ST. ANN, JAMAICA - Small entrepreneurs in the tourism and agriculture sectors are receiving well needed assistance under a J$52.46 million initiative, developed to assist them in recovering from the economic ravages of COVID-19. The assistance is being provided under the Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI II), which has seen the implementation of a special COVID-19 Resilience and Capacity Building sub-project for Agriculture and Community Tourism Enterprises.
Funded by the World Bank and administered by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) the REDI II programme will benefit some 1,660 farmers, community tourism service providers, RADA Extension Officers, Ministry of Tourism staff, TPDCo trainers and regional staff, in addition to an estimated 18,000 indirect beneficiaries.
Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett has welcomed the programme, which is aimed at assisting in safeguarding the lives and livelihoods of rural folk working in community tourism and agricultural enterprises. He along with Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Floyd Green; Chairman of JSIF, Dr. Wayne Henry and other stakeholders, handed out packages of products procured for the beneficiaries during a ceremony held at Grizzly’s Plantation Cove, St. Ann recently.
Minister Bartlett said: “I’m also pleased to see that among the objectives of REDI II is the provision of medical grade Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as prescribed by the Ministry of Tourism’s COVID-19 Health and Safety Protocols. PPEs to include face masks, face shields, no contact hand-held thermometers, hand sanitizer dispenser, 62% alcohol-based gel hand sanitizer.”
Mr. Bartlett added that: “What this REDI II programme is seeking to do is to build our capacity to respond to the disruptions that the pandemic will cause, also to manage, to recover and to thrive. And that is the essence of what is going to make Jamaica stand out in the end.” For its part, tourism’s role “is to create the framework for the farmer to operate by enabling a market that will be able to respond to the production levels that he is going to produce,” he explained.
The tourism ministry is also playing a leading role in enabling the community tourism enterprises and farmers to withstand the dislocation caused by COVID-19, by fostering adherence to established protocols on their properties and in marketing their produce to the hospitality sector. The Tourism Product Development Company and the Tourism Enhancement Fund are partners in executing this aspect of the multi-million dollar project.
Minister Bartlett described the REDI II programme, which will involve ago-tourism experiences, as “a God-send in a time like this,” adding that “it is going to create and build experiential tourism through agriculture.”
Meanwhile, commenting on the way forward for the tourism sector post-COVID-19, Mr. Bartlett disclosed that the Ministry of Tourism was in resetting mode. “We are resetting tourism to make it more responsive, more inclusive and to make it more relevant to the average, ordinary Jamaican in the country,” he explained.
Accordingly, the relationship between agriculture and tourism is to be enhanced. He said 42% of the expenditure of every visitor was on food but while a study revealed that the demand for agricultural produce amounted to J$39.6 billion, “of that we are only supplying about 20%, so we have a long way to go, a lot more to be done as there is capacity here, scope for more production and for more idle hands to be absorbed into dealing with idle lands.”