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World Bank loan to boost agricultural production

[Zambia] A tractor helps plough a field (wheat) in Zambia.
Zambia's current poor harvet was more than 40 percent lower than 2000 (FAO)

A recent US $50 million World Bank assistance package to Zambia is expected to improve agricultural production and strengthen the government's early warning and disaster management systems, officials said on Wednesday.

"The funds are intended to bring relief to the most vulnerable affected by the recent drought. Overall, the funds will assist in building the country's ability to avert such crises in future," World Bank agricultural specialist in Zambia, Alex Mwanakasale, told IRIN.

Drought conditions and poor harvests for the second year in a row have led to severe food shortages directly affecting about 2.9 million Zambians.

The World Bank package consists of a US $20 million grant and
US $30 million in credit.

Mwanakasale said the assistance would fund critical imports, thereby protecting essential social spending on education and health programmes.

"Although the funds will go toward developing the agricultural sector, the main objective is to support government's measures to mitigate the impact of the drought. These include supporting health and sanitation services, providing support to keep children in school and protecting the threatened livestock population," he added.

National coordinator of the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit, Jones Mwanza, told IRIN: "Subsistence farmers were severely hit by the poor harvest. We also found that the coping mechanisms of the urban poor had deteriorated. People who were previously just getting by can no longer afford food. This money will hopefully assist farmers hit by drought to restore productive capacity."

Mwanza added that the money would go toward the construction of bridges and the rehabilitation of feeder roads into rural areas. Eight of the total of 35 bridges to be constructed throughout the country would be in Lusaka Province, and up to 120 small-scale farmers would also benefit from the loan facility.

"With this aid the government can make a commitment to improve safety nets among vulnerable populations across the country. This will be done by expanding the public works programmes under ongoing projects such as the Road Sector Investment Programme," Mwanza said.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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