National Irrigation Commission
• Mr Hopeton Fraser, Chairman
• Mr Donovan Reid, Managing Director
• Members of the NIC Board
• Long Service Award recipients
• NIC Suppliers and partners
• Other specially invited guests
• Ladies and gentlemen:
I thank the National Irrigation Commission (NIC) for inviting me to address the organization at this 21st anniversary luncheon, here in Ocho Rios. And, from my early involvement in the work of the NIC, I know that this is a major milestone for your organization, and it is an achievement for which you can be justly proud.
I also congratulate the members of staff of the NIC who are being recognized, today, for their collective, outstanding contribution to the growth and development of this organization, which plays a critical role in the economic and social growth of our country.
It is instructive to note that more than 100 persons, representing approximately 60 per cent of your staff complement, are being recognized this afternoon for the roles that they have played in helping the NIC to achieve its main goals–that of improving the nation’s irrigation systems.
Mr Managing Director and Chairman: The NIC must be commended for having so many persons being honoured for working, on average, more than half the life of the organization. This is most remarkable, and speaks volumes about the level of dedication and commitment of your staff members to the work of this organization. It also reflects a high level of continuity and the healthy work ethics of both management and employees.
This quality of loyalty augurs well for the continued growth of your organization. It also indicates that you are doing something right. Therefore, I extend my personal congratulations to you, Donovan; and to the members of your team, for cultivating and nurturing this loyal spirit to the organization. This level of continuity is a clear indication that the NIC is providing the right kind of working environment in which employees can achieve their personal ambitions and career goals.
This afternoon, I want to share with you my perspective on the importance of the work that you do, and take a look at the major impact areas which owe much of their existence and continued success to direct interaction with your organization.
The theme chosen for this year’s luncheon … Irrigation, Making the Difference in Agriculture…is quite appropriate, given your organization’s pivotal role in maintaining one of the key productive sectors in our country, that of agriculture. And by extension, it shows that you are an important player in ensuring that the most critical component, water, is available to sustain vast tracks of farm lands in this sector.
The first inhabitants of this country, the Arawaks, acknowledged that water was a vital resource on this island; and, therefore, named the country, “Xaymaca,” meaning, “land of wood and water.”
We accept that water is one of the most essential elements of human life, and as the National Water Commission (NWC) aptly puts it … “water is life.” But, as we all know, just as important as water itself, is–access to water.
In recent years, our country has forged a strong environmental base; and, historically, it is considered perhaps one of the most blessed islands in the Caribbean…with excellent water resources; but, not necessarily in the areas where it is most needed. And what better place to highlight the enormous need for water in the right places, than here in Ocho Rios, where eight rivers converge.
The adequate supply of water for agriculture, manufacturing and household needs are critical. Life cannot be supported without water, and this underscores the important role that the National Irrigation Commission in providing by supplying water where it is most needed, for the agricultural sector.
Most of us in this room are aware of the historical importance of agriculture. Jamaica’s economic growth or Gross Domestic Product is driven by three primary industries: services, which comprise 65%, manufacturing and mining 28%, and agriculture which contributes to 7% of this growth and accounts for approximately 21% of our employed labour force. This indicates that agriculture is a vital industry, because it generates and maintains many aspects of rural life, particularly farming.
But, despite the fact that there is an abundance of water, it is clear that there is an uneven distribution of this vital resource in our main agricultural areas. Therefore, the business of irrigation is a key element in rural development and in many respects, rural regeneration.
The records show…from parish to parish…that when farmers have adequate access to water to cultivate crops, the employment generated on farms stems the rural/urban drift, and create vibrant rural communities with an economic base.
The uneven distribution of water, we have seen, has led to the creation of innovative farming methods which we have been able to share with other countries. Reports from the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) and the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) show that: with the use of strategies–such as green houses, the mulching technique, as well as the introduction of technology into agriculture in a meaningful way, we are experiencing remarkable changes and advancements in this sector.
However, despite these creative outputs, it is important to provide adequate resources to stimulate and drive the sector, and so it is critical that water is readily available in farming communities. And, we must congratulate you here at the NIC for work being done to resuscitate life in rural communities…in this regard.
And this is particularly important when we take a closer look at the work your organization has accomplished during its 21 years of existence. Undoubtedly, your organization has had the most far-reaching impact on rural development – changing and impacting positively on the lives of thousands of persons, on a daily basis.
I commend the conceptualization and implementation of the National Irrigation Development Programme (NIDP) and the difference it will continue to make in the lives of thousands of persons, particularly farmers.
The NIDP has the drive and capacity to transform our country’s agricultural sector through the provision of water, and irrigation projects and services across this island. And we put this within the context of the current trend in Jamaica, which shows an upward mobility in economic growth and developments taking place in the linked sectors…such as Tourism, which is heavily dependent on the agricultural sector and farmers to provide the food crops needed for the hotel sector.
The availability of water is a critical factor in moving the agriculture along the path to profitability and sustainability. And this is particularly important within the context of social capital which is critical linchpin for national development.
