Oct 14, 2008

Africa: World Bank Awards $4 Million to Agricultural Projects

Bernard Busuulwa

THE EAST AFRICAN All Africa.com; Nairobi Oct.14, 2008

The World Bank has awarded $4m to innovative agricultural projects across the globe, including three based in Uganda, Tanzania and Nigeria. The Bank, under its Development Marketplace Programme, a competitive grant scheme aimed at financing innovation in development activities, awarded the money to 22 innovative projects from 16 countries, with the majority originating from Latin America and the Caribbean.

The latter has eight projects each, followed by East Asia and the Pacific region with six, sub-Saharan Africa with five and South Asia with three winning projects.

Cambodia, Ecuador, Mexico, India, Vietnam and Brazil have two winning projects each. The winners received up to $200,000.

The 2008 awards were co-sponsored by the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Global Environmental Facility and GTZ, the German development agency.

The World Bank is also keen on uplifting the status of rural agricultural producers through the awards initiative.

"The World Bank is delighted to sponsor the Development Marketplace as a launching pad for new ideas in development. With the global community focused on the food price crisis, it is an opportunity to showcase the kind of creative thinking that can deliver tangible benefits to producers struggling with poverty in rural areas," said Katherine Sierra, vice president of sustainable development at the World Bank.

Among the winning projects are milk coolers supported by beer cooling technology for use by Ugandan farmers with facilitation from the University of Georgia.

The technology is focused on alleviating problems faced by smallholder diary farmers. Incomes are expected to increase through boosting supply of high quality milk to the market.

It is also expected to boost Uganda's ongoing Prosperity for All programme that is designed on a mixed-income strategy that comprises crop and livestock production activities with strong emphasis on dairy farming. The programme will benefit over 5.5 million Ugandans, according to the government.

The innovation is also seen as a welcome boost for Uganda's underexploited dairy sector, which is still plagued with problems of disease, poor budget allocations and low export income.

"We are investing in export of dairy products but we need to boost quality. Disease is still a problem. Most of our products are consumed locally. The project will help to boost capacity to meet both local and external demand, which will increase foreign exchange earnings. However, we need to protect our borders effectively against unregulated movements of cattle, because they tend to spread diseases," said John Odit, a member of Uganda's Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries.

Production of biofuel from indigenous non-edible nuts by Africa Biofuel and Emission Reduction Ltd, based in Tanzania, was also honoured in this year's Development Marketplace awards. The project is engaged in cultivation and sale of an indigenous non edible oil seed for production of biofuel.

The seed, which is harvested from the croton tree, has helped provide a new and sustainable cashcrop for smallholder farmers in Tanzania, thereby boosting poverty alleviation and energy production efforts.

Utilisation of cassava waste for raising goats, an innovation undertaken by the University of Abeokuta in Nigeria, was similarly recognised.

The project's objective is creation of a new market linking cassava producers and goat keepers through introduction of a simple drying technology capable of turning cassava waste into goat feed.

Through the project, farmers' incomes are expected to rise while reducing carbon dioxide emissions by eliminating the need for burning cassava waste.

A Senegalese project for providing affordable and environmentally friendly transport for agricultural products to the market was also awarded.

The project employs traditional boats run by locally produced biofuel consuming outboard motors that rely on processed indigenous oil seeds for fuel supplies.

It is targeted at farmers and fishermen from 40 communities who are expected to benefit from reduced costs of transport to the market through generating their own biofuel using an alternative power transmission method that absorbs unrefined seed oil straight from the cold press, hence reducing operational costs.

Award winners have in the past used the grants as seed money for improving their operations or replicating their work elsewhere, according to the World Bank.

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