$7.3 Million grant to Assist Agricultural Sector


The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Ministry of Agriculture signed an agreement yesterday (November 9), putting into effect a grant of $7.3 million donated by the agency, for hurricane relief assistance to the agricultural sector.
The grant proposal was spearheaded by the Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture (IICA). The signing took place at IICA’s Caribbean Programming Meeting, held at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston.
In his address at the function, Minister of Agriculture, Roger Clarke, said the grant was geared towards assisting farmers to return to “full production in the short term, with the long-term objective of boosting export earnings and ensuring the island’s food security”.
The assistance will last for about six months, with the focus on some 630 farmers from 50 communities in six parishes. The parishes are Westmoreland, St. Elizabeth, Clarendon, Hanover, Manchester and St. Catherine.
Mr. Clarke informed that farmers would be chosen based on their production of selected crops, such as hot pepper, callaloo, tomato, sweet potato, and watermelon. End users to be targeted include agro-processors, exporters, hoteliers and supermarkets. Farmers involved in aquaculture would also benefit from the programme.
The Minister said that the selection of farmers would also depend on the extent of the losses incurred on their farms, their level of production prior to Hurricane Ivan, existing trading or contractual arrangements with wholesale buyers, and the level of assistance already procured from other agencies or projects.
He made it clear that there would “be no cash in hand” as farmers would only be given approved items such as seeds, irrigation equipment, farm tools and equipment, material and construction supplies.Vegetable and spice producers, he explained, would receive input assistance of up to $15,000, while aquaculture farmers would be eligible for assistance of up to $75,000.
Extension Officers of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), Minister Clarke said, would be in charge of validating claims for damage, which would have been reported immediately after Hurricane Ivan.
The assistance programme will be a collaborative effort of the Ministry of Agriculture, RADA, IICA, USAID and its Ridge to Reef Watershed Project. The $7.3 million grant, Minister Clarke pointed out, would be administered through the Ridge to Reef Project, which would provide oversight for its implementation.
In his remarks, Deputy Mission Director of the USAID, Dr. Kevin Rushing, said that the agency had “refocused its development activities.by addressing recovery efforts in the sectors it is working in”.
Dr. Rushing revealed that USAID would be placing more funds in the reconstruction effort, through its ‘Refocus Programme’, which would see the agency putting US$7.4 million or J$460 million for recovery activities in areas such as coastal rehabilitation, disaster mitigation, rebuilding of schools and clinics, housing and agriculture.
The sum received by the agricultural sector, he noted, was part of the USAID ‘Refocus Programme’, as the agency was “committed to helping Jamaica on its path to recovery”.

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