Farmers make a difference in Jeffrey Town
After securing a grant of more than US$645,000 last year from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), a progressive group of agriculturalists from Jeffrey Town, St Mary, is planning to use the funding to launch a series of local community development projects throughout 2016.
According to president of the Jeffrey Town Farmers Association (JTFA) Wordsworth Gordon, the projects include installing renewable-energy systems and establishing a facility to produce Irish potato seeds and starches from crops such as breadfruit.
Speaking earlier this week, Gordon said the group's disaster risk-reduction initiative aimed to increase food security and reduce the impact of climate change on the community and its 3,000 residents.
He told Rural Xpress: "We started working on this in 2005 and we're just beginning to see some light. I've envisioned this for a long time, especially the idea of making products from breadfruit. We're focusing on the environmental and food security perspective because climate change has impacted the world, not just Jamaica.
"In the future, the places where we get wheat flour will be affected, and there will be shortages. What's going to happen if we are depending on them to supply us? We're in a disaster-prone area, and when a disaster comes, we're usually waiting on people to bring us food, but if you have your own store, you're more resilient.
"We're not trying to reinvent the wheel or bring in new products. We're just saying that our indigenous foods can sustain us because we can and must feed ourselves."
Gordon said the project has positively impacted all nine of the districts that comprise the community of Jeffrey Town, but the Parish Development Committee chairman is nevertheless concerned about unexpected challenges.
He explained: "We found some structural defects in the pipes under the road where we're repairing a culvert, so, now we are awaiting dispensation from either the CDB or Member of Parliament [Jolyan Silvera] to assist us with purchasing plastic replacements.
WATER FROM THE SPRINGS
"We're also trying to harvest water from the springs in four places and using solar pumps to bring the water to a point where it can be accessed by people in the community because we all know what happened with the drought last year.
"But there has been some bureaucratic red tape with getting permission from the National Land Agency to lease the land for one of the four properties."
In spite of the setbacks, Gordon is looking forward to 2016 with optimism. He believes the rehabilitation work and agro-processing facility will be completed by September, and is looking forward to celebrating the association's 25th anniversary with a week-long climate change event in May, and a breadfruit festival two months later.
As he edges closer to his dream of establishing a sustainable community development scheme, Gordon advises those who harbour similar ambitions to research their ideas, and then push them to the limit.
He said: "Whatever idea you have, convince yourself that it's workable because you have to believe in what you're doing. Don't just pick somebody else's idea and try to implement it because you'll stumble on the way.
"If it's something you internalise and develop in your own mind, you'll go out and do it. I can't quantify how much this has cost my wife and I, but we believe in it. I passionately believe that we can make a difference, and I think we are."