Improved access to water, better roads and jobs are what many residents of the Jeffrey Town community in Western St. Mary, Jamaica, say would most likely improve their livelihoods, according to findings of a recent survey.

The survey was conducted under a Community Disaster Risk Reduction Fund (CDRRF) community engagement initiative, through which residents shared their views on the impact the CDRRF-financed Jeffrey Town Integrated Disaster Risk Reduction Project (JTIDRRP) could have on their lives.

Questions on the survey, administered by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), which also manages CDRRF, gathered information ranging from residents’ knowledge of the JTIDRRP, to their willingness to participate in future community development initiatives. The qualitative and quantitative data collected will be used to inform further development programmes within the nine JTIDRRP target communities. Three hundred questionnaires were administered over four days.

A cross section of the audience at the Jeffrey Town Community Meeting listens to the findings of the community survey. 

Through CDRRF funding, the JTIDRRP, established two years ago, has constructed climate-resilient and agricultural infrastructure: gabion walls, water catchment, greenhouses, and a food processing plant from which men and women in the various communities will benefit equally.

The CDRRF also provided Jeffrey Town Farmers Association Limited with   funding to help reduce the impact of extreme weather events, natural hazards and climate change.

The project is deliberate in its emphasis on gender equality, says CDRRF Project Manager, Claudia James.

“Disasters affect women and men differently, so projects should seek to identify and address the needs of both groups, as well as ensure that men and women from the communities participate equally in project development and implementation,” says Ms. James.

Richardo Aiken, Community Development Specialist with CDRRF, says residents welcomed the visit from, and face-to-face interaction with, representatives from the Fund.

“It shows how important community engagement is for project development and project sustainability,” says Aiken, citing the positive feedback he has received from residents.

The Social Development Commission (SDC), which chairs the oversight committee for JTIDRRP, assisted in coordinating some of the activities related to the community engagement initiative. Travis Graham, St. Mary Parish Manager for the SDC, says the community engagement has had a positive impact on the development process.

“This has now created a communication channel, not just with the main participants in the project, but with the wider community,” says Graham. He says the findings from the engagement initiative will inform SDC’s future plans for the development of Jeffrey Town.

St. Mary Parish Manager for the SDC, Mr. Travis Graham

Among other things, the findings showed a general knowledge of the JTIDRRP within the communities. Several residents expressed their appreciation for the gabion walls, catch basins and culverts which have been built in the Wallingford and Top Road districts. These, they say, have spared them loss of life and property during recent heavy rains.

Project Manager JTIDRRP Nellie Richards mentioned that the constructed community catch basins have contributed significantly to the fact that the roads are now accessible during heavy rains, resulting in less landslides and preventing the community from being cut off from the other districts.

Chairman of the Jeffrey Town Community Development Committee (CDC), Camry Allen, worked closely with the initiative. He says the project means a lot to so many people as they have seen the difference it has made to their lives.

“Some people see likkle hope because dem see stuff a do,” says Allen. “Trus’ me a whole lotta survey do and wi nuh see nutten come outta it, but this a di first wi see and something happen before the survey so it have a feel good effect.”

With four water catchment facilities being constructed, Allen says the community anticipates the regular distribution of water to all nine districts within Jeffery Town.  “The real positive a go be the water because it a go benefit everybody,” he says.

Another resident who goes by the name Buju, shares similar sentiments. “Mi see dem a deal wid some water ting weh mi like and all dese tings and dat a progress fi di young yutes dem.”