Eastern Caribbean, ODA and Dominica

Ministry of Overseas Development , UK Govt – Social Development Adviser, Barbados and Dominica 1976-78

The ODA (now the DFID) had a decentralized unit for the Eastern Caribbean located in Barbados which managed British government aid to all the Caribbean except Jamaica, Guyana, Grenada and Trinidad/Tobago. This unit had specialists in most development fields, and Richard Holloway was the person representing social development. “Social Development” at this time was considered rather differently than it is now, and was more like “social welfare”. The fields in which I was encouraged to work were youth, women, community development, and different kinds of social problems.

The area for my work (I shared the social development field with another adviser, a woman) was St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Barbados, Dominica, the Turks and Caicos Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, Montserrat, Antigua (with Anguilla) and Belize; but these territories were governed in different ways. St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua were independent countries, Turks and Caicos, Montserrat and Anguilla were still colonies, Belize was independent but had the British Army and Air force stationed there. This involved a very large amount of travelling to the islands, but not long enough to get to know the social problems they had. During my time in ther Caribbean I spent three weeks at the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Youth Centre in Guyana, and undertook a survey of attitudes of the Amerindian population’s towards a new irrigation dam planned to be built in Belize.

After about six months a large community development “Self-Help Project” was agreed for Dominica through the office of the Local Government and Community Development Department of the Premier’s office, and I was transferred from Barbados to live on Dominica for the next year and a half. The Self Help Project” was an important part of Dominica’s development at that time – encouraging local communities to get involved in developing the infrastructure that was needed for their improvement. The work mostly involved building schools, community centres, roads, bridges, clinics, nurses or teachers quarters, and markets. Not only was it unlikely that such would be built if it was not for the Self-Help Scheme, but the Self Help Scheme was a responsive project which made sure that funding was only made available for projects that people wanted, since they were also agreeing to contribute their labour free, but also that they would be prepared to maintain what they had built themselves. It was noticeable in Dominica (and in other Caribbean countries) that infrastructure built by Government without any local community involvement, often collapsed, and remained unrepaired because it was not considered to belong to the local community.

The Project was managed by staff from the Dept of Local Government and Community Development, headed by Sylvestre Joseph, advised by me, and supported by a VSO called Claire Herford. Also involved was a Road Engineer, Don Ellerman, on loan from the Peace Corps, and an architect, Michael Dieze, on loan from the Premier’s office.

The system of communities putting in proposals, the Self help Scheme designing and costing the project, the community putting in the free labour, augmented by skilled artisans paid by the Self Help Scheme worked well, and a substantial amount of construction took place. The Scheme was popular and was over-subscribed, and involved all communities attracting all age groups.

There were other elements of the project that were innovative – particularly the functional education about the technical side of the infrastructure. The Self Help Scheme put out booklets on road construction, building construction, use of different technologies to help communities understand what they were asking for. These booklets were produced by electronic stencil cutting, using Gestetner machines and were an appropriate technology. The Scheme also provided the opportunity for experimenting with a variety of building technologies , using local resources, rather than relying on the usual concrete blocks.



  • Substantial numbers of roads and buildings were put up by communities helped by the Self help Scheme.
  • The Scheme successfully inculcated the attitude in Dominicans that they could do things for themselves, rather than rely on Government to do things for them, and that this produced better development, physically, and psychologically.
  • Communities were encouraged to achieve their own development, of which they were proud, and for which they were prepared to manage the maintenance.
  • Valuable and useful booklets were made and distributed which acted as catalysts for self help schemes and for the instruction of the communities in what was possible.


In 1979 Hurricane David ripped across Dominica and destroyed some, but not all of the Self help Scheme buildings. In 1980 there were civil disturbances in Dominica which politicised the people of the country and led people to distrust government. This period was overcome under the new Government of Eugenia Charles.

Apart from the Self help Scheme itself, Richard Holloway saw many opportunities for appropriate technology to be used which fitted the resource base and the technological expertise of the Dominicans. He introduced ideas from other parts of the world, (particularly from the well-documented prototypes of the island communities of the South Pacific) and linked them to the idea of self-employment, particularly of unemployed youth on the island.

Richard Holloway handed over to another Social Development Adviser, when he left.



  • Self Help in Dominica – pamphlet of the Local Government and Community Development Department.
  • How to Build Roads in Dominica
  • How to make a strong House using special blocks made by the Cinva Ram machine.
  • Using the Cinva Ram
  • Some aspects of Self-Employment
  • Low Cost Housing Demonstration units for the government of Dominica
  • Mixed purpose extension to Roseau Informary
  • Forest ranger’s house at Gleau Gommier
  • Report on Low Cost Housing Seminar, Dominica Feb ‘78
  • Appropriate Technology Prototypes, Dominica 77-78


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