The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors on Thursday approved US$120 million financing for the second phase of the West African Agricultural Productivity Program that will improve food production by spreading new agricultural technologies.
The program will finance technology exchange programs, align national priorities with regional ones to increase regional cooperation in food technology generation, and support a greater push for technology adoption and dissemination.
“The Bank’s support takes a resolved approach to making agriculture more productive and sustainable in West Africa,” said Jamal Saghir, World Bank Director for Sustainable Development in the Africa Region. “It will contribute to increasing growth in the economy, improve food security and reduce poverty.”
With population expected to increase from 300 million in 2011 to about 500 million in 2030, West Africa is faced with the challenge of satisfying rapidly growing food demand. The recent food, fuel and financial crisis have demonstrated the need in West Africa to fully utilize the sub-region’s agricultural potential.
It is possible to increase production of key commodities that represent the basis of the West African food security system. Adopting new and improved crop management practices can increase cereal crops by 30 percent; irrigated rice systems could benefit from yield increase by nearly 50 percent; and cassava yield can be raised more than 40 percent.
Regional production covers 80 percent of the population’s food needs in ECOWAS, about 20 percent of its imports being food products. West Africa is severely affected by the current rise in global food, financial and fuel prices. Intra-regional agricultural trade remains limited and its share of the total world agricultural trade is marginal. Climate change, increasing population, and poor conditions of natural resources reveal an urgent need for improved agricultural production.
“The program will help Senegal and Ghana boost agricultural production to cope with the increasing demand for food in the region,” said Abdoulaye Toure, Task team leader for the project. “We are pleased to work in partnership with ECOWAS to boost dominant sectors, such as agriculture, to their potential so that the people of these countries can become self-sufficient and secure in food production.”
The World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), established in 1960, helps the world’s poorest countries by providing loans (called “credits”) and grants for projects and programs that boost economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve poor people’s lives. IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world’s 81 poorest countries, 39 of which are in Africa.
Resources from IDA brings positive change for 2.5 billion people living on less than $2 a day. Since its inception, IDA has supported activities in 108 countries. Annual commitments have increased steadily and averaged about $15 billion over the last three years, with about 50 percent of commitments going to Africa.
In a related development, the World Bank Board of Directors has also approved a US$25 million financial package to support the first phase of the Caribbean Regional Communications Infrastructure Program. The program will provide 27 million people with access to better and affordable broadband services.
The Infrastructure Program is the first phase of a 10-year Information and Communications Technology (ICT) program. The first phase will focus on Grenada, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, with other Caribbean countries joining at a later stage.
By improving the communications infrastructure, the program aims at fostering regional economic development and growth. The package includes a US$3 million grant to the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) to coordinate the regional program; a US$10 million credit to Grenada; a US$6 million credit to Saint Lucia; and a US$6 million credit to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.