Minster for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries Reginald Austrie has said that his ministry was faced with challenges in the distribution of over $18 million to Dominican Farmers.
This project was funded by the World Bank to assist in the restoration of livelihoods, reduction in nutritional shortages, reduction in mass migration and to ensure food security.
Austrie attributes the difficulties which were encountered to the ministry’s weak database.
“4,200 farmers registered for that programme; 884 were large commercial farmers and 3,384 were small farmers. The distribution was $10,000 for the large farmers and $3,000 for the small farmers,” he said, “We had some challenges in the execution of that programme and that was mainly because of our weak database at the ministry of agriculture level where we were not certain, to be honest with you, accurately that is, as to who were small farmers and who were commercial farmers…,” he explained.
The distribution of the World Bank money was severely criticized by the United Workers’ Party (UWP) which claimed that the manner in which the money was being distributed had subjected hundreds of bona fide farmers and fishers to blatant injustice.
In a press release issued in February 2018, the UWP called for an immediate discontinuation what it referred to as “the Skerrit Administration’s politicization of the World Bank’s Agricultural Emergency Response Grant (AERG) that has subjected hundreds of bona fide farmers and fishers to blatant injustice.”
The UWP accused the government of abusing the 18-million-dollar grant for partisan political purposes, citing in its release, “the number of recipients of the funds who are not involved in farming or fishing and the number of farmers and fishers still on the merry-go-round of disrespect waiting to receive their entitlement.”
The party called on the World Bank “to order a full forensic investigation of the controversial aspects of the programme “in the public interest of fairness, equity, transparency and accountability in the utilization of post Maria financial assistance from the world community.”
Austrie said recently that a validation exercise will be put in place to prevent this situation from reoccurring.
“We’re now seeking to sort out by the compilation of what we call…a validation exercise where we’re seeking to record in detail, our farmers. Where they are, how many arches they’re doing, where are they planting, their ages… So, in the event that we need to run to our data base to quickly gather information inside or outside the disasters…we have our technicians… who can pull out the information.”
He said the ministry is also compiling a list of farmers who did not obtain any benefits from the programme so they too could receive some assistance.