/** ips.english: 461.0 **/
** Topic: POPULATION-JAMAICA: Women Take the Lead in the Move Out of **
** Written 4:07 PM Jul 12, 1998 by newsdesk in cdp:ips.english **
Copyright 1998 InterPress Service, all rights reserved.
Worldwide distribution via the APC networks.
Women Take the Lead in the Move Out of Poverty
By Sam Pragg, IPS 9 July 1998
KINGSTON, Jul 9 (IPS) - How do you pull people from the depths of poverty to the place where they can at least put food on their tables?
Start with the women. At least that is what the Jamaican government along with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) seem to be saying.
Government's newest poverty alleviation programme will see 10 families headed by women benefitting from a chicken rearing project. Their attention is directed at an obscure village in the parish of Clarendon called Mount Providence
The programme into which the FAO is pumping some 10,000 dollars is being dubbed the backyard poultry project and will be run by women. "There (is) a poor set of women in Mount Providence. The project is for rural women. We feel that it is a good way to allow them to earn additional income," says Lorna Gooden, Manager at the Rural Agricultural Development Association (RADA), the government agency which is working with the FAO to implement the project.
"It will give them a start. We hope to replicate that throughout the country over time," says David Bowen the FAO representative here.
It was easy to start with these women since they were already organised, Gooden says. The women who had formed themselves into the Mount Providence Women's group would often meet to learn skills like baking, cooking and crocheting from RADA representatives.
"We showed our own initiative, instead of sitting around, saying that government should look after us," says Winsome Brown, one of the women who will be benefitting from the project. "Too many people are looking for hand-outs. We wanted to do something for ourselves, but we just needed a push start."
Gooden feels that not only will the project benefit the women who will be participating , but there will be spinoffs for the community as a whole. For instance, the women will now be able to purchase supplies from the local stores and they will be able to keep their children in school as they would now have an income from the sale of the chickens.
"It is really a strengthening of the Mount Providence women's group. It will provide the membership with viable income-earning opportunities. It will assist them with 100 square feet each of poultry units," says Gooden.
"They'll stay within their communities, their own backyards, and earn additional income for the family," adds Gooden.
But while there are many persons who are optimistic that this project will be successful and will be a model for others to be implemented in other areas in the island, there are some who are fearful that there are problems which could be almost insurmountable.
"We are located way in the interior, out of sight and out of mind. When the chicken is slaughtered, how will they get the meat to the shops in May Pen before they spoil? The roads are terrible, and that is the biggest problem facing farmers right now," says 31- year old Daniel Williams a casual labourer who lives in the remote village.
However, 19-year-old Simone Henry, whose mother will be a beneficiary of the project feels that the villagers should focus on the positives and deal with the problems as they arise.
"We will be first of all catering to our own needs for meat-kind. Then we will be selling to the surrounding communities. Only then will we be focussing on the larger towns. They are not essential to the success of our project," she says.
Mount Providence is located 26 kms from the town of May Pen, the capital of Clarendon, in mountainous, rugged terrain. There are some roads which cannot accommodate vehicular traffic. There are some areas where there is no running water and no electricity. Unemployment is high, and like the rest of the island, there are many female-headed households. On a national level female-headed households now stand at just over 44 percent.
Overall unemployment in the island now stands at 16.5 percent, but among women in the under 25 age group the figure jumps to 31.5 percent and 33.5 percent for women 25 years and over.
And as more and more companies are forced to close their doors in the face of declining economic conditions, more and more women have been pushed into the unemployment lines.
So for the women of Mount Providence, this project has come on stream at the right time and they are adamant that they will allow no obstacle to stand in the way of the success of this project.
"After going though all of this trouble, we are not going to let it fall by the wayside. This is our bread and butter. We don't want to go back to the days when we were hungry and starving," says Brown.
[c] 1998, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS)
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