Sudan’s economic future may rest in the hands of its smallholder farmers. Two thirds of the country’s population (36.2 million people) live in rural areas and agriculture provides essential employment for 70-80 percent of the labour force.
An announcement today that Sudan and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) have signed a Host Country Agreement (HCA), is an indication of the importance being placed on agricultural development and the need for the kinds of innovative investment opportunities that IFAD brings.
“To date, IFAD’s investments have benefited more than 590,000 poor rural households which include smallholder farmers, small-scale livestock farmers, rural women and unemployed youth. By being on the ground, we can do more to transform rural areas,” said Khalida Bouzar, Director, Near East, North Africa and Europe Division.
Although IFAD has had a presence in the country since 2006, Bouzar added that “signing the Host Country Agreement will allow IFAD to be even closer to its clients and the rural poor it is targeting, while carrying out its work in a more integrated and effective manner.”
A specialized United Nations agency and international financial institution, IFAD has built a strong partnership with the Government of Sudan over the years, focussed on combatting wide-spread rural poverty through programmes that increase resilience, particularly for women and young people.
Climate change, for example, is having a major impact on Sudan’s fragile environment, particularly in rain-fed areas, affecting the livelihoods of many who live there. IFAD-supported projects in Sudan have helped to increase agricultural production by implementing environmentally sustainable practices and providing access to improved seeds.
In the rain-fed farming sector, projects have contributed to building resilience against climate change. Improved infrastructure has also allowed rural communities to access markets and basic services.
IFAD has funded 25 programmes and projects in Sudan since 1978 for more than US$300 million dollars. In addition to its contributions, significant co-financing has also been leveraged, raising the total amount to approximately $500 million.
Currently, IFAD is supporting four on-going projects in North Kordofan, South Kordofan, West Kordofan, White Nile, Blue Nile, Gezira, Sennar, Gadaref, Kassala, Khartoum, and River Nile states.
The total cost is about $180 million of which IFAD is contributing more than $100 million, mostly in grants. The most recent initiative, the Integrated Agricultural and Marketing Development Project, came into force in February this year with an aim to enhance food security in rural areas.
The Host Country Agreement was signed by Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of IFAD, and, Mohammed Elghazali Eltigani Sirrag, Chargé d’affaires, a.i., Embassy of the Republic of the Sudan in Italy.