JIS News

Twelve men and women from Hanover have been given the chance to become productive citizens as artisans and carpenters, through a bamboo utilisation project being run by the Dolphin Head Trust.
Executive Director of the Trust, Paula Hurlock, says the involvement of the parish’s residents in the project which is located in Eaton, Hanover is a critical factor to its success to date.
She tells JIS News that the project, which began three years ago by way of a bamboo workshop funded by the Japanese Embassy, is important when viewed within the context of rural development, as it stems rural-to-urban migration and creates employment opportunities in the area.
“Once you don’t create opportunities for these people.[there is the capacity for them to] . turn into criminals in the urban centres, so we really need to focus on specific projects like this that are located in the rural region, utilise the natural resources and utilise the human resources that are very abundant,” Miss Hurlock points out.
The Executive Director explains that the bamboo project came about as a result of the Dolphin Head Trust’s interest in conserving and protecting the Dolphin Head Mountain.
“We found out that the area that we are concerned with.Lucea and communities around the Dolphin Head Mountain, of which there about 12 to 14, they were rural communities with great poverty and what we found out is that there is a direct link between poverty and environmental degradation. So, what we realised is that if we want to conserve and protect this area, we have to look at reducing poverty in the area and creating economically viable alternative livelihoods,” she says.
The non-governmental environmental organisation, then set out to preserve the mountain region by utilising environmentally compatible methods. It was decided that bamboo, which grew in large quantities in the region, and was a renewable resource, could be used as a means of plugging the dual problems of poverty and environmental degradation.
The Japanese Embassy came on board and funded a bamboo workshop, which was held in July and August of 2003. Residents of selected communities were then trained in bamboo design, craft, furniture and manufacturing. Funding from the embassy also provided equipment and a building to house the project as well as to engage the services of a Japanese expert, who offered training in bamboo weaving.
Additional funding for the project, she adds, was also sourced from the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica.
“We finally managed to get the product up to par last year December and launched our product line in January of this year. We are now marketing our products and we are selling bamboo products, mostly on the north coast and a little bit in Kingston,” Miss Hurlocks informs. “We are actually now at a stage where we are in a position to support ourselves ever so marginally,” she tells JIS News.
Furniture made through the bamboo utilisation project run the gamut from loveseats, armchairs and benches, to home and garden accessories such as planters and vases.
Miss Hurlock says that while the products are not being mass produced or sold in furniture stores, as the project for the most part, is still a small-scale operation, there is substantial interest from the public whenever the products are displayed at craft shows. As it is, she reports that the project supplies small properties in Negril, and interested homeowners such as persons from Montego Bay, who want to acquire pieces for their home.
The Executive Director is also optimistic that additional orders for the fledgling bamboo project might also come from the operators of a hotel, which is presently being under construction in the parish. “We are hoping that with the hotel coming on stream down there in Hanover, we will be able to produce furniture pieces for that hotel,” she notes.
Noting that partnerships have been forged for the development of the project, Miss Hurlock says that the French Embassy approached the Trust in 2004, as a Guadeloupe-based bamboo designer, Damien Labelle, had heard of the project and expressed an interest in establishing some kind of collaboration. She says that after Mr. Labelle attended a workshop in Jamaica, “he liked the basis of our workshop, particularly the fact that it was a community-based initiative.and that we were wholly and solely committed to using our local artisans and ensuring that they are used in the area as part of the process”.
Mr. Labelle gave his commitment to work on the Jamaican bamboo utilisation project through the Guadeloupe-based Franco Caribbean Cooperation Agency.
Subsequently, a cooperation agreement was reached in January of this year with the Guadeloupe agency and the Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO), which acted as the local facilitating agency on behalf of Dolphin Head Trust.
Mr. Labelle is set to visit in Jamaica for a four to five month period, starting at the end of this month. His visit forms part of a feasibility study for the possible establishment of a long-term bamboo project, aimed at marketing bamboo designs locally, in Guadeloupe, and also in France and other European Union countries.
“It is a feasibility study,” Miss Hurlock says, pointing out that “the whole purpose of the project is to see how feasible it is and work out other legal arrangements for logistics as to whether this is going to be a product made in Jamaica or is it going to be a product of Guadeloupe, so it is really a testing type of project. We would be very glad if it all works out, as it would be the first of its kind in terms of cooperation between a French-speaking island in manufacturing.”
On the matter of ongoing financing for the project, the Executive Director says that the Dolphin Head Trust will be seeking to access funds. “We have sent out a number of proposals to see if we can access some grants for the bamboo facility. We haven’t turned up any yet.(but) I am happy to say that so far, we have been able to manage on our own for the last five months, in fact, without any external funding,” she tells JIS.
“We found out recently that the French Embassy had announced a new grant and we also found out that Jamaica Business Development Corporation has some grant funding available as Cricket 2007 comes up, so we are going to be seeing if we can get some technical assistance to maintain the facility and increase the quality of our product and increase production in the next four to five months,” she adds.
As for the future of the bamboo utilisation project, the Executive Director assures that it will be a bright one. “Whether we get funding or not, it is our aim to keep the facility up and running. We have equipment that we got from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency, we have bamboo, and we have people. We really have no reason not to be able to keep that project going. We also have orders. A lot of people are interested and there is interest in having us present at a number of craft shows throughout the rest of the year, so we anticipate that we will continue to be seen and we will continue to receive orders,” Miss Hurlock says.

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