Washington, December 20, 2010 – The Board of Executive Directors of the World Bank approved today a US$41.6 million loan to support Tunisia’s rural development and environment program, namely in the “Fourth Northwest Mountainous and Forested Areas Development Project”. The latter will contribute to a number of important sectors in the country such as agriculture, integrated rural development, basic infrastructure and the environment.
Tunisia has made solid progress in poverty reduction, but challenges remain for rural poverty. The agricultural sector remains an important sector of the economy, contributing around 10% of GDP, while employing 16% of the total labor force and 27% of the rural labor force. Cereals and olives dominate agricultural production. However, sector growth has remained consistently lower than overall annual economic growth, averaging around 2.8%.
The mountainous and forested areas of the Northwest cover some 1.2 million ha or around 60% of the Northwest region. It is composed of five governorates or sub-regions: Béja, Le Kef, Jendouba, Siliana, and a portion of the Bizerte governorate. They are rich in natural resources, home to 75% of the national water supply originating in its watersheds and more than half of the country’s forested areas (535,000 ha). Sustainable natural resource management in the Northwest represents a crucial component of the socio-economic development of the region.
The Government is fully committed to the challenges of poverty reduction and sustainable natural resource management. Around 60% of Tunisia’s budget is already allocated to public investments in infrastructure (including roads, transport, and communications) and human capital (including housing programs).
The proposed project remains in line with the Government directives outlined in the recently approved overlapping Economic and Social Development Plan (2010-2014) and aims at: improving the socio-economic conditions of the rural population, and promoting better protection and management of natural resources in the project area using an integrated participatory approach to community-based development.
In terms of sustainable natural resource management, the Government is implementing two major nationwide programs relating to soil and water conservation as well as integrated water management and conservation, both co-financed by the Bank.
In general, the Government strategy in the Northwest region aims to improve the socio-economic conditions of communities, specifically reducing the gap between urban and rural areas, while promoting a better protection and management of natural resources. The Northwest Sylvo-pastoral Development Agency/Office du Développement Sylvo-Pastoral du Nord Ouest (Odesypano) represents the main institution with the capacity to implement this strategy in the mountainous and forested areas of the Northwest region. Its mode of intervention within the communities in these areas is entirely based on the Integrated Participatory Approach (IPA)1.
Mr. Houcine Dellai, Director General of the ODESYPANO indicated during a negotiation meeting: “We are satisfied with the wrapping up of this new loan which will allow us to capitalize all our accomplishments to implement the necessary conditions for the North West Mountainous populations, who, thanks to their own talents and capacities, will find the means to apply a self managed development”.
The project will focus on rural communities located in 113 administrative sectors or imadas in the five governorates mentioned earlier. This will increase the area and population of the mountainous and forested areas of the Northwest serviced by the Odesypano to 49% and 51%, respectively (up from 37% and 43%, respectively, under PNO3 – the preceding phase of the project).