UN agency pledges agricultural support

HARARE - The president of a United Nations-led multi-million-dollar investment fund, Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo yesterday said his organisation will be offering Zimbabwe grants and low-interest loans to improve food and nutrition security, provide employment opportunities for rural youth, and reduce poverty in its programming cycle starting next year up to 2021.

Houngbo, the president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)  — a UN agency that works with small-scale producers to improve incomes and reduce hunger through grants and low-interest loans — met with secretary of the Finance ministry George Guvamatanga, Agriculture minister Perrance Shiri, his deputy Vangelis Haritatos, Small and Medium Enterprises minister Sithembiso Nyoni and United Nations resident coordinator, Bishow Parajuli, and reiterated IFAD’s commitment to assisting local communities in their agriculture projects that will help create a sustainable economy.

He said sustainable rural agricultural programmes were key in generating decent income and improving the lives of the youths in Africa.

Houngbo, who is on a three-day visit to Zimbabwe as part of the organisation’s efforts to affirm its partnership and commitment to reducing rural poverty in the country, told government officials at the New Government Complex in Harare that his organisation will be engaging the government on various projects.

“At the end of the day it’s not a matter of just spending, it’s a matter of the impact on the ground, so finding the right balance between fast delivery, while
preserving the quality of our intervention is at the heart of our expectations,” he said, adding that technology is also key in improving productivity.

He said that the agricultural projects have the capacity to improve rural communities, which is vital to the country’s economy, further stating that 94 percent of their products are provided through loans. 

The former Togo Prime Minister said they are already looking at ways through the Agriculture ministry, Finance ministry and the Central Bank, on how to swiftly deliver and how these three organisations can work together to meet that requirement.

On the other hand, Guvamatanga, said IFAD has been sponsoring the country for a long time, adding that the country is committed to meet all the necessary reforms that will enhance economic development in the country.

Speaking at the same event, Shiri said the IFAD programme helps to curb rural-urban migration as the youths are kept busy in their areas of origin and will not find it worthwhile to leave the countryside.

He also spoke on the need to capacitate small holder irrigation farmers.

On her part, Nyoni also said Zimbabweans are hardworking and the country has one of the largest water bodies in Africa, but needed to be financed.

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