Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, Reginald Austrie, urges farmers and fishermen to apply to the recently-launched Dominica Emergency Agricultural Livelihoods and Climate Resilience Project in order to receive assistance in their agricultural endeavours.
The $25-million World Bank-funded project was officially launched last week.
In an address this week, Austrie advised that an ‘expression of interest’ is needed to access the program.
“This is not where people pass and ask you ‘what you want?’ and ‘what can I give you?’ and ‘how much fertilizer you want?’… You must express exactly what activity you’re involved in, what are your needs, what are your requirements,” he said. “You have to apply to the program for you to benefit from the program.”
The Minister encouraged farmers and fisher-folk to apply for the program “as quickly as possible,” and to “take their livelihood seriously.”
“Make the effort, spare the time. Make a day that you could come and take care of your business; make sure you register, and that you will qualify,” he instructed.
Austrie revealed that extension officers will be deployed in assisting with the completion of the required application forms.
“We will have the extension officers in the various divisions, who will assist you in filling out the application forms. And we’re also hoping that we can employ some people under the World Bank project. We can employ some people, on a short-term basis, who we will deploy at intervals. It would shorten the distance between your farming area and where the agricultural station is,” he explained. “We will seek to deploy staff as conveniently as possible for the benefit of the farmer, [so] that you can take advantage.”
In March 2019, Austrie said that his ministry was faced with challenges in the distribution of over $18 million to Dominican farmers, under a project 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.
The Minister went on to state that a validation exercise would be put in place to prevent this situation from reoccurring, and that his ministry was compiling a list of farmers who did not obtain any benefits from the programme so they too could receive some assistance.
The the distribution of the World Bank money had been 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.” The UWP accused the government of abusing the 18-million-dollar grant for partisan political purposes, and called the party called on the World Bank “to order a full forensic investigation of the controversial aspects of the programme.”
This time, the Agriculture Minister, has indicated that a proper procedure has been put in place to facilitate participation in the World Bank-funded programme.
Over 4,000 farmers and fisher-folk are expected to receive assistance under this program.