The Sugar Transformation Unit (STU) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries resettlement project is set to benefit some 876 sugar workers and their relatives who have been living in Old Sugar Barracks located in Sugar Dependents Areas of Westmoreland, Trelawny, Clarendon, and St. Thomas.
The project is an undertaking of the Unit with support from the European Union (EU) under its Sugar Sector Budget Support Programme (SBS). The EU's SBS is funded at close to J$9 billion over five years, with the aim of assisting in the economic diversification, social resilience and environmental sustainability of sugar dependent areas.
The estimated cost for the project is $1.7 billion of which roughly $700m will be earmarked for infrastructure work such as roads, electricity, water and bio-digester sewage system and $1 billion for the construction of 398 housing solutions.
Head of the STU, George Callaghan, tells the JIS News that the objective of the programme is to relocate persons who are currently living in dilapidated facilities in the Sugar Barracks on four sugar estates, to new housing units in new communities with proper facilities such as roads, water, electricity and bio-digester sewage system.
“In 2008 when the Sugar Transformation Unit did the identification for the project, some of these persons were employed by the sugar estates but quite a number of them were not employed by the estate but were living there for a number of years and are relatives of persons who have been working for the estates for maybe 10, 15, or 30 years ago,” Mr. Callaghan explains.
“Persons will be relocated, Barham, Shewsbury and Muesmore; those relating to the Long Pond and Hampden factories in Trelawny will be relocated to Spicy Hill. For St. Thomas which has the two biggest location sites, persons will be relocated to Hampton Court and Stokes Hall, Golden Grove. In Monymusk Estate in Clarendon, the relocation site will be Springfield in Southern Clarendon,” Mr. Callaghan outlines. The concrete housing units will consist of one, two, and three bedrooms and will be allocated to the recipients depending on the size of the family to be re-settled.
The average cost to construct the one and two bedroom units is $2.5 million while the three bedrooms will cost between $3 million and $4 million.
According to the STU head, all the units will be titled, and each beneficiary is required to pay for the cost of the title, the remaining costs will be borne by the Government of Jamaica. The titles will cost between $30,000 and $40,000 each.
The new settlements are expected to support social services infrastructure such as schools, shops, community centres, police stations, where necessary. Land space will also be made available for additional housing as well as small-scale economic activities.
Mr. Callaghan says in terms of social services, preparation has been made for extra lots of land to be allocated for the construction of churches, basic schools and other amenities.
He points out that the implementation of the project was far advanced and the infrastructure contracts have all been awarded. The entire programme he says is expected to be completed by the end of the 2013/2014 financial year. “All the infrastructure work has to be completed before the houses are built,” he states.
Share-Con Limited has been awarded the contract for the construction of the Muesmore infrastructure in Westmoreland, while for Barham and Shewsbury also in Westmoreland, the contracts were awarded to D.R Foote Construction.
Alcar Construction and Haulage Company Limited is contracted to Stokes Hall, in St. Thomas and Hampton Court also in St. Thomas, Pavement and Structures Company Limited. In the case of Spicy Hill in Trelawny, D.R Foote Construction and Springfield in Clarendon, Steel Construction Company Limited has been awarded the contract.
“Contracts for the housing solutions are not awarded yet we are just about to go to tender and we are going to tender for the best cost and best types of solutions. We have to ensure that both in terms of cost and completion time the contractors meet these targets because we have targets to meet with the EU in completing this project,” Mr. Callaghan informs.
After the re-settlement process is completed the old sugar barracks will be destroyed in order to prevent other persons from living in them.
“The key thing is that once we have removed the persons from the sugar barracks land the old dilapidated houses will have to be destroyed because we don’t want people to go and live in them and we have the relocation problem again. In instances where the old barracks lands are the same areas that the housing solutions will be built on whatever remains will be handed over to the parish councils. If the barracks sites are different from the relocation sites the barracks sites will be put to other uses not for housing necessarily but other economic activities, depending on what the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries decides to do with them,” Mr. Callaghan explains.