2016 a good year for St Mary, says SDC's Graham
PORT MARIA, St Mary:
While some analysts have argued that 2016 was a horrible year, the manager of the Social Development Commission (SDC) in St Mary, Travis Graham, said that over the last 12 months, the parish has benefited from an upsurge in agricultural production and the number of community groups engaged in revenue-generating projects and schemes.
Graham believes the huge potential for development of the heritage tourism sector in St Mary, coupled with the launch of the SDC's pioneering interagency network suggests that 2017 could be a landmark year for the parish.
He told Rural Xpress: "Despite a few challenges, I think 2016 was an outstanding year, and I'm really looking forward to 2017. First of all, it was a good year for agriculture, which is St Mary's main source of income. In 2014 and 2015, the parish was hindered and impacted significantly because of drought conditions, but 2016 has seen a lot of rainfall.
"That means more production and income, which means families are better placed to take care of their needs, and once you find that happening, persons are more inclined to give back by supporting initiatives and volunteering.
"Through our Local Economic Development Support Programme, we have also seen there are 30 per cent more local economic initiatives in the parish than we had in 2015, which tells me people now understand the importance of self-reliance.
"For example, the Hampstead Community Development Committee came up with a water-distribution project; there is a nutraceutical group in Three Hills making lotions, shampoos, and beauty products; and the Elliot Farmers group has employed over 45 youth in agriculture and recently applied to the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica for a grant with the intention of setting up some agro processing facilities at the SDC's offices."
Every year, the SDC hosts popular events such as the creative arts and skills festival, and the community leadership conference, but Graham claims that 2017 will mark the establishment of a series of new and impactful ventures throughout the parish.
Scott's Hall Maroons
He explained: "The heritage potential of the Scott's Hall Maroons project offers some viable business opportunities, and we are working with them to turn that into a reality. The parish should zoom into and work with the Maroons because I think there will be a lot of global interest, which may drive people into St Mary.
"The Maroons are even tapping into the medical industry because as I understand it, they have more than 60 varieties of medicinal plants, which is another avenue for income and value the community can take advantage of.
"Additionally, the interagency network we established, St Mary Agencies Responding Together (SMART), is critical because it creates harmony and a sense that organisations need to work together and share resources and work plans.
"Community groups capture data about their issues, and that information is emailed to the Parish Development Committee, parish council, MPs, and councillors to broaden everybody's knowledge base.
"The idea is that instead of the relevant agencies simply going into the communities to do their work, they will link and partner with the community groups for a joint intervention. For me, when that rolls out in 2017, I'm thinking that should be a national best practice."