Action Item 3) Building the Bridge: The Reverence for Life “Center” and Pilot Project: Developing pragmatic, real-world educational content for Jamaica and its people.

Proposed Pilot Project, an extension of JRLU: Jamaican Agricultural and Community Economic Diversification Project (JACEDP)

Introduction and Background

Our team’s long-term experience, knowledge and conclusions from preliminary research have identified some specific areas of need for Jamaica’s near and long-term future. Currently, the national government of Jamaica has recognized that Food Security is of primary importance to the stability of the nation. An extensive Food Security Agenda is being launched in November 2008.

In order for the Jamaican Reverence for Life University to benefit current affairs and deliver timely, real solutions, we are proposing a tentative pilot project that would focus on agricultural and community economic diversification. The primary aim will be for capacity building of small agricultural producers while at the same time empowering sustainable community and regional development which would allow regions of the nation to potentially be competitive in the global marketplace, while, more importantly, enhancing regional economic stability. These strategies address the various issues that have been identified by the national government and ministers and other concerned individuals with a primary goal to create sustainable agricultural and rural development across Jamaica.

An important part of the Agricultural and Community Economic Diversification Project is the creation of a “Center”. The strategic approach for this “technical assistance center” was first proposed in Texas as a regional development model in 1997: the Texas Heritage Trail Program (THTP). In 2006 the Heritage Trail Program received a U.S. Presidential award from President Bush.

The core strategies have evolved significantly since 1997 and are have been presented and partially developed in West Texas, the state of Chihuahua, Mexico, and Colombia, South America.  These same strategies are being adapted to another project that was first established in 2003 in Texas as a pilot project called the TexBox Tourism & Community Network Portal. Additionally in the U.S. the states of Iowa, Texas, Minnesota, Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Oregon, Indiana, Wyoming and more have initiated similar programs to provide Internet access portals to create a “meeting place” for travelers seeking information and for communities interested in showcasing and marketing their tourist experiences. As of 2008, approximately 15 states are developing similar initiatives. 

The following describes the development strategy for the “Center” for offering the various programs and content. As depicted in Diagram 11, the center of the diagram indicates the functional “Center” for the JRLU. The idea is to create a central repository of educational content, technical assistance and services that would be supported by the Internet for extending this content and services to the various clients, constituent groups and communities to be served.

Typically the challenge would be to develop the critical mass of content, technological capacity, marketing and networking capabilities (set of green circles and blue ovals) to create a “critical mass” to have the “Center” succeed. Fortunately, the JRLU team has all of these capabilities and access to the necessary educational content and personnel with the expertise to develop the various courses and services. Our team has been working for several years on the exact issues that need to be addressed for success. Our leadership team and faculty have the necessary knowledge and expertise to develop courses, not just based on academic learning, but based on real-world experiences.

Diagram 11: JLRU’s Library and School of the Future


Executive Summary: Jamaican Agricultural and Community Economic Diversification Project (JACEDP)
A collaboration between JAMLINK, Reverence for Life University, Jamaica’s Secretary of Education, Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary of Tourism, Jamaican Cable University and Regional Agricultural Enterprises and Tourist Attractions.


As one travels Jamaica and experiences the rich, diverse and robust culture it is quite apparent that agriculture and tourism are entirely complimentary. The beauty of the countryside is a result of the strong history of agriculture. The aim of this proposed project is to recognize the strengths of these two industries and develop strategies to grow opportunities and further diversify the economy, based upon existing and new agricultural and experiential tourism potentials. Additionally, this proposal will introduce the development of new technologies that will facilitate this process and significantly contribute to a new platform for extending education to more people. Inherent in these technologies are the capabilities to track all aspects of the initiative including educational program success, marketing and business performance.

The initiative, in short, will build a bridge of benefits to two (and more) woven industries – agriculture and tourism via entrepreneurship, diversification into value-added agriculture and creative business development in contrast to a competitive approach. The main features of the initiative will build from a regional foci, development of cooperatives, and adapting successful innovative agricultural initiatives from other places (e.g. Rwanda - DREAM project, Plant a Tree Today Foundation, ZERI, Utility Research Gardens, etc.).

Technology and education will be the vehicles for success. The end result of any effort will be to extend educational opportunities to broader and more diverse audiences. The effort will focus on extension and outreach programs throughout a specified region(s). Once this effort has been developed, tested and evolved, the same process can be taken to other areas in Jamaica and adopted.

The key objective of JACEDP is to create a link between the Jamaica Reverence for Life University and the people of Jamaica and develop a Technical Assistance and Educational Resource Center (hereafter Center) that provides access to information and assistance to a specific region in Jamaica focused on enhancing Food Security and value-added agricultural and tourism development.

1) Aim to enhance a holistic economic development strategy – agriculture, value-added agriculture, entrepreneurship, micro-enterprise development, experiential tourism (e.g. ecotourism, nature, heritage & cultural tourism, energy, cottage industries, etc.

2) Adapt existing educational materials from the JRLU team for use in Jamaica (outlined above).

3) Develop a “custom” entrepreneurial training series (modularized) specific to the context of the host community(s) – may partner with other universities or programs (e.g. Marketplace for Entrepreneurs, and Marketplace for Kids).

4) Develop a custom Jamaican Rural Community Leadership Program (JRCLP)

5) Create a Web based distance learning resource center that could be accessed through “partner” universities, Internet cafes and/or community and school computer centers/classrooms.

