From rocky road to smooth sailing
The numerous tales of farmers and their donkeys treading the beaten track of Central Manchester and losing their cash crops ended last Thursday, after 80 agonising years of waiting for a proper road.
Two new roads, under the Farm Road Rehabilitation Programme being implemented by the Rural Agricultural Development Authority in partnership with the National Works Agency, local parish councils and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, were opened.
The roads were funded at a cost of $300 million and seek to assist in the growth and improvement of the agricultural sector through increased market access for farmers, based on rehabilitation of farm roads in specially targeted high-production areas.
Celebrating what has been described as a "historical day", Justice of the Peace Wendy Freckleton said farmers and residents of Bull Dead and Frederick Piece farm roads are now in high spirits after finally seeing the roads become a reality.
"Farmers can now travel safely and comfortably taking their produce to sell, without losing crops or having an accident due to the bad terrain," said Freckleton about the road. She added, "The road to development is the development of roads. Manchester is among parish leaders in agricultural production, so when an area like this opens up, it has a tremendous positive, economic effect."
After waiting for more than 80 years, elders and senior citizens came out in droves to unite with the younger generation to support and applaud the community's achievement. Overwhelmed with joy, Sonia Lyons-Miller, who has lived and worked in the area for more than 60 years, told The Gleaner, "My father used to farm, so I knew how travelling in this area was from I was a child. Only donkeys could travel successfully, but now it's full access for all. My father would have been proud."
Echoing Lyons-Miller's sentiments, Mayor Brenda Ramsay said, "This is the beginning of the development to come. Once there is new development via a roadway, it immediately increases property value. There are now opportunities for people, both new residents and old, to build new homes; it opens possibilities for new businesses to invest, and it enables farm produce to be delivered efficiently - not forgetting the economic growth."
The Frederick Piece road also opened on the same day. Luther Buchanan, minister of state in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, told The Gleaner, "I am pleased to be a part of the official first openings of farm roads for 2016. Agriculture is at the heart of the community's economy. Once you have proper roads to your farms and homes, the value of land multiplies, especially when you have good electricity. At last, Bull Dead has its road making history and Frederick Piece is at peace."
Continuing, he added: "Bull Dead was long deserving and, without a doubt, its farmers contribute to Jamaica's gross domestic product. They are strategically located 15 minutes from the marketplace of Mandeville, so whatever farmers produce will be fresh."
Buchanan also announced that with the level of agriculture taking place in central Manchester and with the addition of the new road, the community must be considered as one of the agricultural parks for the ministry.
A farmer for more than 30 years and father of four, Rohan Knight expressed his delight: "I am 100 per cent happier about the road. It used to be so difficult to manoeuvre with my crops because the road was so bad. I will now be able to travel freely and sell more at markets."
Central Manchester Member of Parliament Peter Bunting reminded farmers to meet with residents to do bushing so as to help make the roads clear, safe and accessible at all times. He also encouraged them not to litter or to race on the new roads.
"The opening of Bull Dead and Frederick Piece roads is another reflection of my campaign, 'Building with Bunting'. I also applaud the contractors for completing the roads on time and within budget."