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By Janelle Charles

September 8, 1998 - The ten million EC dollar Rural Economic Diversification Incentives Project (REDIP) was launched over the weekend, four months after its implementation. REDIP is a business development project, which seeks to facilitate agricultural diversification through investments in the agricultural sector.

Project beneficiaries include skilled unemployed youth, females who head households, and farmers who are being marginalized as a result of changes occurring in the banana industry. Since its establishment in April the project has disbursed 72 loans totaling to over 1.2 million dollars. The beneficiaries are island wide but the majority comes from the Praslin Community in compliance with the project’s aim to increase investment in the rural sector.

Coordinator of the project Jerome Jules says while REDIP’s objective is to address the shortage of entrepreneurial skills and capital the project’s lending facility is limited. "There are a number of persons that are saying that this project is leaving out farmers, the guy who want to buy a car, the guy who wants to buy a refrigerated truck," Jules lamented. He went on to say, "This project has only $5.5 million at its disposal for lending. Therefore this puts a certain level of constrain on the number of persons that we can assist."

Initially loans under the project were to be made out to the smallest of the targeted beneficiaries in the region of $20,000. However, the limit has been extended to $50,000 to accommodate demand.

The project focuses on activities such as greenhouse development, livestock pen construction, the acquisition of fishing boats and gear, small-scale agroprocessing equipment and flower production. With the assistance of the Small Enterprise Development Unit farmers benefiting from the project will be taught to make their businesses viable.

According to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. James Fletcher, persons need to look at agriculture as a business and that is what REDIP seeks to do. "Those of us who are in agriculture have to start looking at it as a business and treat the agricultural enterprises as a business," says Fletcher.

To improve the viability of the project at the farm level, the Ministry of Agriculture will direct its extension staff to undertake enterprise training for all loan and incentive recipients.


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