urban planning

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Feeding ourselves finding ourselves and restoring dignity to ourselves as human beings

We talked about hunger for a little bit. He said that life is hard sometimes because people can’t find money to buy food to eat. I asked him if he could bear hunger? He said yes! I asked him how he did it. He said you just hold on until you get something to eat.

I thought why should he have to develop this “skill”. He is 14 yrs old. How early do we have to practice baring hunger? 

I didn’t know what to say after that. After a while he called me and asked me for $100 to buy something to eat. I paused to think. Should I give him money? I don’t want him to be hungry.  Maybe he is hungry. But I don’t like the idea of giving money like this it looks like I have money to give. But I have given so much money here and there already. Giving money like this doesn’t fix anything. 

 I decided to give him $50 instead. As I reached for the $50 I had a second thought. I have $3000 in here should I give him $1000 and ask him to take $100 and bring back the change? I decided to stick with the original decision. Give him the change I had. I was uncomfortable. I needed some space to work out why I felt like this. 

There is a line in the song “who knows ” by Protoje and Chronnix where  Protoje says “Food Deh Pon di tree while the youths Nuh have don’t have nuttin to eat” .

I thought about how many times this hasbeen my reality. Except I can just go to the supermarket.  It wasn’t until recently that I really understood self-reliance. I should be able to feed myself. I should be able to provide myself with basic nourishment. I live in Jamaica the land of wood and water with a lot of sun so anything can grow. 

I have started to learn how to grow things. My greatest success has been learning to grow escallion and add flavour to my food based on the seasoning that I can grow in a garden like ginger, pepper, escallion and thyme. To be self-reliant I need to grow more food so that I am not dependent on cash to eat. 

A few months ago my father asked me what my plans were for the rest of the year. I told him I wanted to reduce my dependency to where I didn’t really need a supermarket. To my surprise he replied with a story about how much food he had around him growing up in Portland and that all they needed at the shop was salt. 

“Begging” for money to buy food is not a good thing. Needing a job to get money to buy food to eat is not a good thing either. 

Youths are looking at life and seeing hunger. People can’t find food to eat because they have no jobs or no way of earning money or they eat very little because they earn very little or they eat poorly because they live on cheap foods. I used to think that a “cup a noodles” and some tin foods was a cheap good way to have something to eat when times were tuff. It was all I thought I could afford so I eat it knowing it had very little nutrition.

We have all been sold something which has taken us so far away from ourselves it has made us dependent and turned the population into markets for cheap food items distributed widely through Chinese wholesales shops in the capital city of Jamaica.
I was talking to a group of sistren in St. Thomas one time and they said to me “food deh Pon the tree yes but suppose you feel like you want something else to eat today? You must get tired of eating the same thing”. I completely understood what they mean and this is another thing to look at. 

In Bahia Brazil I was excited and surprised to see  a how many different  things you could make with coconut and banana and similar to Jamaica just how rich the land was.  We can create variety. Our great grandmothers and their grandmothers also wanted variety and they made many of the things we still enjoy today.

All the spaces that we occupy should be growing food. It is an essential practice. It won’t be easy in 2017 because as Ras Takura points out is a “Food war we a fight”. But we need to consider the youth and the future.  We have to provide a example for being independent and self-reliant. We have always needed to. 


Leadership Power and Dons In Jamaica

“Miss  you know any don weh good?”

“I want to talk to the adults in the community but i don’t know how. I am unfamilar with the politics of the area and afraid of coming face to face with the don. I have been told several times that you have to go in through the don. You have to have the leadership of the community on your side. But what if the leadership is a don and what if the don is not a good leader? What if our view points are opposed? What if i become a threat to the don?”


Di Institute for Social Leadership is concerned with exploring and engaging different ideas of leadership. We consider social leadership to be an important move forward or shift towards creating equitable, caring communities and responsible, socially and politically aware individuals. We do not define communities as merely a physical location but a collective of individuals who share a similar vision or interest in how we all can live together.

However in the Jamaican context, Leadership and community have very familiar meanings.

Leadership refers to a responsibility or role, to be in charge of a task or group of people is to demonstrate leadership. Community is usually physical and usually inner-city communities or rural communities come to mind. Community Leadership is usually connected to the “Don”.

Leadership is closely related to the idea of power. The link between leadership and power is a significant one. One of the questions that the Institute for Social leadership will have to engage is how power and leadership work in physical communities and whether or not the idea and model of social leadership challenges the present as well as what we can learn from that relationship and dynamic.

Any work that looks at social change and social re-engineering will bring us close to physical communities. Di Institute is located close to many communities and so we will have to understand the dynamics of the life of youth and adults that we want to engage. These communities are not targets because we feel like this is where most of the work needs to be done, but we want to increase access to learning and provide support to grow where it is limited and we also want to connect to people. Physical communities such as the ones near to the ISL have always been important for their potential to start revolutionary change in a country.

In our reflection on communities, leadership and dons we have identified a few questions which we are seeking answers to over time. These answers we believe can help in the creation of a model for social leadership.

  1. How do we successfully engage community leadership whether we consider it good or bad?
  2. What are the strategies that exist that different individuals and organizations can utilise in engaging communities?
  3. How can work be done with communities without engaging community leadership and politics?
  4. How do members of a community negotiate the leadership of the community?
  5. What do we know of the dynamics of community leadership?
  6. How can we create good leadership models in the community?
  7. Is it problematic for outsiders of a community to get involved in the social and economic development of the “community”?
  8. How can we get close enough to learn from community structures?
  9. What dangers do communities present?
  10. What is the objective of government engagement with communities? Are there alternative objectives to be pursued?
  11. Are communities separate entities on the island?
  12. What is the definition of a community? How are they formed? Is development work restricted to community work in Jamaica?
  13. Why are communities important?


