More than 1,000 St. James residents attended the Social Development Commission’s (SDC) Community Market and Business Fair, which was held at Rose Hall, in the parish, on Thursday (July 16).
The event formed part of a series of fairs being held across the island to bring farmers and other small businesses, which have been affected by the Coronavirus (COVID – 19) pandemic, directly to customers.
Some 25 local economic initiative (LEI) businesses, which are a part of the SDC’s Local Economic Development Support Programme (LEDSP), as well as farmers from St. James, St. Ann and St. Elizabeth, sold a variety of items at the event.
In an interview with JIS News, Parish Manager of the SDC, St. James Office, Randy Hayle, said the agency recognises that there are some issues affecting communities as a result of the economic downturn caused by COVID – 19.
“Within each parish, we are pulling community groups, especially our local economic development initiative, to provide them with an avenue for them to earn an income and these groups are some which we have been working with over a period of time,” Mr. Hayle noted.
“We also recognise that some persons have lost their income, so we are providing this opportunity for residents to get quality products at great prices,” he added.
Mr. Hayle said the SDC ensured that the event was COVID – 19 compliant, as the agency did temperature checks and sanitisation at the entrance of the event; enforced mask wearing and social distancing, and placed several hand washing stations around the venue.
He highlighted some of the partners that were instrumental in helping the agency with the event, including Rose Hall Developments Ltd., the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), and Gateway Cooperative Credit Union.
Local Economic Development Coordinator for the SDC, in St. James and Trelawny, Dainty Taylor, told JIS News that the event formed part of the LEDSP, a programme which the agency uses to create a platform for local entrepreneurs, noting that St. James currently has 57 businesses which are a part of the programme.
She noted that the event served “to highlight their (entrepreneurs) products, so that they can market and sell. This activity is also aimed at building partnerships with other stakeholders.”
Owner of beauty brand, Akachi, Natalee Williams, told JIS news she was grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the event.
Ms. Williams, who is from Lilliput in the parish, noted that she had been invited to participate in events similar in nature, and “it is amazing to be a part of such a programme that helps local entrepreneurs [by] placing them on the local and international market.
“Without them I would not have grown to where I am today and I am very proud to be a part of the programme and I appreciate all that they have done for me,” she said.
Ms. Williams, whose business has been a part of the SDC programme since 2017, noted that the agency has aided in the growth of her business, training and marketing.
St. James farmer, Robert Dehaney, said he was pleased with the event, adding that he brought 100 pounds of the yam to the event, and that within two hours, the produce was sold out. He also noted that the other produce he brought sold well.
Mr. Dehaney said it is his wish that the SDC would host similar events regularly, “so persons can have a feel of what it is like to buy from farmers directly.”
Patron at the event, Angele Nunez Rhooms, lauded the community market and business fair.
“The prices have been lovely [for] the fresh fruits and vegetables. This is my second trip over here [today] because the prices are so good,” she said.
Another patron, Jerry Warner, told JIS News he really enjoyed being at the event, “and this is really good for the local farmers.”
Mr. Warner, who also has a small business, expressed interest in becoming a part of the SDC’s LEDSP in the near future.