The total project cost of $15 million will be partly financed by a $10.1 million loan from IFAD under an agreement signed today at the Fund’s headquarters in Rome by its President Lennart Båge and Zambia’s Ambassador to Italy, Lucy Mungoma Mungoma.“Most of Zambia’s smallholders depend on animal power for ploughing their land. Repeated outbreaks of Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia and East Coast Fever have killed a large proportion of smallholders’ cattle and forced many people to resort to the hand hoe,” says Ides de Willebois, IFAD’s regional director for Eastern and Southern Africa.“The project will drive the two main cattle-killing diseases back to manageable levels. In areas where disease prevalence rates have been reduced to manageable levels, communities who have lost most of their cattle will receive cattle for onward distribution of offspring, enabling a major expansion of the area under plough, and improved food security and income.”As well as receiving livestock if they have lost cattle to disease, poor farming families will also receive training on combating such diseases and a specialized unit will be set up within the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives to implement control measures, IFAD said.Since it started operations in 1978, IFAD – a specialized UN agency dedicated to eradicating poverty and hunger in rural areas of developing countries – has provided loans totalling $135 million to help finance 10 programmes and projects in Zambia.In a separate development, IFAD also signed a loan agreement with Albania today to provide $8 million toward a $24 million five-year programme aimed at fighting poverty in the country’s mountain areas by setting up a private commercial bank.It is expected that by 2010 the bank will provide computerized services through 40 branches in rural areas, catering for around 20,000 clients with savings accounts, the agency said. About 10,000 borrowers will be able to expand their rural businesses through bank loans. This is the fourth initiative IFAD has supported in Albania with loans totalling $42.3 million.