Even though it’s about a place on the other side of the world, we couldn’t help sharing the story from the Guardian Weekly about the Jamaican village of Ocho Rios and their special approach to attracting tourists through genuine, collaborative community development.
Local seasonings factory, Walkerswood Caribbean Foods was the first company to bottle and market Jamaica’s famous hot “jerk” seasoning and their factory tour, The Walkerswood Jerk Country Tour is one of the West Indies top 10 community tourism attractions.
The Walkerswood factory is a model for rural development, where locals have stayed within their community rather than move to the bigger cities:
The idea behind the Walkerswood factory had unlikely origins, through an inspiring partnership between the privileged white landowners, once members of the ‘plantocracy’, Jamaican entrepreneurs and the farming locals.
In 1973, landowner and philanthropist, Johnathan Edwards, determined to create local jobs, helped to develop the Walkerswood community council and his brother headed its unemployment committee.
Roddy Edwards told The Guardian that as a white Jamaican, he has been involved in “a grand theft from people who had not been paid properly for their part in the nation’s development”. Denouncing “the western model of maximising profit”, he says “the best way for people of European descent to be involved in reparations is to engage in sustainable, fair businesses”.
They started by selling jerk pork to local bars and later became the first company to bottle and market Jamaica’s famous jerk seasoning.
In 2005 they company invested $US 6 million in a six hectare plant and now employ 160 people, making 23 products from coconut rundown sauce and solomon gundy fish paste to chutneys, guava jam and rum marmalade.
Also, most of the ingredients: scotch bonnet peppers; scallions; ackee fruit; callaloo leaves; thyme and Jamaican ginger, are supplied by local farms, employing yet another 3000 locals.
According to the Guardian article, the company exports 85% of its output on a turnover of $6m last year. It is owned by 12 active partners and has an employee share ownership scheme.
The Environmental Foundation of Jamaica has funded biodigesters to recycle water from the factory to farms, while Walkerswood community development foundation supports education, efforts to tackle HIV/ Aids and emergency relief for reconstruction after hurricanes.
“It has helped to create a model community in which those who had privilege and prosperity are working alongside those who are dispossessed, in a sharing way, creating a symbol to . . . Jamaica of what might be when there is a social conscience and collaboration.”
Hopeton Dunn, the chairman of the Jamaican Broadcasting Commission.
“The experiment also counters the destructive side of globalisation. Companies like Walkerswood, that are indigenous and have a niche market, are the direction we should be going.”
Doreen Frankson, president of the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association.