GIFTS DELIVERED in other places this season will hold no candle in comparison to the surprise received by residents of Beeston Spring in Westmoreland and Mount Vernon in St Mary who will see the start of river training and road rehabilitation in their communities.
In Mount Vernon, the river which overflows its banks during storms, has led to the destruction of approximately 20 per cent of the roadway. Meanwhile in Beeston Spring, aromatic pimento and farm-fresh dasheen, pumpkin, yam, plantains and vegetables including cabbage, cucumber, tomatoes, and sweet peppers cultivated by locals, time and again fail to make it to market.
Poor road conditions
Farmers suffer immensely from damage to their crops as a result of the poor road conditions, as produce is carried on donkeys from the farm to the main road in Beeston Spring. In addition, the delay in getting goods to the nearest market eight miles away in Whitehouse contributes to spoilage.
The Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF), with the mandate of directing resources to such underserved communities has completed 139 road projects, affecting the livelihoods of 223,157 Jamaicans in this vital area .
Winston Clarke from Mount Vernon who practises mixed farming highlighted the importance of the road to the community. He told the recent signing ceremony: "We farm everything from livestock go right down and the road in Mount Vernon is a big help to the farmer, man, woman, schoolchildren and everyone. Without road, the produce cannot reach the market."
Celia Dillon of JSIF noted that in 2009 the JSIF rehabilitated three kilometers of roadway in the community.
That investment made a significant difference especially for farmers, school-aged children and small-business operators. However, a greater issue developed subsequent to the repair of the road and the passage of Tropical Storms Gustav in 2009 and Nicole in 2010.
She explained that the river began to overflow its banks in some areas leading to the destruction of approximately 20 per cent of the roadway. This recent turn of events made it necessary for river training, road repair, and construction of drains in areas that water was not known to run before.
In order to reduce the significant socio-economic damage that can occur from the road reverting to a deplorable state and to mitigate the risk associated with future natural hazards, the JSIF, under the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) funded Community Investment Project (CIP) has embarked on constructing 6,000 square metres of gabion baskets, 200 square metres of riprap drains, 1000 square metres of sheet patching and 100 square metres of 'V' drains.
The total cost of this project is $25.49 million of which the JSIF's contribution is J$24.28 million. The commendable contribution from community is $1,205,000.00. As part of the condition for approval for funding, the sponsor is required to make a minimum of 11 per cent of the total project cost as contribution in cash or kind.
The project is slated for completion over the next three months with some 3,000 residents of Mount Vernon expected to benefit directly.
In Beeston Spring, rehabilitation of the roads is also funded by the CDB through JSIF's CIP at a total cost of $18.77 million. The JSIF's contribution is estimated at $16.31 million and the community's at $2.44 million. This project involves rehabilitation of 2.6 kilometres of roadway between Beeston Spring Main Road and Left Hall district. Some 1.2 kilometres will be resurfaced and 1.4 kilometres repaired. An estimated 1,200 residents of Beeston Spring and Left Hall are expected to benefit from this continued investment.