With a capital injection of over $8 million in loans to small businesses, over the past decade, Government’s Rural Development Commission (RDC) has worked assiduously to foster entrepreneurial growth in Barbados.
According to Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Erskine Griffith, while the highest percentage of the 965 loans granted so far was for agricultural activity, a substantial amount had been disbursed in support of other entrepreneurial endeavours.
These, he noted, included services in the beauty industry, auto body repairs, vehicle maintenance, graphic designs, child care services and construction, among others. Minister Griffith was at the time addressing the RDC’s 10th Rural Enterprise Showcase at St. Albans Primary School over the weekend.
Citing the unavailability of micro-financing as one of the major constraints to aspiring small business owners, Senator Griffith said the general attitude of the populace was also a contributing factor.
“Traditionally, we have developed a culture whereby persons are taught and believe that it is better to be an employee rather than an employer, or being self-employed,” he explained.
As a consequence, he said Government had made a concerted effort to reverse this attitude by targeting youth through the development of several programmes including the Youth Entrepreneurial Scheme, Project Oasis, the Youth-in-Agriculture and the Land for the Landless.
In this regard, he said Government had just approved the layout for the proposed Home Agricultural Project which would see some 21 greenhouses being constructed for vegetable and herb production. These will be leased to young farmers for training purposes. The project, which is expected to come on stream next year, will be replicated at the Bath Plantation in St. John.
In addition to loan financing, Senator Griffith said the RDC had also made some inroads in the area of training. According to him, since the start of its Micro-Enterprise Development programme, the organisation, in collaboration with the Small Business Association , had provided training to over 3, 800 small entrepreneurs in vital areas.
In fact, he noted that courses were now being offered at 10 strategic venues across the island, in approximately 30 different subject areas including small business management; marketing, business start-up, customer service and computer awareness.
Training and financing apart, Minister Griffith told the over 90 entrepreneurs gathered that there was “no easy road to success for small businesses . . . . It is my belief that once you produce a quality product at a reasonable price, and continue to be innovative in your approach to marketing your products, you will continue to attract customers and your businesses will grow,” he advised.