The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has provided the Government with US$70,000 to implement a project called ‘Formalising Operators in the Jamaican Agriculture and Fisheries Sectors’.
This project will promote the benefits of formalisation and assist target operators to formalise their operations.
A memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed during a virtual broadcast, which connected representatives from the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce; the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and the ILO, on Thursday (February 4).
This agreement is for a pilot phase of the project, which has a duration period of 11 months. The target beneficiaries include 100 farmers and fisheries producers registered with the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), 70 per cent of whom are farmers and the remaining 30 per cent fisherfolk.
The Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JDBC) will lead this charge in developing the farmers and fisherfolk.
Participants will be guided through industry-specific training and hand-holding sessions on how to manage and run a business, getting their operation formalised, opening a business bank account, creating strategic business linkages, drafting a business plan, and how to access financing.
One objective of the project is to move farmers and fisherfolk along the micro, small and medium-sizes enterprise (MSME) business continuum from informal to formal, from micro operators to small businesses, and eventually to medium-sized enterprises.
Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Audley Shaw, who gave the main address during the virtual ceremony, said the project is timely, as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has dealt a severe blow to the economy.
“This project is, indeed, a timely intervention in ensuring that our post-COVID-19 recovery is strong,” he said.
Mr. Shaw argued that agriculture is a most important activity in the country’s economic development, and is deserving of the benefits the project will offer.
“The sector, in 2018, accounted for 7.3 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). Nevertheless, it is characterised by a prevalence of farmers operating informally, despite their significance to rural development and the economy in general,” the Minister said.
“It is estimated that approximately 43 per cent of the Jamaican economy operates informally. The challenge of addressing informality is more severe where workers in the agricultural sector are concerned, and especially for those in the fisheries subsector,” he added.
For his part, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Floyd Green, said the Ministry welcomes this initiative, as it will provide more opportunities for farmers and fisherfolk who now operate informally.
“We know the reality, they operate in this informal space, and as such, they’re unable to access the key they need to unlock their true potential, to truly modernise and grow the agriculture and fisheries sectors,” the Minister said.
“I welcome this injection by the ILO, which is truly an investment in our farmers and fisherfolk… . I see this project as a precursor for a bigger programme, and with the leadership of the JBDC,” he added.
Director, ILO, Dennis Zulu, said his organisation has no doubt that the JBDC will successfully institute activities to the satisfaction of the stakeholders.
He also thanked both Ministers for their commitment to the success of the project.
“The ILO remains committed to continue our collaboration with the Government of Jamaica and all other stakeholders in Jamaica, to ensure that we achieve the objectives of the project as stated,” he said.