Editor’s note: The following is the third in a series of updates on World Bank-funded programmes initiated in Caricom member states over the last few years.
Jamaica improved the livelihoods of people in rural areas by developing opportunities for more than 19,000 micro- and small-scale rural agricultural producers and tourism services providers. Promoting modern agricultural technologies and practices boosted agricultural productivity by as much as 50 per cent to 400 per cent and increased farm incomes by five to ten times. Upgraded community-based tourism infrastructure and facilities helped to roughly double community tourism traffic, increasing income from two to ten times previous levels. Twenty-two per cent of the 19,000 beneficiaries were younger than 30 years old, and 51 per cent were women.
Although national poverty rates in Jamaica declined from 30.4 per cent in 1989 to 9.9 per cent in 2007, the decline in rural poverty was more modest: from 22 per cent to 15.3 per cent. If Jamaica was to achieve “Developed Country” status, as targeted in the Government of Jamaica’s Vision 2030 plan, development of rural areas needed to keep pace with development in urban areas. The agriculture and tourism sectors held the most significant potential for rural growth and development because of their overall importance to the economy. In 2009, the agricultural sector, while accounting for only 4.8 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), represented an important source of income for the rural population and accounted for 18.4 per cent of total employment. Service sectors, of which tourism is a significant component, accounted for about 75 per cent of GDP.
The bank was well positioned to assist Jamaica in promoting rural growth. Both in Latin America and globally, the World Bank has supported projects to enhance rural growth, particularly by targeting the small farmer and community-tourism sectors; examples include the Colombia Productive Partnerships Support Project I and II, Ecuador Poverty Reduction and Local Rural Development, Vietnam Agriculture Competitiveness Project, and the Ethiopia Tourism Development Project. Looking at these global examples, Jamaica requested bank support for a project to stimulate its own rural economic growth and increase the country’s overall competitiveness. The resulting Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI) project helped rural agricultural producers and tourism product and service providers to create legally recognized rural micro and small enterprises and to link them to markets by: (i) providing financial and technical support to small-scale agricultural and rural tourism enterprises; (ii) assisting in developing critical market-oriented, small-scale infrastructure, marketing, and management; (iii) increasing access to technical innovation and business support services; (iv) enhancing financial management of rural enterprises; and (v) providing technical and environmental skills .development, including disaster mitigation and recovery training.
The REDI project successfully concluded in July 2017 after exceeding most of its targets for improving market access for over 19,000 micro- and small-scale rural producers and tourism service providers. Key results achieved between the project’s implementation in 2010 and its closing in 2017 include the following:
REDI’s productive investments in small-scale agriculture and community tourism delivered significant benefits for participating rural farmers and community tourism service providers, increasing agricultural productivity and tourism sales, raising revenues for rural enterprises, and improving the incomes of farming and tourism members. The project’s design included a component for financing small-scale investments aimed at increasing productivity and incomes for farmers and tourism providers. The increases in agricultural productivity were most clearly demonstrated in the crop (as opposed to animal-raising) agriculture subprojects, where investments in modern agricultural technologies and practices increased yields by as much as 50 to 400 per cent, resulting in farm income gains of five to ten times pre-REDI levels. Subproject investments in upgrading tourism infrastructure and facilities contributed to roughly doubling tourism traffic and increased tourism income from twice to ten times pre-REDI levels.
REDI’s investments in innovations and new technologies likely contributed to changes in the demographic composition of small rural agricultural producers. More young people and women entered the agriculture sector, likely due to changes in perspective and the increased use of labour-saving technologies. The project contributed to changing perceptions of agriculture from a subsistence activity to a business, which in turn attracted more young people into the field (at least in the targeted areas); new technologies that rendered the work less physically arduous encouraged women to take part as well. Data from REDI’s results framework indicate that the project exceeded its targets for participation by youth (22 % versus a target of 11 %) and women (51 % versus a target of 30 %); these results also exceed Jamaica’s national averages for youth and female participation (9 % and 30 %, respectively).
REDI provided technical assistance and training that strengthened the technical and business management capacities of small-scale farmers and community tourism providers. The assistance and training were equally important as the productive investments they accompanied. In the agricultural subprojects, REDI-trained subsistence farmers learned to install, operate, and maintain drip irrigation systems (more than 600 acres), construct and maintain greenhouses (50 per cent more greenhouses and 40 pe crent greater area under protected cultivation), and employ good agricultural practices. In the community tourism subprojects, REDI training enabled community tourism providers to prepare and implement business plans, employ modern business practices (e.g., planning, recordkeeping, marketing), and, eventually, compete in the tourism market with large-scale tourism operators. This included preparing tourism enterprises to make sales calls and participate in fairs where they could showcase their products.
REDI supported business development, including improving access to markets, significantly expanding rural agricultural producers’ and community tourism providers’ commercial opportunities. REDI enabled 86 % of project rural enterprises to increase their access to markets. REDI assisted small-scale agricultural producers to meet the needs of large-scale tourism facilities, replacing their international agricultural imports with domestic production. REDI facilitated access to these agricultural markets by helping producers identify relevant market opportunities for their produce and by connecting producers with purveyors, wholesale marketers, and large-scale tourism buyers. REDI assisted small-scale tourism providers in building their capacity to offer cultural, ecological, and community tourism opportunities to domestic and international tourists — “the real Jamaica” experience, as an alternative to traditional “sun and sand” resort tourism.
REDI showed the potential for economic contributions from small-scale agriculture and community tourism, leading to the government’s increased willingness to support investments in these subsectors. REDI activities helped increase productivity and rural incomes in otherwise stagnant rural subsectors of the Jamaican economy.