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Agriculture - Nutrition | Economy - Development

Mauritius gets help to tackle droughts

afrol News, 16 March - The government of Mauritius seeks to tackle recurrent droughts, which have affected productivity of agricultural lands in the northern region of the country. A new loan is to finance the implementation of an irrigation system north on the island.

The loan was today announced by spokesman Chawki Chahed of the African Development Bank (ADB). The ABD Board today approved a loan of US$ 11.77 million to finance the Northern Plains Irrigation Project in Mauritius. The project aims to ensure the construction of irrigation systems in the northern region of the country, which accounts for 20 percent of the national sugar cane production and 25 percent of the food crops.

Apart from the water shortage which adversely impacts on the production and the quality of sugar cane, the north of Mauritius has other inhibiting factors in the development of agriculture that include the rocky nature of the area and land fragmentation. The project was to "seek to alleviate these constraints and boost agricultural production," according to the ADB.

The irrigation project is also to focus on de-rocking and land preparation. Its focus however is on the installation of irrigation infrastructure, using Centre-Pivot and solid set systems. The ADB loan also finances technical assistance to the project and institutional support to have it implemented.

A total of 2,400 small planters will have access to irrigation water on a continuous basis once the project is completed, thereby increasing the productivity of agricultural lands, according to the project's aims. Thus, the project also aims at reducing poverty in the Mauritian region.

This would help increase small planters' income in the north of Mauritius through better crop yields and was said to "promote sustainable growth by offering possibilities for diversification of the agricultural base." Consequently, the project description says, "the income disparity within the community will be reduced."

An estimated 15 percent of this target population would be women who manage households, ADB said. The project was expected to "increase significantly their communal and economic activity as well as their financial autonomy."

Furthermore, women, as well as youth, were to particularly benefit from increased opportunities in the agro-processing sub-sector, with improved opportunities for local as well as export marketing. "Farmers' risks will be considerably reduced through irrigation and improved technology and farming strategies. All these factors will contribute to greater food security and better standards of living," the ADB says.

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