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01.08.2006 General News

Ghana Goes For M.C.A. Cash

By Times
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President J. A. Kufuor has arrived in the United States for the signing tomorrow of a historic agreement that will enable Ghana to access the US-sponsored Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) grant of over 500 million dollars.

Accompanying the President are Foreign Minister Nana Akufo-Addo, Dr. Paa Kwasi Nduom, Minister for Public Sector Reforms, and other officials.

The MCA was established by the U.S government to drive economic growth through the efforts of, and for the benefit of some of the poorest farmers and farming communities in selected developing countries.

Ghana is among the first group of countries adjudged qualified to access the first tranche of $1 billion.

Ghana will be allowed to utilize about $10 million out of the $547 million to be accessed, on preparatory work on the programme after the signing tomorrow.

Ghana's qualification for the MCA was based on its dedication to three fundamental conditions for the assistance, namely good governance, investing in people and encouraging economic freedom.

President Kufuor has already inaugurated a 13-member board of the Millennium Development Authority (MiDA), which is chaired by Dr. Nduom to oversee the smooth implementation of the programme, the Ghana News Agency adds.

The board was set up as an independent body by Act 702 to supervise the management and implementation of the programme.

The programme will benefit more than one million Ghanaians focusing on rural agriculture, transportation and community development initiatives. It targets some of the poorest rural districts where poverty rates vary from 40 to 90 per cent and will raise the income potential of farmers through increased production of high-value cash and basic food crops, an improved transportation network and development of food processing industries and handling facilities.

Twenty-three districts, including Savelugu-Nanton, Afram Plains, Awutu-Efutu-Senya, Akwapim South, Kpando, Hohoe, South Tongu and Ketu will implement the programme.

The programme's agriculture component – the largest, with an estimated five-year cost of $241 million – will enhance the profitability of commercial agriculture among small farmers, by improving business and farming skills, access to credit, land tenure and marketing services. A total of 135 irrigation ponds and nine weirs are to be constructed in the northern and southern parts of the country.

The transportation component, with an estimated five-year cost of $143 million, includes the rehabilitation of a 14-kilometre stretch of the major highway linking the Accra airport.

This component also includes financing the rebuilding or construction of 230 kilometres of two-lane roads to improve access to agriculture markets and social services in the central Afram Basin area. Improvement in the Volta Lake ferry service to facilitate faster access to market will also be supported.

A five-year $101 million rural development component will aim at expanding access to community services and strengthening rural institutions by funding construction and rehabilitation of schools, water and sanitation facilities electrification of rural areas, and providing capacity-building support to local government institutions.

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