COMMENTARY: Relocating a rural community to a town setting

Houses and Yards in Caribbean Sketches by Roger Burnett
Houses and Yards in Caribbean Sketches by Roger Burnett

Don’t get me wrong. I am extremely concerned about the plight of the residents of Petite Savanne and I sympathize with the government’s predicament in the wake of the devastation caused by Tropical Storm Erika.

Nevertheless, I question the wisdom of relocating a rural community to a new town setting.

The artist’s impression, which presumably reflects the development concept, appears to be devoid of the principal attribute that contributed to the resident’s lifestyle: namely, yard space. The envisaged new town completely annihilates the Petite Savannians previous way of life and livelihood. A repetitive high-density housing scheme might be the solution for city dwellers but not necessarily the best solution for rural Dominicans.

Furthermore, there seems to be no attempt to incorporate Dominica’s rich resource of raw materials. These materials have stood the test of time and contribute to what is left of our vernacular architectural heritage. Plastic, steel rebar and concrete are not home grown. True enough, neither is plywood and galvanize. But timber, bamboo, stone, sand, clay and lime mortar are available in abundance. Moreover, we have enough land to give yard space to those who want it.

Elsewhere in the world, the creation of new towns on green field sites, whether they be they high density or garden suburbs, have a checkered history. Relocating whole communities is even more problematic.

An alternative solution would be to assist residents in building their own homes, either on land that remains stable at Petite Savanne, or elsewhere. The scheme could incorporate innovative architectural assistance and the learning of skills. Helping one’s neighbor with major tasks would revive village unity and restore the pride that is found in using one’s own labour and resources. I elaborated on these issues in my earlier commentaries: Culture Made Visible and Building Back Differently.

COMMENTARY: Culture made visible

COMMENTARY: Building back differently

But it is not too late. The advantage of a project being at the conceptual stage is that concepts are not set in concrete. As a design engineer I frequently go back to the drawing board and as a sculptor and painter my preliminary sketch is revisited countless times before the final image takes form. In both instances, the end result is all the better for the revisions.

For the people of Petite Savanne, I dearly hope that in the final scenario you will once again have hens pecking around your kitchen door.

Artiste's rendition of the project for relocation Petite Savanne
Artiste’s rendition of the project for relocation Petite Savanne

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  1. Annon
    June 22, 2016

    As difficult as this is, keeping the community together and as close as possible and also close to their former homes is tantamount. After all, many of these folks were self employed in the the Bay Oil/Bay Rum/Bwaden business. They need to be cautiously encouraged to go back and tend to their fields of Bay etc. as soon as possible. Living in Bellevue area is close enough for them to be able to reasonably tend their fields. I believe continuation of self employment is important for them, the country, and in their best interest.

  2. ??????.....
    June 22, 2016

    The artistic impression did not do justice to the people of Petite Savanne for the reasons that I already stated. Finally your last query is I am a Woman, God fearing at that and try to be objective and not insulting to anyone. I hope, sir, you are not one of those who think that women should not speak or remain silent. Also like you I do not have a degree in architecture but my field is complementary and I do read a lot and did some work in that area as well. I more or less use the wisdom that I ask the Lord for daily. I do so always for many timed, I see so many comments which only show hatred, jealousy, envy and most of all lack mere common sense. Mind you education or degrees is not common sense. Wisdom is from God the Father Almighty and is freely given to those who asks for it. Blessed day to you sir and all the readers.

  3. ??????.....
    June 22, 2016

    Continued …the artistic impression did not do justice to the people of Petite Savanne. And to answer your final query and the others as well. I am a woman, God fearing and wants to be very objective and not insult anyone. Blessed day to you Mr. Roger Burnette. Lastly sir I do hope you are not one who thinks that Women should not talk and keep silence. Again blessed day to you.

