Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer
LITITZ, St Elizabeth:
SIX MONTHS after welcoming the official opening of a small-scale irrigation project in their community, farmers in Lititz, St Elizabeth, are lamenting that they have been neglected by representatives of the Government and funding agencies which were instrumental in the resuscitation of the $6-million facility.
The roofing has since been torn from its foundation, with rivets uprooted during what residents claim was "regular breeze blow". Efforts to get some help in reroofing the facility have been futile, according to Vincent White, president of the local production and marketing organisation (PMO).
After failing to get a satisfactory response from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which executed the project, the Forestry Department which implemented it, as well as the National Irrigation Commission (NIC), which guided the process, and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), which provided support during construction, a frustrated White brought the matter to the attention of Rural Xpress.
"About two, three months, I called UNDP, and they say, 'Mr White, the project is finished and is signed off.' I say, 'Who signed off?' She say, 'I don't know, but it's signed off.' I am supposed to be a stakeholder. I don't sign off nutten," he explained.
Approximately 300 farmers, including some from the neighbouring communities of Savannah, Grazeland, Downs, and Stephen's Run, have been benefiting from the project, with water pumped on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, but are concerned that issues relating to maintenance of the facility are up in the air.
The roofing has since been ripped from its foundation, and the PMO president says despite reporting the matter to the UNDP, NIC, and RADA, no one has come to visit with a view to doing an assessment of the damage and its likely impact on the project's sustainability. He also reported the matter to the parish council, still with no official response.
White also charges that the plan was for very small fish, commonly referred to as 'tiki tiki', to be placed in the water to feed on the mosquito larvae, with the aim of minimising the potential for infestation. Now, the water is exposed and the mosquito threat is very real.
Explaining that he and fellow farmers are very grateful for the change the rainwater harvesting project has had on their cultivation, the PMO president said it would be a shame if the project under which the first public water tank was built in Jamaica in 1840 was allowed to fall into disrepair again.
"I hope that someone will see it fit to come down and give us a visit, listen to what we have to say, and then sit down with us and work out a plan to save this thing from being destroyed," White told Rural Xpress.
"They put in the money, but it was we the farmers who go down in the dirty tank and clean it with our own hands, so we also have a lot invest in it. We are not looking for charity, just come and hear what we have to say and see for yourself," he appealed.
PHOTOS BY CHRISTOPHER SERJU
A frustrated Vincent White, president of the Lititz production and marketing organisation, speaks about the unwillingness of state and funding agencies to respect the opinion of local people, whose knowledge and experience can prove invaluable in projects intended for their benefit.
Even though there is a perimeter fence in place, farmers argue that there is need for a door to be put on the control room in order to enhance security.
The roof is no more, having been torn from its moorings.
The roof before it was damaged.