St. Thomas Communities Working to Create Better Water Supply and Sanitation


Residents of the White Horses, Botany Bay and Pamphret communities in St. Thomas have come together to solve the problem of poor sanitation and inadequate water supply in their communities.
To date, they have received some $2 million to implement a sanitation project and are about to sign a contract, which will see the community maintaining their own water supply systems, with no dependence on the National Water Commission.
A group called the White Horses, Botany Bay and Pamphret Development Benevolent Society is spearheading the projects, in partnership with several government organisations and agencies, including the Ministry of Water and Housing, the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica, the Construction Resource Development Centre, and the Social Development Commission (SDC).
The collaboration began three years ago when members of the White Horses Citizens Association began discussing the state of the White Horses, Botany Bay and Pamphret communities and what could be done to improve the living conditions of its citizens.
“We recognised that some of its citizens were living in poor conditions and without the basic sanitary facilities. Our roads, health centres and our schools were in poor condition, and it was affecting school attendance,” says President of the White Horses, Botany Bay and Pamphret Development Benevolent Society Leonard James in an interview with JIS News. He cited the lack of water and poor sanitary conditions as the number one problem in the communities.
After much discussion, and subsequent advice from the Social Development Commission in Morant Bay, the Benevolent Society was formed and registered in July 2002. Mr. James says the decision to become a legal entity was necessary in order for the Society to be able to sign financial agreements/contracts and have funds disbursed to them.
Since its formation, the organization has been involved in community sanitation and hygiene work. To date, 30 sanitary Ventilated Improved Double Pit Latrines (VIDP), including one Tile-Field unit have been constructed in the three communities with grants totaling more than $2 million from the Coastal Water Improvement Project (CWIP) through the United States Agency For International Development (USAID).
As part of conditions for funding, residents were asked to prepare the pits for the sanitary solutions and to transport building materials to their homes.
Mr. James explains that without the financial support, it would have cost each beneficiary approximately $60,000 to construct a double pit latrine and $45,000 for a single latrine. He discloses that the Society is in the process of establishing a Revolving Loan Scheme so that persons could access funds to build sanitary facilities when needed and pay back at “a lower rate of interest.”
A draft proposal has been developed for this project to be financed by the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ).
The Chairman informs JIS News that the Benevolent Society began “seriously” to deal with the sanitation problem after a survey was done in June 2004 to assess the sanitation needs in the communities. According to Mr. James, it revealed that from a sample of 1,045 households in the communities, ” over 52 people were without toilets and that was frightening.”
“The community was sitting on a time bomb and we didn’t realise it until after the survey was done. The survey had shown that there were people within these communities who had no toilets, and the existing toilets, were in very poor condition. It is from there that we started to look seriously at the situation,” Mr. James says.
He points out that persons were without sanitary facilities not because they were “careless” but because they could not afford the cost of labour and building materials.
In an effort to ensure that the community members keep their environment clean and have proper sanitary facilities, the Benevolent Society has recruited three Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) promoters to sensitise residents to proper hygiene practices.
WASH Coordinator and Executive member of the Benevolent Society, Winifred Knight says the promoters who live in the three communities, have been visiting homes to speak about the need for good hygiene practices and distributing flyers and brochures with instructions on the use of the solutions.
“I think we are reaching them but there are still a few who have a “don’t care attitude,” she adds. Ruth Smith, 76, who lives in the Botany Bay community is grateful for the assistance she received in constructing her single vault unit.
“I appreciate it very much and really wanted the toilet since the last one break down. My husband is dead and I have no one to help me,” she laments, noting that she had to find $5,000 to pay someone to dig the pit for her and another $1,000 to transport the materials to her home.
Meanwhile, Mr. James says, the water supply project being funded by the Jamaican Government in collaboration with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) should commence after a contract signing at the Ministry of Water and Housing this month. “As soon as the contract for the project is signed, then the project which is a build and operate one should start very soon after,” he says.
He adds that the contractors who built the system would operate them for a period, until the members of the community were trained and ready to manage the water system.

JIS Social