The government along with the assistance from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) will invest Tk 9.26 billion (Tk 926.50 crore) or US$ 109.85 million to increase income and food and nutrition security for 2,50,000 rural households in the southern region where highest percentage of rural poor reside.
Under the programme, a Smallholder Agricultural Competitiveness Project (SACP) will be implemented in the region for six years and directly supervised by the IFAD.
To this end, an agreement was signed between IFAD President Gilbert F Houngbo and Additional Secretary of the Economic Relations Division Sultana Afroz of the Ministry of Finance in Rome on August 1, officials said in Dhaka on Sunday.
Of the total cost, $64.5 million is loan and $2 million grant from IFAD, reports BSS.
The project will be co-financed by the Government of Bangladesh ($28.65 million), the private sector ($8.1 million), and beneficiaries ($6.6 million).
While Bangladesh is a lower middle-income country, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty in rural areas is still three times higher than in urban areas, it said, adding that women are particularly affected by poverty, as they have fewer opportunities for employment, and rural youth are the most likely to migrate to cities to seek employment.
The main goal of the project is to help smallholder farmers to be more responsive and competitive in producing diverse, high value crops and marketing fresh and processed agricultural products.
“The project proposal now has been sent to the planning commission and it will be approved in the ECNEC meeting,” said ERD Deputy Secretary Bidhan Boral. The Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) under the Ministry of Agriculture will implement the project, he added.
“Though Bangladesh has made great economic strides, poverty levels in rural areas are not declining as fast as they are in urban ones,” said Omer Zafar, IFAD Country Director for Bangladesh.
“In the project area, 39 per cent of the people are still living below the poverty line. Food security and under nutrition continue to be major concerns. The average rural household in Bangladesh still gains 71 per cent of its calories from rice,” he added.
The project aims to improve incomes and food security by supporting producers in developing high-value agricultural products that correspond to market needs and can contribute to a diversified diet.
Technical training and financial services will be provided and women, youth and disadvantaged households will be specifically targeted.
The project will be implemented in 11 districts covering 30 upazilas (or townships) in the southern region of Bangladesh.
Since 1978, IFAD has financed 33 rural development programmes and projects in Bangladesh, investing $848.2 million or $2.13 billion when co-financing is included. These projects and programmes have benefitted almost 11.3 million rural households.
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