The Rastafarian Indigenous Village (RIV) in Montego Bay, which is being positioned to become an acceptable international project, is to benefit from a major J$23.65 million financial input from the Government of Jamaica and the World Bank through the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF).
The scope of work for the project includes addressing inadequate and unsuitable accommodation, dilapidated infrastructure, and lack of bathroom facilities at the site.
"The project is now 95 per cent complete," said Stephanie Hutchinson-French, project manager of the Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI) at the JSIF, during a recent tour of the facility by Dr Wykeham McNeill, minister of entertainment and tourism, and a team from his ministry.
Since the facility has started receiving funding to assist with its development, three new cottages, bathroom facilities, including access for the disabled; a museum, a business centre, and a health and wellness facility have been added.
"RIV is considered close to being export market ready because it currently operates tours and is locally registered as a business as well as being licensed by the Jamaica Tourist Board," Hutchinson-French said. "However, several gaps and challenges were identified, which impeded the maximisation of the demand for the tourism product."
Under REDI, which was estab-lished in 2010, the Government is seeking to increase economic opportunities, build social capital, and reduce poverty through increasing income and employment opportunities in agriculture and tourism in rural communities. At RIV, new facilities are being introduced and existing infrastructure upgraded. Guides are also being trained.
The 25 direct beneficiaries at RIV are persons involved in the tour of the village as employees. These include two groundspersons, two chefs, five drummers, four tour guides, two security personnel, eight artisans, and two administration personnel.
RIV began operation in 2008 and is registered as a limited-liability company. Currently, there is an average of three tours a week to the village. To date, tourists from over 50 countries have visited the location.
"The tours, which are interactive, start with a walk through the river. The experience offers visitors the chance to meet the people and experience and enjoy roots and culture presentations on the history of the Rastafarian movement in Jamaica," Hutchinson-French said.
The contribution of the Rastafari Africa Hall Benevolent Society to the current development was 17.25 per cent of total project cost, largely representing property value. The JSIF investment of approximately $18 million was used to construct the cabins and bathroom facilities, a craft kiosk, a multi-purpose area to be used for conference meetings and yoga sessions, an interactive multi-media museum, as well as signage and other marketing material.
"Improvements contemplated include introducing visitors to 'ital' cuisine, exposure to a herbal garden tour, and information on traditional herbal remedies," said Hutchinson-French. "Other proposed components of the tours are a drumming session in which visitors are encouraged to talk about their own culture."