- On-site, hands-on training seminars provided by locally trained instructors (using a train-the-trainer) approach supported via Cultural Fusion, Solomon Source (seek sponsorship from Jamaican Ministry of Agriculture or other entity).

6) Adapt online tools from Near-time, Cultural Fusion, Ning, Google, etc. to support the community effort.

7) Conduct research and project benchmarking throughout the project lifecycle.

Pilot Study Areas – Pending discussion

- Pre-selected agricultural region(s)

- See criteria for selection listed below


- Minister of Education, Ministry of Commerce, Science and Technology
- Dawn & Desmond Green (Moods Channel)
- Cultural Fusion
- Solomon Source: Vision Excelerator, Rural Innovation Institute, QC Collective, Eye Am Sharing, Experience Co-Evolution Group
- Web Antiphon
- Affiliate Universities and institutions
- Zoom Information Systems
- Countrystyle Community Tourism Network
- Let's Do It In the Caribbean
- etc.


      - Stimulate/create robust rural community economies
- Sustainability as a driver creating sensible linkages between the various
   complimentary “assets” and economic sectors within the community/region
- Conserve (and/or enhance) the agricultural, natural, historical and cultural
   assets of the community
- Enhance Quality of Life

This initiative aims to integrate all aspects of community economic development into a centralized approach supported by a technology based information and technical assistance – JACEDP Center. Publications, information and a variety of rudimentary tools are available to assist communities realize a more diverse set of economic development opportunities. These resources can be combined with new forms of assistance to address other important areas of need including: value-added agriculture, leadership training & development, tourism development, community enhancement, technology development and utilization, and forest, animal and plant (ecological) protection and enhancement. These areas can be supported via technical assistance and training and other support to stimulate/enhance other economic activities that are necessary for communities to flourish, while also protecting the human, natural and historical resource base and culture of the region

The approach utilized will provide incentives for the adoption and diffusion of the use of new technologies and distance learning tools and information that is, essentially, universally needed for all economic development activities. New Web-based technologies can create direct economic returns (rewards) for businesses and communities. These “rewards” then will stimulate people to expand their use of computers for running and growing their businesses and community economic development programs.

An active outreach and “marketing branch” of this initiative will promote resources and services and also conduct in-the-field research to identify and recruit communities that are “primed” with proper leadership and a community collaborative spirit. These communities (or groups of communities) can then be “seeded” with a package of incentives to stimulate their participation.

Because this approach is designed to be market-driven, it will be economically sustainable perpetually. Driven by a successful business development model, programs will be designed to be self-sustaining over time. Initial funds will be used to “prime” the initiative, but the “Center” will be designed to generate revenues so that the initiative will not need to be subsidized over time.

First Steps

- Conduct Strategic Planning Session (JSPS) for the JACEDP strategy workshop
- Identify Project Board and Key Stakeholders for the coalition
- Identify viable sized “region(s)” to initiate project
- Create short list of prospect communities (regional based preferred – using Pilot
    Community Criteria)
- Form working coalition in partnership with regional communities
- Evaluate those communities based on a set of criteria to ensure project success
- Resources for the Center are available and some are in development, or can be    
    adopted/integrated from a variety of sources (e.g. Solomon Source, Extension at
    various U.S. universities, etc.)
- Identify potential additional funding sources (public & private)
- Leadership team, advisory board and other experts “contextualize” the approach
    based on political and social climate of proposed site

Pilot Community (Region) Selection Criteria – tentative

      - Leadership
- Creativity
- Cottage industries
- Relatively stable economic basis
- Community forestry
- Funding assistance available
- Diversity of natural resources
- Critical mass of tourist attractions
- Linkages between communities (collaborative potential)
- Absence of contentiousness intra-community and inter-community
- Infrastructure (roads, telecommunications, service industry e.g. food, lodging)
- Access to financial support and outside funding
- Social networking – capital
- Access – to tourism attractions by visitors, distance from University
- Prior leadership training
- Volunteer/service organizations
- Prior projects that may have potential to re-start or revitalize Rural development models (existing Jamaican approaches –
    Rwanda/Texas A&M).

Taking the Center to the People

One of the key aspects that must be understood is that not all potential clients have access to online resources. Even though Internet access is becoming more and more ubiquitous and accessible (i.e. Internet cafes, libraries, etc.), certain groups do not utilize these resources. Also, there needs to be an emphasis on education, or exposure created for JRLU, to have these resources be utilized for more than just gaming, chatting, socializing and sending email. Of course online education is very well developed, however, we intend to extend the model even further to reach those audiences that typically “fall through the cracks”. This is especially the case with rural agricultural communities in developing countries, like Jamaica.

Below we are presenting an organizational chart for Digital Extension Bus that we proposed in Colombia. The bus(s) would be outfitted with 10 computers to create a mobile library. However, as depicted in the organizational chart the key element are active, informed and motivated staff to deliver “train the trainer” programs to the communities. The most efficient model will be to develop “teams” of program coordinators in each community. These individuals would be to the go-to people in these communities for letting citizens know about JACEDP, and also to train people how to get the most benefits of the programs.


Figure 1: The JACEDP Mobile Classroom and Digital Library

 Figure 2: Organizational Structure for the JACEDP—Mobile Classroom and Digital Library

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