THE World Bank has approved an International Development Association (IDA) credit of about US$89.4 million for Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique to boost food production.
World Bank sector manager for agriculture and irrigation in Malawi and Zambia Tijan Sallah said agriculture is the largest sector in the economies of the three countries and a major source of livelihoods for an estimated 277 million people living across southern Africa.
According to information posted on the World Bank website, raising agricultural productivity is critical for fighting poverty, achieving food security and protecting the environment in the three countries.
“Africa is taking major strides to improve its farm economy, which is necessary for building shared prosperity. The World Bank board of executive directors has approved an IDA credit of US$ 89.4 million to support efforts of the governments of Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia to boost food and farm productivity.
This programme will finance strategic investments that will empower farmers with cutting-edge knowledge while increasing regional cooperation in agricultural research across southern Africa,” he said.
Mr Sallah said the funding will help to establish regional centres of leadership for major staple foods including maize, rice and legumes.
Other benefits are building agricultural research capacity, support regional collaboration in technology dissemination, boost farmer trainings and intensify knowledge transfer activities.
He said the programme is expected to directly benefit agricultural researchers, extension agents, seed producers and farm input suppliers as well as at least 30 percent of targeted farmers who will be women.
The project is fully-aligned with the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme aimed at addressing capacity constraints and increase technology spill-overs in the rural economy.
Commenting on the project, World Bank co-task team leaders Michael Morris and Melissa Brown said the agriculture sector has a strong influence on growth, employment, food security and poverty reduction efforts benefiting the three countries.
“We look forward to the successful implementation of this innovative project that takes a farmer-centric approach to development and dissemination of improved crop varieties and promising farm practices,” they said.
The Agricultural Productivity Programme for southern Africa will also provide a US$0.6 million grant to the Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development for Southern Africa.
IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world’s 81 poorest countries, of which 39 are in Africa.
It has also supported developmental work in 108 countries and annual commitments have increased steadily to an average of about US$15 billion over the last three years, with about 50 percent of commitments going to Africa.