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June 24, 1998


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WB extends loan to agri-tech project

Despite the sanctions imposed by the United States, the World Bank has just extended a $ 196 million (about Rs 8.23 billion) loan to India's massive National Agricultural Technology Project, which is expected to cost about Rs 10 billion and is aimed at revitalising farm research and extension systems.

The project, being implemented jointly by the Union Department of Agriculture and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, will be completed in the next five years.

Dr R S Paroda, director-general, ICAR, said in New Delhi that the formal agreement to make available the loan to the project was signed on June 22 in Washington DC between the Indian ambassador to the United States and senior World Bank personnel.

He pointed out that support to the project consisted of $ 96.8 million loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and $ 100 million credit from the International Development Agency. Both IDA and IBRD are the lending arms of the World Bank. India's own contribution to the project is put at $ 43 million, he added.

Dr Paroda said the United States sanctions on World Bank extending loans to India did not come in the way probably because the support was meant for agricultural development. The loan was approved by the World Bank board in march.

He said this was the first time the World Bank was supporting an agricultural project wholly designed by a country's national agricultural research system. The project was fully drawn up by ICAR and state agricultural universities with active support of the Union Department of Agriculture.

Paroda said the National Agricultural Technology Project was formulated keeping in view the future food security and sustainability needs of the country. For this purpose, restructuring the entire farm research and extension systems was found essential. The envisaged system would be more responsive to the farmers' specific needs and requirements.

The new approach being adopted under the project has emphasis on agricultural programmes rather than specific projects. For instance, till recently, ICAR's research objectives were based on specific crops. But now the emphasis would be on total development of an agro-climatic zone (like the rain-fed areas, coastal belt or arid zone). For this, designated research organisations and other agencies would work jointly to achieve the desired result.

The research institute's new findings would be immediately converted into technologies that can be tried on farmers field. For this, the institute-village linkages are brought in as programme component. The technology is modified and refined in the linkage with the village.

Thereupon, it is enlarged for adoption in the entire agro-climatic zone. To begin with, the project would have a kickstart in 24 districts spread across six states (Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, and Maharashtra).

Paroda said NATP also lays emphasis on training of scientists and farmers for technology broadening and adoption.

He pointed out that the project was already on because of retroactive financing for pre-implementation activities made available by the Government of India and the World Bank.

Paroda said another World Bank-aided project was trying to upgrade the teaching and research training activities in state agricultural universities.

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