FOR some time now we have been impressed with the work of the Soufriere Regional Development Foundation, the way it has been fulfilling its mandate of promoting economic and social development in this very important southwestern town.
Although not spared from the vagaries of St Lucia’s vicious and divisive politics, this organization has soldiered on and continues to achieve on behalf of Soufriere and its people. In recent weeks, the SRDF has been quite prominent in the news media announcing new initiatives in furtherance of that mandate.
There is so much to admire in the SRDF. For starters it was formed out of an earlier organization called the Soufriere Development Programme (SDP) which was set up at the instance of some very prominent and influential townspeople somewhere around the mid 1980s. Some of them are still around, while others have passed on.
As should be expected, the main focus of the SRDF has been in the area of tourism, given the prominence which Soufriere has always enjoyed as the site of the island’s best known landmarks. It was not long before the vision of these trailblazers was broadened to include the development of the community as whole. In the early 1990s, the SDP gave way to the SRDF that we know today. It was then registered as a company. Later, the government demonstrated such great confidence in the SRDF and its work, that it entrusted it with the management of the Sulphur Springs Park which today account for the Foundation’s revenues. The Foundation even operates a radio station in Soufriere.
We give this background to acknowledge the most recent projects undertaken in Soufriere by the SRDF. It has upgraded and enhanced the Sulphur Springs and nearby trail and is set to assume the management of the jetties and other associated amenities in the town. In doing so, the SRDF has added value to the town’s tourism product which will undoubtedly contribute to its sustainability.
One should not get the impression that the SRDF is only about the tourists who come to Soufriere. This is not the case. The Foundation has also been generating badly needed jobs for the townspeople in addition to the fact that its facilities are used by them as well.
It appears to us that the SRDF has become a model agency that could be replicated in other parts of the island. We frequently hear talk about allowing people in the towns and villages to be involved in their own development. At another time, the buzz sword was “decentralization”, then “local government”, but the fact remains that Soufriere has provided example of what small communities can achieve with foresight and the commitment of a few dedicated souls to strive for change.
The SRDF has not been spending huge sums of money on glorified projects, just small sums that have been able to bring relief and comfort to its people and its visitors in addition to lifting up the whole ambience or environment in the town. Of course, there is still a lot more that needs to be done in Soufriere in particular and other communities in general. We won’t even comment on the city of Castries this time, simply because its condition continues to be one of utter disgrace which shames our tourist industry, not to mention those who live and work there.
We like what is taking place in Soufriere under the direction of the SRDF and wish the Foundation success in its future endeavours.