Twenty young entrepreneurs from communities within the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park are to benefit from $1 million in grant funding to enhance their operations.
The support is being provided by the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport under an initiative to assist residents of Portland, St. Andrew and St. Thomas to tap into the business and income-generating potential of the World Heritage Site.
The beneficiaries, who operate small ventures in agriculture, craft, commodities, gastronomy (indigenous food preparation), and tourist attractions, will receive $50,000 each as well as mentorship from the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) and Jamaica National Foundation Social Enterprise Boost Initiative (JN SEBI).
Director of Cultural Economics and Business Initiatives in the Ministry, Tafari Burns, told JIS News that the entities will work with the grant recipients to ensure wise and smart spending of the funds.
JN SEBI will provide training and interaction with the residents, while the JBDC will offer services in areas such as financial management and budgeting for three months, after which it will provide a report to the Ministry.
“We didn’t want to just give the money and leave it. We want to build into the handing over of the grant a sustainable facility where it is beneficially received,” Mr. Burns said.
The beneficiaries are young people, aged 18 to 35, who have already established small businesses and participated in the Blue and John Crow Mountains second economic opportunities workshop held in October 2017. The first set of workshops was staged by the Ministry in May 2016.
They involve collaboration with several public- and private-sector entities, including Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC); Ministry of Tourism; Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo); JBDC; Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA); HEART Trust/NTA; Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF); Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO); Companies Office of Jamaica (COJ); the Small and Medium Enterprises Unit in Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries; and First Heritage Co-operative Credit Union (FHCCU).
Meanwhile, Mr. Burns said it is anticipated that the economic opportunities workshops will be extended to other communities to develop entrepreneurial and commercial activities across the island.
“Soon, it won’t be called the Blue and John Crow Mountains Economic Opportunities Workshop as we are looking to take the support to other communities and indigenous groups in other areas of Jamaica where there is rich history,” he noted.
“There are other maroon communities, in St. Elizabeth, Trelawny, that can benefit from this workshop. Our plan, moving forward, is to take this support to other indigenous groups and cultural practitioners to ensure that they benefit from the information, partnerships and expertise that the Ministry has gathered through our staging of these two workshops,” he added.
The Blue and John Crow Mountains was inscribed on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage List in July 2015.
The National Park is the largest contiguous area of natural forest in Jamaica, protecting 193 acres of forest on mountain slopes, comprising 10 watershed management units spanning four parishes.
The area is renowned for its rich cultural heritage, being home to the Maroons, whose traditions are recognised by UNESCO as masterpieces of world culture.