April.

The grants include US$9.5 million to seven international centres that conduct agricultural research, and provide training and technical assistance in areas related to agriculture and rural development.

Loans to countries in Eastern and Southern Africa totalled US$43.4 million. Grants to the region totalled US$39.1 million.

One grant of just under US$14 million will fund a project in Burundi to rebuild the country’s livestock sector, which was severely damaged by the 12-year civil war. The project will enable poor rural people to raise livestock productivity and improve the value of their products by increasing their access to better technology, veterinary services, infrastructure and markets. The project will introduce farmers’ field schools to help farmers improve their skills through training and participatory research.

A US$4.7 million grant from IFAD will combat land and marine degradation in the poorest areas of Comoros. The programme will encourage better natural resource management by local communities, especially in watershed and coastal areas, where land degradation has affected agricultural production and artisanal fisheries. About 90,000 people will benefit. Members of the Comorian diaspora will also participate by allowing their remittances to be transferred through a programme-supported financing facility and used in community projects.

In Ethiopia, a US$20 million loan and a US$20 million grant from IFAD will develop approaches for small-scale, irrigated agriculture that can be managed and sustained by farmers themselves. Building on indigenous knowledge of traditional irrigation schemes, the programme will help about 62,000 people in drought-prone areas improve their nutrition and boost their incomes.

In Kenya, an IFAD loan of US$23.4 million and a grant of US$500,000 will fund a programme to improve the supply and quality of horticultural products and boost the benefits of horticultural production for poor rural households. Horticulture is the country’s most widely practised economic activity. Kenya produces a wide range of horticultural products, including vegetables, fruits, cut flowers, herbs and spices.

In the Western and Central Africa region, a US$9.9 million grant will develop rural financial services in seven districts of Sierra Leone. More than 34,000 households will benefit from better access to credit and loan facilities and increased opportunities for employment in small business. The programme will target small farmers and microentrepreneurs, especially women.

In the Asia and the Pacific region, a US$9.5 million grant will fund a project in Cambodia to enhance poor rural people’s access to advanced crop and livestock technology. About 22,600 households will participate in the project.

In the Latin America and the Caribbean region, a US$680,000 grant will create better networks to enable small-scale producers in Paraguay to gain access to financial services.

A loan of US$20.1 million was approved in the Near East and North Africa region to fund a project in Syria that will address the increasing stress on natural resources caused by the demands of a growing population. The project will improve irrigation efficiency and promote small businesses, such as sheep and goat rearing, rural transport services and small-scale trading. It will also help the government to establish a microfinance bank.

The Executive Board approved four grants to international centres supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR):

US$1.5 million to the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas
US$1 million to the World Agroforestry Centre US$1.4 million to the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics
US$1.5 million to the International Rice Research Institute
Three additional grants were approved to non-CGIAR international centres:

US$1.1 million to the International Development Research Centre
US$1.5 million to World Soil Information
US$1.5 million to the Executive Secretariat of the Andrés Bello Agreement
A new debt sustainability framework, approved by the Board for immediate implementation, will reduce the impact of unsustainable debt on poor countries most at risk for debt distress. Under this new model, countries deemed least able to sustain debt will receive 100 per cent grant assistance from IFAD, while those with medium debt sustainability will receive 50 per cent grant assistance and 50 per cent loan assistance.

“This new framework means that a poor country’s opportunity to reduce poverty will no longer be linked to its debt situation” said Gary Howe, IFAD’s Senior Director, Strategic Planning and Budget, and Human Resources. “This is of particular importance for development in Africa.”

The Board approved a new knowledge management strategy for IFAD.

“The new strategy will shape the way in which IFAD learns from its own projects, programmes and, particularly, from poor rural people,” said Matthew Wyatt, IFAD’s Assistant President, External Affairs. “It will provide IFAD with the framework and tools needed to be effective at a time when dramatic transformations are changing the face of world agriculture and of rural poverty.”

IFAD’s Executive Board consists of 18 elected members and 18 alternate members. The Board meets three times a year, in April, September and December.

IFAD is an international financial institution and a specialized United Nations agency dedicated to eradicating poverty and hunger in rural areas of developing countries. Through low-interest loans and grants, IFAD develops and finances programmes and projects that enable poor rural people to overcome poverty themselves. There are 195 ongoing IFAD-supported rural poverty eradication programmes and projects, worth a total of US$6.7 billion. IFAD has invested US$3.1 billion, with cofinancing provided by partners including governments, project participants, multilateral and bilateral donors. These initiatives will help about 86 million poor rural women and men to achieve better lives for themselves and their families. Since starting operations in 1978, IFAD has invested US$9.6 billion in 738 programmes and projects that have reached more than 307 million poor rural women and men. Governments and other financing sources in recipient countries, including project participants, contributed US$9.1 billion, and multilateral, bilateral and other donors provided another US$7.1 billion in cofinancing.

Photo: IFAD President Lennart Bage.