Presented Kingston May 2012
Pathway to Resilience, Wordsworth Gordon President Jeffrey Town Farmers
Jeffrey Town is a small rural community of approximately 3000 people in western St. Mary, the farmers group has been leading the development process since inception in 1991 and formal registration in 2003 as a company limited by guarantee. We meet monthly to deal with farming issues and address all activities related to the community development committee. We have a nine person executive overseeing the operations of the farmers association and its projects, the women’s group, the youth group, the multimedia centre and radio and a twenty person disaster committee.
In the 1990’s Jeffrey Town made its name for group farming, working day for day and for laying three and a half miles of 4inch cast iron pipe for water to reach all of the residents. More recently we have included environmental protection and climate change mitigation activities to our diverse mandate.
We embarked on a project to reduce the use of chemical fertilizers on our farms by composting using Californian red worms, getting enough water during the dry time was a problem and during the wet time there were too many tempting places for the worms to go to keep them in the compost. We now use traditional methods to compost in a twenty by twenty shed.
Together with composting we have contoured with cane on occasions but mostly with pineapple providing the double benefit of top soil retention and a viable crop for sale. During the period five of our farmers have used this method and recently a thousand suckers we introduced to the organic plot.
Naturally we plant trees in fact we have chosen fruit trees on the hill sides for stability and on our farms as long term income generating crops; prior to this year twelve acres with a further fifteen being implemented now.
As much as we have worked in the community we have also worked on ourselves, we started out meeting on a member’s veranda, then into the basement of another. With minimal financing in place in 2006 we started the ambitious project of constructing the JTFABuilding; we upped our voluntary efforts and by February 2007 we were able to move into the 400sq ft basement, a little more than the minimum required for the multimedia centre and radio.
This success brought with it major issues of sustainability, very simply, how to offer the services and pay the light bill. At significant cost, supported by the European Union we completed the ground floor of our building, brought in broadband internet services and lobbied continually until we were able to install a hybrid alternative energy system thanks to the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica
Cutting exposure to JPS by 60% and again this year additional hardware bring our consumption down to less than 15% of original usage offering a small organization run on volunteerism a genuine means of survival. The radio has operated continually since May 2008, 16 hours a day.
Adding resilience through radio programmes made in house which speak specifically to the issues of the day- health, climate change, disaster preparedness, social issues such as HIV and teenage pregnancy plus an education component directly related to the CXC curriculum.
Training has been the key issue here, a partnership with ICT4 D Jamaica, Peace Corps, Commonwealth of Learning CARIMAC and Roots FM facilitated an array of multimedia training plus literacy support for large numbers of people in the community as well as the association, CVSS strengthened the executive members, private consultants and RADA assisted with technical farming activities and Jamaica Organic Agriculture Movement lead the way for the organic plot.
Our organic plot belongs to the group but was designed to demonstrate best practices for the parish; using the green house for organic production was our idea, it required significant experimentation including the removal of the original antiviral mesh, used at construction, which proved to be too hot for the selected crops of broccoli and strawberries. A 60% shade cloth is now in use to good effect. A mushroom house will be constructed later this month plus an on site compost bed and simple visitors facilities later in the year creating further meaningful features on a working demonstration farm highlighting fifty new maypan coconuts trees on the perimeter.
Twenty twelve has been dedicated to improving resilience, reducing the risks we face in our community. We have always had self forming ponds on the hillside, but soil erosion and land slippage has caused them to increase to almost unmanageable proportions, creating water logging and seepage to the most vulnerable parts of the district. We started by clearing the drainage gullies from the ponds and will over time reduce the levels of water in each pond and thereby gradually reduce the risk to the valley below.
To help this process we have undertaken construction of another major gabion wall in Wallingford; in 2008 we did work there preventing homes washing away with the Gustav rains. This time the barrier is a seventy five basket wall using 210 cubic metres of stone for filling, ballasting and backfill in an excavation 6metres deep and up to 18metres wide plus installation of a concrete culvert.
This is showing return on investment, we were trained in the basic skills, we used our ingenuity, community contribution and grant funding to help ourselves, this effort will prevent one part of the village from being isolated from the other, unfortunately the intervention has shown up further vulnerabilities that will need to be addressed for real stability in the area.
Formalizing the disaster committee in 2011 has been the final piece of the puzzle, each geographical area is represented. The ODPEM and parish council facilitated a series of training session, firstly to develop our disaster plan, a comprehensive written document mapping our community, its difficulties and lining out an action plan for mitigation which started with more training.
Search and rescue, damage assessment, shelter management, emergency drill and first aid for groups of twenty or more each time.
Finally we come to an element of pride in fact an avenue of pride; this is a long term goal coming to fruition. As you know St. Mary is renowned for its landslides, so to help combat this risk on the roadsides for stability and beauty we are planting Pride of Barbados trees at fifteen foot intervals on the main thoroughfare, so far 500 planted, fertilized and individually fenced with 500 more planned for October. Already this activity has galvanized the community more than thirty five people came out on planting day and every nook and lane in Jeffrey Town wants trees planted on their street and our community was already beautiful.
A beautiful note on which to end, this brief review of, the pathway to resilience in Jeffrey Town, an on going reality which has required vision much assistance and extensive community spirit. Thank you to all those who have made a contribution, cash or kind they have all helped. Thank you.