Agriculture gets new lease of life


The $3 million loan, which is expected to strengthen the agricultural sector, is intended to kick-start the five-year revival plan known as the Competitive Local Innovations for Small-Scale Agriculture (Clissa) project.

The new project, which will be implemented by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Industry (MNRI), will focus on the improved production of fresh vegetables and fruits, and improving the quality of organic food, small livestock, pork and fish, for both local consumption and potential development for export markets. It will then link smallholder farmers to the hotel and restaurant industry through public-private partnerships.

The project is also aiming to up employment numbers in the sector, and the principal secretary at the MNRI, Michael Nalletamby, said he wants to rid young people of the perception that working in the agricultural sector is only for unskilled labourers.

“As technology improves, agriculture becomes more technical, and there is a need for qualified people to look at new ways to maximise production and make the best use of our limited land resources,” said Mr Nalletamby.

Mr Nalletamby said that projects to improve access to water and irrigation for farmers would also be considered a priority but he said that $3 million was a small amount to work with on such a broad scope.

“There is no specific target for the funds. What we need to do is prioritise the actions that need to be taken to improve the sector as a whole,” he said.

“For example, many farmers do not have access to water or facilities to store water, so we need to look at ways we can assist them with that.”

The principal secretary said he estimated the project’s implementation phase would begin in the fourth quarter of this year, and said a lot of work still had to be done to decide where and how to disburse the funds.

 “Once the loan funds are released from Ifad to the Central Bank, we still have a lot of work to do. We have to submit a work plan, recruit staff, launch the project, provide training and also set up an agreement with the financial institution that will be disbursing the loans to clients.”

The MNRI is also receiving technical assistance from Ifad, who sent an assessment team to Seychelles last year to identify where and how the funds could be used to maximum effect.

The United Nations-based organisation’s mandate is to eradicate rural poverty and improve food security in developing countries through the provision of agricultural development finance.

The loan is expected to be repaid within the next 15 years at an interest rate of 0.9% and some of the loan funds will be made available to rural farmers as microfinance loans through local financial institutions.

The government of Seychelles will be expected to cover the cost of all staff salaries, accommodation and utilities for the project management unit as well as all taxes and duties on imported goods.