New project will boost incomes for poor rural people in Gabon

Release number IFAD/45/07

Rome, 26 October 2007 – A new IFAD-supported project will help small farmers and their organizations in the Woleu-Ntem province of Gabon diversify their incomes by developing and marketing new products from staple crops such as banana, cassava and peanut.

The agreement for the US$5.7 million loan and US$0.3 million grant was signed in Rome today by Noël Baïot, Gabon's Ambassador to Italy, and Kanayo F. Nwanze, IFAD's Vice President. The project will receive co-financing from the OPEC Fund for International Development.

"The Gabon economy has been heavily dependent on the oil and timber sectors for some time," said Abdoul Barry, IFAD's country programme manager for Gabon.

Following the country's economic crisis in the 1990s and early 2000s, policy-makers started to look for ways to help people diversify their incomes.

"This project will offer concrete opportunities to do that by helping small farmers and their organizations get better access to value chains for products with significant market potential," said Barry.

A value chain is the full range of activities that are needed to bring a product from its conception to its end use. This includes buying inputs such as seeds and fertilizer, production, processing, marketing and distribution. Developing value chains is often about improving access to existing and new markets and ensuring that all actors in that chain benefit equally.

Through training, farmer exchange visits and a new market information system, the project will also help farmers' organizations better defend the economic interests of their members and market their goods more efficiently.

The project will directly benefit 28,000 small farmers, half of whom are women and a third young people. Another 70,000 people will benefit indirectly through awareness-raising activities in the province.

"Knowledge management is another key component," said Barry. "Besides providing value chain information directly to participants, the project will write reports for the Ministry of Agriculture's website and for publication on IFAD's Rural Poverty Portal. Exchange visits between Gabonese farmers' organizations and their counterparts in other countries will also be an important means of sharing know-how."

IFAD will encourage collaboration between the new project in Gabon and other projects being implemented in other countries, particularly in Cameroon where a market-driven roots and tubers project has demonstrated that on-farm yields can be more than tripled. This may translate into increased income for Gabonese cassava producers if they learn to market their commodity more effectively.

IFAD is an international financial institution and a specialized United Nations agency dedicated to eradicating poverty and hunger in rural areas of developing countries. Through low-interest loans and grants, IFAD develops and finances programmes and projects that enable poor rural people to overcome poverty themselves. There are 191 ongoing IFAD-supported rural poverty eradication programmes and projects, worth a total of US$6.6 billion. IFAD has invested US$3.1 billion, with cofinancing provided by partners including governments, project participants, multilateral and bilateral donors. These initiatives will help about 82 million poor rural women and men to achieve better lives for themselves and their families. Since starting operations in 1978, IFAD has invested US$9.8 billion in 751 programmes and projects that have reached more than 310 million poor rural women and men. Governments and other financing sources in recipient countries, including project participants, contributed US$9.2 billion, and multilateral, bilateral and other donors provided another US$7.2 billion in cofinancing.