With roughly three quarters of Yemen’s population living in over 100,000 isolated villages and settlements, the Government will upgrade dirt roads in the most disadvantaged areas, improving access to markets, health centres and schools for 300,000 people under a new pact reached with the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).At a signing ceremony at IFAD’s headquarters in Rome earlier this month, the agreement spelled out the partial financing of the $10.4 million Pilot Community-Based Rural Infrastructure Project for Highland Areas as a loan to Yemen of $9 million and a grant of $400,000, both from IFAD. The rest would come from the Government.IFAD said the project would upgrade 215 kilometres of dirt roads and a further 100,000 people would benefit from improved access to safe water.“Women spend up to seven hours a day collecting water and the sources they use are frequently polluted. This contributes to disease and to the high child mortality rate in rural areas. In addition, the burden on women negatively affects family income and the education of girls who help collect water,” the Fund said.The road improvements and drinking water supplies will be planned, implemented and managed by the communities themselves, the Fund said. Over the 27 years since it was established, IFAD has financed 18 initiatives in Yemen, with loans and grants totalling $170 million.Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the world, IFAD said, and the lack of basic social and economic activities and services is an obstacle to reducing poverty. The country has about 60,000 kilometres of dirt tracks and trails, mainly constructed by communities in the 1970s and 1980s, but they have deteriorated.