Further Reading

Dr Henley Morgan, social entrepreneur – Using business principles to uplift the downtrodden

Branding Communities and Community Entreprenureship


We are starting a “Green roof” project at the ISL

  CityB20091216NG   This summer has been hot. It has been even hotter at the Di Institute for Social Leadership. This is our first summer at this location and even though we knew it would be hot inside we never thought it would be this crazy. The ISL is a small space with one small window, all our attempts to look at how to cool the place down led to the suggestion to purchase a A/C unit. We had someone come in and do an assessment of what kind of unit we would need and the cost. We were told to cool the room required 2  24,ooo BTU  or ideally 56,000 BTU. This was approximately a cost of $J 200,000 or $US2,000. Once we installed a A/C unit we knew there would be an increase in the cost of electricity.  All the options for cooling that we were presented with were expensive or required major structural changes to the building.

Global warming, environment and Kingston Jamaica

Some people know that major shifts are taking place with the climate and that is affecting the globe. Kingston is hot and dry and there has been no rain in months. There have been water lock offs and these are now standard. An editorial in the Jamaica Observer reminded us that it is easy to see the way that we have created this situation;

THERE is no doubt that the small island developing states of the Caribbean are vulnerable to natural disasters, both in regard to their frequency and severity, in particular hurricanes. Disaster preparedness is therefore an important mitigating factor. Some climates, such as Jamaica’s, have a seasonal pattern of rainfall. We have two rainy seasons and in between there are dry periods. If these dry periods are longer than usual they are described as droughts. In a small land mass like Jamaica a drought affects the entire area of land. Therefore these annual droughts result in annual shortages of water throughout the country with the attendant water restrictions, lock-offs and unavailability of potable water. The pattern of rainfall in Jamaica in the last 30 years involves a dry season each year. Since this pattern is known and predictable, unlike hurricanes which are less predictable, it is certainly possible to plan for mitigation. The problem in Jamaica is that the lack of a water policy and/or its implementation has converted a natural annually occurring weather event into a disaster. This qualifies as a man-made disaster! There should be no water shortage in Jamaica because there is enough rainfall and groundwater to serve the needs of the country well into the future, if there is proper management. There is no effective policy of collection, storage and distribution of water. There are 10 hydrological basins in Jamaica, none of which is optimally managed. The result of all of this is that even without a drought, one in four Jamaicans does not have access to piped water but rely on standpipes. Most of these persons are among the poorest 20 per cent of the population. We insist that Jamaica’s perennial water shortage is a man-made disaster because of the lack of an implemented policy of preservation of watersheds, eg the vast riverbed of the former Hope River, inadequate provisions for catchment of rainfall and hopelessly inadequate storage facilities. Ancient and decrepit water infrastructure results in more than half the water being lost due to leaking pipes. As is now clear, there has been no systematic plan for the catchment and storage of rainfall. No new reservoir has been built to supply the Greater Kingston area during the last 60 years. The Hermitage Dam was completed in 1927, but maintaining its storage capacity of 400 million gallons is a struggle against the accumulation of silt. The Mona Reservoir to be fed by the Hope River was completed in 1947 and, after several repairs for leaks, was brought into service in 1959. Droughts are acts of God but water shortages are acts of man and the failure to act. Governments over the last 50 years are guilty of negligence; the National Water Commission’s incompetence is beyond dispute and we the people of Jamaica are also responsible because we have been complacent and have tolerated the failure of successive governments.

Green roofs Living Roofs and the Urban Heat Island effect 

heatislandeffect Building design is a major problem in Kingston and this is why the solutions for cooling that are presented are increasing electricity cost by purchasing A/C units.

We are proposing to start a pilot project at the ISL for a “Green Roof”. We think this is something we can encourage through urban centres and other spaces in Jamaica as an option to cooling.

“A green roof, or rooftop garden, is a vegetative layer grown on a rooftop. Green roofs provide shade and remove heat from the air through evapotranspiration, reducing temperatures of the roof surface and the surrounding air. On hot summer days, the surface temperature of a green roof can be cooler than the air temperature, whereas the surface of a conventional rooftop can be up to 90°F (50°C) warmer.1 Green roofs can be installed on a wide range of buildings, from industrial facilities to private residences. They can be as simple as a 2-inch covering of hardy groundcover or as complex as a fully accessible park complete with trees.


One of the reasons for the increase temperatures in the city or cities is the “urban heat island” effect.

 The urban heat island effect refers to localized urban warming caused by lots of paved, dark-surfaced rooftops, streets, and parking lots. Given much of any city is covered in these low-albedo surfaces, cities can experience temperatures significantly higher than nearby green areas.  http://dirt.asla.org/2010/11/02/green-roofs-reduce-the-urban-heat-island-effect/   newyork_roof_gardens__original

Benefits and Costs of Green Roofs

Reduced energy use: Green roofs absorb heat and act as insulators for buildings, reducing energy needed to provide cooling and heating. In addition to mitigating urban heat islands, the benefits of green roofs include: Reduced air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions: By lowering air conditioning demand, green roofs can decrease the production of associated air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Vegetation can also remove air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions through dry deposition and carbon sequestration and storage. Improved human health and comfort: Green roofs, by reducing heat transfer through the building roof, can improve indoor comfort and lower heat stress associated with heat waves. Enhanced stormwater management and water quality: Green roofs can reduce and slow stormwater runoff in the urban environment; they also filter pollutants from rainfall. Improved quality of life: Green roofs can provide aesthetic value and habitat for many species. http://www.epa.gov/heatisland/mitigation/greenroofs.htm

 Further Reading Reducing Urban Heat Islands a Compendium of Strategies 

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