Wag Water Valley group creates opportunities
The Wag Water River originates in the Mountains of rural St Andrew. It meanders through interlocking hills and over giant boulders, and is joined by many tributaries along the way. It passes through the botanical gardens at Castleton in St Mary on its way to the confluence with Annotto Bay.
The region through which it passes is known as the Wag Water Watershed, an important supplier of water for the region. Though there are sparse settlements in the region, the Greater Wag Water River valley encompasses many districts and small communities, such as Scotts Hall, Leinster, Rock River, Providence, Golden Valley, Castleton, Devon Pen, Grande Hole, Friendship Gap, and Broadgate.
Farming is the mainstay of the region from which people travel to work and school in the Corporate Area. However, there is an organisation, the Wag Water Valley Development Committee, operating from Devon Pen, that is working hard to create and develop more opportunities in the region.
Recently, The Gleaner spoke with Errol Sinclair, a founding member of the committee, about the work that it is doing to develop the region.
The professional chef and businessman, who was born in Castleton, said it was about giving back to the region of his birth. He is from a line of community activists, especially his mother and grandmother, he said, and the aim of the committee is "to uplift our people" and to "seek out opportunities" for them. It is all about social and human development in the valley.
The committee is guided by the Social Development Commission and has partnered with agencies such as the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), and the Rural Agriculture Development Authority. It has provided training for residents through the HEART/NTA in hospitality and restaurant services, and fire safety.
Central to their survival is environmental preservation. That is why NEPA has conducted training in soil conservation, best farming practices, and river management with them. Working with the police, with whom Sinclair said they have a great relationship, the committee has helped to reduce the incidence of people poisoning the crayfish.
All on board
Errol Sinclair, founding member of the Wag Water Valley Development Committee, said that every resident in the community is a member of the committee, but there is a 12-member executive, now headed by Robert Smellie, acting president. Over the years, the committee has honoured outstanding citizens who have contributed to the social and economical development of the valley.
"I am proud of my community, and proud of the direction people are taking," Sinclair said.
The committee, which organises an annual talent and awareness pageant for young women in the region, has itself been recognised for its work in the valley, and in 2016 it was awarded trophies by the SDC for being the most outstanding development committee in St Mary.