SIDF pumps EC$22 million in four projects including 113-acre Cappisterre Farm in the foothills of Belmont Estate

Acres of peanuts planted on the 113-acre at the Cappisterre Farm, Belmont Estate, St. Kitts

ST. KITTS, NOVEMBER 13TH 2010 (CUOPM) – The Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation (SIDF) has committed approximately EC$22 million assist former workers in the sugar industry grow the agricultural sector, value added industries and revitalize rural development.

The Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation (SIDF) was established for the purpose of supporting the former sugar workers, conducting research into the development of industries to replace the sugar industry, funding the development of these alternative industries and providing further support to secure the sustainability of such industries, as outlined in the original draft of its articles. The initial and main source of funding ongoing was indentified from the government’s citizenship programme.

Four projects – the Agricultural Training for Employment Project, the Agricultural Diversification Fund, a 113-acres Cappisterre Farm in the foothills of Belmont Estate and the Agriculture Resource Management Project – combined support training and promote sustainable employment in non-sugar agriculture have received approved funding by the SIDF mainly in primary agricultural enterprises with new enterprises emerging with linkages to the tourism sector, and value added products with a focus on fruit juices, dehydrated fruits and vegetables for the local market.

It is anticipated that by the end of 2010, an additional 35 percent of local demand for fruit juice and beverages, will be met through local production.

The investment by the SIDF has seen agricultural production moved from 4.78 percent of the GDP with sugar production included in 2005 to 4.56 percent in 2009, excluding sugar.

This shows an almost 100 percent increase in agricultural growth over a five-year period through funding support from the SIDF.

SIDF has allocated EC$4 million in the Agricultural Training for Empowerment Project since January 2008 in which some 189 persons have received training in crop production, livestock production, fish product development, the growing of ornamental flowers, landscaping and golf course maintenance. A life skills component and entrepreneurial skills module were also included in the training.

The three-year training programme in non-sugar agricultural techniques in farming was designed for 100 participants. The project allowed for trainees to graduate from the training at various stages and move into employment. This allowed others to join the programme. An additional 25 persons were added to the programme in March 2009 for training in ornamental flower production, landscaping and golf course maintenance. The funding has been used solely to pay stipends to trainees.

Graduates of the programme are being prepared as farm managers and supervisors, farm-hands and as self-employed farmers. The project has also led to the establishment of cluster farms and farmers’ cooperatives and collectives that yield employment and incomes for graduates. At the close of the programme participants will graduate to cluster farms at Ogees, Sir Gilles, Estridge and Belmont while others will remain as employees on farms to which they were attached for training.

The Agricultural Diversification Fund has been allocated EC$2 million of which EC$1.75 million has been received by the Development Bank of St. Kitts and Nevis. Of that amount EC$1.58 million has been approved and EC$1.49 million has been disbursed.

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