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By Giff Johnson

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (July 2, 1999 - Marshall Islands Journal)--- Funding for small-scale development projects on remote atolls in the Marshall Islands has been small to non-existent. But a new revolving development fund is in the process of being established that will offer outer islanders access to small amounts of seed funding in an effort to spur improvements on the dozens of remote outer lying atolls in this watery nation.

The Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority is spearheading the establishment of a revolving development fund, but said MIMRA Director Danny Wase, the fund will not be restricted to fisheries projects.

Donors, including the Asian Development Bank and the Japanese Overseas Fisheries Cooperation Foundation (OFCF), have expressed interest in the plan and are currently reviewing it with a view toward contributing capital to an investment fund that will produce interest for the development fund, according to Wase.

He said that MIMRA is prepared to launch the fund using MIMRA's internal funding resources initially, but will continue pushing for support from larger off-island donors. Marshalls' fisheries revenues more than doubled last year from a huge increase in the number of Taiwan, Japan and Korean purse seiners buying licenses, providing MIMRA with start-up capital for the outer islands fund.

The concept behind the fund is to start small -- in the range of $100,000 annually for the first several years -- and build confidence in the fund by having its management contracted to a "reputable local institution" to assess grant applications and administer funding.

A MIMRA report said that the College of the Marshall Islands Land Grant program, in conjunction with the Ministry of Internal Affairs, has been operating for the past two years a successful small-scale grants program similar in nature to the revolving fund plan -- and MIMRA is looking at the possibility of Land Grant administration of the new fund.

Wase pointed out that the college and MIMRA are already cooperating in a related project of hiring an extension agent for fisheries, who will support outer islands activities of the fund as well as teach at the college. The University of Hawai‘i Sea Grant program, with funding from the Department of Interior, is in the process of recruiting this fisheries technical advisor to work in the Marshalls.

This new extension agent will "assist MIMRA in developing guidelines for the small scale development fund," Wase said.

The Marshall Islands Journal, Box 14, Majuro, Marshall Islands 96960 E-mail: Subscriptions (weekly): 1 year US $87.00; international $213.00 (air mail).

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