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EBRD supports modernisation of irrigation infrastructure in southern Tunisia

By Nibal Zgheib

  • €49 million loan to benefit more than 6,800 farmers in 37 oases
  • EBRD teams up with Ministry of Agriculture to modernise water infrastructure and develop long-term sustainable strategy to address water scarcity in the region
  • Support to increase access to economic opportunities for women and young people

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is improving access to irrigation water for more than 6,800 farmers and their families, with a €49 million loan to the Ministry of Agriculture, Hydraulic Resources and Fisheries in Tunisia.

The funds will help to restore and rehabilitate the ageing water infrastructure serving 37 oases in the country’s southern governorates of Gabès, Gafsa, Kebili and Tozeur. The oases are the primary source of employment and income in the region, with irrigated agriculture providing jobs to 35 per cent of the working population.

In addition, thanks to the support of the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), the project will include a programme focusing on enhancing economic opportunities for women and young people in the oases.

The project was developed in line with Tunisia’s strategic development plans, which rank sustainable water management among the country’s top priorities, especially in the southern region where the population relies heavily on irrigated agriculture as their main source of income.

The modernisation of the water infrastructure will contribute to improving the water supply and boosting the agricultural yield of local date palm production.

It will also address the depletion of non-renewable groundwater resources through the development of a long-term sustainable strategy to address the water scarcity in the region, as well as a training programme for farmers to promote more sustainable agricultural practices and water management and identify alternative income sources.

The EBRD investment is complemented by €4.4 million in technical assistance grants to support project preparation, implementation and institutional strengthening. Technical cooperation activities with the Ministry will focus on developing a sustainable water management strategy and identifying opportunities for future income generation that reduce the dependence on fossil groundwater resources. It will support women and young people accessing economic opportunities by promoting entrepreneurship development and on-the-job training.

Heike Harmgart, EBRD Managing Ditrector for the southern and eastern Mediterranean region, said: “We are very happy to contribute to the development of the southern governorates of Tunisia by improving their water infrastructure, a key component of the agricultural sector. This will contribute to socio-economic stability and create new economic opportunities for women and young people.”

Since the start of its operations in Tunisia in 2012, the EBRD has invested more than €1.3 billion across 55 projects in the country, in both the private and public sectors.

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