Thursday, June 28, 2007

UN-backed initiative aims to bring jobs to rural Sierra Leone’s youth

27 June 2007 – The United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has announced a new $10.9 million programme to bring small loans and jobs to the young people of rural Sierra Leone, benefiting 34,000 households in the West African country that saw the end of civil strife and the installation of an elected Government in 2002.

The Rural Finance and Community Improvement Programme will establish rural financial services – using a model that IFAD has developed and applied successfully in Benin for 10 years – in the four remote eastern districts of Koinadugu, Kono, Kailahun and Kenema.

“To consolidate peace, the programme's primary target is young people, including ex-combatants, sexually abused young women and single mothers,” said IFAD's country programme manager for Sierra Leone, Mohamed Tounessi. “IFAD is the only donor working in Koinadugu, the largest district covered by the programme and the most remote in the country.”

Under the programme, villagers will learn how to set up and operate their own financial services associations, which will build equity and make microcredit available.

The new activity will also create jobs for young people and rebuild key infrastructure like roads, water supplies, schools and health centres. In addition, the programme will conduct awareness-building campaigns, particularly about HIV/AIDS and nutrition.

The programme will be funded largely by a grant of $9.9 million from IFAD. The Government will provide additional financing of $500,000, and programme participants will contribute another $500,000.

With this latest scheme, IFAD will have financed six programmes and projects in Sierra Leone for a total commitment of $57 million.