Startup loans will once again be made to rural residents to help them get involved in farming, the Rural Development Commission (RDC) has announced.
The loans programme, which was in place for some two decades, was reintroduced on Friday at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre during the Caribbean Week of Agriculture (CWA).
A renewed focus is to be placed on helping residents to better meet their obligations in repaying the loan, according to officials.
Over the years the RDC had experienced difficulty in getting some recipients to repay their loans in the harsh economic climate, said Acting Director of the RDC Gregory Hinds.
“What we have found in the past is that some customers experience difficulties because of challenging economic times . . . we have experienced some issues with clients not being able to service their loans,” said Hinds.
“The funds are revolving. So in order for us to continue
having this loans programme, we ask that those members who access loans make sure you have adequate business plan or adequate idea of how you intend to run your business, recoup your funds and employ persons and we will definitely service your loans,” he said.
RDC Public Relations Officer Wendy Burke said the organization has been putting measures in place to help clients repay their loans.
The measures, she said, included sending out more reminders to clients.
“So we are changing elements of how the collection is being done. So we will be constantly prompting our clients about what they need to do and how they need to do it,” said Burke.
The RDC was also working with a number of other organizations to provide training where necessary so those who received loans could be more successful, she said.
“We have actually put people through some training programmes which other entities offer because we have been a partner,” she said.
Senior Field Officer Osmond Harewood explained that a part of the loans process involved giving technical assistance to borrowers.
“I know that there are some people who come with new projects and we provide them with guidance with technical assistance. There are others with existing projects where we provide them with the best practices to improve in whatever way they can within their business. I think it is important that persons understand the level of the project has to be sustainable,” said Harewood.
Under the loan facility, individuals are able to access up to $15,000 at once for their projects, once they meet a series of criteria.
Loans Administrator Alston Flemming said over the years the RDC received applications from “several hundred people” ranging from 18-year-olds to pensioners.
He explained that individuals were able to choose from three different funds, based on their needs and once they have satisfied the requirements.
Those funds, he said, included the Rural Development Fund, the Livestock Development Fund and a fund for developing fruit orchards.
During Friday’s exhibition at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, hundreds of primary and secondary school children had the opportunity to learn more about careers in agriculture as they visited the various booths.
RDC officials said they were pleased with the level of interest being shown in the sector by young people.