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By Julita Peter

August 31, 1998 - Farmers on the island are being provided with loan fund s to assist them in the area of banana diversification. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry and the Environment is currently implementing the Rural Diversification Incentive Project. The project seeks to encourage investment in the rural sector and increase the rate of agricultural diversification by providing loans and other technical assistance to interested farmers and other select beneficiaries.

The list of those targeted include skilled unemployed youth, female heads of households in rural areas, farmers affected by changes in the banana industry, and farmers and fishermen operating at the poverty level - income between $156 and $468 monthly. There are a number of persons at or below the poverty line. It believed that by offering them access to capital and developing their entrepreneurial spirit their monthly income can be increased significantly. Project Co-ordinator Jerome Jules says, "there is merit in working with farmers and fishermen organizations. We have specifically targeted them because we believe that we can deliver service to these group of beneficiaries a lot more efficiently than if we are dealing with them on a one and one basis."

Micro and Small Businesses are also being targeted specifically those seeking loans under $ 50,000. The project focuses primarily on providing assistance for the development of greenhouses. For investment in aquaculture that is the production of fresh water fish and ponds, the acquisition of fishing boats and recommended gear, for livestock pen construction and for working capital, and for the expansion of small ruminants like sheep and goats.

The rural economic diversification incentive project is sourcing assistance from The Small Enterprise Development Unit (SEDU) in providing assistance to the farmers or beneficiaries in the area s of preparations of business plans. The project will be launched officially on September 4, 1998.


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