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Ten (10) entities have been selected by the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands’ National Forestry Conservation Fund to share some $43 million in financing this fiscal year, to undertake various conservation projects targeting watersheds and forest reserves across the island. Executive Officer of the Fund, Rainee Oliphant, tells JIS News that the cash grants are ready and the first tranche will be dispersed to five of the successful entities by the end of this month, with all of the organizations receiving cheques by the latest October.
“We have the money ready and we’re waiting to give out to at least the first three,” she informs. These entities, she notes, have satisfied all the requirements established by the Fund’s Oversight Committee. “They have staffing and other things in place to begin implementation once they receive their first tranche, and so we’re going to be doing those by the end of September,” she explains.
According to Miss Oliphant, the distribution of entities that will be awarded funding spans “the length and breadth of Jamaica” from Portland to Westmoreland, and covering critical watershed areas such as Yallahs in St. Thomas, Rio Minho in Clarendon, and the Cockpit Country in Trelawny.
At least three of the projects will concentrate on reforesting the denuded areas of the Yallahs Watershed area, where some 25 hectares of land will be replanted. The impact of land degradation on the Yallahs Fording during heavy rain falls has become infamous, she points out, and “so we’re seeking to address some of the land degradation issue, which exists there”.
At Rio Minho, she informs, there is an issue with regard to forest resource management and land degradation, and under one of the projects, a forest management plan will be developed.
Another project, operating out of the rural St. Andrew community of Dallas, will focus on establishing protective systems to slow the rate of land degradation taking place in the community, while the National Tree Growers Association will receive a boost in capacity that will centralize its activities.
“We’re assisting them in getting a dedicated member of staff, also to get some equipment . their members are scattered all over the island, so we are assisting them in developing a secretariat,” Miss Oliphant informs.
Other projects will focus on agro-forestry initiatives and according to the Executive Officer, “we have an interesting community project in the Great River Watershed (St. James), where we are looking at assisting them in developing alternative livelihoods, so that would decrease the stress that is placed on the forest resources in the area. We are promoting the development of a greenhouse. They’re going to be doing some agriculture activities (planting) cash crops to sell the hotels.”
In the meantime, conservationists in Negril, Westmoreland will use their funds to remove an alien-invasive species of vines that threaten indigenous plant life in the Bay area. “We are assisting a local NGO (non-governmental organization) to remove the natural invasive species and kind of encourage the restoration of our native plant species in the area, because what it (vine) is doing now is overcrowding the area and so the plant species, which exists there naturally, are not able to grow,” she notes, while underlining the threat the vines pose to the palm trees in the Royal Palm Tree Reserves in that area.
According to Miss Oliphant, the move by the Conservation Authority to provide funding for conservation projects is designed to empower community groups in watershed areas to take responsibility for the preservation of their environment and to harness the support of non-governmental organizations in halting the degradation of critical areas. “We recognize that, for example, the Forestry Department and the other governmental agencies, which have the environment in their remit, that they are not able to do all the things they need to do to protect and conserve the forests,” she points out.
She expresses the hope that the projects will assist in promoting good conservation habits among Jamaicans. “We’re expecting great things from each project. (We anticipate) that a lot of the information will be spread to the public stressing the importance of protecting the forest and natural resources. That’s one of the main things that we’re hoping to achieve, not just to cover the land, but also to spread the information about what the benefits are to us humans,” she adds.
Miss Oliphant notes that the majority of the entities have made provisions for the cost associated with a public education campaign in their budgets and project managers will be held to a stringent regime of accountability.
“We have a grant recipient agreement, which will be signed between the Jamaica Protected Areas Trust and the successful entity. That will outline exactly what task they are supposed to accomplish within the timeframe, and also the money that is supposed to be expended on a particular item, whether it is the purchase of materials, whether it’s labour, other things,” she points out.
She states that the money will be disbursed in tranches and further allotments will be contingent on the completion of tasks. The programmes will also be carefully monitored by the Fund’s programme coordinator and other staff, to ensure that the money is going towards areas stated.
In the meantime, Miss Oliphant notes that there is no set time line for project implementation as this is guided by the work schedules of each entity “but we’re anticipating that once they receive the funding, that they’ll hit the ground running.”
Seven entities have submitted budgets, which could run about $22 million for 2007/08. The other three entities are still fine-tuning their budgets.
The amount, she notes, will cover funding for the first year for long and short term projects, adding that most projects run from one to four years. Those considered long term have a duration of more than three years.
Another tranche of funding, some $16 million, will be dispersed for the projects identified in 2007 for the 2008/09 period, “along with the projects which will be okayed in 2008,” she divulges.
Miss Oliphant adds that another call for applications will be done in January, and encourages those entities that did not succeed this year to “get involved again.”
“I know there were a lot of disappointed persons this year. We couldn’t have funded everything. There were some very good projects, and I would encourage persons, even if you weren’t successful in 2007; if you have a great passion for it, please go and submit a concept note again in January,” she urges.
To be considered for funding, interested applicants should be actively involved in conservation in Jamaica. “Your project has to have a forest-related component because we’re a Forest Conservation Fund,” the Executive Director informs.
She notes that entities, whether small or large, should be able to demonstrate evidence of capacity. “Usually, we’d like to see that the organization has the capacity to implement the projects, and that’s one of the questions that we ask on the concept note in your application form. I’m not saying that a single person would not be successful, but we’d like to see that you’re going to be able to implement the project,” she says.
Launched in 2006, the Forest Conservation Fund was created out of a debt-for nature-swap agreement between the governments of the United States (US) and Jamaica, which will result in the cancelling of some US$16.5 million in debt to the US and the money used to protect and manage the island’s nature conservation reserves and national parks. The money will be paid into the Fund in tranches over a 19-year period.
Persons can obtain further information on the Fund from the Forestry Department’s website at www.forestry.gov.jm.