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Agricultural research in Uganda has received a US$12 million boost from the World Bank.

The bank's board of directors approved the loan for Uganda's Second Agricultural Research and Training Project (ARTP II) this month (2 August).

The International Development Association, the arm of the World Bank that helps the world's poorest countries by providing long-term, interest-free loans, is financing the scheme.

ARTP II is part of the World Bank's long-term assistance programme to agricultural research in Uganda. Its objectives are to generate new knowledge, strategies and technologies in support of the Ugandan government's Plan for the Modernisation of Agriculture.

The IDA financing, according to Madhur Gautam, ARTP II's task team leader, will help fund a stream of innovations to improve agricultural productivity and better utilise crop, livestock, fisheries and forestry resources for enhanced food security, improved livelihoods and increased income for Uganda's smallholder farmers.

"The specific focus is on building the capacity of the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) to conduct high quality research," Taqi Sharif, from the World Bank's Agriculture and Rural Development Department, told SciDev.Net. The funding will be used for updating the NARO research facilities and for training staff to conduct quality and high impact research with direct impacts at the farm level, he said.

The project was initially financed with a US$26 million loan in 1999 and was scheduled to finish by 30 June 2007. But the new funding will now finance an additional two-year period.

"Raising agricultural productivity is a key area for the [Ugandan] government's Poverty Eradication Action Plan and a flagship operational area for the bank's Africa Action Plan," said John McIntire, the World Bank's country director for Tanzania and Uganda, in a press release.

"The importance of agricultural productivity for broad-based economic growth cannot be overemphasised."