  4. ??????.....
    June 22, 2016

    Contnued…. compterised world and have moved away from the old ways of doing thing. We the older folks have to adapt to changes once it is online with God’s word. But go back to the drawing board and take into account the new generation who may necessarily want to keep the old methods you proposed.
    What is important now? Dominica is not such a very big Island. You proposed helping them to build their own homes. You know what this could mean? People want to build exactly what they had before and you should see the houses they had. Few would get houses and the majority would be without. Do you want that? I am sure no because this would be a mamoth cost that no one could afford least the Government. You also advised in going back to an unstable area where what happened was seen over the years but was ignored. Also we need to know from what we see recently that no where is 100% safe. A good day to you Mr Burnette and continue to assist since this is what we should do…

  5. ??????.....
    June 22, 2016

    Dear Mr Burnette .. you have 70 years practical experience which means that you probably may be well over 80 years. I do not dispute your claim but you may well understand that Petite Savanna before Erica was not as you described it. You say that you know Dominica since 1974. At that time I was already in Secondary school. I take it to mean that you may not have seen or visited Petite Savanna before Erica. Also though not as aged as you, I was born and bred here and came from the late 1950 babies. It is come dale though that you have offered voluntary services. Thanks for that and continue on well doing. So we have established I was around in 1974. Yes I undestand your concerns but to say that they should have hens pecking in their yards is farfetched. The citizens also had well built concrete houses. You also said your experience was passet down from you parents and grand parents. You and I well know that we live in an ever evolving and changing world. We are a fully

  6. The artist who is his own Boss...
    June 22, 2016

    An artiste paints from inspiration, his her own style and so is a man or woman who dreams of the type of home they want to live in for the rest of their lives. We should not just think of the people of Petite Savanne as victims who need a place to live and so they must settle for what ever the Government design and build for them. I think the writer offers some reasonable suggestions on how to consider improving drafts into final designs and how to use indegenous material, skills and the input of the beneficiaries in their own designs.

    In addition to the design or the style of home and layout of the community we should aim to limit the level of risk, for example Belvie Chopin is located in the heart of an active volcanic centre and so a decision to relocate to Warner in my view would have been a better decision. I guess the Government and parl rep have preferred reason for the site selected. We can all have this conversation in a mature manner which lead to improvement.

  7. Native Son
    June 21, 2016

    What difference does it make relocating the people from Petite Savanne from one danger zone to another? Anyway time will tell if this project ever materializes…

    • ??????.....
      June 22, 2016

      Where would you relocate them? Honest answer Native Son. Your views on a non danger zone?

      • Chris Doe
        June 22, 2016

        “non danger zone” in Dominica I might add. A zone that would be able to provide the kind of cultural expression (space, construction materials and other attributes) in the time and cost that is readily available to Dominica. The commentator may not know about thekind of pressure the people of Petite Savanne are placing on government to rebuild their community for them “free of charge”. I consider the space issue on a 49 acres plot of land to develop for hoising to house 1,000 plus people. If you add the yard space that the people ear accustomed to, then you will no longer have a Petitte Savvane as a community, but rather the people of Petite Savanne living in scattered areas around Dominica., What is true is that Erika was not a dream or a manmade activity developed by government. Erika was real and that life after Erika cannot and will never, ever be the same for so many people including non-residents of Petite Savanne.

  8. Shameless
    June 21, 2016

    Very well said sir. I sincerely hope that the parl. rep responsible for the well being of his people will step up to the plate and fight for his people. He was hailed a hero for making it to tee savanne by any means necessary immediately after the storm. I like many others are begining to wonder if this was all a political move designed to take advantage of the crush emotions of his people.

    I remain adamant that lands located in the San Sauveur/ Pte. Soufriere area (Bois Mygo, Fye, Ly-viere-lui, Fond Blay) are more suitable for the relocation of Pte. Savanne folks. The lifestyle and culture of the area plus the every day way of life (essential oils, fishing, farming) are closely aligned to what the people are used to.

    I will keep praying the people

    Always assertive! :twisted:

  9. Hortus
    June 21, 2016

    The person who write this article seems to have some rather odd notion that Petite Savanne was some idyllic pastoral village of wooden board houses and happy farmers. It was a village of concrete and block houses and the people who lived there had construction jobs, they were teachers, fishermen, shop and office workers. They grew vegetables and distilled bay leaves for extra cash or to feed their families. You know why they lived like that ? Because block, steel rebar, and concrete homes what the people of the village wanted to live in and that’s what they worked hard and saved up to afford; a strong, modern structure for their families. And this is what they want again. Wishing wooden houses and yards full of chickens on others is nothing more than a selfish and deluded perspective of Dominica community life. Did you write this from the comfort of your villa ?

