Sat | Dec 15, 2018

Jacob's Ladder - Example of people power under trying circumstances

Published:Friday | August 3, 2018 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju/Gleaner Writer
Jacob's Ladder
A resident pays close attention to detail while plucking chickens, one of the livestock areas in which the community is self-sufficient, as a result of the reliable source of water.
Jacob’s Ladder has been able to fully utilise this gift of an industrial washer to address laundry issues, now that it has a reliable water source.
A 750,000 gallon water earthen storage pond is one of the main catchment areas which supplies the irrigation needs for the agro forest and other farming operations.
Administrator Deacon Paul C Dunn brings Leonie Barnaby up to speed on the progress of the farming operations at Jacob’s Ladder during a recent tour. Barnaby is chair of the national steering committee of the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme which funded the project to get piped water to the property.
Jacob’s Ladder is home to 95 residents who are cared for by a staff compliment of 125.

The final two-kilometre-drive to get there can be testing to navigate, given the poor road conditions - either a rough and dusty roadway or water-laden potholes - but Jacob's Ladder provides a refreshing example of people empowerment under trying conditions.

Located in Haddon, Moneague, in the parish of St Ann, Jacob's Ladder is one of 13 homes operated by Mustard Seed Communities, a Catholic-run charitable organisation catering to some of Jamaica's less fortunate citizens.

The achievements of the 125 staff members and the 95 physically and intellectually challenged residents are a shining example of what can be accomplished through partnership, faith in God, and the kindness and generosity of individuals and organisations they continue to impress.

"At Jacob's Ladder, we have our talents that God has given us, and we multiplied them. We have not buried them," administrator Deacon Paul C. Dunn told The Gleaner, recently.

The latest endorsement of just how well the organisation has done in this regard is recorded in the final Vulnerability Reduction Assessment by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on one of its projects, which was funded by the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme (GEF SGP).

"The community's vulnerability to climate change impacts had been significantly reduced after the project, with their score for resilience improving 163 per cent, moving from 1.75 (with one being the most vulnerable) to 4.6 (with five being the least vulnerable)," the UNDP noted.

This indicates that the group is far less vulnerable, and, therefore, more resilient to the impacts of climate change based on the measures they have implemented and their overall approach to how they farm and the types of crop they now produce," the agency added.

As a result of the 25-month project, which ran from October 2015 to November 2017, water now flows to all areas of the 150-acre property, including the kitchens, bathrooms, dorms, laundry, crops, and livestock. The transformation in daily operations at Jacob' Ladder has been monumental since it secured this reliable water supply, which has also had the effect of improving its adaptive capacity to climate-change impacts.

"Staff used to come to work with a five-gallon bottle of water. Everybody brought water, and the pickup used to go over to the JDF (Jamaica Defence Force) Moneague camp to get water from them," Dunn shared with The Gleaner.

... Agriculture flourishing from water supply

When the call came for projects to be funded by the Australian Government under the Community-Based Adaptation in Small Island Developing States Programme of the UNDP, Mustard Seed Communities was quick to respond.

It partnered with the Rural Agricultural Development Authority, the Forestry Department, Jamaica Bauxite Mining, and the Social Development Commission to rehabilitate and extract water from a well five miles away on the Lydford property owned by the mining company. After securing the right to legally extract the water, which was channelled to collection facilities at Jacob's Ladder, including a 750,000-gallon earth pond, there was much work to be done.

In addition to providing the pumping station, water pipes, and other equipment, the project also undertook the renovation of pipelines along the route that passed through neighbouring communities that have been able to access the precious fluid as a result.

The real value-added at Jacob's Ladder is reflected in an expanded agro-forestry system that also includes drought-resistant species. Fifty acres have now been planted that provide produce for residents. Over 150 fruit and other trees were planted (banana, breadfruit, ackee, raspberry, etc), as well as pineapple, pepper, and other plants.

Agricultural acitivies also included the implementation of sustainable farming practices, which contributed to significant reduction of land degradation. Dunn estimates that 5,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables have been reaped since, with pork and poultry production also areas of self-sufficiency.

"All the water we get here is through catchment and from the well. With the kitchen, laundry, and farm, we use a lot of water, and what we also have downstairs is an ultraviolet filter system. So when the water goes over to the 750,000-gallon catchment, it goes through a filtration plant - a sand filter. It is chlorinated, then it is pumped to the black line.

"We have lost lots of crops before, but the farm has really come up to the point where four greenhouses are, right now, being refurbished. There is open-field farming. We have goats, sheep, pigs, a few rabbits, and chickens," Dunn proudly disclosed.

Please read Jacob’s Ladder going places in agriculture