Known as the Post-crisis Rural Recovery and Development Programme, the $23 million scheme will be funded in part by a loan of $12.2 million and a grant of $343,000 from the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).The Fund’s President, Lennart Båge, and Eritrea’s Ambassador to Italy, Zemede Tekle Woldetatios, signed the financing deal at IFAD’s headquarters in Rome today.Abla Benhammouche, IFAD Country Programme Manager for Eritrea, said the project’s officers would work closely with farmers’ groups to promote the use of conservation-based agriculture.The project will focus on the regions of Dedub and Gash Barka, which have suffered the most during the 1998-2000 Ethiopia-Eritrea border war. More than 80 per cent of the local population in the two regions is classed as poor and food insecure. Thousands of households own no livestock and cultivate plots of no more than one hectare.“The populations of these two regions have paid a massive price to wars and droughts. Many have been displaced; many have lost their belongings and family members,” Ms. Benhammouche said, adding that “the goal [of the programme] is to increase productivity and reconstruct rural livelihoods while safeguarding the environment.”Much of the project funds will be devoted to helping local Eritrean communities plan and carry out development activities themselves, while technical support will be given to farmers working more than 200,000 hectares of dry land. Tens of thousands of hectares of rangeland will also be rehabilitated, while the breeding of livestock – such as cows, goats and sheep – will also be enhanced.Set up in 1977 in the wake of the food crises of the early 1970s that hit the Sahelian countries of Africa particularly hard, IFAD is a specialized agency of the UN dedicated to helping the rural poor in developing countries overcome poverty.