  10. selling passports-in construction-in..........
    June 21, 2016

    To go further in support of the real scheme of things, We have, on Island, in Dominica, indigenous, qualified, hard-working Contractors, builders, construction workers, architects, civil other engineers, Community Development Specialists, willing to give their technical, expertise, to build their country.

    Which Gov’t, really, would not allow its people to plan, design, construct,, be totally in solidarity, immersed in the relocation effort? Is there an ENVIRONMENT IMPACT ASSESSMENT(EIA) done, submitted and approved? PW Ministry seem to be out of the entire picture in such an important, historic, scene, relocating an entire RURAL community.

    So, in 2016, a foreign firm, Montreal Management Consultants, based in Dubai, selling our passports, MILLIONS that firm making on our backs, Skerritt and his DLP Gov’t, still award the re-location works re. Petite savanne to a firm, based in Dubai, selling our property, our PASSPORTS?

  11. Reasoning
    June 21, 2016

    Well written,well said,i totally agree with you on that! Only those who are not enlightened who will not see your point!The people of Petite Savanne should revolt and make their voices be heard!

  12. ????????
    June 21, 2016

    To the persons who see every article as a means to hit at the Government, shame on you. Criticising everything like Not a herd follower. It is high time, you guys get up from your slumber. Love to one another is more than the Government. The Government is not perfect and cannot do everything. Instead of criticising and being negative (not seeing anything positive in nothing at all) (Same Stroke everytime) Change your mindset. You as a human person (s) have to also play your part to your fellowmen. What are you doing to help alleviate their plight. So much talk and no action and the same kind of negative talk everytime. Actually you have a sensitivity to the real issues, so why not volunteer your time to assist others in love. instead of surfing the news and seeking articles to criticise and criticise . You all need deliverance to be able to love God, yourselves and others. life is not what you guys think it is. Wounding and hurting, hating, jealousy to satisfy your own egos

    • Tracy
      June 22, 2016

      You appear to have a myopic view of the situation.

      The article is a well researched and totally unbiased one. I cannot identify any political bias in that article, on the contrary it is a constructive and focuses one. I believe that all the negativity that you have shown in your comments have come within. Perhaps you are the one who needs to purge yourself of your political bias and start being a more impartial and honest analyst.

      I would like to suggest that you reread the article and perhaps you will arrive at a more positive and logical conclusion.

  13. Fester
    June 21, 2016

    Has anybody asked the residents of Petite Savanne what THEY want?

    June 21, 2016

    Nonsense… I take it the person who wrote this article had never visited Petite Savanne. These people did not live in wooden homes in the woods. I think this is as always jealous Dominicans wanting what other people have. These people have faced a major disaster and lost everything including the lives of family members and friends. they have been displaced and have this traumatic experience forever ingrained in their memories.

    Your speaking from a platform of ignorance. Progress is progress Plain and simple.

    • Fester
      June 21, 2016

      I live in one of the most developed countries in the world, and progress is never plain nor simple.

    • My View
      June 21, 2016

      A typical narrow minded labourite comment. The least you could do is some research on the matter,if you have the capability. In countries where this model has been adopted it has always failed. Case in point, Tivoli Gardens in Jamaica which bred criminals like DUDAS. Another case in pint, the projects in America, which have perpertrated poverty and produced criminals.

      All you do is criticize any comment which is not in your party’s favour. WHAT A SHAME. OPEN YOUR MIND TO EXPERT ADVISE FOR ONCE.

    • %
      June 21, 2016

      You are a DLP slave,narrow minded and lack the understanding of what constitutes progress.

  15. sweet
    June 21, 2016

    I agree. Were the residents eevn consulted on this new design?

  16. lightbulb
    June 21, 2016

    I hear what the author is convey, and to a certain extend I agree.
    But I dont see it as an easily scalable concept.

  17. Goodwillian
    June 21, 2016

    Even before reading this article, I thought building the New Petite Savanne community would be done by the Petite Savanne people giving them their piece of land and and done under guidance and advice from the experts with coup-de-main in mind.

