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Researchers cite representational disconnect in Alligator Pond

By Alicia Sutherland
Observer staff reporter
sutherlanda@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, November 05, 2018

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Two central Jamaica-based researchers have suggested that though Alligator Pond has been targeted from the 1980s by successive governments as a prime area for community tourism, not much progress has been made.

The researchers, Dr Curt Brown and Dr Devon Crossfield, both of Church Teachers' College in Mandeville, were reporting on findings from a study titled 'Prospects of Local Economic Development (LED) in the Alligator Pond community,' conducted between May and July this year.

As a concept, LED aims to build the capacity for commerce and address infrastructural and other needs in a local geographic area, or at the micro-level, in order to improve the future of communities and the quality of life of the residents; the premise being that every community has valuable resources.

Key players, the researchers say, include residents, business interests and, importantly, local government.

They have, however, lamented that in the case of the coastal community of Alligator Pond in south Manchester, local government representation has been poor over the years.

“Alligator Pond as a community has not been properly represented and that's a key aspect of LED,” Brown told the Jamaica Observer Central following the presentation at the Bishop William Murray lecture theatre at the Church Teachers' College campus in late October.

He said that he has heard Alligator Pond described as a “sleeping Negril”.

Brown said that it will take far more than the work of agencies such as the Social Development Commission to make LED a success

“There is semblance of it (LED), but what we are saying is that it is fragmented based on the potential,” said Crossfield.

Brown, who is a native of the neighbouring community of New Forest, and who contested the 2016 local government election as an independent candidate for the Alligator Pond Division, believes lack of accountability in how funds allocated for development is spent by different political administrations is a contributing factor for Alligator Pond's lagging development.

Alligator Pond is known for its popular seafood stops and as a destination of choice for many. Its annual New Year festival is especially popular.

According to the researchers, Alligator Pond grapples with many of the challenges faced by rural communities across Jamaica, such as poor road conditions, inconsistent garbage collection and inadequate street lights. Rapid beach erosion is also an ever present concern.

Social issues such as the number of school drop-outs and low education levels were cited as major hurdles to achieving and sustaining economic targets.

The educators told the audience, which included trainee teachers, local government representatives, and members of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, that LED is a poverty reduction strategy and that the study is to stimulate discussion on how to move it forward successfully.

It was also a forum staged to garner feedback as there are intentions to do more research on the subject.

Garfield Green, president of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, in a question-and-answer segment, said that investors display interest based on opportunities and that he would like to hear suggestions on how to achieve the “low-hanging fruits.”

The findings of the research were generated through qualitative and quantitative data collected from residents and the business community in Alligator Pond.

“A study such as this requires that we pay attention to ethical considerations. We ensured that we explained fully the purpose of the study to the participants, we advised them that it was a voluntary activity, we advised the participants also that they have the right to withdraw at any time convenient to them [and] we ensured that their identities and any other information shared were kept at strictest confidentiality,” said Crossfield.

With the required funding, Crossfield and Brown intend to do further research, not only in Alligator Pond but areas such as Treasure Beach in southern St Elizabeth where they think the LED potential can also be further explored.

In addition to inadequate funding, the small sample size was noted among limitations of the research because of its likelihood for bias.

The researchers, however, believe that the present and any future research would be useful in assisting to drive the development of sustainable communities and, by extension the national vision for 2030, especially as they observed that there was a scarcity in similar literature on Jamaica.

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