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The World Bank announced a US$140 million project to support the Tunisian government’s focus on irrigated agriculture as a means of managing scarce water resources while creating economic opportunities, especially in underdeveloped rural regions. The new project will finance the repair of irrigation systems to

make them more efficient and reliable, as the critical input for a more productive agriculture sector that generates greater revenues and provides opportunities for a diverse range of people and enterprises, including women and young people.

The Irrigated Agriculture Intensification Project will physically rehabilitate existing irrigation schemes in agricultural areas in the governorates of Béja, Bizerte, Jendouba, Nabeul, Sfax and Siliana. Along with reducing water loss, which can amount up to 40% of water used, the repairs will mean more consistent delivery. A more secure water source will boost the confidence of famers to plant more, and invest in higher value crops. The project will also provide assistance for identifying higher value crops and increasing yields, and linking farmers to markets.

“Agriculture is a vital source of livelihoods in Tunisia, especially in underdeveloped regions,” said Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly, World Bank Country Director for the Maghreb and Malta, “and this project will allow Tunisia to leverage the irrigation system it has built to unlock the potential of agriculture to create more and better opportunities for people at risk of being left behind, such as women in rural areas.”

The project will also support the mobilization of private investment in agriculture. Matching grants will be used to crowd in investments by local farmers in higher value-added activities. Grants will also be used to encourage private investment in post-harvest infrastructure that would also increase the value of agricultural production, such as cold-chain logistics for the export of fresh fruit and vegetables, or facilities for processing olive oil rather than exporting it in bulk.   

“The project will provide training and capacity building which will be targeted at vulnerable groups such as women and young people, so that they have the support they need to access new opportunities created in agriculture,” saidFrancois Onimus, World Bank Senior Water Resources Management Specialist and co-Task Team Leader of the project. “In identifying new markets and developing new agricultural value chains, the project will complement the range of similar Bank activities in Tunisia aimed at creating new opportunities for private sector growth and job creation,” added David Olivier Treguer, World Bank Senior Agriculture Economist and co-Task Team Leader.