afrol News, 16 November - The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Government Mauritania signed today a loan agreement on highly concessional terms for co-financing a Poverty Reduction Project in Aftout South and Karakoro regions worth US$ 23 million.
According to a release by IFAD, this IFAD-initiated project will have a total cost of US$ 23 million. The agreement was signed at the Fund's headquarters in Rome by the Vice President of IFAD, Mr. John Westley, and by Mr. Hamoud Ould Ely, Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania.
The Poverty Reduction Project in Aftout South and Karakoro is IFAD’s ninth operation in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, with a total investment of about US$ 64 million, in loans - all extended on highly concessional terms - and grants.
- IFAD’s cooperation in the country, which has spanned more than 20 years, is now oriented towards support for the decentralization process and the implementation of the national Poverty Reduction Strategy recently adopted by the government in rural areas, the UN agency stresses.
Although Mauritania’s domestic economy has significantly improved over the past years - economic growth rate shows 4.9% between 1993 and 1997 - the country still depends on international aid and has high indebtedness. Mauritania became eligible for debt relief, and IFAD has decided in September 2000 to participate in the debt relief for this country under the Enhanced Debt Initiative for Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPCs).
IFAD’s loan is in the amount of US$ 11.3 million. Co-financing in the amount of US$ 3.5 million will be provided by the OPEC Fund. The contribution provided by the Mauritanian government will amount to US$ 7.9 million, according to numbers presented by IFAD.
- This is the first time that a government co-finances a project out of the proceeds of the debt relief provided under HIPC-DI, the release notes. "Beneficiaries themselves will provide the equivalent of US$ 177,000."
The Poverty Reduction Project in Aftout South and Karakoro project was designed to be a major instrument for the implementation of the country poverty reduction strategy, "particularly in the poorest rural areas."
The project area, which covers about 26,000 km2, is not well connected with the rest of the country because of inadequate road infrastructures, and lacks markets and drinking water facilities. About 150 000 people, including traditionally nomadic with limited farming experience live in this area.
- Largely neglected by government support services and by donors, these populations have limited human and social capital, live in a severely enclosed area and have little access to basic infrastructure and services, according to the description of the project. "They have a very limited capacity to improve their incomes because of their rudimentary technical know-how and constrained access (if any) to markets and financial services."
- Women and youth, who are traditionally excluded from decision-making processes and face severe problems to access resources and information, will be particularly targeted by the project, IFAD informs.
The principal aims of the project are, first, to establish the necessary conditions for sustained and equitable economic growth at the local level. This is to be done through the establishment of functional basic social and economic infrastructure.
Second, the project will help to develop the social capital of the rural poor in the project area. This aim is to be achieved through support to their grass-roots organizations and local development institutions, the promotion of functional literacy, and the establishment of participatory planning processes for local development, in which the traditionally marginalized groups can effectively have a voice.
Third, the project will also aim to improve the income opportunities of the poorest groups by helping them to identify and exploit existing opportunities, providing them with technical and managerial expertise, and promoting the emergence of sustainable financial services.