IFAD and Tunisia invest in improving the livelihoods of poor rural families


The International Fund for Agricultural Development of the United Nations (IFAD) announced support for a new project that aims to reduce rural poverty in the region of Kairouan, one of the most disadvantaged in the country.

At least 16,800 highly vulnerable Tunisian families will benefit from activities to improve their living conditions, incomes and resilience in the face of climate change.                                                                                                                                      

In Tunisia, although the poverty rate fell from 20 per cent in 2010 to 15 per cent in 2018, there are still significant inequalities: in urban areas, the poverty rate is 10 per cent versus an average of 26 per cent in rural areas. The region of Kairouan, in the centre-west, is home to almost 35 per cent of the country’s vulnerable poor people.

Like many developing countries, Tunisia is also experiencing the effects of climate change with higher temperatures and lower average rainfall. This is affecting the agriculture sector dominated by arboriculture – olives in particular— cereal crops and livestock.

The financing agreement for the Economic, Social and Solidarity Project (IESS-Kairouan) was signed today by Donal Brown, Associate Vice-President of IFAD, Programme Management Department of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and Samir Taïeb, Minister of Agriculture, Hydraulic Resources and Fisheries of the Republic of Tunisia.

This US$51.2 million project will aim to improve resilience and livelihoods of rural producers and help Tunisia achieve several Sustainable Development Goals, particularly the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger (SDGs 1 and 2).

Funding includes a $23.1 million loan and $0.7 million grant from IFAD and a $9.2 million grant from Adaptation Fund. In addition, $15.8 million is provided by the Government of Tunisia, $0.6 million from the Tunisian Union of Social Solidarity and $1.7 million from beneficiaries themselves.

“IESS-Kairouan is designed to test at full scale the ‘graduation’ approach to support vulnerable families who are already receiving the government assistance, and to assess the extent to which it will contribute to their economic and social mobility,” said Philippe Rémy, Country Director for Tunisia. “In short, this project will move these families out of extreme poverty into sustainable livelihoods.”

The project will support the integration of small-scale farmers into the broader economy, and will help vulnerable families adapt to climate change. Water networks will be rehabilitated to improve access to drinking water and to increase agricultural water with improved rainwater collection systems.  

IESS-Kairouan will also provide poor families with nutritional and financial education, and basic literacy training. In addition to strengthening income-generating activities, it will connect the small producers with private value chain actors. At least half the beneficiaries of the project will be women and 30 per cent will be young people.

Since 1980, IFAD has invested more than $215.6 million in 14 rural development programmes and projects in Tunisia worth a total of almost $504.3 million. These interventions have directly benefited 142,650 rural families.