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July 03, 2008

Ghana, Madagascar, Mali to receive agricultural infrastructure support

Small-scale farmers in Ghana, Madagascar and Mali are the first beneficiaries of a multibillion-dollar project to rehabilitate African agricultural infrastructure.

The project, part of the efforts to reach the United Nations's Millennium Development Goals, tackling poverty in time for 2014, will be expanded to other developing countries later.

Kofi Annan, of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (Agra), signed a memorandum of understanding earlier this month with the United States government's Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).

Under the agreement much transport infrastructure will be established or improved, agricultural research will be strengthened and seeds and other technologies will be distributed to small-scale farmers.

Mosa Justin of Madagascar's Millennium Challenge Account, which administers MCC money, says the joint project will work with researchers to better distribute seeds in three different zones: maize in Antsiranana, rice and butter beans in Menabe and maize and rice in Boeny.

The Malagasy agriculture ministry has also signed a partnership with private fertiliser companies to increase production. "There is a need to create a fertiliser map according to the type and variety of soils as well as a blending plant to make the most appropriate fertiliser," says Justin. Fertiliser use in Madagascar is one-twelfth of the African average.

In landlocked Mali the Millennium Challenge Account has begun a massive rice irrigation project in the central Alatona region, which is reliant on water from the vast inland Niger River delta.

Project director Tidiani Traoré says work will begin on extending the Sahel Canal by 23km, building a new 63km canal and boosting the banks of the Malado Fala -- a Fala is an ancient dry stream bed used as a natural canal -- by December.

About 16 000ha of farmland -- roughly half the Alatona region -- will receive improved irrigation, Traoré says.

Plans also include formalising land titles, education about land tenure rights, increasing farmers' access to agricultural advice and training in fish, livestock and financial management.

The Mali project also aims to construct a bridge and tar the first 81km of road from the rice paddies in the Niono inland delta, which floods annually, by October this year.

Ghanaian plans include starting a dialogue between the private and public sector on how best to work together to get seeds of new crop varieties to farmers' fields.


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