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Project to intensify agricultural production in Great Lakes -- Africa's most impoverished region

The Netherlands Government is launching a project to promote peace and environmental stability by improving soil health, intensifying farm production, and increasing trade in one of the world's poorest areas: the Great Lakes Region of Central Africa.

The highest population density in Africa is in the Great Lakes Region: Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, western Tanzania, and the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

"The Great Lakes region already has far more people than its fragile soils can support," says Dr. Amit Roy, CEO of IFDC, An International Center for Soil Fertility and Agricultural Development. IFDC will implement the 5-year project.

"The region faces perpetual crises of poverty, social instability, war, and environmental degradation. The situation is rapidly worsening as deforestation intensifies and its soils are starved of nutrients."

Tiny Rwanda is typical. More than 340 persons are packed into each square kilometer, and population is growing by almost 3% annually. Almost all of Rwanda's population are subsistence farmers. Using existing technology, food production can be increased only by clearing and farming the ecologically important wetlands or, worse, the last relicts of parks and reserves, including habitats of mountain gorillas and other endangered wildlife and plants.

The region is the watershed for the Nile and Congo, two of the world's greatest rivers. Rapid deforestation and soil "mining," or depletion of plant nutrients, have caused severe soil erosion and decreased the soil's capacity to absorb and hold water. That, in turn, decreases the stability of the Nile and Congo's water flow downriver.

The CATALIST Project

The Netherlands Government, through the Embassy of the Kingdom of The Netherlands in Rwanda, has committed 22 million (US $28 million) to the project Catalyzing Acceleration of Agricultural Intensification for Stability and Su
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Contact: Thomas R. Hargrove
thargrove@ifdc.org
256-381-6600
IFDC
11-Dec-2006


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