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Gully a model rural division
Brenda Clayton from the University of Wisconsin at White Water
showing children from the Mile Gully Primary School how to recycle
cans to be used as a tool for a physical education activity
Chicken rearer, Sheryl Adlam, carrying her recent kill to the
freezer at Glasgow. Most men farm yam and banana, while the
women raise chickens (right). - Photos by Andrew Smith/Staff
Smith, Staff Reporter
IS THE AIM OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT?
TO a 1998 Organisation of American States (OAS) workshop held
in Kingston on Local Government, Communitarianism and the
Citizen: Opportunities and Challenges, "Local governance
structures should have a special mandate to help eradicate
poverty, food insecurity and joblessness. The aim should be
to provide local work for local people in local areas and
communities." If Local Government parish council divisions
are able to achieve this, then they are on the path to sustainable
development. Such a division would be worth emulating, an
example of which is the Mile Gully division of north-west
on the outskirts of the Cockpit Country, this farming region
does not exhibit evidence of the overt political activity
which is normally associated with governance in Jamaica. The
divisional office does not even have a PNP sign. Instead,
for the last 17 years, Councillor Anthony Watson has maintained
his visibility in the division while allowing the communities
to take charge of various development projects. He has done
such a good job that it is a forgone conclusion that the new
councillor will be from the PNP, as Mr. Watson is not seeking
re-election. Evidence shows that whoever is elected councillor
will have a hard act to follow.
WORK FOR LOCAL PEOPLE IN LOCAL AREAS'
Watson exemplifies a tradition of self-reliance which is present
in the region. Born and bred in Mile Gully, he ran as councillor
after noting the lack of facilities in his community. He has
been able to spread what he has learned about community involvement
to the villages of Evergreen, Comfort Hall, Inglewood, Bethany,
Litchfield, Free Town and Epping Forest. In Comfort Hall and
Epping Forest youth clubs, schools and citizen associations
are key partners in community development. In Litchfield,
when the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) invested $2m
on road construction, the responsibility of managing it was
given to the community's youth club.
example of community involvement is the Antioch Basic School
in Glasgow. Currently housed in a one-room concrete building,
it started over 50 years ago inside the Antioch Church of
the Nazarene by its founder, Birdie Record. When she passed
on, Miss Lorna Witter volunteered to succeed her. She and
Mrs. Claudette Fearon teach 25 ebullient students basic reading
and arithmetic. The community has always recognised the importance
of this school and has supported it while ensuring that the
teachers are paid.
POVERTY, FOOD INSECURITY AND JOBLESSNESS'
hard, but dem coulda worse." These words of a young farmer
from Oxford exemplify the feelings of the residents of the
Mile Gully division. Most of the villages in the division
were established in the 19th century by newly freed slaves.
Farming was the mainstay then and it remains so today, with
crops such as yam, dasheen, cocoa and banana being the main
sources of income and nutrition. This is supplemented by chicken,
which are normally reared by the women in the community. The
crops and livestock which citizens of the Mile Gully division
raise provides both employment and nutrition to the residents.
As such, poverty is not evident in the division.
network of main and parochial roads were established to allow
crops to reach the markets in Balaclava, Christiana and Mandeville.
Today's transport network is based on these narrow, winding
roads which traverse the fertile cockpits and in the steep
northwestern corner of the division, these roads are well
asphalted. Some roads have been widened, such as the Oxford
to Spring Hill road which was completely refurbished in 2002.
The original houses were simple wooden structures. Many still
exist today, although they are being replaced by multi-room
concrete houses. In order to facilitate this, three young
men have gone into business in Auchtembeddie making concrete
blocks with marl, stones and cement obtained from Mandeville.
lack of piped water in houses is a major hindrance in the
entire division due to most of the rivers being subterranean.
The villages surrounding Mile Gully are located where these
rivers emerge as underground springs. This is seen at Oxford
where water from the nearby Noisy River is piped to the standpipe
in the town square. Cowick Park, Glasgow and Auchtembeddie
are located in the highlands and their sole source of piped
water is a tank, which pumps water from these springs to standpipes.
For the past two months, this tank's engine has not been working,
resulting in no water being available to the communities.
This has affected everyone. The Antioch Basic School has to
obtain water from its neighbours and the church, who have
their own tanks. William and Warren, the block makers from
Auchtembeddie have to walk five miles to the nearest spring
to obtain water for their business. Residents have brought
the broken engine to the attention of member of Parliament
Dean Peart, but so far it has not been repaired.
needs leaders with vision, integrity and sound management
skills. After June 19, the Mile Gully division will have a
new councillor. He will have to hit the ground running, and
the supplying of water to residents' homes must be a priority.
Residents have no home phones and are reliant on cellular
phones. Many other challenges will arise. Hopefully the foundation
which has been laid will be built on by the new councillor
and the citizens of the Mile Gully division.