In the face of criticisms about the slow rate of implementation of projects under the Climate Smart Agriculture and Rural Enterprise Programme (SAEP) by senior government minister Claudette Joseph, the head of the outfit Byron Campbell has come out in defence of its performance in recent years.
Speaking to THE NEW TODAY, Campbell admitted that there has been only a 37% implementation rate of projects as stated by the island’s Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs under his tenure but the reason for the low success is due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic over a two-year period in the country.
He felt that Sen. Joseph should have gone further than just make a blanket statement on the low implementation rate and put into proper context the reasons for the low implementation rate of projects.
“It is unfair to the project to make such a statement without providing no context for it. Personally I was disappointed. I heard it (the statement from the minister) but I made no comment (at the time).
“We lost over two-and-a-half years of implementation time due to the Covid so our staff could not implement. There was no contact (with people) and that’s the fundamental reason for this. It’s not for non-performance – slow implementation rate yes but that is a fact.
“This is not infrastructure – bridges and walls that we are building – we are interfacing with people, working with people in rural communities and if there is a Covid, there is a lockdown – it means that we were unable simple.
Campbell also pointed to a mid-term review conducted by one of the major funding agencies which reported that due to the years of Covid “the project was unable to do its implementation.”
“That’s the fundamental reason – no other reason and I make no other excuse for it. It is something beyond the capability and competences of the staff,” he remarked.
According to Campbell, there is “a young professional staff in place” at SAEP and he has confidence in them.
“The project has done very well. We have trained hundreds of persons in CVQ, we have been able to employ more than the project projected in this area. We have trained over 400 to 500 young people also in small business Development. We have provided hundreds of grants in small businesses,” he said.
“We have touched so much lives throughout the island. The impact this has made with young people in Grenada is just amazing – so nobody is reporting that,” he added.
Referring to SAEP as a very large project with a budget of US$14 million, Campbell disclosed that they are currently looking at getting an extension of the project because of the way in which it was affected by Covid.
The head of the project stressed that he is very much committed to reaching the targets that were set from the onset of the programme.
He said: “We do have a lot of targets to meet in the short-term and I have a staff of over 30 young people – and they are working hard at it – I can tell you that – (am) very proud of them.”
In addition, he said that SAEP has also been affected by the kind of co-operation given by various government ministries and departments during the period.
“That is a fact also. We do hope that we can get more of that,” he remarked.
Campbell pointed to the existence of Memorandum of Understandings (MOU) in place to execute projects with the Ministry of Carriacou & Petite Martinique Affairs, Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture, and the Ministry of Gender Affairs.
He said that all of these ministries play an important role in the execution of the projects.
“We work (through MOU’s) with TAMCC, NEWLO, the Grenada National Training Agency, GIDC is one of the implementing partners in which the project provides over $7.8 million where a Resource Centre is operating in Seamoon with Business Development officers. It is quite an extensive project,” he said.
SAEP is a six (6) year Programme (2018- 2024) funded by the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD), Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the Government of Grenada.
It is part of the Rural Development Unit of the Ministry of Finance and focuses on assisting beneficiaries to improve their livelihoods through skills training, investments in agriculture, teaching Climate Smart Practices and providing Business Skills Training and Technical services to Rural Enterprises in the rural communities throughout the island.
Under its mandate, Business Support, Entrepreneurial Skills Training and Financing will be offered through the Grenada Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) and Vocational Skills Training for young people will be provided through the T.A. Marryshow Community College, NEWLO and Grenada National Training Agency in approved training centers island wide.
The project is also committed to providing extension support, training in Climate Change and Climate Smart Agriculture and financing for CSA initiatives to be facilitated through the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, Ministry of Climate resilience and Ministry of Carriacou and Petite Martinique Affairs, as well as Market Support Services to farmers through a Marketing Officer, and contracting for the construction or rehabilitation of rural farm access roads and the rehabilitation of irrigation systems for farmers.