Friday, 11 April 2008

UN sets $120-million grant for agri infrastructure in 20 poorest provinces

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) of the United Nations (UN) is set to give the Philippines a total of $120 million in grants over the next four years for the construction of agricultural infrastructure projects in the country’s 20 poorest provinces.

This was revealed by Kevin Cleaver, assistant president of the UN-IFAD’s programme management department, who called on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo this morning in Malacanang.

In an interview with members of the Malacanang Press Corps following his courtesy call on the President, Cleaver recalled that the UN agency had given the Philippines $126 million in the past.

UN-IFAD has also a new project in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) in Northern Luzon, he said.

“This main Cordillera (project) which covers six provinces will be $66 million. And probably in the next four years another $60 million for other projects. And so you’re talking about another $120 million,” said Cleaver.

Cleaver explained that UN-IFAD has other donor partners, including the OPEC (Organization of Oil-Producing Countries), Asian Development Bank (ADB) and World Bank.

“So we’re just one amongst a number (of donors),” he said, adding that “IFAD focuses on the poorest regions of countries, including the Philippines. We deal with the poor, the poorest 20 provinces. We deal with agriculture and our whole focus is on investing in rural agricultural production.”

“We intend to help. For example, we are going to finance a $66-million agricultural and rural development program covering the entire Cordillera region which is a very poor region. But it is an agricultural region,” he added.

Cleaver said the UN-IFAD also has two agricultural projects in Mindanao; and that “next year, we intend to finance a project in the coastal region, with fisherfolk.”

Aside these projects, Cleaver said the UN-IFAD will also have “a natural resource management project – we will be preparing with the government to look at environmental issues.”

“One of the problems that you have is erosion and deforestation. And that has an immediately negative impact on agriculture… But it is also filling up the dams, which is producing the amount of water for your irrigated areas. And that maybe the most important thing to rice production is to make sure that irrigation is functioning. And to rehabilitate irrigated lands that have become debilitated, taken out of production because the infrastructure has not been maintained,” he said.

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