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Engineering and construction giant SNC-Lavalin has been awarded a $597-million infrastructure and agricultural contract to design and build an irrigation system for farmland and three small towns in rural Venezuela.

The Montreal-based company said Wednesday that the project includes the design and construction of an extension to an existing irrigation canal and associated infrastructure to serve 32,200 hectares of the Tiznados valley, about 300 kilometres south of Caracas.

SNC-Lavalin will also build 2,000 homes, schools, health and sports facilities as part of plans to construct the new towns of Guaitoco, San Francisco and San Jose de Tiznados and 80 kilometres of paved and dirt roads.

Riadh Ben Aissa, in charge of SNC-Lavalin's global construction operations, said the project will improve the quality of life for about 16,000 people.

The company will support rural development by establishing agricultural training courses and support local farmers and agro-industrial workers. The work begins immediately and is expected to be completed in three years.

SNC-Lavalin is one of the world's largest engineering and construction companies.

It has offices across Canada and in 35 other countries, and is working on projects in some 100 countries.

SNC shares gained 10 cents to $44.25 in trading Wednesday morning on the Toronto Stock Exchange.