SVG launches Zero Hunger Trust Fund initiative
April 8, 2016

SVG launches Zero Hunger Trust Fund initiative

The objective of the Zero Hunger Trust Fund is attainable, once the persons entrusted with the responsibility of carrying out the initiative take their jobs seriously.

Also, the quest to eradicate hunger in St Vincent and the Grenadines is both noble and ambitious and comes in the context of a government that is dedicated to eradicating poverty and hunger.{{more}}

Those words are attributed to Minister of Economic Planning, Sustainable Development, Industry, Trade, Information and Labour Camillo Gonsalves.

Gonsalves, speaking on Wednesday, before the Fund’s inaugural meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs conference room, said that many of the policies that the Government has undertaken on a macro level have been geared towards reducing poverty and bringing prosperity to the nation’s people.

Praising the Zero Hunger Trust Fund initiative, which aims, by 2020, to totally eradicate hunger here, Gonsalves stressed that the Government, through organizations like the Ministry of Social Development, has been proactive in the drive to get rid of indigence, poverty, hunger and bad nutrition, through policies like education, housing and employment, as it is fact that these things lead to the reduction of poverty.

“We have made tremendous strides in reducing poverty,” boasted Gonsalves, adding that the Government has also managed to reduce the number of people who are undernourished in the country.

He said that they have achieved these targets through macro level policies, set at the level of government on things like housing and assistance to the poor.

However, said Gonsalves, there is an intractable segment of the country that remains poor, with bad nutrition and therefore are vulnerable, hence the need and importance of the Zero Hunger Trust Fund.

He stressed that apart from being a moral challenge to a government, hunger is also an economic one, as children are affected by hunger and bad nutrition and cannot perform and therefore cannot break the cycle of poverty and are often forced into bad life choices.

Gonsalves noted that the Government is in a unique position to lead the charge and eliminate hunger and undernourishment (in the next five years) by moving from macro policies to granular micro level policies that will cater to individuals.

“We will be able to dig down into individual families to see the issues,” stressed Gonsalves, who noted that the circumstances of each individual and family will be looked at, as the Government has amassed a database, so they know most of the people and areas that are affected.

He noted that while the Zero Hunger Trust Fund will address the issue of jobs, housing and food assistance, “it is not a glorified soup kitchen,” but in some cases will still provide direct help.

The economic planning and sustainable development minister noted, however, that before these things can take root, the Fund will analyse the data they have and come up with a plan to achieve the goal, “with no Vincentian going to bed hungry…it is achievable if we do our jobs.”

Gonsalves noted also that the Fund is supported by an Act of Parliament that provides a structure and guarantees financing to achieve the task. He stressed that while the task is bigger than the money, persons should not be distressed, because of the international focus on reducing poverty. “We believe we will get some help” from friendly governments and organizations like the FAO.

He noted also that there are plans for training and giving people the basic skills necessary to get a job that can in the long run help eliminate some of the problems.

Speaking to the members of the Fund, Gonsalves stressed, “you are at the tip of the spear to slay hunger in St Vincent and the Grenadines…because we are small, we have an excellent opportunity to achieve what is more difficult in a larger country or a country that is now beginning…it is not going to be easy, work and we believe success is in our grasp.”

The first meeting of the Fund saw the coming together of persons directly associated with the Fund, including director of planning and director of the Fund Laura Anthony-Browne, chief executive officer of the Bank of St Vincent and the Grenadines (BOSVG) and chair of the Fund’s board Derry Williams, Ruth Stephens (proprietor and manager of Hotel Alexandrina), Lavinia Gunn (CEO of Mustique Charitable Trust), Pastor Henry Snagg of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church and Georgette Nanton, who works with young people.

The secretariat of the Fund is located in Ministry of Economic Planning and money for the Fund will come from a levy of two per cent that has been placed on mobile telephone calls and international calls, estimated to raise $2.7 million annually.

According to records, over 3,000 people here are in need of help, as they are in extreme poverty and susceptible to hunger.(LC)