The title sponsor of the Rotary charity golf tournament in November, Pan American Life Insurance of the Eastern Caribbean, is pleased to be associated with Rotary’s Farmers’ Assistance Programme Project.
The Farmers’ Assistance Programme was conceptualized by Rotarian and Founding President Lisle Chase following the 2013 Christmas Eve trough which affected St. Lucia.
On July 15th 2014, ten small farmers who were affected by the ravages of the weather system received financial assistance in the form of soft loans from the Rotary Club of Gros Islet. The farmers who qualified for assistance under the programme were all small farmers from the north of the island.Each of the beneficiaries received a zero percent interest rate soft loan repayable over eighteen months or as the Rotary Club of Gros Islet may see fit depending on the circumstance of the farmers. The aim is for the farmers to repay during harvest.
Funds were used for farm rehabilitation including:
• Purchase of inputs
• Farm irrigation
• Farm improvements
• Payment of wages to farm employees
• Or any other farm related purpose approved by the Rotary Club of Gros Islet.
Each farmer provided a plan for the use of the funds. Some did so with the assistance of the Agricultural Extension office. The Extension office provided invaluable assistance to the Farmers’ Assistance Programme Committee in selecting and liaising with the beneficiaries.
The Rotary Club of Gros Islet continues to work with the Agricultural Extension officers during this stage to ensure that the farmers employ best practices and maximize the benefits from the assistance received. To date the club is generally satisfied with the progress made by most of the farmers.
A grace period of six months was granted to the farmers to facilitate rehabilitation and improve their income generating capacity. Though farmers will not be pressured to pay back, the commencement and follow-up on payments will be important for the sustainability of the programme which the club plans to extend to other farmers in phase two of the project following an evaluation of phase one.