Against the backdrop of the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season, and having experienced severe weather events, officials in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) are directing efforts toward improving the country’s ability to withstand and recover from natural disasters. 

But if planned disaster resilience projects and climate action programmes are to be successful, the community members they are intended to benefit must be involved in their development and implementation, says the Hon. Frederick Stephenson, Minister of National Mobilisation, Social Development, Gender and Youth Affairs.

A four-day workshop conducted last December and funded by the Basic Needs Trust Fund (BNTF) and the Community Disaster Risk Reduction Fund (CDRRF) of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), was designed to help the country make progress in this area.

“Some communities and community development service providers and practitioners often lack the capabilities to fully capitalise on, or even participate in, the engagement process.  This is further underscored in the Region by the fact that the framework for community development has been weakened by increased reliance on non-community resources and entities to drive development at the community level,” said George Yearwood, Acting Portfolio Manager, BNTF, CDB

“With this in mind, the BNTF programme includes technical assistance to facilitate stakeholder and beneficiary engagement, and to strengthen institutional and development mechanisms,” he added.

“With this in mind, the BNTF programme includes technical assistance to facilitate stakeholder and beneficiary engagement, and to strengthen institutional and development mechanisms,” he added.

Jamaica has done this successfully through its Social Development Commission (SDC).  Executive Director, Dr. Dwayne Vernon, and other SDC representatives were invited to facilitate the workshop and share lessons learned.

Key to Jamaica’s success was the ability to pinpoint and address social and economic issues that could affect the willingness, and ability of, community members to participate in disaster resilience and other development programmes.

Data collector, Everal Ince, administers community engagement survey to a member of the Fitz Hughes community.

Major findings of a community engagement survey conducted in St. Vincent and the Grenadines by the CDRRF, a multi-donor trust fund which CDB administers, found that concerns surrounding high levels of unemployment among women, praedial larceny and limited opportunities to participate in community development activities were among the main issues that could hamper community engagement in the Fitz Hughes and Rose Hall communities.

Minister Stephenson lauded approaches used by the SDC in Jamaica and CDB’s BNTF and CDRRF, noting that evidence-based decision-making, and the use of modern research and communication tools must be part of any strategy going forward.

The Hon. Frederick Stephenson, Minister of National Mobilisation, Social Development, Gender and Youth Affairs, standing at podium, believes scientifically assessing community willingness to engage is key to developing successful climate resilience programmes.

 “It is imperative that all development practitioners be retooled to adapt to new approaches.  This augers well for our nation as we seek to be more proactive, therefore saving lives, enhancing livelihoods, and becoming more prepared as we face the consequences of a changing climate,” said Stephenson.

The Effective Community Engagement and Integrated Community Development Project through which the workshop was funded complements St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ 2013 to 2025 National Economic and Social Development Plan. The fourth of five strategic goals the Plan focuses on improving physical infrastructure, preserving the environment and building resilience to climate change.  The Plan proposes comprehensive programmes to facilitate these outcomes at the community level in sustainable ways, and targets the poorest communities in the country.

Key workshop partners include L-R: Richardo Aiken, Community Development Specialist, CDRRF, CDB; Shervone Alexander, Senior Statistician, SVG; Dr. Dwayne Vernon, Executive Director, SDC, Jamaica; Juanita Reid, Deputy Executive Director, SDC, Jamaica; George Yearwood, Portfolio Manager Ag., BNTF, CDB; Lavern Louard-Greaves, Operations Officer, BNTF, CDB; Roger Young, Supervisor, Community Development Division, SVG; Sherine Francis, Governance Director, SDC, Jamaica.