Rural women receive training and assistance through Invest SVG and CEDA
April 17, 2015
Rural women receive training and assistance through Invest SVG and CEDA

A project conceptualized by Invest SVG (ISVG) and dubbed “Rural Women’s Development and Empowerment Project” has seen numerous women in the country receive training and assistance in improving their businesses.

Last Saturday at the Learning Resource {{more}}Centres in Sans Souci and Barrouallie, staff from Invest SVG and the Ministry of Agriculture met with a number of rural business women who are involved in the project.

According to executive director at Invest SVG Bernadette Ambrose-Black, the project team visited the female entrepreneurs again last Saturday to assess and once again ensure that their needs have been met.

Present at the meetings were women food processors (plantain chips, pepper sauce, black fish oil) from the Windward and Leeward side of the island.

The Rural Women’s Development and Empowerment Project, which is expected to play a huge part in empowering women in rural communities, is being funded through a 37,000 Euros reimbursement grant from the Caribbean Export Development Agency’s (CEDA) Direct Assistance Grant Scheme (DAGS).

Ambrose-Black said that said that the overall objective of the project is to strengthen processes that promote economic development of women and create an environment for social change.

Speaking on Saturday in Sans Souci, Ambrose-Black said that the project is being carried out in close collaboration with Ministry of Agriculture.

She said that apart from creating access to grant funding and small loans from the Ministry of Agriculture’s farmers’ loan programme, the project is hoping to train participants in areas that they need to enhance their capabilities as far as food processing is concerned.

She added also that the project aims to assist women with becoming, “more empowered as rural women in society and as women on a whole…you contribute a lot to society. Through this project we intend to show the tremendous contribution women make to society.”

Ambrose-Black added also that Invest SVG is hoping that at the end of the project, the participants would have become empowered and be able to make an even bigger contribution to the economic development of the country.

The project is hoping to establish self-help groups and train women in teamwork, conflict resolution, good manufacturing practices, project management techniques, business management skills and accounting.

Ambrose-Black added that after training, persons can apply for grant funding or small loans, but must show proper accounting practices, among other things.

“We are here to help you. Invest SVG will assist with project proposals and help source funding, but you must take the training serious,” said Ambrose-Black, who added that the possibility exists that the women could have some of their products displayed in Milan, Italy at Expo Milan.

Expo Milan takes place in Milan, Italy from May 1 to October 31, 2015 and has as its main theme “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.” Attendees at the Expo are expected to include over 140 countries, plus a significant number of international organizations.

She further noted that this project is viewed as the first phase for the further development for rural women.

“It is anticipated that as a mechanism of sustainability, an arrangement has been made with the Ministry of Agriculture to have ongoing training in Group Dynamics, Good Manufacturing Practices, Project Management Systems and ultimately Food Technology,” said Ambrose-Black.

Speaking at the gathering in Sans Souci, Minister of Agriculture Saboto Caesar said that they will be attempting to help the South Rivers group improve their plantain chips production, while the North Union group will focus on producing local juices and the packaging of spices.

He added that the intention “is for us to strengthen existing groups.” He said that the Orange Hill group produces some of the best quality plantain chips.

“Our main objective is to reduce the quantity of imports,” noted Caesar, while stressing that although we produce chips locally, there are still quite a few imports coming from places like Costa Rica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica.

“While I do not have anything against these countries, they are a part of Caricom, but we have to try to see what we can produce locally.”

He added that through the project, he is hoping that the food processors can eventually connect directly with farmers.

Caesar noted also that the women would get financial help through a grant and the Farmers’ Support Programme can assist the groups with loans of two per cent, $5,000 – $10,000 per group.

“We need to connect the agricultural groups. There will be another project where we are looking to introduce cassava, eddo, sweet potato and banana flour,” said Caesar, who noted that the ‘Rural Women’s Development and Empowerment Project’ is also looking at things like machinery.

“Invest SVG was seen over the years as looking for outside investors, but we are now seeing they are helping with investing locally,” noted the Minister.

Meanwhile, Totsie Douglas of Doris Pepper Sauce said that she took over the business after her mother died and she feels good about the assistance being offered.

“I sometimes find it hard to get peppers to do the sauce, so if I get some plants that would help,” said Douglas. Meanwhile, Desreen Gordon, who produces chips, said that at times, the plantains are hard to get, while they also need better marketing to attract more sellers.

“We only have four sellers right now, so if we can get help with marketing that would be good,” said Gordon.

Also present at the meetings were Angenella Young (Invest SVG), Colville King of the Ministry of Agriculture and Kozel Fraser of WINFA.