Village funds in Syria expand poverty reduction efforts
A network of 20 Village Development Funds in the Jabal El-Hoss region, an arid region in northern Syria, is expanding its efforts to reduce poverty. Set up by a United Nations Development Program (UNDP) pilot project, the funds offer loans for income-generating activities.
The new phase will help the funds establish a secure legal status, shift management of the initiative to the communities and extend it to 20 more villages. Villagers have received loans for such activities as carpentry, curtain sewing, handicrafts production, brick making and sheep breeding.
The project reached out to merchants in the city of Aleppo, the natural market for the area, for help in picking plans for producing products that would be in demand. Women initially accounted for 10 percent of the members in the funds, and this has grown to nearly half of the total membership of more than 4,500. Women members now receive more than one third of the funds' loans.
The funds have so far provided about 2,500 loans, and the repayment rate is close to 100 percent. One reason for the strong performance is that villagers themselves mobilized $126,000 for the funds, with 40 percent coming from women members.
Japan has allocated $1.5 million for the new phase in a cost sharing arrangement with the Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform, which is providing $775,000, and UNDP is contributing $50,000.
The launch of the second phase reflects the success of the pilot project. Full legal status for the funds, said Nour Eddine Mouna, Minister of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform, will also contribute to developing the country's finance system.
Japanese Ambassador Azusa Hayashi and UNDP Resident Representative Taoufik Ben Amara said that Syria has successfully taken many steps in its comprehensive reform and modernization policy and the project's new phase will strengthen efforts to reduce poverty in the region and create a positive environment for socio-economic development.
The Government has made a strong commitment to reducing poverty in rural areas, and even remote Jabal El-Hoss has an extensive network of paved roads, electricity, schools and clinics. A land reclamation project is underway and water is being channeled from the Euphrates to some villages. The funds provide a vital addition to such infrastructure development by promoting local participation and self help initiatives at the grassroots level. — (menareport.com)
© 2003 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)