The Cockpit Country has been making the news in recent years regarding the possible development of sections of its boundary. The Cockpit Country lies in the parish of Trelawny in Jamaica and has a boundary, as defined in literature, as anything within the Ring Road (which linked the British Colonial Army camps of the 17th and 18th centuries). It is 22,327 hectares, or 2.1% of Jamaica’s land area.
The Cockpit Country has been home to some of the oldest Maroon communities for more than 300 years. Historical communities bordering this region include Flagstaff in the north, Accompong in the heart of the Cockpit Country and Windsor, which lies at the farthest point within the Cockpit Country. Wait-A-Bit/Litchfield is located at the edge, and Sherwood Content is the birthplace of the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt. There are other smaller districts, with each sharing a cultural richness stemming from their common Maroon ancestry.
The Cockpit Country is also home to 11 amphibians and 40 plant species and is considered to be one of the most biologically diverse regions on Earth; the area’s unique physical location has allowed this high level of biodiversity. A portion of the Cockpit Country has been designated a national forest reserve in an effort to aid in protecting the region’s endemic (native) species, which include the giant gecko (not the one from the commercial), the Jamaican petrel and the giant galliwasp, as well as flora such as Madame Fate/horse poison, a poisonous plant; the fresh cut, used to relieve colds; and dog tongue — the leaves are shaped like a dog’s tongue — which is effective in healing open wounds.
Threats to the Region
Eco-tourism could give great revenue to the area, but on the other hand it could cause an imbalance in the sensitive environment of the region.
Bauxite mining, based on experience in other areas of the island, can destroy the natural resources that the communities depend on to survive, not to mention the health of the residents. On the other hand, it could provide great economic benefits and employment opportunities to community members in this region of Jamaica, where farming is the only livelihood.
Residents cut down trees to burn coal in order to make a living. This can have far-reaching effects, as seen in our Caribbean neighbour Haiti, where deforestation to earn a living has resulted in a largely treeless nation, with residents now reaping the consequences.
I think it’s up to the residents of these areas to decide which path their future will take. Will it be a future of economic prosperity in the tourism business, where future generations might only read about and see pictures of this lush environment in books, or will residents choose a simple, subsistent life, keeping the world at bay but remaining at one with their environment?
Then again, the imaginary geniuses that sit in the houses of Parliament might just one day find the perfect combination of development and sustainability.