The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and Bangladesh on Wednesday signed a financing agreement worth $109.85 million to increase income and food and nutrition security for 250,000 households in southern Bangladesh, where the highest percentage of rural poor reside.
The project, which will be implemented over the next six years and directly supervised by IFAD, will cover 30 upazilas in 11 districts in the southern region of Bangladesh.
Though Bangladesh has made great economic strides, poverty levels in rural areas are not declining as fast as they are in urban ones, said Omer Zafar, IFAD country director for Bangladesh.
The proportion of people living in extreme poverty in rural areas is still three times higher than in urban areas.
“In the project area, 39 percent of the people are still living below the poverty line. Food security and undernutrition continue to be major concerns. The average rural household in Bangladesh still gains 71 percent of its calories from rice,” Zafar added.
Women are particularly affected by poverty, as they have fewer opportunities for employment.
The main goal of the project is to help smallholder farmers to be more responsive and competitive in producing diverse, high value crops and marketing fresh and processed agricultural products.
Technical training and financial services will be provided and women, youth and disadvantaged households will be specifically targeted.
The project will be co-financed by the government and the private sector, according to the statement.
The agreement for the Smallholder Agricultural Competitiveness Project (SACP) was signed by Gilbert F. Houngbo, president of IFAD, and Sultana Afroz, additional secretary of the Economic Relations Division, in the Italian capital on August 1.
Since 1978, IFAD has financed 33 rural development programmes and projects in Bangladesh, investing $848.2 million or $2.13 billion when co-financing is included.
These projects and programmes have benefitted almost 11.3 million rural households, said a statement from IFAD.