TUNISIA – The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has issued a US$55 million loan to the government of Tunisia through the Ministry of Agriculture, Hydraulic Resources and Fisheries to boost agriculture production through irrigation.

The funds, targeted to support more than 6,800 farmers and their families, is aimed to restore and rehabilitate the ageing water infrastructure serving 37 oases in the country’s southern governorates of Gabès, Gafsa, Kebili and Tozeur.

The oases are the primary source of employment and income in the region, with irrigated agriculture providing jobs to 35 per cent of the working population.

With backing from the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), the project will also include a programme focusing on enhancing economic opportunities for women and young people in the oases.

”We are very happy to contribute to the development of the southern governorates of Tunisia by improving their water infrastructure, a key component of the agricultural sector.

“This will contribute to socio-economic stability and create new economic opportunities for women and young people,” said Heike Harmgart, EBRD Managing Ditrector for the southern and eastern Mediterranean region.

The project was developed in line with Tunisia’s strategic development plans, which rank sustainable water management among the country’s top priorities, especially in the southern region where the population relies heavily on irrigated agriculture as their main source of income.

The modernisation of the water infrastructure will contribute to improving the water supply and boosting the agricultural yield of local date palm production.

It will also address the depletion of non-renewable groundwater resources through the development of a long-term sustainable strategy to address the water scarcity in the region, as well as a training programme for farmers to promote more sustainable agricultural practices and water management and identify alternative income sources.

The EBRD investment is complemented by €4.4 million (US$4.9m) in technical assistance grants to support project preparation, implementation and institutional strengthening.

Technical cooperation activities with the Ministry will focus on developing a sustainable water management strategy and identifying opportunities for future income generation that reduce the dependence on fossil groundwater resources.

It will support women and young people accessing economic opportunities by promoting entrepreneurship development and on-the-job training.

Since the start of its operations in Tunisia in 2012, the EBRD has invested more than €1.3 billion (US$1.47 billion) across 55 projects in the country, in both the private and public sectors.

In October, the development bank dished out a TND 20 million (US$7.19 million) loan to Compagnie Générale des Industries Alimentaires (COGIA SA), one of Tunisia’s largest producer and export of olive oil.

The funds will enable the producer of Rahma, Allegro and SanMarco brands, to grow its sourcing, bottling and exports of Tunisian olive oil.

Currently the company sells its products to more than 40 countries and has visibility over the entire manufacturing process to ensure the products are of high quality.

The EBRD loan will further support the development of the sector which is of strategic importance to the Tunisian economy, with a view to promoting regional integration, strengthening export competitiveness, and bolstering national economic growth.

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