BUILDING SOCIAL CAPITAL
It is imperative that we recognize that Jamaica cannot grow, and social capital cannot be built, without intensive and active focus on rural regeneration and rural development; and national training plays a critical role in this regard.
Public confidence and support, namely social capital, ladies and gentlemen, is very necessary in the structure of an organization such as the NIC. As an organization, you must be able to generate public trust. Why? Simple. The livelihood of thousands of people is dependent on the successful outcome of your irrigation projects.
Noted writers, such as Robert Putnam, have pointed out that an effective and efficient organization cannot be built without social capital. And, he defines social capital as being…
“…the features of social life – networks, norms, and trust – that enable participants to act together more effectively to pursue shared objectives… Social capital, in short, refers to social connections and the attendant norms and trust”.
For example, people need to trust their work environment and know that there is open communication, and they must also understand and accept that in doing so, there are mutual benefits both to them and the organization; this is absolutely necessary in order for the organization to grow.
It is evident that more than half of your staff members, who are being recognized this afternoon for long service and loyalty to the organization, understand this concept. And this tells me that NIC was firmly established on the foundation of social capital.
As the founding Chairman, Rev Garnet Brown brought to the table a set of social capital values that he has passed on; and these principles are now embodied by Donovan Reid and his team, who have brought similar values to bear on the operation of the organization. I see it too in your Human Resource approach, which shows that you have recognized and are placing the right emphasis on the need to develop social capital.
Your HR practices speak to building social capital through partnerships with labour relations; it promotes the importance of a healthy lifestyle; it encourages continuous educational improvement through training and scholarships; and most importantly, provides a strong and consistent communication flow via the ‘coffee talks’, and one-on-one discussions with staff.
This integrated approach to management are all innovative ways in which to build internal social capital, and the results are clear in the more than 100 persons receiving long service awards today.
A key component of the building of social capital within your organization is embodied in your vision statement, which speaks to the quality of employees you want to nurture. And, I note that this statement declares that the organization wants…“to become a first class company with a committed cadre of qualified employees empowered to professionally facilitate the development, coordination and expansion of the irrigation sub-sector in Jamaica in a sustainable manner.”
Today, I applaud the work of the NIC team members, some of the hundreds of unsung heroes of our nation, who are responsible for maintaining the livelihood of communities and by extension, thousands of persons through irrigation. You have moved providing water supplies in many of these communities beyond the realm of mere work to a sheer love of providing opportunities for others to succeed at what they do; and for many, farming is more than a livelihood, it is their heart.
The impact on rural life is evident in the level of dedication which goes into the projects you undertake. Your mission is not to be taken lightly and embodies the commitment you’ve given to Jamaica: “to use the available resources to develop irrigation systems and to provide the most efficient and effective service possible to the agricultural community.”
You have changed lives in immeasurable ways and your being honoured here this afternoon is testament of this. This is the legacy you have through your work by helping to generate productivity in areas where the bountiful flow of water is less than adequate. When one explores the work that was carried out in the parish of St Elizabeth, considered our breadbasket, we understand the important role you played in this process.
J. S. Sherman, while addressing the Proceedings of the 2nd Annual Convention of the Kansas Irrigation Association in 1894, said, “Water is King, and he is Knight who uses it successfully to make two blades grow where nature produced none.”
This encapsulates in a nutshell the kind of impact you have had on our agricultural sector. You have several notable projects which have made a significant difference to our farming sector – the maintenance of irrigation systems across the island and the work carried out at Pedro Plains and Hounslow in St Elizabeth, as well as Seven Rivers in St James.
PROMOTING SOCIAL CAPITAL IN JAMAICA
The same philosophy and approach is necessary to generate public trust and loyalty on a larger scale throughout Jamaica. This recent changes in the political landscape of our country provides us with another opportunity to foster the development of social capital in this regard.
One area that we must look at, in examining social capital in Jamaica, is the level of confidence and trust that people place in our social and political institutions. And, when we look at the list of trust factors in Jamaica … the family, church, community, and school comes high up the scale, with political parities all the way down at the bottom.
That is an indication that there are some serious issues, which continue to fester in our society; and, therefore, we must address them, so we can heal some of the breaches in this country.
Social capital, as Robert Putnam defines it in his book, Bowling Alone, extols the value of networks of people pulling together in one general direction. This is what we need in Jamaica today, as we seek to unite around a common objective of moving our country and nation forward. An investment in social capital, with persons taking advantage of the social networks that exist, is one of the means by which we can accomplish this.
CHARGE TO NIC
I charge the NIC to go forward as nation builders and to continue to impact on the lives of persons in providing the essential component, water, which is critical for food, security, tourism and all other components necessary for development.
Your organization can be held up as an example of the cause and effect of social capital on the lives of others. I, therefore, encourage you to continue on this path and to position the NIC to become the benchmark by which others are evaluated.
Once again, congratulations Donovan and the staff of the NIC for the outstanding service that you have given to the development of our country’s agricultural sector.
I challenge you all…to continue to pursue excellence in the delivery of service and offer best wishes for another twenty-one years.
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