Tue | Sep 26, 2017

JN offers loans to farmers to tackle climate change

Published:Sunday | January 1, 2017 | 1:00 AMChristopher Serju
Farmers in a potato field.

The effects of climate change have begun to negatively affect farming in Jamaica and to that end JN Small Business Loans is providing financing to farmers to help them put in place the necessary measures to cope with and adapt to the situation.

"Climate change has been affecting everybody, but more so persons who are engaged in farming and tourism related activities," said communications and client services manager at JN Small Businesses Loans (JNSBL), Jacqueline Shaw Nicholson.

"We have seen farmers in our portfolio struggling through extended periods of drought. Persons who offer services in terms of tourism, recreational activities, and so on are also affected, for example, where green areas, due to drought conditions look very brown and dry, and so it may be costing more to hydrate those areas," she said.

Nicholson said most persons do not attribute climate change to those challenges. However, they know the time is hotter or dryer, or when the rain falls, it is extremely heavy.

Taking these factors into consideration, JNSBL designed a package to assist especially farmers as well as persons those involved in tourism to implement new systems and techniques to be resilient to climate change.

It is also designed for persons who may have already taken some steps but need additional support to complete the system or systems.

In addition, it will facilitate persons who may be not be aware of what they can do or are probably just coming into the knowledge that there are things that can and should be done but lack funding.

It is targeted to persons, for example, who want to put in rainwater harvesting systems or ponds or something more sophisticated such as construction of green houses, or systems to provide alternate sources of power such as solar energy for a large chicken coop to help drive down the electricity cost.

JNSBL has taken into account many different purposes for which applicants may seek financing in order to make their operations more resilient to climate change.

"Farmers should seek to implement climate smart agriculture techniques, whatever the need, and JN is equal to the task, not just by providing the money, but in offering guidance as well," said Nicholson.

"Probably it's a change of water pumps to some energy-efficient types, so it's putting our farmers in a position where they can afford or better afford to implement these systems and to increase their resilience," she explained.

The climate smart loan ranges from a minimum of $200,000 to $5 million at interest rate as low as of four per cent per annum on the reducing balance.

To qualify, borrowers do not have to hold a JN account, but Nicholson is encouraging persons who do not to open one once they have been approved for a loan.

She said the JN account is used for loan disbursements and to encourage savings, which also opens the door for other benefits. However, borrowers can receive their disbursements, depending on the size of the loan, either through a JN account or through another bank account. The purpose of the loan will help to determine the channel of disbursement chosen, Nicholson said.

PLAN REQUIRED

She said farmers are required to submit a plan along with their application.

"We would look at the plan and take steps to ensure that what they are doing is adequate or suitable for their operations," she said.

"We would go through with them whether or not it's best suited for their operations, or should they be looking at something else. We have trained farmers on staff and have also exposed some of our team members within JN Small Business Loans to climate smart agriculture training to strengthen our ability to provide that kind of guidance," Nicholson said.

"We will also liaise with the Rural Agricultural Development Authority to get their guidance on whether the project to be financed is suitable for the client's operations," she added.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com