The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Fund for International Development signed a seven million dollar loan agreement with the Republic of Tunisia to help finance a multi-faceted rural development project. Aims of the scheme are to improve the productivity of rangeland, boost agricultural production and promote socio-economic development among some 18,000 families in the southeast.
Although poverty levels have declined steadily in Tunisia, falling from 40 percent in the 1960s to less than five percent in 2000, considerable disparities still exist between urban and rural areas.
The southeastern portion of the country is particularly problematic, as harsh climatic conditions and recurrent droughts have severe effects on the thousands of households that rely on agriculture both for subsistence and income generation.
Under the current scheme, a wide variety of works will be carried out in two of Tunisia’s poorest governorates, Tataouine and Kebili, home to around 190,000 inhabitants.
Works carried out under the project will include the construction and installation of rural infrastructure such as water storage tanks, dams, irrigation systems, boreholes and 245 kilometers of paved feeder roads.
Other components include the rehabilitation of drought-affected orchards, plantations and pastureland; planting of fruit trees and fodder crops; establishment of small-scale community development activities; procurement of livestock fattening units; the setting up and management of agricultural development groups; and extending support to farmers’ organizations.
Additionally, training and technical assistance will be provided for the creation of 350 micro-enterprises in agricultural and non-agricultural activities such as handicrafts. Proceeds from the Fund’s loan will go towards the road rehabilitation component.
The Fund has extended five earlier public sector loans to Tunisia in support of projects in the agriculture, education, national development banks and transportation sectors, and one line of credit has been approved for the private sector. The country has also been the recipient of a technical assistance grant in support of a regional program in the area of agriculture, as well as one emergency grant to help flood victims
Lending terms include interest rate of 3.5 percent per annum, with an annual service charge of one percent on amounts withdrawn and outstanding; maturity of 20 years, including a grace period of five years. Project’s implementation period is seven years. Appraising agency is the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), loan administrator is the United Nations Office for Projects Services. Co-financiers are the IFAD, Beneficiaries, Micro-finance. — (menareport.com)
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