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Access to assistance from the Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI) project for community development, was outlined at the 101st Annual General Meeting of the Portland Association of Branch Societies of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) in Port Antonio on Wednesday (April 21).
Agricultural Specialist at the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF), Mr. Vincent Thompson, said that the project, operated by JSIF, was recently launched to provide funding for agriculture and tourism related business ventures.
Mr. Thompson said the project aims to improve market access for micro and small scale rural agricultural producers and tourism and service providers, by facilitating the strengthening of the supply chain linkages between sector and end users in processing, the tourism sector, fast food chains, restaurants and supermarkets.
He said the project also provides support for the development of community based tourism as a viable option and opportunity for economic investment. He added that it also facilitates the strengthening of the capacity of rural groups to be able to plan and implement income generating projects.
REDI will make available financial and technical support, through grants for eligible projects in two components, Mr. Thompson said.
Component one involves agriculture and rural tourism projects; while component two relates to the implementation of technical assistance and capacity building for national organisations such as the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), the JAS, the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo), the Chambers of Commerce, Parish Councils, Non-Government Organisations and other institutions linked to agriculture and rural tourism, to provide support for REDI projects.
He said that persons can access assistance by organising themselves into a group and become a legally registered cooperative, benevolent or friendly society under the Department of Cooperatives and Friendly Societies. He said that they also need to have a viable business idea in agriculture and/or rural tourism, that supports income generation and employment creation.
In encouraging those eligible for assistance under the REDI programme to make full use of the opportunity it offers, Mr. Thompson said examples of projects which can be funded under the programme are on farm investments in innovations such as green houses, breeding stock improvement, the introduction of new crops, infrastructural development and the provision of training in marketing, business and financial management and disaster mitigation and recovery.