USAID Grants $9.8 Million to Nature Conservancy and UWI

The Nature Conservancy and the University of the West Indies (UWI) are the beneficiaries of grants, totaling $9.8 million, to among other things, fund the development of alternative livelihood activities in the Cockpit Country.
The grants have been made available by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through its Protected Areas and Rural Enterprise Project.
Mission Director at the USAID, Karen Hilliard, speaking at the signing ceremony held on (Dec.12) at the Knutsford Court hotel in Kingston, explained that the allocation to the Nature Conservancy will enable the agency, in collaboration with the Forestry Department, to develop a river park in Bunker’s Hill Trelawny as well as a heritage tour in the maroon community of Flagstaff in Clarendon.
“The Northern Local Forestry Committee working in Bunker’s Hill and the Southern Forestry Management Group working in Flagstaff, will receive business and product development support, funding for facility improvements and assistance in the marketing and packaging of new and innovative tourism products,” she informed.
Additionally, she said that local micro-enterprises that provide products and services in both communities including tours, craft and food vendors, will receive start-up funds to improve product quality and services. Approximately 80 households in these two communities will benefit from the projects.
“The projects will not only stimulate rural activity in areas with high unemployment but they also support the national priorities for forest management in Jamaica and contribute to a change in rural attitudes, behaviour, and perception of the value of forest resources,” she pointed out.
In the meantime, the grant to the UWI will enable the Bio-Technology Unit to work with the Forestry Department and the Cockpit Country community to propagate and re-plant priority medicinal plant species that are being unsustainably removed from the forest to manufacture roots drinks.
“These funding will allow the UWI medicinal plant research group.along with the Forestry Department to research and to investigate the current rates of medicinal plants harvested in the Cockpit Country, and to determine best propagation methodologies and preparatory species and also to assist in the producing plant material for these species,” said Conservator of Forests, Marilyn Headley said.
She noted that “most importantly, the project will enable the transfer of technology and technique for propagating medicinal plants to members of the local forest management committee.”
In the meantime, Agriculture Minister, Dr. Christopher Tufton, lauded the USAID for collaborating with the government and the Cockpit Country community, adding that the grant agreement is an indication that stakeholders are willing to invest in the future of the area.
“The government of Jamaica supports this initiative as we are committed to protecting our forest environment particularly one as important as the Cockpit Country. In addition to the economic benefits that can be realised from its careful management, the Cockpit Country is of historic importance to all Jamaicans as it represents the bedrock of the strength and resilience of our fore parents,” he pointed out.
The USAID, through the Protected Areas and Rural Enterprise Project, works to strengthen the linkages between effective natural resource management practices and livelihood in and around conservation sites, through the demonstration of improved production techniques and management strategies, institutional strengthening and capacity building.

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