Agriculture and The AID Bank
From the start of operations of the Bank in 1971, 35 years ago, Agriculture was a main pillar on which the Bank was set to make meaningful development contribution to Dominica.
The Bank positioned itself to fulfill its role in this sector by employing staff with an agricultural background, expertise and experience. Every application received for a farming activity that showed potential of contributing to agriculture development was and examined and appraised. Whatever idea passed the test of assessment for its profitable contribution to development was pursued by the Bank. As a result RURAL DEVELOPMENT benefited immensely from the Bank's financing and advice and from staff with technical expertise. Rural incomes rose and numerous persons benefited from improvements in their standards of living.
Dominicans on a whole responded positively to the Bank's mandate of influencing and promoting economic development. Together the Bank and its customers forged ahead determined to push agriculture. Although Banana loans dominated from the beginning there was nonetheless a constant thrust to DIVERSIFY. Activities engaged in were of all sorts, - Livestock and Crop Development, Agro-processing, Horticulture (including flowers) and FISHING.
Numerous ROADS were built in the communities all over Dominica. Roads, to and from the farms, and roads from main roads and secondary roads to the interior were built - new roads and repair or renovation of existing roads and tracks. Wheel tracking of roads was done when it was too expensive to do a complete surfacing. Tarrishing of roads was also a favourite method of surfacing slippery and difficult terrain. Today the Bank and Customers can look back proudly at the efforts and accomplishments. From its early days the Bank was ably supported by its people, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries (including Cooperatives), and a political awareness and push.
As a result of this overall support the Bank was able to grant loans for Cattle, Poultry, Rabbits, Goats and Sheep. At one point officers received an invitation and did visit an applicant interested in raising frogs.
Over the years the Bank has funded projects for Crops of Oranges, Grapefruits, Bayleaf, Tangerines, Pineapples, Yams, Dasheens, Tannias, Pachouli, Peppers, all sorts of Vegetables, Potatoes, Coconuts, Pastures of grass, Flowers, Coffee, Cocoa, Passion Fruits, Aloes, Herbs, Soursop, lumber, charcoal production and the production of mushrooms.
The Bank also provided funding for farm vehicles, which were necessary to ensure transportation to and from the farms. Transportation by sea was also necessary to ensure that farm produce reached the regional markets. This was catered for through loans for cargo vessels.
Farmhouses were built using the Bank's funds and so were Farm sheds and Water cisterns. Other farm structures included housing for livestock.
When technology improved or changed the Bank has been keen to fund these, as in the case of shade or green houses, tillers, tractors, cultivators, brush cutters, chainsaws. Technology has also included the introduction of biogas for production of fuel, the construction of water tanks and equipment for irrigation.
Fishing loans covered boats and motors, as well as all sorts of fishing equipment such as nets, lines, gas and oil and safety equipment. The Bank also ventured out to expand the fishing industry and funded much larger vessels and aquaculture or fresh water fish. Fishing still remains an area with tremendous potential for growth.
Agro processing loans include the production of oil, soap and animal feed, lumber, cassava, herbal teas, copra, banana and plantain chips.
The Bank has also been instrumental in the provision of loans for marketing agricultural produce where hucksters access funds to ship and sell produce in the neigbouring countries.
Land purchase and improvement has similarly been supported with loan funds.
Indeed, this vast array of funding activities over the years, clearly demonstrates the Bank's commitment in accomplishing its purpose of seeking funds and granting loans for the development of Agriculture.
The Bank continues to play its part in the Dominican struggles to ensure the achievement of its objective of earning foreign exchange and conserving it through import substitution, creating employment and uplifting economic and social well being.
Presently all Dominica feels the pinch of economic hard times, the growing global competition and the non protection of produce as in the case of bananas. Whenever there were disasters and hurricanes for instance, the Bank chose the national interest over its own profitability and took measures in granting relief. Loans were consolidated and extended grace periods were given.
But times have so drastically changed that the Bank has to seek to adopt new methods of servicing agricultural loans. The Bank's past efforts appear to be insufficient to deal with today's reality. The Bank seeks to address this challenge by proposing innovative methods of tackling the banana situation. It's tools for dealing with the realities are being sharpened. Computer operations are being updated. New instruments such as the introduction of a data, intelligence, and research units, investment in feasibility studies, forging binding associations with other agricultural interests, linking agriculture projects to tourism and other fields are some of the innovations being emphasized.