Jamaica, over the years, has experienced a number of natural disasters, which have resulted in significant social dislocation and economic loss.
The Government is making strides in reducing the island’s vulnerability to disaster through a number of projects and initiatives including the Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction Project.
The project, which is being implemented by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), targets vulnerable communities across Jamaica. It has four primary focus areas: rehabilitation of watersheds through reforestation; improving coastal ecosystems; maintaining forest resources; and improving climate change awareness.
Project Manager at the PIOJ, Mary Gooden, tells JIS News that the 30-month project, which got underway last year, is being funded primarily by the European Union (EU) at a cost of €4.5 million.
It is being executed in collaboration with the Meteorological Service of Jamaica, the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change (MWLECC), the Forestry Department, and the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA).
NEPA’s focus is on the rehabilitation of coastal eco systems; the Forestry Department is addressing reforestation; while the Meteorological Service, PIOJ, and the MWLECC are focused on developing policies and plans to address climate change.
Already, there have been gains under the project, with the Forestry Department replanting 222 hectares of more than 300 hectares of lands in watershed areas targeted for rehabilitation.
Reforestation activities have been carried out in Pencar/Buff Bay; Yallahs; and Hope River watershed areas, in the communities of Oatley, Rose Hill, Bellevue/Old England/Clydesdale, Wallenford, and Silver Hill; and Hyde Hall and Grants Mountain in the Rio Bueno watershed area.
Work will also be done in the Portland Bight,Palisadoes/Port Royal Protected Areas, and the St. Thomas Morass.
In addition, the Forestry Department has organised several community forestry committees to protect the areas during the restoration period. Importantly, Ms. Gooden says, persons within the affected communities will, to a large extent, benefit from the project, through employment opportunities.
“Persons will be employed to carry out replanting, agro forestry, weeding, and maintaining of plants in an effort to bring them to fruition. The trees to be planted are to protect the soil, and will enable the downstream to run off,” Ms. Gooden explains.
She says this approach will also be useful in educating residents about how to protect the environment.
Also coming out of the project, is the implementation of a climate change policy, which will serve as a guide for Jamaica. The policy is a plan of action, as well as a legislative guide, linked to Vision 2030 Jamaica: The National Development Plan, which has the objective of making Jamaica, “the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business”.
The PIOJ will also be staging a series of workshops, seminars and training sessions to educate staff within key government agencies, and community members on issues of climate change. This is part of the process to equip citizens to become more resilient and to protect themselves, as well as the environment, against natural hazards.
Ms. Gooden says the hope is that people will integrate the information about climate change, including its causes, and how to mitigate the effects.
“Our climate is changing and as individuals, we need to be concerned about how we impact the environment, because it takes individuals to make a change, and we need to do it for Jamaica,” she says.
By Jeneva Gordon, JIS PRO