The World Bank recently approved a $34 million loan to the Government of Tunisia aimed at improving the socio-economic conditions of the populations covering the mountainous and forested areas of the country's northwestern region, while ensuring sustainable management of natural resources.
Issued on a fixed-spread basis with 22 years maturity and a five-year grace period, the Northwest Mountainous and Forestry Areas Development Project (NMFAD) will support Tunisia in increasing household incomes through the improvement and diversification of agricultural and pastoral production, as well as the promotion of off-farm income-generating activities.
The northwestern region of Tunisia faces the challenge of low agricultural productivity, over-exploitation of natural resources and rural poverty. The problem is compounded by the large rural population with a significant number of those who are young and landless.
The region is also highly vulnerable to soil erosion and degradation, mainly because of its steep slopes, high winter rainfall and the strong animal and population pressures. Furthermore, the northwest region suffers from inadequate public infrastructure and services, as well as a limited extension services particularly in agriculture.
Although progressive policies and large investments have been put in place by the Government of Tunisia for the northwest, socio-economic conditions remain more difficult than in many other parts of the country, partly due to the adverse agro-ecological situation, but also because of the remaining weaknesses in the public support services and infrastructure.
The NMFAD is consistent with the Government's five-year Economic and Social Development Plan for 2002-2006 in which the socio-economic development of rural populations and sustainable resources management are high priorities. The loan will support the implementing agency, Office de Développement Sylvo-Pastoral du Nord-Ouest, and its development partners to effectively assist the local communities in planning, implementing and monitoring their own rural development programs and activities.
The project will also help protect and improve the management of natural resources and expand people's access to basic rural infrastructure. The project's development objective falls in line with the World Bank's country assistance strategy for Tunisia which seeks to strengthen the Government's social development plan by implementing environmental and socially sustainable practices, which also includes the protection of scarce natural resources and the continuation of poverty reduction measures. — (menareport.com)
© 2002 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )