Singing in the rain

Improving access to water and adapting to climate change in Clarendon, Jamaica

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Eurica Douglas is one of Jamaica's real life heroes.

SGP Jamaica National Coordinator, Hyacinth Douglas (left) and PDC Development Manager, Eurica Douglas (right). Photo by Le Ann Roper, 2020.

With an infectious laugh and an alluring lilt to her voice that hints at the joy she draws from her work and purpose, Eurica Douglas, a lawyer-turned-social-worker, has been supporting the needs of communities in Jamaica’s Clarendon Parish for more than 20 years.

Through her unfailing optimism she draws people in.

Coupled with a confident and forceful mien and her commitment to improving community sustainability, Eurica’s work with the Clarendon Parish Development Committee has touched many lives.

SGP Jamaica National Coordinator, Hyacinth Douglas (left) and PDC Development Manager, Eurica Douglas (right). Photo by Le Ann Roper, 2020.

SGP Jamaica National Coordinator, Hyacinth Douglas (left) and PDC Development Manager, Eurica Douglas (right). Photo by Le Ann Roper, 2020.

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Water is life

The small communities of Pleasant Valley and White Chapel are located in the southern part of Jamaica’s Clarendon Parish and are home to approximately 1,500 people.

With so few inhabitants there is an absence of government supplied potable water, as relevant agencies tend to prioritize water supply to larger community settlements. For these isolated communities the struggle for water and the impacts of severe dry seasons are everyday realities.

During the dry season, the cost of truck-borne water significantly increases, rendering it prohibitively expensive for these rural communities.

The stop-gap solution requires women and children – primary household water gatherers – to walk as much as 5km (30-40 minutes) each way to access water from the nearest standpipe or water source. Aside from the significant opportunity cost that hours of seeking water entails, the difficulty in securing water also impacts domestic health, sanitation, and livelihoods.

Finding solutions

To address the ongoing water shortages, in 2012 Pleasant Valley embarked on a project to strengthen their water security and enhance their resilience to climate change impacts.

With Eurica’s unwavering guidance, and support from SGP Jamaica, the project quickly began to improve the community’s access to water and management of their natural resources.

Subsequent to project completion in 2013, the community has not gone a single day without water.

It is a significant enough tenure to have attracted emulation elsewhere in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean, a testament to the project’s replicability and scalability.

Harvesting the Rain

One of the primary project activities was the rehabilitation of an old community water catchment system that had been out of service for 40 years.

Rainwater harvesting is a simple and time-tested method for collecting water, and is a commonly practiced climate change adaptation technique.

Communal catchment systems are common in rural Jamaica, and were historically an important source of water. Prior to the project, and in light of its four decades of disuse, it was considered ‘a relic’.

But as with many traditional technologies, there was an underlying wisdom to its construction. The old community catchment structure was repaved and refurbished, and seven water storage tanks were installed.

The system can now collect and store up to 100,000 litres of water, which is used for domestic purposes and is tested and purified in partnership with the Clarendon Municipal Corporation.

The project also funded the construction of a rainwater harvesting earthen dam to store water and serve as a source of irrigation for other agriculture and livestock initiatives in the community.

The Environmental Foundation of Jamaica also provided two solar water pumps to provide electricity at the water collection sites.

Additionally, 1 hectare of land, previously used for bauxite mining, is now being managed using sustainable agro-forestry management techniques. Fruit trees such as ackee, avocado and cash crops now completely cover the previously degraded area, significantly improving farmers’ earning potential.

Rainwater harvesting is a simple and time-tested method for collecting water, and is a commonly practiced climate change adaptation technique.

Rainwater harvesting is a simple and time-tested method for collecting water, and is a commonly practiced climate change adaptation technique.

Climate action for resilience

For many Caribbean Islands, hardships caused or exacerbated by climate change are an everyday reality.

Hurricanes, coastal erosion, sea level rise, unpredictable weather, droughts and flooding are just a few common impacts of a changing climate. Small Island Developing States (SIDS) often experience acceleration or intensification of these impacts due to their small land areas, susceptibility to natural disasters, geographical isolation, limited natural resources, and sensitive ecosystems.

With these challenges in mind, in 2009 the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme (GEF SGP) began implementing the Community-Based Adaptation programme (CBA), supported by the Government of Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 41 Least-Developed Countries (LDCs) and SIDS.

Laying down the law

One of the purposes of law is to provide a consensus-based instruction manual for society to organise itself, so in many ways Eurica’s involvement and skill set was uniquely well suited for this project.

Grassroots decision-making is optimally the purview of both community development and the law, so the success of Clarendon’s water project shows the symbiosis between a firm legal grounding and a soul nourished by community success.

It’s one thing for a project to meet its near term goals and objectives, but what serves as a testament to the wisdom of this project, and the skills and dedication of the community and people like Eurica, is its longevity, as well as how many times it has been replicated in neighboring communities.

“People began to see that the Parish Development Committee was an organisation that was able to change people’s lives completely…..that the work had real impact.”

Seven years on

“Seven years on, they are still there, still working... It brought the community and everyone together - stakeholders, community, organisation. Everybody has now come together for the same goal: Everyone [has] come together to work and maintain this system.”
Eurica Douglas, Development Manager, Clarendon Parish Development Committee

As part of the rehabilitation of the waterworks, a maintenance plan for the tank and pump was established, including a roster of trained community maintenance volunteers. They have also reinforced their partnership with the Clarendon Municipal Corporation, which enabled them to gain support for additional training in chlorination and other critical aspects of tank management that were unforeseen at the beginning of the project.

For Luzan Elliot, from Pleasant Valley, Jamaica, “We used to have to carry water ‘pon our head for miles, especially when we have drought, but now we have our tank again. We know the hardships when we don't have water, therefore, we will take care of our water.”
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This young farmer now has improved access to water for agriculture. Photo: UNDP Jamaica, 2018.

This young farmer now has improved access to water for agriculture. Photo: UNDP Jamaica, 2018.

Catalyst for Change

From one exemplar project, a constellation of benefits unfolds. As the project resulted in tangible benefits for the community, its ‘vision for improved water access became an actual reality’.

As Eurica explains, the project served as an important example to local and national authorities by showing them what was possible:

“This one project stimulated many other projects in the community… It made things real. It made the vision more of a reality. It showed them how change was possible….. - made them think of other things that they could accomplish.”

Entrance to underground water storage at catchment site. Photo by SGP Jamaica , 2020.

Entrance to underground water storage at catchment site. Photo by SGP Jamaica , 2020.

Entrance to underground water storage at catchment site. Photo by SGP Jamaica , 2020.

Repaved water catchment surface enables rainwater collection. Photo by Le Ann Roper, 2020.

Repaved water catchment surface enables rainwater collection. Photo by Le Ann Roper, 2020.

An reas of once degraded land are now covered with productive agriculture due to increased irrigation and water storage capacity.

Strengthening Partnerships

In order to benefit the ≈1,500 people within the community, this work relied on key networks and partnerships being established with stakeholders such as members of the Producers Marketing Organisation, the National Association of Parish Development Committees, the Forestry Department, Rural Agricultural Development Authority, National Irrigation Commission, Parish Council, the Social Development Commission, the Planning Institute of Jamaica, local private sector businesses, surrounding schools and the Parent Teachers Association.

Members of the Pleasant Valley Community. Photo by Rissa Edoo, UNDP.

These synergies have proved vital to ensuring the sustainability of small-scale community interventions.

Lasting Solutions

The community has a well-earned sense of pride and ownership in their community water systems, and this has resulted in a more unified and empowered citizenry. For the community now ‘they are never out of water’.

Additionally, residents who previously left the area due to water hardships are now returning due to increased water supply and economic opportunities.

Project partners and community members evaluate the project’s success and learnings. Photo by Le Ann Roper, 2020.

“Even more encouraging is the impact on health and sanitation, sustainable agriculture, sustainable livelihoods and local economies, largely achieved in partnership with members of the community," UNDP Resident Representative Denise E. Antonio noted.

Members of the Pleasant Valley Community. Photo by Rissa Edoo, UNDP.

Members of the Pleasant Valley Community. Photo by Rissa Edoo, UNDP.

Project partners and community members evaluate the project’s success and learnings. Photo by Le Ann Roper, 2020.

Project partners and community members evaluate the project’s success and learnings. Photo by Le Ann Roper, 2020.

Leading the way

Perhaps most importantly, rainwater harvesting is now a nationally endorsed water security strategy in Jamaica.

This project and other SGP community based adaptation projects have demonstrated the success and effectiveness of community driven adaptation interventions.

"We have come a long way… ...these projects allow us to demonstrate to government and other partners that community initiatives can be sustainable and scalable… and this Pleasant Valley project is a perfect example."
Hyacinth Douglas, SGP National Coordinator, Jamaica

The project site now serves as an adaptation model and is frequently visited by national and regional agencies, donors, and academia.

Replication throughout Jamaica

The project’s design was aligned to key national climate change documents such as Jamaica’s National Communications to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) supported by UNDP.

The projects’ best practices, lessons learnt, and technical designs have now been incorporated into Jamaica’s national water plans and policies, including the country’s Rural Water Policy.

The projects have also influenced local authorities to seek funding to improve water access and distribution to additional communities that are without a water supply, such as the nearby Mocho community. Community based adaptation and rainwater harvesting are now mainstreamed into Jamaica’s Local Sustainable Development Plans, enabling communities and policy makers to work together on joint interventions.

The Pleasant Valley project has also been replicated and upscaled through the Japan Caribbean Climate Change Partnership (JCCCP) regional project, implemented by UNDP.

Broader replication is also possible where other SIDS that face similar challenges could benefit from this example.

Members of the UNDP and JCCCP teams visit the Clarendon project to learn more about this successful community water harvesting model- they later scaled up the project to several other communities in Jamaica, 2017.

Small Grants = Big Impacts

SGP provides financial and technical support to civil society and community-driven initiatives that protect and conserve natural resources while improving quality of life. Since 2005, the Small Grants Program has supported more than 99 projects in Jamaica.

The project has improved domestic water supply in Pleasant Valley. Photo by Rissa Edoo, UNDP.

We are not alone

About the CBA Programme: In 2009 the GEF Small Grants Programme (SGP) entered into a partnership with the Australian Overseas Aid Programme, now assimilated within the Australian’s Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). With funding from DFAT, the objective of the partnership is to improve the adaptive capacity of local communities in 41 countries, including 37 SIDS.

“The CBA projects that have been implemented through the GEF Small Grants Programme augmented the climate change and disaster resilience programme in the target communities. The main factors of success for most of the CBA projects stemmed from the partnership-building process that was cemented at the local and national level which promoted the sustainability of the initiatives. The emphasis now is on sharing these lessons to encourage replication and upscaling by creating even more collaborations with local and international funders.”
Ms. Eurica Douglas
“Climate change is undoubtedly a critical development issue for Caribbean nations, and it is therefore important for us to continue to develop medium to long terms plans and implement strategies geared towards climate change adaptation and mitigation. Initiatives such as this SIDS Community Based Adaptation (CBA) programme provides assurance to Jamaica that we are not alone in the struggle to combat the impacts of climate change.”
UNDP Resident Representative, Denise E. Antonio

UNDP Resident Representative Denise E. Antonio tests the newly refurbished water catchment facilities in the community of Richmond Park, Northern Clarendon, where the Pleasant Valley project was upscaled.

For more information on SGP-supported projects in Jamaica, visit the SGP Jamaica Country Page.

For more information on the CBA Programme, please visit here.

Visit the SGP website for details on the overall Small Grants Programme.

UNDP Resident Representative Denise E. Antonio tests the newly refurbished water catchment facilities in the community of Richmond Park, Northern Clarendon, where the Pleasant Valley project was upscaled.

UNDP Resident Representative Denise E. Antonio tests the newly refurbished water catchment facilities in the community of Richmond Park, Northern Clarendon, where the Pleasant Valley project was upscaled.

The project has improved domestic water supply in Pleasant Valley. Photo by Rissa Edoo, UNDP.

The project has improved domestic water supply in Pleasant Valley. Photo by Rissa Edoo, UNDP.

Some farmers have installed drip irrigation systems to ensure effective water use. Photo by UNDP Jamaica, 2019.

Some farmers have installed drip irrigation systems to ensure effective water use. Photo by UNDP Jamaica, 2019.

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Story by: Rissa Edoo, Hyacinth Douglas, and Andrea Egan

Photos: © UNDP Jamaica CO, SGP Jamaica, LeAnne Roper, Rissa Edoo.

Header photo: Aphiwat Chuangchoem, Unsplash

Location: Clarendon Parish, Jamaica