By Massoud Derhally
The World Bank has approved a US $12 million loan to improve the living standards of some 230,000 bedouins along Egypt’s north western frontier.
The World Bank approved on March 7, a US $12 million loan to improve the living standards of some 230,000 bedouins along Egypt’s north western frontier. The loan will help nurture community-driven development programs and natural resource management, specifically financing Matruh Resource Management II (MRM II), the second phase of an ongoing project that supports the Government of Egypt’s initiative to fight rural poverty in the Matruh governorate. The project mobilizes local communities to organize themselves to access basic services, raise their living standards and increase their income while conserving and using their natural resources in a sustainable manner. According to the bank, an estimated 74% of the poor in Egypt live in rural areas and water scarcity and land degradation have emerged as major challenges for the Bedouin population who have shifted from a nomadic lifestyle to settlement in communities over the last few decades. “Erratic rainfall and wind erosion, combined with increased human and animal pressure on a fragile ecosystem and an arid climate have created a cycle of environmental degradation and human poverty,” said the bank in a statement. The bank also estimates that 80% of the 22,000 households in the project area live below the poverty line. “Poverty has been exacerbated by the limited government services in health and education and scant work opportunities outside the agricultural sector,” said the bank. MRM II will provide support to representatives of tribal clans in designing their community action plans and setting their priorities for resource allocation, ensuring at the same time that women take part in the planning process. Women and girls will have access to literacy classes and health sensitisation programs near their homes.“This is an excellent example of a project that attempts to address the problems of low-income communities in a participatory manner. The communities decide what their priorities are for resource allocation and social activities,” says Mahmood Ayub, World Bank Country Director for Egypt.The six-year project falls in line with the World Bank’s country assistance strategy for Egypt, and would contribute to the Government of Egypt's strategy to alleviate poverty and improve resource management in dry land areas.Last week Egyptian and World Bank officials said they were close to reaching an agreement on a US $1 billion loan to be provided by the World Bank and African Development Bank. The loan would be paid back over 20 years with an interest rate of 2.5% and would be given to help Egypt to implement its political and economic policies.Egypt unexpectedly let its currency; the pound, float freely against the US dollar on January 29. The currency tumbled on its debut, losing 20% of its value, but has since firmed a little on the black market, anticipating the central bank bring in dollars to the market once Egypt receives the donor funds.