World Bank approves $62 million IDA credit for B'desh agri sector

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Dhaka, Feb 7 (UNI) The World Bank has approved an IDA credit of 62.60 million dollars to assist the Bangladesh government improve agricultural productivity and farm income by revitalising the national agricultural technology system.

A World Bank release said the National Agricultural Technology Project was designed to enhance the effectiveness of the national agricultural technology system.

It will finance activities related to agricultural research, agricultural extension, and supply chain, including strengthening of national institutions involved in agricultural research and extension.

Accounting for about 22 per cent of GDP, agriculture is vital to Bangladesh. Another 33 per cent of GDP is contributed by the rural non-farm economy, which is largely linked to agriculture.

Over the last three decades, there has been a significant increase in the production of rice to achieve near self-sufficiency in food grains. However, this is threatened by increasing population, declining land base, and stagnating yields.

Diversification into higher value crops is slow with poor post harvest management and limited processing capacity.

''Growth of the agriculture and the rural non-farm sectors is critical to reducing poverty in Bangladesh,'' World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh, Xian Zhu, said.

''Improved agricultural research and technology will be critical to achieve this growth and accelerate for the process of diversification into higher value crops and post-harvest processing.'' The project would also support a decentralised demand-led agricultural extension program with greater accountability and responsiveness to farmers, with a focus on small and marginal farmers.

''By giving greater voice to the farming communities in deciding the priorities for agricultural research, farmer education priorities, and program monitoring, the project will contribute towards improving governance as well as the quality and efficiency of the delivery of public services,'' Paul S Sidhu, World Bank Senior Agriculture Specialist and project team leader, said.

To increase and diversify sources of income for small and marginal farmers, the project would support development of supply chains of selected commodities through financing activities related to strengthening farmer-market linkages.

The Bangladesh government and the World Bank have agreed that a long-term programmatic approach is needed to revitalise the agricultural technology system. It will be implemented over a period of 15 years in three phases, with a total IDA commitment of about 180 million dollars.

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