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USAID, First Global helping Jamaicans go 'green'

Published:Monday | September 14, 2015 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju

Jamaicans now have access to affordable loan financing to invest in climate-smart agricultural and climate-change mitigation solutions, thanks to a partnership between the United States Agency for International Development Agency (USAID) and First Global Bank.

"Climate change is a part of our reality here in Jamaica, evidenced by shifting weather patterns. First Global has established a reputation as a leader in the environmental arena, and so we are pleased to offer another meaningful financial solution to help Jamaicans live green and to prepare themselves for the risks associated with shifting weather conditions," Courtney Campbell, First Global Bank CEO, said at last Friday's official signing ceremony at its New Kingston head office.

"I'd say this is really critical, especially given where Jamaica is now with the drought. I've been here three and a half years, and I certainly have witnessed it, and so really, there is an imperative to try and get this product out there and get people accessing it, since it unlocks financing for people who do not otherwise have that opportunity," Denise Herbol, USAID mission director, told The Gleaner.

The loan is available in American and Jamaica dollars at a low interest rate, and borrowers have up to 10 years to repay. It is open to individuals, cooperatives and community organisations, which may borrow between US$5,000 and US$100,000, while the loan for small and medium-size enterprises starts at US$100,000 and goes up to US$875,000.

Herbol explained that the management of the funding will be led jointly by USAID Jamaica and its Development Credit Authority Office in Washington, and emphasised that the projects must be related to mitigating the impact of climate change, or to enhancing or initiating climate-smart agricultural systems.

"USAID Jamaica is delighted to be in partnership with First Global Bank to explore new markets in the issuance of loans for energy-driven, climate-smart solutions. USAID supports financial institutions, local development organisations, investors, and individuals to design and deliver investment alternatives in areas such as agriculture, health, environment, small businesses, microfinance housing, water, infrastructure, energy, and education," Herbol said at the signing ceremony.




Peter Lindo, assistant vice-president at First Global Bank, described the loan facility as a game-changer, noting that it moves funding for assistance well beyond the traditional scope of green loans, which are largely centred on renewable-energy systems.

"The loans that we are offering would be, for example, to farmers who are taking any sort of action to mitigate against climate change - the environmental impact of climate change such as drought we are suffering," he said.

" ... If you are doing something like a pool to help you in times of drought, anything like that will qualify. If you [are] doing some sort of hurricane backup system, that sort of thing will qualify - so it is quite broad in its scope."