The Network of Rural Women, a non-governmental organisation, is seeking assistance to continue its work of entrepreneurial development with women.
The group’s president Gia Gaspard-Taylor told Sunday Newsday that the challenges of the covid19 pandemic has forced them to search for assistance and funding in order to continue the programme.
Prior to the pandemic, she said with the activities held throughout the country, which attracted people from the region and internationally, they were able to be self-sustainable.
But as covid19 restrictions were imposed, those activities were shut down, work stopped, and with subscriptions unpaid, the network has been unable to help those in need.
Gaspard-Taylor said, “We always had the support of the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries as well as the Ministry of Gender Affairs however, we never had need as we do now. Now the need is there because of the pandemic.
“So many months have gone by, and members have been unable to earn and not being able to earn means that they have not been able to pay their membership dues. We had needs before but not as critical as it is now.
Gaspard-Taylor said one of their most successful outdoor events — the mango festival — which garnered a wide range of support, including finances, had to be cancelled for a second time
“Last year we had something online but this year we would not be able to because we had put out more than we earned, so it was not fruitful for the organisation.
“We restructured it and thought that we should focus more on training and do most of it online but that did not work. We are disappointed because the activities we created for online had a number of interests from abroad.”
The event which has been in existence for almost 13 years and had been able to garner support from the wider Caribbean region, as well as internationally, including the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture and United Nations.
“We still have the members, we still have the ideas, we still have the skills training and training materials, but we need the funding. Right now, we are operating on funds from the United Nations which cannot be used for other programmes.”
She said the mango festival brought out the potential of mangoes in creating opportunities for earning and the need arose for education and the opportunity to develop additional products.
“The benefits of the mango festival would be to showcase the value of the mango and the things in our environment to help us earn a living. People have been able to develop programmes and their own entrepreneurial interests.
“The mango festival has potential to generate vast income annually just like other national festivals. In fact, we have a proposal which was presented to various ministries in 2010 but it did not get off the ground.”
Gaspard-Taylor said their participants were mainly women who used the opportunities to develop new skills, generate incomes and develop businesses.
Nolana Lynch, founder of eco truffles was one such person who benefitted from the NGO and the mango festival. Eco truffles produces all-natural and organic products from fruits such as avocadoes, mangoes and other Caribbean ingredients.
Sunday Newsday attempted to reach Lynch who currently lives in Australia but was unable to. Gaspard-Taylor said Lynch’s experience with the NGO started when she attended the University of the West Indies.
In short video last year, which was uploaded on the NGO’s Facebook page, Lynch said the event opened avenues for her to expand her business.
“I found out about the mango festival in 2012 and just had to get involved. We were able to participate in conferences such as the Caribbean agriculture week and Carifesta in Suriname.
“I was also able to win the Commonwealth Youth Award for excellence in development in the Caribbean and Americas category,” Lynch said.
The experience that the NGO and the festival provided, she said enabled her business to soar, increase sales and grow.