JIS News

The government of Jamaica today (May 27) signed a $1.04 billion (US $16.8 million) loan agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to implement phase two of the National Irrigation Development Programme (NIDP).
The money, which is being made available on concessionary terms through the Intermediate Finance Facility (IFF), represents 80 per cent of the $1.3 billion (US$21 million) needed for the project, with the government providing the remaining 20 per cent of $260 million (US$4.2 million).
Water and Housing Minister, Donald Buchanan, speaking at the contract signing held at the National Heroes Circle offices of the Ministry of Finance and Planning, said that the money would go towards the building and rehabilitation of irrigation systems in four parishes in addition to providing institutional strengthening for the National Irrigation Commission (NIC); promoting and forming Water User Associations and providing technical support and training for farmers.
The regions to benefit are Yallahs, St.Thomas; New Forest/Duff House, Manchester; Colbeck and St. Dorothy in St. Catherine and Essex Valley inSt. Elizabeth. It is estimated that these systems will benefit some 1,000 farmers.
Implementation is set for 2006 and according to Minister Buchanan, the project was part of a larger programme by the NIC and the IDB, to construct some 51 irrigation systems by 2015 at a cost of $6.5 billion.
The programme, once fully implemented, is expected to increase the island’s irrigated area by 60 per cent, benefiting some 6,900-farm families. In addition, it will serve to increase total annual agricultural production by $8.2 million and generate an average increase of $3.4 billion in annual income.
The Water and Housing Minister further informed that the formalization of land tenure for farmers and acquiring land for projects will form an integral part of the programme and discussions were ongoing between the NIC and the National Land Agency for their assistance in this respect.
He noted that both agencies would pursue the preparation of a Memorandum of Understanding for activities to be undertaken on the NIDP project, as soon as funds were made available.
Meanwhile, IDB representative, Oscar Spencer said the signing of the loan agreement signaled the end of several years of work in the design and preparation of the NIDP programme and the beginning of the implementation phase.
He noted that, “at a time when Jamaica’s traditional exports are threatened by the loss of preferential markets, the project took on added significance as it would promote and encourage a more diversified cropping pattern.”
Finance and Planning Minister, Dr. Omar Davies, said the project, with its varying components was a very important one and stood to impact significantly on output and the stability of the agricultural sector.

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