5 October 2009Farmers in Mauritania will receive financial help to turn milk into butter and cheese, to clean and package the vegetables they grow and to add value to other raw products under a $12 million programme unveiled by the United Nations agency tasked with eradicating rural poverty. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) announced yesterday that it will provide a grant of $6 million and a loan of $6 million as part of the scheme, which aims to boost food production and to lower the West African country’s dependence on food imports. The project is designed to develop the “value chains” of agricultural items, where basic products are processed or transformed and thus become more marketable and more lucrative for farmers. Butter and cheese can be sold at higher prices than raw milk, for example, while vegetables that have been cleaned and packaged can also generate higher prices. Aside from milk and vegetables, this project will help farmers who produce or work with dates, poultry, red meat, skins and hides, and non-timber forest products, IFAD said in a press release. In total, some 9,500 households are likely to benefit directly. Increasing the income of farmers in Mauritania will boost national production and help reduce the country’s reliance on food imports. This is particularly important as the impoverished country becomes more and more urbanized – next year, two thirds of the population are expected to be living in urban areas, and the capital, Nouakchott, is already a major consumer of imported food products.