I was in Jamaica to attend the Climate Investment Funds (CIF) Partnership Forum and decided to participate in a session called Fighting Climate Change through Entrepreneurship in the Caribbean, hoping to pick some fellow colleagues brains and discuss some synergies in our work. Just in time when a gracious lady opened her presentation with the following words:
“I’m a farmer, I’m an entrepreneur, I’m an Environmental Specialist, and I’m a woman.”
And just like that Shirley Lindo, a Jamaican entrepreneur who has faced first-hand the ongoing spiral of high prices, climate vulnerability and economic distress that affects many Jamaicans today, caught my attention.
Her story started more than ten years ago when she first began processing castor oil in her own land. While the demand for the oil was increasing, the process to produce it was taking a toll on her land and her pocket. Long after struggling with many challenges, she came up with the idea to produce biomass briquette from castor shell waste and use it to heat and replace firewood, a more sustainable and cleaner way to cook and continue her production. What a simple but outstanding idea!
However, her next challenge was to access funds to finance such idea and scale it. How would she convince commercial banks that her idea was marketable and commercially viable? Many farmers, entrepreneurs, local community leaders are asking themselves the same question going through one “No” to the next “No” with their local financial institutions while problems keep piling up and the financing gap remains yet to be filled.
While Shirley was lucky to access financing from World Bank’s Caribbean Climate Innovation Center, it struck me the urgent and growing demand for development banks to partner up, replicate successful programs, exchange ideas and come up with innovative solutions. In responding to that demand, the IDB itself, under Jamaica’s Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR), is actively working in the design of financial mechanisms such as credit lines for local commercial banks to facilitate farmers and entrepreneurs like Shirley with the right economic and technical resources to develop their ideas and achieve growth.
As a woman myself working in development, I feel inspired by people like Shirley to double my own efforts in helping design and develop the right instruments to support local indigenous practices and facilitate the right financial support to help farmers access new technology and develop best practices to take advantage of a country rich in resources but highly vulnerable to climate change.
While governments wrap their heads around the right policy, there is an impending need to have initiatives in place to help entrepreneurs and support our own brothers and sisters from all across Latin America and the Caribbean. If we do not work towards this ultimate goal, developing countries such as Jamaica will continue drowning into poverty and climate vulnerability, and as Shirley says, Jamaica Nuff problem mon! It’s time to act!
* Anaitee Mills works as a consultant for the Climate Change and Sustainability Division of the IDB and is based in Kingston, Jamaica.
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