In red shirt- Agriculture Minister Austrie
In red shirt- Agriculture Minister Austrie

Still suffering from the storm that destroyed almost all farm production, the agricultural sector received a big boost last week with the official opening of an EC$68 million project.

Funded by the World Bank and called the "Dominica Emergency Agricultural Livelihoods and Climate Resilience Project" (DEALCRP), the programme hopes to restore the damage caused by Hurricane Maria in September 2017.

"This project will contribute directly to the new vision of agriculture in Dominica," said Agriculture Minister Reginald Austrie. "Developing resilient agriculture; building transformative capacity; repositioning agriculture; institutional strengthening; developing policies and modernization toward an agriculture that will increase farm productivity, and overall climate resilience of the country's agriculture and food systems".

Austrie said the 2017 category five hurricane destroyed an estimated 80 to 100 % of root crops, vegetables, bananas and plantains and 90 % of tree crops; livestock losses were estimated to be 45 % of cattle, 50 % of small ruminants, 65 % of pigs and 90 % of chicken stock.

In total, damages were estimated at US$179.6 million. The fisheries sector lost about 370 vessels.

Thus the project aims at: the restoration of the productive base for the recovery of agricultural livelihoods with an amount of US $12.7 million (EC$34 million); restoration of key productive infrastructure and livestock and forestry, with an amount of US$10.2 million (EC$27.540 million); project management and coordination, an amount of US$2.1 million (EC$5.690); and contingency emergency response, requested upon emergency declaration by Government of Dominica.

Austrie said about 4,000 farmers and fisher folk will receive support from the DEALCRP. Eligible farmers, to include crop farmers, livestock, and fishers as well as canoe and boat builders, will receive support from the project.

To be eligible crop farmers should be involved in farming either on a full-time basis or part-time and crop production should be a major source of income. This also includes public officers," said Austrie.

"One of the criteria from the World Bank for accessing the programme is what is referred to as an 'expression of interest' in that you must express interest in the programme. In other words you must apply to participate. The only way to receive assistance from this programme is to apply. The extension, livestock and fisheries officers have been trained and will assist in filling out the required forms. Only the expected beneficiary can signed the expression of interest form".

Government has established a Project Implementation Unit (PIU) within the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Production and Fisheries to coordinate the day-today management and execution of the project. It is being headed by Agriculturist Kervin Stephenson.

On staff are the following: a project manager, a procurement officer, an administrative officer, an environmental safeguards specialist, a social development and safeguards specialist, an M&E specialist, a finance officer, a communications officer and technical officers in agriculture, forestry and fisheries.