The Crown is the largest owner of land in Jamaica. The rural areas, especially, have acreages of unused, arable and productive lands. The Government, along with private and social partnerships, could allocate lands to fit and proper participants based on location, proximity to resources and fertility.
The participants would apply for a piece of land to be leased to them at no cost, but they would be required to cultivate the land and keep it clear of all ruminants. If they fail, then they lose the right to the usage of the land.
The participants would be grouped into clusters, who would form a cooperative, which would be guided with practical support from the Rural Agricultural Development Authority, along with the Jamaica Agricultural Society. They would be given assistance in determining the types of crops, planting cycles, technological requirements and demand requirements to ensure the right mix and timing of the crops to maximise profitability and enhance encouragement. We could lean on support from our South American neighbours, such as Costa Rica and Ecuador, where this model has worked successfully.
Industrial farm tools would be owned by a central authority that leases the equipment - tractors, irrigation tools, farming equipment - to each of the cooperatives as is needed. The farmers would be schooled in organic farming, thus eliminating the need for expensive fertiliser and huge start-up costs.
The farm clusters will have a planned crop-planting schedule with a mix of crops. The schedule of planting should be executed to create a cycle of reaping to facilitate a constant source of income.
I would implement an idea that my husband shared in a family meeting to discuss how best our family could contribute to creating a country that works for all Jamaicans, starting where they are at. I would bring together a group of service-minded Jamaicans, who have a track record in creating profitable value-added businesses, to work with individuals in inner-city communities to build community-based businesses. Coming from the shared understanding that, ultimately, we are here to love and serve each other, this team would work with the community members interested in developing themselves to realise their potential, inclusive of their families.
The intention of the plan is to ensure that Jamaicans have the opportunity to be part of a successful business of their choice and are able to provide for themselves and their families with full support from the wider community.
We would, in partnership with the interested community members, develop businesses that are located in inner city or rural communities and employ their residents, who would also be part-owners.
The businesses developed would be provided with the highest level of technical support that we can find internationally, straight through to the point where the companies are viable and self-sustaining. Profits from these companies would be used to provide social support in the communities where they are located, as well as to seed similar enterprises in other communities.
I will take a gendered perspective on rural economic development by submitting that women must be integrally included in the design, allocation, and execution of development projects and programmes. Research has shown that if women are economically and socially empowered, they become an effective and compelling force for development and growth.
Investing in rural women will generate significant improvements in productivity and job creation. The communities will benefit economically when women have access to resources - land, water, irrigation, education, skills training, new technologies, financing at developmental (low) interest rates, access to markets, and strong on-going organisational support.
the biggest contributors to employment, and, therefore, by establishing linkages with our rural women entrepreneurs, we would provide guaranteed access to markets - for example, pepper mash agro-processing with GraceKennedy; creative industries with the tourism sector - providing much-needed jobs and demonstrating the success of the collaboration with the Government, private sector and our rural women entrepreneurs.
To drive economic growth in rural Jamaica, it is critical that serious attention be paid to the development of high-quality physical infrastructure. There needs to be significant investments in the road network, utilities such as a high-quality water system, information and communication technology systems, and stable electricity supplies, among other areas. These will lay the foundation for private investments, which will eventually translate into economic growth and job creation.
Further, there has to be focused attention on getting more persons from rural Jamaica into the tertiary-education system. Greater efforts at establishing tertiary educational institutions in rural areas should be a priority. Having more persons from rural areas with tertiary education and training will help to improve their marketability and job-readiness for an increasingly knowledge-based economy.
Also, we cannot ignore the natural endowments in rural Jamaica, i.e. land and agricultural development. Modern agriculture can play a significant role in spurring economic growth and job creation in rural Jamaica. The agro-parks model, with modern agricultural practices at its core, can be an important stimulus to economic growth in rural Jamaica.
I would first support entrepreneurship, as without it, other factors of development will fail. This does not mean bringing in human capital or investment from outside, but instead, it is based on creating and implementing government policies that stimulate rural entrepreneurial talent. This, in turn, would create jobs and add economic value to the community.
Our funding agencies do not often understand where entrepreneurship comes from and, therefore, funding opportunities are not always available to individuals. Funding programmes have to be able to take the risk along with those seeking investment.
Along with the courage to invest, the Government would have to concentrate on the inputs into any entrepreneurial process by making them available to these rural areas, such as capital, management, technology, buildings, communications and transportation infrastructure, distribution channels and skilled labour.
Additionally, special support has to be earmarked for women entrepreneurs.