JIS News

In its bid to equip residents in some of Jamaica’s poorer communities with the skills to manage and run developmental projects, the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) is conducting community development workshops with a number of community-based organizations.
Representatives from Rollington Town in Kingston, Cambridge in St. James, St. Leonard’s in Westmoreland and Boston in Portland were among the 60 participants who were in attendance at the recently held workshops.
The community development workshops form part of the Poverty Reduction Programme, a joint project between the European Union and the Government of Jamaica that is being piloted through the JSIF. The Programme is being financed by a $6 million Euro grant (J$420 million).
Speaking recently to JIS News, Operations Manager at JSIF, Omar Sweeney explained that participants in the community development workshops were trained in project management, auditing, financial management, and the proper techniques to operate successfully.The Social Development Commission, he added, was also on hand at the workshops to instruct the participants in how to make their applications to JSIF for funding.
Mr. Sweeney further explained that participants were also exposed to one of the integral elements of the programme, a methodology known as community based contracting.
“What that means,” he said, “is that communities will be charged with the implementation of their own projects in terms of hiring contract labourers and purchasing their own material.”
However, he said that in order for communities to accept the responsibility of self- management, they “will have to be registered as a legal entity to sign a financial agreement” for funds to be disbursed to them by JSIF.
Communities, he added, would need to establish benevolent societies to receive funding.While JSIF will bear the entire cost for each community’s project, Mr. Sweeney pointed out that the projects were funded in three tranches.
“It is done on an advanced payment basis. In the first tranche, they submit a list of activities they expect to perform and we will issue a cheque for the amount of money for the work to be carried out,” he informed. He said once that was completed and the work consistently monitored, cheques for the second and third tranches were issued forthwith.
The JSIF Operations Manager said already, four workshops had been hosted at the Runaway Bay HEART Hotel with communities from around the island, but that plans were afoot “on regionalizing the workshops based on where the communities are, and is also planned to have these workshops at least once a month.”
Mr. Sweeney said the projects that have been identified “range the full gamut of our [JSIF] project menu which includes construction of basic schools, installing water supply systems and construction of roads.”
Continuing, he noted that upon the projects’ implementation in the varied communities, JSIF would play an ongoing role that was more supervisory in nature.
“The community is 100 per cent behind the project.it is their project, we only supervise and really monitor or fill in the gaps, where we think they may go wayward but it is really for them to do the work once they had the training and the additional support during implementation,” he said.
The European Union’s Technical Advisor to JSIF, Gangolf Schmidt, who is also the Project Manager of the Poverty Reduction Programme (PRP), concurs with Mr. Sweeney.
He told JIS that delegating the responsibility of managing their own projects to the communities was critical in the process of empowering them.
Mr. Schmidt explained that “some of the communities in the programme had doubts in the beginning and because we are dealing with very poor communities mainly in the rural areas, a lot of work had to be done convincing them that they really had the potential of human resources.”
He pointed out that to date, 27 projects had been identified, adding “most of the projects are in a very advanced stage”.
“They have been approved by the Board of JSIF as well as the PRP Steering Committee and the EU and they will soon start implementation,” he stated.
He revealed “we have first successfully started three projects, a very big sanitation project in Whitfield Town, the Galilee Basic School in St. James and another basic school project in St. Leonards in Westmoreland.
Mr. Schmidt expressed confidence that most of the projects should be completed by mid 2005.
The PRP, which was established in 2001, is aimed at improving the living conditions in the island’s poorest communities by providing access to quality basic infrastructure and services, especially in the fields of sanitation, water and health. About 35 projects are to be funded under the programme.Communities which have identified resources within their areas and possible projects that can enhance their way of life are encouraged to make submissions to the PRP for consideration.

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