JIS News

The Ministry of Agriculture and Lands has taken another initiative to protect and manage the island’s forest reserves and national parks, by launching a US$16.5 million Forest Conservation Fund (FCF).
Speaking at the launching ceremony today (September 19), at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, Minister of Agriculture and Lands, Roger Clarke, said the move was particularly urgent in light of the intense pressure that Jamaica’s forests were under, despite the consistent effort of the local Forestry Department.
“The Government of the United States has demonstrated its interest in protecting tropical forests in developing countries by creating the Tropical Forest Conservation Fund”, and in like manner, “the Government of Jamaica is demonstrating its commitment to preserving the island’s forest resources by launching the Jamaica Forest Conservation Fund”.
He pointed out that although the Government was the guarantor of the fund, no direct monetary gain would accrue to the administration, as it would be absorbed in various conservation projects across the island.
Imploring Jamaicans to practise environmentally sustainable livelihood methods, Minister Clarke spoke against “the indiscriminate clearing of land, slash and burn activities and increased human activity”, which he said were “impacting negatively on Jamaica’s forests”.
“The effect of this is being seen in the increasing incidence of landslides, flooding and contamination of our potable water resources,” he noted. However, he remarked that Jamaica was not alone in the predicament, as Haiti’s forest cover was almost void and 47 per cent of the Amazon forest was under threat due to human activity.
According to Programme Officer at the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ), Sara Simpson, the Fund, which would be administered under the Jamaica Forest Conservation Act, would target the Cockpit Country Forest Reserve, the Blue and John Crow Mountains Forest Reserve and National Park, the inland portions of the Negril Protected Area, the forested areas of the Dolphin Head Mountains as well as the Rio Minho, Rio Cobre and Black River Watersheds.
The FCF is the result of a 2004 debt-for-nature swap agreement between the Nature Conservancy and the Jamaican and United States of America governments, and will result in the cancelling of some US$16.5 million in Jamaican debt to the United States.
Under the agreement, the US Government will cancel some US$6.5 million of Jamaica’s debt to them. This amount, along with its requisite payment from the Government of Jamaica, will be kept in Jamaica in the Fund and will reach an accumulated total of US$16.5 over the next 20 years.
Deputy Chief of Missions of the US, James Heg, in his remarks, said the Fund satisfied two important factors, which are debt servicing and the protection of tropical forest cover.
“Jamaica contains unique species of birds and plants. The island enjoys a rich biological and cultural heritage that needs to be preserved for future generations to enjoy,” he emphasized.