LICU-SSEDAT – Alternative livelihoods for the rural poor!
Despite the economic challenges faced by the sugar industry due to structural reforms in the EU preferential markets, credit unions, rural MSMEs and poor families in northern Belize benefit from grant funding from the Accompanying Measures for Sugar (AMS) programme financed by the European Union.
LICU – Small Scale Enterprise Development in Agriculture and Tourism for the Orange Walk and Corozal Communities (LICU-SSEDAT)
Executive Summary of the Action
This project was executed over a period of thirty (30) months from December 31, 2008 to June 30, 2010.
La Inmaculada Credit Limited (LICU), as the lead partner, and Saint Francis Xavier Credit Union Limited (SFXCU), as the supporting partner, vied for and were awarded grant funding of EURO 229,997.79 for the implementation of this action. Total cost of the project was estimated at EURO 308,477.98.
The overall objective of this grant programme was to reduce poverty through promoting the development of sustainable livelihood options in order to improve the living standard of the rural populations in the sugar belt of Northern Belize.
The purpose of the project was to improve the standard of living of the rural population through grant funding to promote enterprise development among low income households, groups and individuals in the rural communities of the sugar belt. The action consisted of four component objectives that would together advance the development of small-scale enterprises in the northern districts of Belize; these were:
- to develop a non-traditional agricultural crop system network
- to develop a small scale livestock industry network
- to develop an inland small-scale fish farming industry network; and
- to develop a traditional/non-traditional arts & craft trade network
Four (4) Component Objectives
These 4 component objectives would be achieved through the following broad activities:
- Activity A: Grant funding for Micro and Small Enterprise (MSE) Development – Groups
- Activity B: Micro-Grants for the Poor
- Activity C: Institutional Strengthening and Capacity Building; and
- Activity D: Project Management, Visibility and Promotion.
A Project Steering Committee (PSC) was formed to establish the guiding policies, priorities and strategies of the action. This PSC was chaired by the General Manager of La Inmaculada Credit Union and had the participation of staff members of LICU; SFXCU; staff of the Agriculture Department for Orange Walk and Corozal; and, the Rural Development Department for both districts. A Project Coordinating Unit (PCU) was established and housed in the second floor of LICU and staffed with a Project Coordinator and an Administrative Assistant. A Service Provider (also part of the PCU) was retained on an as-needed basis.
The project officially opened its doors to the public on April 1, 2009 and commenced implementation with an aggressive sensitization campaign on the proposed action, openly inviting interested individuals, rural groups, CBO’s, youth and women’s groups to visit the Secretariat to learn more about the project. Applications were made available to the general rural public to apply for micro-grant or MSE funding through the Secretariat, the Agriculture Department, the credit unions, and the Rural Development Department.
A total of 488 applications were received for micro-grant funding and 55 for MSE grants. These applications were carefully and objectively evaluated by the PSC complemented by on-site visits by a technical sub-committee to verify and validate information.
Ten (10) MSE projects were implemented during the course of the action for a total value of BZ $176,073.47 and are currently positively affecting three hundred seventy four (374) final beneficiaries; creating varying levels of employment for seventy five (75) persons; and, creating at least six (6) networks of suppliers, service providers, intermediaries, and final consumers. All MSE grants were implemented and financed on a supervised basis disbursing material inputs, supplies and equipment only. There were no cash disbursements.
Seventy seven (77) families received micro-grant funding, also in the form of materials and supplies, for a value totalling BZ $106,725.84; creating varying levels of employment for one hundred eighty seven (187) persons; and positively impacting three hundred eighty two (382) final beneficiaries. As in the case of MSE grants, there were no cash disbursements.
Under the capacity building component, thirty (30) training sessions were held during the duration of the action and had the participation of four hundred and eighty nine (489) participants. Trainings were held in topics such as Small Business Management, Basic Record Keeping, and Budgeting. Other technical and more specific training sessions were held on small livestock management, plantain production and tilapia fish farming. The project is proud to have introduced into the country of Belize one of the newer technologies in fish farming – the use of above-ground polyethylene tanks for more intensive fish production. Two field working visits were carried out to a local tilapia production unit and to tilapia and horticultural producers in Mexico.
At the credit union level, this project provided them with the unique opportunity of enhancing their capacities in areas such as project management, outreach and inclusion, European Union funding procedures, and institutional networking. This action also served to re-affirm the EU, LICU and SFXCU’s commitment and social responsibility.
Eighteen (18) major visibility actions promoting and fostering the European Union and the credit unions’ collaborative efforts in the sustainable development of northern Belize were conducted. The LICU-SSEDAT project was one of the first projects of this magnitude to be implemented by LICU as the lead partner and quickly became a household name. LICU Board of Directors, Officers, Management and Staff were all closely involved and provided full support to all activities undertaken. Due to its high rate of success, the management of LICU aggressively and enthusiastically pursued a continuation of this action and is now implementing the on-going LICU-SSEDAT II project.