EC$2.9 million for Alternative Sustainable Livelihood Project
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July 24, 2009
EC$2.9 million for Alternative Sustainable Livelihood Project

The Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines will next Wednesday announce the allocation of EC$2.9 million for the Alternative Sustainable Livelihood Project.{{more}}

The million dollar initiative financed by the ALBA Caribe Fund (Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas) and headed by Senator Saboto Caesar is expected to benefit farmers across the state, but will also serve as a reprieve and a legitimate alternative for marijuana farmers who lost their underground trade when the Government destroyed their plantations in Operation Vincy PAC in May 2009 with the support of the Regional Security System (RSS).

Some individuals, mainly young men in several communities across St.Vincent and the Grenadines, used the production of marijuana as a means of escaping poverty, and were not shy in proclaiming it to members of the National Assessment Team and Kairi Consultants of Trinidad and Tobago during their survey for the Country Poverty Assessment.

Of the underground economy, which thrived considerably prior to the destruction of the plantations by Vincy Pac last May, the researchers were told in one village: “Everybody here growing weed.”; “Nuff man a head to the mountain to plant ganja. That what they survive on.”; “If ganja wasn’t planting, nuff poverty would ah been here.” “Once I get a bag of weed I can hustle it and make a dollar.””

“We will be targeting particular groups of persons throughout the country who were engaged in marijuana production and offer them a legitimate alternative,” said Senator Caesar, adding, the Alternative Sustainable Livelihood Project ties into the general thrust towards rural poverty reduction.

Persons from Sandy Bay and Georgetown, the two communities identified in the Country Poverty Assessment as having the highest incidence of poverty, are also expected to benefit from the Alternative Sustainable Livelihood Project.

The report shows that on a whole, while Georgetown and Sandy Bay comprise nine per cent of the population, they account for as much as 16.5 per cent of the nation’s poor. A disquieting 55.6 per cent of the residents of these two districts were deemed poor. Overall, poverty in St.Vincent and the Grenadines is down from 37.5 per cent in 1995/96 to 30.2 in 2007/08. This was indicated in the most recent survey done between November 2007 and August 2008.

Senator Caesar said the impact of the project, which he will be spearheading in the Ministry of Agriculture under the leadership of Minister of Agriculture Montgomery Daniel will be far reaching.

This country’s newest Senator is optimistic: “There will be a cadre of young persons who will be most willing to secure the benefits derived from this project in their quest to seek sustainable livelihood.”

The Alternative Sustainable Livelihood Project will focus heavily on increasing poultry, pig and rabbit production; farming, utilizing greenhouse technology for the production of vegetables and the propagation of seeds on a commercial basis, said Senator Caesar. He used the opportunity to refer to a recent report from the Forestry Division which pointed out the importance of technical training, which is expected to lead to medium term gainful employment for persons interested in forestry.

“It is important to note also that specialized training will be an important component in the project, since in today’s competitive business environment, we must maximize our use of the available technology,” Caesar stated.

He explained that while the project he heads falls nicely within the ambits of the Ministry of Agriculture, the Government’s quest to create new avenues of wealth must not be seen solely as an issue for the Ministry of Agriculture. Hence, its approach will cut across sectors to involve construction and light manufacturing.

Caesar said over the past week, the Ministry of Agriculture has met with key stakeholders expected to play a critical role in ensuring that the project is a major success.

The Alternative Sustainable Livelihood Project, housed in the Ministry of Agriculture, will be promoted heavily from the last week in July, Caesar disclosed.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Dr.Ralph Gonsalves, commenting on money allocated to the Alternative Sustainable Livelihood Project, said it will be divided in two, half will go towards the purchasing of fertilizers which will facilitate cheaper rates for farmers and the other half would go towards sustainable livelihood.