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Sugar Barracks Relocation Programme changing lives

Published:Friday | November 27, 2015 | 12:00 AMSheleka Walker
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller (left) presents a beneficiary with her certificate of ownership of a new housing unit under the Sugar Barracks Relocation Programme at a handover ceremony held in Shrewsbury, Westmoreland.
Some of the houses built under the Sugar Barracks Relocation Programme.

The dream of owning their own home is one of the most important life goals for many Jamaicans, and helping Jamaicans realise that dream is an important policy objective of Government.

The Sugar Barracks Relocation Programme is one of the ways in which the Government is doing so.

This is in line with the Government's poverty-reduction and alleviation mandate to improve the conditions of the most vulnerable Jamaicans, as often stated by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller.

Simpson Miller has fully supported and led the programme that is providing houses free of cost to the sugar workers and their families who have long been living in substandard housing conditions on sugar estates in the parishes of Trelawny, Westmoreland, Clarendon, and St Thomas.

"The building of modern housing, infrastructure and amenities for sugar workers is one of the most satisfying and heart-warming programmes that I have presided over in my political career," said Simpson Miller.


Poverty reduction


She added that the Sugar Barracks Relocation Programme was conceived as an important poverty-reduction strategy for the achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goal of eradicating poverty and hunger.

"As part of our socio-economic policy framework, we must ensure that resources are mobilised to communities so that Jamaicans are given a fair chance at improving their living conditions," added Simpson Miller.

Funded by the European Union with support from the Government and implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries through the Sugar Transformation Unit, the Sugar Barracks Relocation Programme is providing 397 housing solutions to 876 persons.

To date, 181 persons have benefited from 84 housing solutions in Trelawny and Westmoreland. Some $524 million has been spent on infrastructure works and housing under the programme in these parishes comprising four housing developments, three in Westmoreland and one in Trelawny.

Petrona Richards, 39, who is a beneficiary of the programme in Trelawny, received a two-bedroom house, and was able to move her family from a derelict structure to a comfortable house.

"The programme has changed my life and improved my living situation significantly," said Richards.

"I have been able to achieve what I never thought possible - a brand new house and I feel so good. This is something I would never have been able to acquire on my own. I am really grateful to the Government for giving me and my family this house," added Richards.


Humbled and grateful


Another beneficiary, Ercylyn Black, 60, the owner of a new two-bedroom house in Westmoreland at the Barham relocation site, is humbled and grateful for the assistance from the Government.

"It has been a wonderful feeling living in this new house. I am happy. I am proud," said Black.

Now in its third year, the broad objective of the Sugar Barracks Relocation Programme is to provide social support to communities in sugar-dependent areas by removing persons from decrepit houses, referred to as 'barracks', and giving them new houses.

According to Ambassador Paola Amadei, head of delegation for the European Union to Jamaica, these barracks were meant to be temporary houses for persons who worked on the sugar estates, and as temporary, basic structures they were limited in terms of access to amenities.

According to Amadei, the relocation project has been an important initiative to remedy this issue and reward the people and communities that contributed to the development of the sugar industry, which was the lynchpin of the economy in Jamaica for many years.

"I think the sugar barracks is a project that is bound to strike a chord with everybody. With this intervention, families can count on receiving good housing. It is making a big difference in their lives and provides them with new dignity. You can't measure the change for the individual moving from a substandard situation with limited space and little or no facilities, to a brand new home with all the necessary facilities," said Amadei.

The only cost beneficiaries are required to meet is a small fee to LAMP to acquire a registered title for the property.