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Residents of communities in South Manchester have been playing an active role in the plans for the sustainable development of a wide cross-section of communities in that constituency, and the districts within them.
The Cross Keys Development Area, which is the area being focused on, includes a large section of the Canoe Valley Coast and is home to over 5,000 persons in four main communities and over 15 districts within these larger communities.
Chairperson for the Cross Keys Development Area Committee, Smeadley Reid in explaining the concept said, “a little over two years ago, the Social Development Commission (SDC) came into the area and sensitized the populace in the Cross Keys boundaries about the importance of development activities in the area”.
He said that a document was prepared called the Cross Keys Sustainable Development Plan that would see development taking place in the four main communities and the 15 districts.
In rationalizing the formation of the Development Area he said, “No one knows the physical, social and economic conditions in these areas like us and so whatever development is to come to this area we must have a say and be totally involved in it. It is for this reason that the Cross Keys Development Area was formed”.
The planning and implementation of programmes to develop communities within the development area is carried out by the Cross Keys Development Area Committee, which is a non-political and non-denominational organization with its membership comprising representative drawn from a number of groups in the development area. The groups consist of churches, citizens’ associations, senior citizens groups, and youth clubs, among others.
Mr. Reid pointed out that the committee wants to ensure that when bauxite mining begins in the area, farmers are not neglected and the environment is not left ravaged, and that there is an adequate water supply system for the area, proper maintenance of public amenities, and that skills training and other like activities are made accessible to youths in the various communities.
He explained that the committee will be overseeing the rehabilitation of social infrastructures such as the Cross Keys Community Centre, which has $5.8 million earmarked from the Constituency Development Fund for its renovation. Upon completion, a management team comprising representatives from the various sector groups in the development area will oversee the managing of the facility.
“When the Development Area Committee (DAC) began, the Cross Keys Community Centre was the flagship of the DAC. It focused on it because we wanted to see it returned to its former glory,” he said.
He stated that the DAC will also be implementing strategies to ensure the safety of residents and will be carrying out effective management of the Coco Walk Farmers’ Group greenhouse facility.
“We want to ensure that our area is not left behind in national development planning,” he added.
Member of Parliament for South Manchester in which the Cross Keys Development Area falls, Michael Peart said that South Manchester is listed as the poorest area of the parish and hence there was a need to develop the entire Cross Keys Development Area.
He added that significant progress has being made in education as the area now boasts over four high schools, resulting in many students pursuing tertiary level education.
“The most critical problem that we have is the bauxite mining… it is an inconvenience and a set back because unfortunately the bauxite is located where the most fertile lands are. So we have to manage our relations with the bauxite companies, the Jamaica Bauxite Institute and the Commissioner of Lands to make sure that the least destruction is made on our communities and to ensure we get maximum benefit,” he said.
The main economic activity in South Manchester is farming and is the primary source of livelihood for many of the residents. Stapes, such as yam, vegetables, scallion and thyme, are the main crops cultivated in the development area.
Parish Manager for the SDC Manchester Office, Rose Griffiths said the prime mandate of the SDC is community development and in particular governance activities, that is, ensuring that communities are properly organized with structures that allow residents to have a say, and participate in the development processes that are taking place in their communities.
She said that persons will soon be visiting the development area to conduct a demographic survey so that the information can be used in assisting with the development plan for the area.
The four main communities within the Cross Keys Development Area are: Marlie Hill, Plowden, Grove Town, and Cross Keys. The districts within these communities consist of areas such as: Coco Walk, Great Valley, Broughton, Ainsley, Heartease, Good Hope, Woodlands, Sommer Town, Buckup, Smithfield, Porter Town, Resource, Boothe, and Warwick, among others.
The 2004 Economic and Social Survey of Jamaica lists nine Development Areas in Manchester, three active Development Area Clusters, 75 communities, 15 Community Development Committees, 342 Community Based Organizations and six Community Development Plans. The status of the Parish Development Committee was stated as being active.