Public/Private Partnership Provides Low-Cost Capital to Fund Businesses in Jamaica
To combat the high unemployment and social decay surrounding its facilities in Jamaica, Alcoa’s Jamalco operations partnered with Alcoa Foundation and local nonprofit organizations to provide low-cost capital to area residents to start or expand businesses and restore mined lands to productive use.
The Jamalco Entrepreneurial Development Programme (JEDP) consists of a US$250,000 revolving loan fund created through grants from Alcoa Foundation and Jamalco. The fund—the first of its kind in Jamaica—provides capital to groups of five to 10 people. Requiring groups rather than individuals to apply for the low-cost loans spreads the benefits, spawns a business culture, and facilitates the forging of community partnerships. A percentage of the interest paid by the participants is returned to the fund to ensure its growth and sustainability.
The C&WJ Credit Union vets project proposals, visits the project sites, determines the most viable projects, and monitors their progress. Successful applicants receive a loan up to US$5,500 and are required to develop business plans and undergo mandatory small business training that is conducted through the United Way of Jamaica. The training includes business plan preparation, basic project management, marketing and sales, bookkeeping, and group dynamics.
From June 2011 through October 2012, 42 groups totaling 210 people received loans. Projects included poultry and pig rearing and the farming of peppers, tomatoes, and peppermint.
A second component of the JEDP is the Mocho Greenhouse Project, which was developed in partnership with Alcoa Foundation, USAID, Food for the Poor, and the HEART Trust/National Training Agency. This initiative, conducted on land mined and rehabilitated by Jamalco, is introducing greenhouse and other advanced farming technology to local farmers. The Mocho Community Council, which operates the greenhouses, received a US$5,500 loan through JEDP to assist farmers who choose to start a greenhouse farming business.
Through October 2012, almost 18 hectares (44 acres) of mined land have been restored to productive agricultural use. Some 40 hectares (99 acres) have also been leased to farmers who are growing a variety of crops.