Managing Director of the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) Omar Sweeney says the World Bank- funded US$15 million, Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI) has been successfully completed.
“The REDI ….exceeded most of its targets for improving market access for micro and small-scale rural producers, as well as the tourism product and service providers,” he said.
He was addressing executives from the World Bank and other stakeholders during a tour of the Schwallenburgh Greenhouse Cluster and Water Harvesting Project in St. Ann on September 15.
The Rural Economic Development Initiative was implemented by JSIF from 2010 to 2017 and was pivotal in improving market access for micro and small scale rural agricultural producers and tourism projects.
It was also geared towards reducing poverty by increasing potential earnings opportunities for persons, particularly in rural communities.
Mr. Sweeney said under the programme, direct employment was created for over 1,400 persons and jobs sustained for an additional 303 persons.
“Vegetable crop production was optimized in the drought prone areas of St. Elizabeth resulting in a 60 per cent increase in production, contributing to the recorded 16 per cent growth in agricultural output for the October to December 2016 quarter and the reduction of Jamaica’s food import bill by $US6 million in 2016,” he informed.
The Managing Director added that 80 per cent of rural enterprises have accessed new and dynamic markets, including the high value tourism market, supermarkets, exporters, agro-processors and abattoirs.
Meanwhile, Mr. Sweeney said 172 greenhouses were established under the programme which has afforded some 160 farmers “the opportunity to learn the new way of growing crops which are being sold to hotels and other tourism-related enterprises, as well as the international markets.”
“This project provides direct benefit to 850 persons through employment and has changed the lives of over 5,000 Jamaicans,” Mr. Sweeney added.
He further noted that over 20 informal entrepreneurial enterprises have become legally registered and have joined the formal economy.
Photo: Garwin Davis