Entrepreneurs from six communities across the island are set to benefit from the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) Enterprise Development Grant initiative.
The grant funding will provide support to eligible micro and small business operators in Salt Spring and Anchovy in St. James; Treadlight in Clarendon; and August Town, Greenwich Town and Denham Town in Kingston and St. Andrew.
The initiative is a component of the second phase of JSIF’s Integrated Community Development Project (ICDP), for which a sum of $1.9 billion has been earmarked for critical engagements between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2023.
Earlier this year, the agency provided some much-needed funding totalling $40 million to several community enterprises under phase one of the Enterprise Development Grant.
Project Officer at JSIF, Dane McLean, tells JIS News that the agency is concluding disbursements under the first phase, noting that some $33 million has been committed to date.
“In the first phase, we received over 500 applications and they covered a range of areas. We had persons in agriculture, persons doing bee-keeping and open field agriculture. We had persons in beauty and barbering and we also had persons who wanted to set up Internet cafes,” he says.
He notes that support was also provided for persons purchasing information technology (IT) equipment to set up Internet and Wi-Fi connectivity within community spaces.
“We had dressmakers, tailors and we even had persons who wanted to do animation and so forth. So the innovation at the community level was there and so we had a wide cross section of applicants in the communities that we were able to support,” he adds.
The Project Officer told JIS News that phase two of the programme has come at a critical period as the country deals with the ongoing impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
In September, more than 500 applications were received for the new component and Mr. McLean indicates that the funds initially earmarked could be doubled in order to meet needs.
“Under phase two, we have an initial envelope of $20 million, but given the high demand, we are already looking to identify additional resources. So there is a possibility that the $20 million might very well be doubled… given what we already assessed to be some very strong proposals coming out of phase two applications,” he says.
He tells JIS News that unlike phase one, which was funded by the Government of Jamaica with a loan from the World Bank, phase two is financed exclusively by the Government.
The ICDP aims to promote public safety and transformation through the delivery of basic infrastructure and social services in 18 targeted communities across the island. The first phase, undertaken at a cost of US$42 million, ran from May 2014 to May 2020.
Mr. McLean explains that JSIF recognised that in addition to providing critical infrastructure such as roads, schools, and health facilities, it was important to also support livelihoods at the community level.
“Within the ICDP communities at the time, we do recognise there was need for economic support, economic stimulus to help small [and] micro entrepreneurs to develop their business enterprises and to actually create a sustainable income space.
“What we came up with was the Enterprise Development Project, which looked at providing critical equipment, capacity building and other support to these entrepreneurs to get them up and running, and in some cases to get them retooled,” he tells JIS News.
“We do recognise that a number of them have been profitable, they have been doing their thing for some time and we recognise that by just actually helping them identify some of the gaps in their current operations and also to help them to retool… we saw where they would be in a position to not only sustain their livelihood but potentially being able to take on additional persons. By doing that, they create a multiplier effect in terms of [generating] employment at the community level,” Mr. McLean adds.
Owner of Cindy Crochet Fashions, Cindy Williams, who is one of the beneficiaries under phase one of the project, says that prior to receiving pieces of equipment valued at $600,000, she would have to cut her crochet and leather-soled slippers by hand.
“I got an engraving machine to put my name in my slippers, I got a sewing machine with stand and everything… and I got one die (cutting) machine, which clamps out the slipper sizes and I got another one called the circular, which cuts out the leather,” she tells JIS News.
Ms. Williams is now looking forward to taking on additional employees to expand her business and expressed heartfelt gratitude to the team at JSIF for making her dream possible.