A World Bank project, estimated to cost between US $30 million and $40 million, is due to be launched in 2006 in the Republic of Congo to rehabilitate agriculture in rural areas, a bank official announced on Saturday.
"It will focus essentially on the rehabilitation of rural access roads in order to try to improve the transport of produce to consumer centres, and to improve the marketing of the agricultural produce," said Joseph Baah-Dwomoh, the World Bank's sector manager for environmental, rural and social development in Central Africa.
Baah-Dwomoh made the remarks in the capital, Brazzaville. He had led a preparatory mission to the country.
Under the project targeting rural areas in the country's 11 departments, improved seed varieties would be introduced to farmers across the country, in efforts to modernise agriculture.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries would be a key actor during the project's implementation, as it would be involved in analysing the different criteria to determine the specific areas of development.
"The project aims at improving agricultural production so that the population can have more openings," Baah-Dwomoh said. "We have to strengthen the capacities of the services, the farmers and NGOs which are involved in agricultural production."
However, he said the cost of the project was not fixed since the World Bank was studying ways of co-financing with other international organisations such as the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the UN Development Programme.
"In the frame of the project, [the] African Development Bank takes care of the fishing sector," Baah-Dwomoh said.
Some 70 percent of Congolese are engaged in traditional agriculture for subsistence. Every year, the government spends 100 billion francs CFA ($182.4 million) to import food products.
In October 2004, IFAD gave the Congolese government an eight-billion-franc loan ($11.5 million), repayable over 30 years, to finance the setting up of 50,000 farms in the Plateaux, Cuvette and Cuvette West regions of the country.
The project is expected to benefit 300,000 people, especially the youth.
The government set up in March an agriculture support fund with the aim of reducing food imports and to boost food security by supporting agricultural and fishing activities.
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