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The 12-year old ‘Trees for Tomorrow’ project, one of Jamaica’s most successful initiatives involving an international partner, has come to an end, with an official closing ceremony for phase two of the project held today (Jan. 25).
The project, which was funded by the Government of Jamaica and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) at a cost of Cdn$12 million, was aimed at improving the management and conversation of forests and tree crops for the sustained benefit of Jamaicans.
Speaking at the closing ceremony held at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, Minister of Agriculture and Lands, Roger Clarke said that the activities that were undertaken under phase two of the project, were not only instrumental in creating an awareness of the importance of the country’s forest resources but served to boost the capabilities of the Forestry Department.
He pointed out that the changes that the Forestry Department has undergone for the last 12 years, have served to bolster its ability to successfully make the transition to a performance-based institution, with the setting of work targets that it must meet. “Activities undertaken in this phase became the foundation upon which the Forestry Department was favourably positioned to face the challenges and maximize the opportunities of the future. Phase two of the project also initiated the process towards the gradual stimulation and wakening of the importance and appreciation of Jamaica’s forest resources,” he stated.
Citing the benefits of the project, Minister Clarke said that these included the training of personnel from the Department in the areas of environmental and forest management, global positioning system, photogrammetry, forest mensuration, computer skills and public speaking. Of the staff members trained, eight obtained bachelors’ degrees; two obtained masters degree and 10 earned technical diplomas.
He noted that as a result of this training, following the withdrawal of the various specialists employed to the project, the Forestry Department staff was adequately equipped with the necessary knowledge to execute the various aspects of the project.
“Two years before the project ended, Jamaicans assumed responsibility for its execution. In addition, in the last three years of the project, local foresters were conducting all field activities. Too often in Jamaica, the benefits of a project ceases to exist immediately after the project ends. This situation occurs because there was no transfer of knowledge.this project has however avoided this pitfall,” he said.
He noted also, that the project initiated a paradigm shift in how local foresters perceived and conducted forestry conservation and preservation. “Therefore, forest conservation is no longer viewed solely the purview of the local forestry department but must be aligned with global trends to facilitate a participatory approach to forest management,” he noted.
Minister Clarke commended the stakeholders for providing valuable technical and institutional capabilities under the project and reiterated that the government was committed to protecting Jamaica’s forestry resources.
Among the projects accomplishment under phase two were the establishment and maintenance of forest reserves; the preparation of numerous manuals; public awareness programmes; the establishment of a national tree planting day in 2003; the development of a comprehensive forest land use data bank; a comprehensive Geographical Information System (GIS); as well as the development of a National Forestry and Watershed Management Strategy.