Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, on Wednesday (September 30) officially launched the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) Rural Economic Development Initiative, Phase II (REDI II) Project.
The programme, which aims to improve both the agricultural and tourism sectors, has, as its overall objective, enhancing access to markets and strengthening climate-resilient approaches for targeted beneficiaries.
Building on the experience and results of the first phase of the project, this new component of REDI will focus on strengthening value chains and developing tourism clusters.
The emphasis is on enhancing linkages among producers, service providers and buyers to improve economies for small agricultural and tourism enterprises, while enhancing market access for these businesses.
This second phase of the REDI project is being financed through a loan of US$40 million from the World Bank.
In his remarks at the virtual launch of the programme, Prime Minister Holness said both the agriculture and tourism sectors combined account for some 18 per cent of Jamaica’s gross domestic product (GDP).
He noted that in its initial phase, the REDI programme created 1,300 jobs and contributed to growth of 17 per cent in the agricultural sector in 2016, resulting in a reduction of US$6 million in the country’s food bill.
It also financed the development of the national community tourism policy and strategy.
For his part, Managing Director of JSIF, Omar Sweeney, informed that REDI II will benefit more than 100 micro and small business enterprises across the island.
“This programme became effective in March and we have been raising significant awareness [and]… we have seen interest in the thousands and thousands of persons who are looking towards this programme to solve some of the problems that they face today,” he noted.
Mr. Sweeney said that REDI II is a strategic investment by the Government in ensuring that operators of small and micro businesses in rural areas can continue to operate.
“One of the greatest things that we have to fight is this matter of rural to urban drift… and how you stop [that] is to provide the strategic investments in rural areas where the young people that this project will target can earn and earn sustainably and earn well where they are,” Mr. Sweeney added.
Meanwhile, World Bank Resident Representative for Jamaica, Ozan Sevimli, said the hope is to advance community tourism under the REDI II project.
“We want to increase livelihoods, we want to increase economic opportunities for the rural population and connect with the driver of Jamaica’s economy, the tourism sector,” Mr. Sevimli said.
“This pandemic has shown us that… the tourism sector, undoubtedly, also needs more resilience and more diversification, and community tourism is one of the ways to do that. With REDI II, we are hoping to advance community tourism… and there is so much potential in Jamaica to do more of that,” he added.
To request funding, persons must complete the REDI II application form online or in hard copy and submit it to JSIF.
The forms are available at the JSIF office at 11 Oxford Road, Kingston 5 (entrance on Norwood Avenue); the JSIF website at www.jsif.org; Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) parish offices; Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) regional offices; and the Social Development Commission (SDC) parish offices.