As of next month, students in the agricultural sector will begin to benefit from a scholarship programme, courtesy of the Rio Tinto Alcan Inc. (formerly Alcan).
The assistance is for students pursuing agricultural studies at the secondary and tertiary levels, through an agreement between Rio Tinto and the Jamaica 4-H Clubs. It is aimed at students in St. Ann, St. Catherine and Manchester.
Executive Director of the 4-H Clubs, Lenworth Fulton, told JIS News at the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) at the 4-H headquarters, Old Hope Road, Kingston, that overall expenditure will be US$200,000. The programme starts January, 2010.
This is one component of the Rio Tinto Alcan Legacy Fund (RTALF), where Alcan wanted to leave a legacy of positive and long-standing relationships with the Jamaican government, and parishes in which the bauxite company operated.
Chief Technical Director in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Dr. Marc Panton, welcomed the initiative, stating that agriculture is often considered a primary producer, ignoring the need for trained people to take it to the next level.
He suggested that some agricultural training institutions revamp and strengthen their programme so that the output, in terms of quality individuals, improves from year to year. He said that the Rio Tinto agricultural scholarship will be important in terms of human resources available to agriculture.
Chief Technical Director in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Dr. Marc Panton (left), greeting Director of Community Relations at Rio Tinto, Claude Perras, at Friday’s (December 18) signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Jamaica 4-H Clubs and Rio Tinto Alcan Inc. for the agricultural scholarship programme. The signing took place at the 4-H Clubs’ headquarters, Old Hope Road, Kingston. At right is Chairman of the Jamaica 4-H Clubs’ national board, Vindel Kerr.
Dr. Panton lauded the bauxite company for its investment in agriculture, noting that, “for every dollar invested in agriculture, you get a return on that dollar of about $3.20. Therefore money invested in agriculture is well-spent on the development of Jamaica”.
Director of Community Relations at Rio Tinto, Claude Perras, explained that the US$2 million Fund will be self-sustaining, and provide tangible benefits to the people of Jamaica for many years, while supporting the Government’s poverty alleviation strategy and development objectives.
The fund will do so by targeting low income households, and by supporting agricultural scholarship for youths to build capacity in the sector, Mr. Perras noted.
The second component of the RTALF is a loan guarantee fund for the financing of agri-business. Mr. Perras said this is aligned with the Government’s efforts to increase lending to the sector. This component is planned for implementation in 2011
Mr. Perras lauded the continued support of the Jamaica Bauxite Institute (JBI), in helping the company to maintain positive ties with mining communities, and in establishing the RTALF.
“Establishing such a legacy fund is important to Alcan in ensuring that it leaves a positive socio-economic impact in its host communities, maximising the local positive benefit derived from its operations,” he stated.
Executive Director of the JBI, Parris Lyew-Ayee, said Alcan wanted to ensure that it did not simply walk away from its operations in Jamaica.
Chairman of the Jamaica 4-H Clubs national board Vindel Kerr (right) and Director of Community Relations at Rio Tinto, Claude Perras (centre) sign the Memorandum of Understanding between the Jamaica 4-H Clubs and Rio Tinto Alcan Inc. for the agricultural scholarship programme being funded by Rio Tinto. The signing took place at the 4-H Clubs’ headquarters, Old Hope Road, Kingston, Friday (December 18). At far left is Executive Director of the $-H Clubs Lenworth Fulton.
“When Alcan decided to have a legacy fund, it was a very good thing. We searched a long time as to what form or shape the legacy fund should take, but we wanted to make sure that this would be something that would go on for a long time,” he said.
“We needed to get young people trained in agriculture, not only in terms of the machete and the hoe, but in being able to use the new technologies, new methodologies, to make agriculture more attractive and also something that can maintain families,” he explained.
He said the other consideration was to help farmers in mining areas, or persons wishing to get into agriculture but did not have the funds or the collateral to approach financial institutions.
“That is why the second arm of the Fund will help micro-financing programmes, to get farmers in the bauxite parishes to be able to utilise the lands properly, with support from the Ministry of Agriculture,” he noted.
Rio Tinto was acquired by Alcan in 2007. Alcan’s operations in Jamaican spanned over 50 years, having begun in 1952, as the country’s first mining outfit.
Selected schools for the scholarship programme include: Jose Marti High, Marcus Garvey High, Ferncourt High, Holmwood Technical High, Sydney Pagon, Ebony Park HEART Academy, Knockalva Agricultural School and Dinthill Technical High.
The University of the West Indies (UWI) and the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE) will soon be included among beneficiary institutions.