Shayal Devi, Monday, November 17, 2014
TWO years ago, small scale sugarcane farmer Ashneel Ram sought financial help to expand his farm.
The 30-year-old applied for assistance through the Empower Pacific Rural Credit Scheme and has moved on to vegetable farming and beekeeping at his residence in Drasa, Lautoka.
"I wanted to earn some other form of income rather than just relying on sugar cane," he said.
Now, he says, the farm is his major source of livelihood for his parents, wife and two children.
About 460 farmers in the Western Division received assistance through the Empower Pacific-operated and EU-funded Rural Credit Scheme.
Scheme manager Mohinesh Reddy said in total, 829 people were assisted since the program began three years ago.
About 369 people were assisted in the Northern Division.
"The average loan was $1250," he said.
"The goal was to provide extra income for families. To get the interest free loan, applicants had to have a business plan and participate in a business training session."
According to Mr Reddy, the scheme was drawing to a close as the last of the loans were issued this month.
"Although the European Union funding for this project has finished, Empower Pacific is examining the possibility of establishing its own similar scheme next year.
"There is a clear need for such schemes. We would like to see some form of loans available to low income families wanting to lift their income through establishing a small business.
"Future scheme would not be limited to those in the sugar industry."