The Rural Enterprise and Economic Development (REED) project was jointly launched today by Minister of Agriculture and Livestock Development, Mahindra Ray Yadav and World Bank Country Director for Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka, Faris Hadad-Zervos.

The project aims to boost Nepal's agriculture sector by strengthening rural market linkages and promoting entrepreneurship while creating jobs to support post-COVID-19 recovery.

The project is financed with an $80 million credit from the World Bank and is expected to leverage additional funding from producers, financial institutions and local governments over the next four years.

"In the context of Nepal's agriculture sector transformation and COVID-19, ensuring market linkages of produce of smallholder farmers, famer groups, and cooperatives is critical to accelerate recovery of the sector and the economy from the pandemic's impacts," Minister Yadav has been quoted as saying in a media release. "This project will help to increase the income of smallholder producers and farmers, promote agriculture entrepreneurship, and create jobs in rural Nepal."

The REED project will be implemented in selected municipalities in five economic corridors covering Provinces 1, 2, Bagmati, Gandaki, Lumbini and Sudurpashchim to foster sustainable linkages for rural entrepreneurs.

The project is aligned with the government's Agriculture Development Strategy 2015-2035, and will work with provincial and local governments, intermediary organisations, and small and medium enterprises, especially those that are women-led to strengthen the agriculture sector and the entrepreneurship ecosystem.

The project will also help improve production through investments in municipal agriculture centres and value chain infrastructure to ensure availability of inputs for farming as recovery actions from COVID-19. The project will use labour-intensive 'Cash for Work' mechanism in infrastructure works and is expected to create short-term jobs for over 5,700 people including women to support economic recovery from COVID-19.

"The project supports Nepal's green, resilient, and inclusive development and provides an opportunity for the government and private sector to work together to build the 'Nepal' brand in the agriculture sector," stated World Bank Country Director Hadad-Zervos. "In doing so, the project can stimulate many niche sectors such as coffee, tea, fruit, and medicinal products, among others, to help them grow and to support a resilient recovery from the pandemic."

The project agreement for REED was signed in December 2020 by the government of Nepal and the World Bank.

A version of this article appears in the print on November 19, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.