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American Red Cross launches $3M program to benefit P.R.’s small farmers

The American Red Cross will invest $3 million to provide micro-grants to 450 farmers on the island and educate them on how to best prepare for an upcoming disaster event.

This project, called “Recuperación Agrícola” (Agricultural Recovery,) is part of its post-storm recovery initiatives, and is developed with the support of the Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust.

“With the interest of supporting and encouraging local production, our organization has decided to invest in working with small farmers, so they can begin to develop their crops again. This program is different because it only requires our farmers to provide basic documentation to benefit from it,” said  Lee Vanessa Feliciano, regional executive of the American Red Cross, Puerto Rico Chapter.

“With this effort we seek to promote greater food security and sovereignty in Puerto Rico to be prospectively more resilient in the face of disasters,” she said.

The program’s goal is to increase sales of local agricultural products, provide training for business development, education in disaster preparedness and agroecological agriculture conservation practices.

The project lasts 18 months and will focus on land crops, women, veterans and agroecological farms, organizers said.

“This program is unique and powerful because it facilitates the increase of agricultural activity in volume and diversity, a vital task for economic development,” said Science Trust CEO Lucy Crespo.

”It is integrated and holistic, through the entire chain of added value that it includes, because it helps farmers in their daily tasks, offers training, links with markets and novel elements such as mapping,” she said.

The program was announced at an event at Finca Los Rivera at Barrio Montones in Las Piedras owned by farming entrepreneur Genoveva Lozada, president of Mujeres Agro Empresarias of Puerto Rico, and with the collaboration of the Municipality of Las Piedras and its Mayor Miguel “Mickey” Lopez.

“It is a great satisfaction to see that after the visits of the American Red Cross staff and after listening to the great need of the small farmers after Maria, they decided to include us farmers in this recovery program for the island,” said Lozada, president of the entity that groups more than 300 women farmers on the island.

Following Hurricane María, the American Red Cross began the long-term recovery program in Puerto Rico. This program consists of four key areas: community resilience, constant energy, clean water and community health.

Other project collaborators include: La Guagua Solidaria, AgroInnova, America for Conservation and Arts in Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico Department of Agriculture and The Caribbean Center for Climate Change, among others.

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