Grab the opportunities provided by adversity

Friday, December 21, 2012

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IN Kitson Town, St Catherine, residents have organised themselves to build a new post office and restore the once lively market as part of a drive to refuel the sluggish local economy.

In Effortville, to the north of May Pen in central Clarendon, the tireless efforts of citizens have led to the refurbishing of their basic school at a cost of $38 million. At Melrose Mews in Manchester, people determined not to be overcome by criminals have banded together to form a neighbourhood watch.

In northern Manchester, the Christiana Potato Growers are finding ways to increase production and develop by-products of an array of produce.

And in Treasure Beach, St Elizabeth, residents, through their admirable community organisation Breds, are building a multi-capacity sports park — their sights set on the rich sports tourism market which is growing by leaps and bounds globally.

Such stories, and many others with their tremendous potential to inspire, are all around us.

Sadly, they are overshadowed by the daily trauma — news of an economy in dire straits desperately awaiting life-giving oxygen from a 'hard-end-holding' International Monetary Fund (IMF); underpaid public sector workers flexing their muscles in a hopeless no-win situation; unemployment; poverty; ignorance; and of course, crime.

And yet, it is those stories of people — be they entrepreneurs, factory workers, farmers, fisherfolk — working to help themselves and each other, which must be our beacon.

For no matter the loans to come from the IMF and its multilateral partners; no matter the belt-tightening and thrift to be required of us all, it is our people's creativity and willingness to work hard and co-operate for the common good that will lift us out of the economic and social mire.

Just as the people of Treasure Beach have done in building community tourism, and are now bent on reaping from their sports tourism project, so too must other communities seek to build economic niches. We must learn from the examples of economic and social self-help in Christiana, Treasure Beach, Kitson Town, Effortville, Melrose Mews, et al.

In agriculture, for example, Jamaica will not be able to compete with the world in mass production. But a fortunate confluence of climate and soils has made the quality of many of our products the envy of the world.

Why then can't rural communities in which such products are best grown be organised to provide branded by-products of our world-rated ginger, chocolate, coffee, pimento, yam, cassava, among others? It's easy to say it can't be done. That's just a cop-out. We know that with energetic, idea-driven leadership, and a willingness to work, it can be done.

Obviously communities such as Treasure Beach and others mentioned above have benefited from extraordinary leadership. Unfortunately, an inadequacy of leadership has held back far too many of our communities.

The situation cries out for State agencies, such as the SDC and RADA, as well as the Church and civil society to double and redouble their efforts at capacity-building within our communities. That done, leaders will emerge.

As a society, we must not allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by negativity and bad vibes. As we exit 2012 and look to the challenge of the new year, we must remember that where there is the will, there is always a way.

History shows that adversity has often provided fertile ground for opportunity. In Jamaica today, we must make it so.




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