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TUNIS, March 27, 2008 - The African Development Bank (AfDB), the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), and the World Bank on Thursday in Tunis called for an increase in funding and a renewed focus on agricultural water management in Africa, including irrigation, drainage and rainwater harvesting.
Representatives of AfDB, NEPAD and the World Bank issued the call after a special session on agriculture water use in Africa held in Tunis at the First African Water Week. The meeting discussed challenges facing agricultural water development in Africa and a proposal for a new initiative aimed at scaling up investments and ensuring a more reliable, broad-based and sustained flow of funds for agricultural water, as well promoting analytical work and supporting sectoral strategies in the field of agricultural water.
The Initiative will promote knowledge-sharing, dissemination and capacity strengthening. It will launch innovative business lines in support of agricultural water management and sustainable development. It will also foster regional integration, coordination and partnerships, and empowerment of national and regional stakeholders.
According to the World Bank's latest World Development Report, growth in Africa’s agricultural sector is vital for poverty reduction efforts and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
"Strategic public and related private investment in water management will be essential for the intensification of agricultural production and for meeting targets for poverty alleviation, food production and economic recovery by 2015," said Richard Mkandawire, NEPAD's Agriculture Advisor. "Reliance on irregular and unreliable rainfall for agricultural production is a major constraint on crop productivity in the region," Mkandawire added.
The Tunis meeting discussed agricultural water strategy: Investment in agricultural water for poverty reduction and economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa, which was jointly prepared by the World Bank, the AfDB, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and International Water Management Institute (IWMI), as a response to NEPAD's desire to implement land and water management (Pillar I) of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP). The CAADP encompasses, among other objectives, an increase in the area under sustainable water management in Africa to 20 million hectares; up from less than 7 million hectares at present.
"Developing water resources and rural infrastructure are among the key priority areas for AfDB in Africa. The ongoing agriculture portfolio of the African Development Bank comprises 240 projects covering 28 countries with a total investment of US$3 billion. More than a third of the investment portfolio, that is, US$1.37 billion has been assigned to agriculture water development, covering 53 projects and programs, and benefiting 23 African countries," said Aly Abou-Sabaa, AfDB Director of Agriculture and Agro-Industry Department.
"The initiative is timely in view of rising food prices across the globe and the World Bank is committed to investing up to US$1 billion in sustainable agricultural water projects over the next 5 years," said John Stein, Acting Director of the Sustainable Development Department, Africa Region, World Bank.