'Marooned' no more
Fed up with official apathy, Maroon Town residents plan their own path to development
WESTERN BUREAU:With their cries for help being ignored for as long as they can remember, residents of Maroon Town in southern St James have developed a community priority plan to chart a path for sustainable development.
The residents say the project seeks to identify the challenges facing the once-leading banana-producing community in western Jamaica and strategise specific timelines for a proper water supply, a zero-tolerance approach to crime, an increase in investment, improved road conditions, and an improved literacy and numeracy level.
"We are definitely not depending on our political representatives, because we have been crying for help for decades," said Michael Shaw, community leader and farmer. "We are moving to develop our town for the future generations, our infrastructure is depleting."
According to Shaw, the top priority is to have potable water in the communities, including areas such as Flagstaff, Shaw Castle, and George's Valley.
"[We need better] especially in these times, because to reach to the stage that it is now is like torture," he added. "There is already a strain on our young people. Many are unemployed, that's also a big concern."
The plan also speaks of the establishment of sustainable neighbourhood-watch groups and a mobile police station to address crime.
"The problem is with the lottery scam, and it has flourished in this area and has created a necessity for illegal firearms," said another community leader, who asked not to be identified.
Incidents of praedial larceny and petty burglary are not helped by the lack of opportunity for employment as a result of little or no investment. There are also concerns for the high rate of unemployment, and the high number of unskilled youth leaving school.
Efforts to contact Derrick Kellier, member of parliament for South St James, and Glendon Harris, councillor for the Maroon Town division, were unsuccessful.
The demographic data shows an estimated population size of 2,067, while households number 625. Some 39 per cent of these households are headed by females, with the same amount of members in these homes having no academic qualification.
"Employment is a major concern. Banana is bouncing back and ginger is becoming popular, but not everyone is into farming ... . So we must try to establish secondary industries in order to grow our community," said Donnetta 'Joy' McGhie, chairman of the Maroon Town Community Development Committee.
"The Government continues to say grow, but has failed to create a window for the crop to be sold. It puts us in a quandary."