‘We are suffering’ - Rains pile on stress for Mount Vernon Gap coffee farmers, residents
Recent heavy rains have dumped a multiplicity of woes on residents of Mount Vernon Gap in St Thomas. Damaged roads are preventing coffe farmers from getting their harvest to market, and goods are running scarce as shopkeepers are unable to receive new stock.
Added to that, they are also dealing with a prolonged power outage as the recent weather system took a toll on the infrastructure.
Yesterday, a team from the Jamaica Public Service Company was in the area, working to restore power to more than 100 households in and around Mount Vernon Gap. The workmen had to be moving about on foot as their pick-ups could not navigate a huge breakaway to get into the greater part of the community.
“We are suffering,” was the chorus sung by residents.
Shop owner Euletea Roberts told The Gleaner that she was happy that electricity had been restored but was wondering how long it would remain based on past experience.
She shared that because taxis and other vehicles cannot freely traverse the area, transporting goods from Morant Bay is a venture that can cost $3,000 and upwards.
Like others in the community, Roberts does a bit of farming. Her crops also took a beating, setting her further back.
“Mi cyaa get nothing fi come inna di shop. Mi crops like mi carrot dem rotten down, and mi red peas dem mash up. Too much water deh pon dem, and mi lose a lot of chickens, too, because water come inna di coup dem, and a whole heap a coffee drop offa di tree. We a suffer bad,” she told T he Gleaner.
Residents who had stocked up on fish and meat in their homes had to dump most of it as they went bad during the power outage, lamented one man, who said he was also a coffee farmer.
“Dem something deh spoil because we don’t get no light more dan suh. We affi throw dem weh or cook more food than we supposed to,” he said, adding that he had lost upwards of $30,000 worth of coffee due to the rain.
Coffee farmer Kevin Darvy said that based on the hit his farm took, he may have to find another way to make a living.
“Half of my crop gone. Mi not even know how mi a go fertilise mi field. Mi nuh mek nuh money, and a $7,000 fi fertiliser. One box a coffee sell fi ‘bout $4,500. Mi a consider fi come out because it nuh mek nuh sense. Mi affi go find more ways fi survive,” he said.
Delroy Roberts had a similar tale of woe.
“I lose a lot of coffee weh drop off a tree and buss up. The heavy rains mek we can’t get no coffee out a di area. Di road cut off. Luckily, Mavis Bank seh dem a go buy likkle tomorrow (Thursday),” he said.
Forecasts of more rain on the horizon did not offer any comfort.
“We a go lose more coffee, whole heap. Everything gone backwards, and it a go tek a lot of work and dollars to bring it back,” Roberts said.
Councillor for the Cedar Valley Division, Marsha Francis, told The Gleaner last night that no permanent fix was on the cards just yet.
She proposed that the municipal corporation acquire a piece of land above the major breakaway and create a temporary passageway.
She also commended the JPS team for its efforts to restore power to the area.