  18. Dalit
    June 21, 2016

    Mr Burnett

    I like your style because you offer constructive criticism. I would encourage you to contact someone like Lucien Blackmoore at the Ministry.

    Good luck.

    • June 21, 2016

      I assure that I did contact Mr Lucien Blackmoore immediately after the storm and freely offered what help I could give from a lifetime’s experience on similar rehabilitation projects. I sent in my CV as requested but I have heard nothing since.

  19. forreal
    June 21, 2016

    what!! are you serious,we live in a new development era,where the government is getting rid of the pit toilet age, here you are assessing our people as a tribal community that they should continue living their lives prehistorically,what’s wrong with you people? :(

    • Ajean
      June 23, 2016

      I think the author is trying to offer some a constructive critique. This is not about treating people as tribal which they are not, but o offer an ecological response to the reconstruction of Petite Savanne. Why should not the people who will live in this new development have yards where their children could play or where they can grow some thyme, basilique or lettuce, or compost some kitchen scraps instead of importing soils from abroad which can carry risks to the physical environment.

      I propose that this writer foresees long-term holistic development of the people of Petite Savanne where the shock of the destruction by the disaster in incorporated with a vision for new community that embodies all that is good from the pre-Erica way of life with the good that can come from new understandings of the former combined with technological advances and lessons learned from failed attempts at reconstruction in other parts.

  20. Bulldog
    June 21, 2016

    What is sad to date there has not been a meeting with the resident of Bellevue Chopin. I wonder which part of the world would accept a community within a community without even having consultation with the people of the existing community. Don’t they know that there are young men and women in the village who need land too. I see the people of Bellevue being locked out in a process that have great implications for them in the future.

    • ????????
      June 21, 2016

      Pathetic! to whom does the world belong? to Lord God Almighty. Nonesensical that we are not bowing to the Lordship and even think this world or that piece of land is ours. No wonder so much infighting of families. Erica did just that that we must trust and depend on the Heavenly Creator and realise that we are passing through. Nonesensical that in such circumstances that we even have to say whom we want and where. What if the whole island was destroyed God forbids. Now we have to settle for loving one another, prepare to meet our maker, and love as Christ loved us and share with others those who have more even in donating lands etc. To those who are making a problem even with housing persons who have been displaced by Erica, where is your compassion?? With all due respect to the writer Mr Burnette, whilst I saw you gave suggestions, I must state that we too become over confident in our degrees not even realising that our given talents are for God’s glory. In a time like…

      • ????????
        June 21, 2016

        this, you should be looking at how you can volunteer your expertise to make this a reality so the people can get back to a semi stability. I say semi because in the world is semi as we only pass once we cannot lean too much on our own understanding. Erica told us so. Our emphasis is doing the best whilst in this life for God’s glory. Helping, loving, donating what we have to those less fortunate. What would Christ have done??? To all those saying that who and who should be consulted, where is your compassion? What happened to Petit Savanne and Dubique could well be anywhere. Any village and would you not want to do something for persons displaced??? Deep thinking before we comment and seem uncaring. Now all who can help via expadlyertise given by God, do so voluntarily and freely so the resettlement can be done as quickly as possible. The people of Petite Savanne are hurting badly & instead of depending solely on Government alone, let us work together to happen quickly.

      • June 21, 2016

        Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms ????????

        I do not have a degree, but I have 70 years practical experience, along with handed down knowledge from my father and grandfather before me. I was also one of the first to volunteer my services and to contribute after Erika. My friends from Petite Savane will verify this. I have known Dominica since 1974. I’m not sure if you were around in those days.

  21. and so it is
    June 21, 2016

    My point exactly. Petite Savanne is a fishing and agriculture community.some residents made their livelihood on that . What are they to do now with a housing scheme

    • ????????
      June 21, 2016

      Donate some agricultural land to them. Don’t they have to be housed first? Instead of talking, we can see what area we can help. If you have estate , donate a few plots. We are each others keeper. Remember we are not here forever. Forever is in the after life and what we do now in this life is what dictates where we spend the forever.

  22. Not a herd follower
    June 21, 2016

    I totally agree with you,Roger Burnett. But, you see, the problem is the Ministers of government and many of the planners in the public service do not have sensitivity to the real issues you raise, do not know much and , worse, are arrogant.

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