- An extensive programme to boost food security and incomes in rural Madagascar has been financed. The project, focusing on the eastern impoverished province of Toamasina, is expected to maximize crop production and enhance smallholders' access to vital services and markets.
The government of Madagascar has launched the rural development programme, which is says will positively affect some 200,000 people living in rural areas of the eastern province of Toamasina, formerly called Tamatave. The programme is set to cost a total of US$ 28.25 million.
Yesterday, the Malagasy assured financing of half of the programme's cost by signing a US$ 14.5 million loan agreement with the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD), a UN agency based in Rome.
According to the Malagasy's project description, referred to in an IFAD statement, the programme is to help improve Toamasina smallholders' crop yields "by intensifying current production methods and introducing more high-yield export crops, like coffee, spices and essential oils."
Toamasina, which hosts Madagascar's second city and the island's principal port, is predominantly a rural province. Here, close to 90 percent of the population lives below the poverty level - and more than half are considered extremely poor.
Most Toamasina residents are farmers with small parcels of land, but, according to the Malagasy government, smallholders here struggle with declining crop yields, poor product quality, falling international prices for some crops and the inability to demand their fair share in the marketplace.
Without government intervention, Toamasina farmers face a spiral of deepening poverty, a local study had concluded. "Without access to markets and profitable crops, rural incomes will continue to decline and fuel the region's deprivation," commented Francisco David e Silva, IFAD's Madagascar Country Programme Manager.
In addition to the programme's aim of improving Toamasina smallholders' crop yields, it is also set to "work to restore links between rural producers and markets by building partnerships between organised smallholders and larger private sector operators," the IFAD statement reads.
- But better market access needs to be accompanied by better access to transportation, technologies, materials, and financial and agricultural services if smallholders are going to increase productivity and generate surpluses, comments Mr David e Silva. The programme therefore also aims "to improve the region's declining infrastructure."
According to IFAD, community involvement is another key element of the programme. "One of the overarching objectives of the programme is to help communities take responsibility for their own development," says Mr David e Silva. "We believe that including beneficiaries in the programme's planning and implementation will not only help contribute to the programme's success but ensure that interventions respond to smallholder interests and priorities," he adds.
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