“The Governments of Anguilla, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and The British Virtish Virgin Islands, in collaboration with the OECS Commission and the Consulting Team of George Romily and CaribInvest, are developing National Land Policies through the European Union (EU) funded Global Climate Change Alliance (GCCA) Project on Climate Change Adaptation and Sustainable Land Management Project in the Eastern Caribbean. The policies are aimed at providing a coherent framework to guide the sustainable use and management of each country's land and natural resources and to enhance resilience of ecosystems threatened by climate change and human activities. The Processes are driven by intense stakeholder consultation and engagement to guide the major directives and priorities contained in the Policy and the legal text for proposed legislation to implement the Policy. Previous work by the OECS, including the OECS Regional Land Policy Guidelines and respective Land Issues Papers (available here: http://ilandresilience.org/resource-center), also provide relevant inputs.”.Read More
During an interview with the Government Information Service (GIS), visiting consultant attached to the project, George H. de Berdt Romilly, spoke on the significance of developing the National Land Policy and ensuring that is it relevant to the concerns of the public.
Speaking at the Government Information Service (GIS), Head of Environment Division, Aria St. Louis, asserted that implementing a National Land Policy must be inclusive of the wider community. She informed that resource allocation and use must be agreed upon by the people of Grenada as a critical step in securing climate resilience funding.
iLAND Matters conducted an interview with Environmental Law and Policy Advisor on the OECS National Land Policy Porject-George De Berdt Romilly, go get a n over view of the National Land Policy Issues across the OECS Member States. Listen Now.
Earlier in the project (2015/2016) the OECS/GCCA undertook similar work for St. Lucia, as portrayed in this panel discussion on the revised National Land Policy and Land Policy Popular Theatre Production
“In 2017 the OECS/GCCA facilitated a number of Building Code Consultations among member territories. The consultations sought to gather key stakeholder input and increase code compliance with builders and property owners. The consultations were chaired by Consultant Engineer to the iLAND Resilience Project- Alison King-Joseph.”Read More
“Looking Back At the 2017 Hurricane Season”Read More
By Glenroy Blanchette
October 23, 2017 – Basseterre; St. Kitts: The recent passage of hurricanes Irma and Maria through the OECS sub-region have made it clearer that climate change is real and its impacts threaten the existence of the region’s natural environment.
Governments throughout the region are now taking stock of climate change impacts on their country’s natural resource base and looking into ways by which they can build resilience in communities.
Hurricanes Irma and Maria pounded St. Kitts’ South-East Peninsula, the area where most of the country’s mangroves are located. Torrential rain, high winds and storm surges lashed the coastal areas and impacted the mangrove ponds. Kashief Hynes, Environmental Officer at the Department of Environment in St. Kitts-Nevis explained that there was excess sedimentation from run-off. Trees were also uprooted or slightly damaged.
What are mangroves?
Mangrove ecosystems are a unique community of plants, animals and microorganisms that thrive in the coastal zone of tropical areas. Mangrove trees have special adaptation mechanisms that help them survive and grow in waterlogged and poorly oxygenated soil conditions. There are three mangrove species in St. Kitts: the red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle), the black mangrove (Avicennia germinans), and the white mangrove (Laguncularia racemosa).
The red mangrove is found closer to the tidal zone, has a network of aerial prop roots, and is found at Friar’s Bay. The black mangrove is located immediately inland of red mangroves, has numerous finger-like projections called pneumatophores, and is found at Half Moon Pond. White mangrove tends to grow upland of both red and black mangroves, are shorter than red or black mangroves, and is found at all other ponds.
Mangrove establishment requires protection from strong winds and wind generated waves, as wave action prevents seedling establishment. As a consequence, mangrove communities tend to be located within sheltered coastal areas. The mangroves in St. Kitts have no natural surface water connections to the sea and are replenished by run-off and storm surges.
Importance of mangrove ecosystems
The mangrove ponds in St. Kitts provides tremendous ecological importance to the island. They are breeding areas for waterfowls and a feeding areas for migratory birds. Evidence of declining salinity levels have been reported in the recent past. Salinity plays a vital role in the distribution of mangrove species, their productivity and growth. In general, mangrove vegetation is more luxuriant in lower salinities.
Today, Global Warming and Climate Change have emerged as the one of the more serious threats to their existence. Climate change predictions include rising sea levels, increased frequency and intensity of tropical storms, and increased variability in rainfall. These events can totally destroy these mangrove ponds and may even cut off the south-east peninsula from the rest of the island.
Other threats include beach sand mining, dumping of rubble and garbage, unplanned tourism and industrial development, fertilizer run-off from the golf course, and removal of vegetation, and private ownership. Given the economic and ecological importance of these areas, it is critical that the country moves speedily to designate mangrove ponds as Wetlands of International Importance. Such an initiative will help to promote the development of St. Kitts as an eco- tourism destination and also provide excellent opportunities for education and research.
There are several benefits to be gained from protection and conservation of mangrove ecosystems in St. Kitts. In terms of combatting storm surges, form natural “breakwater” systems by the roots and trunks reducing wave energy and so reduce coastal erosion and protect the coast from flooding. Mangroves also trap sediments and protect coral reefs from pollution; provide materials for construction, textile, food and drug, agriculture, fishing and paper products; are used by a vast array of organisms as breeding nursery and feeding areas; and provide important permanent and temporary habitats for a large number and range of marine and terrestrial fauna.
Climate change is an existential threat to the natural environment in the OECS. Governments and communities must adopt hazard mitigation measures in order to build resilience against the impacts of climate change. The mangrove ponds provide an excellent opportunity to protect coastal settlements from the ravages of climate change. Ignoring this opportunity will only set back the economic development of present and future generations.
St. Johns –Antigua: Volatile and soaring food prices have been making headlines regionally since passage of hurricanes Maria and Irma with concerns over their negative impacts on the agricultural sector coupled with their destabilizing social consequences in developing Eastern Caribbean Countries.
Two international organisations, CTA and the FAO-UN in a bid to assist Ministries of Agricultures proposes set of remedial measures in tackling price surges and volatility in the food sector conducted situation analysis and monitoring in the following countries Antigua & Barbuda, St. Kitts & Nevis and Dominica, this brief attempts to assess the chronology of food price changes and their impact.
Meanwhile to help support climate resilient agriculture in the region, CTA is working with regional organisations, such as the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) and the International Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA), to identify and promote climate-smart agricultural technologies and practices in the region.
CTA director Michael Hailu has expressed that whilst agriculture has been declining in the Caribbean over the last 10 years, it still provides a livelihood for many, especially in rural communities, and contributes to food and nutrition security. “Significant investment will be required to rehabilitate these devastated islands,” said Hailu.
In Dominica, he revealed that huge swathes of agricultural crops and farm infrastructure have been destroyed. The negative impacts of extreme weather conditions, such as hurricanes Irma and Maria, have become more frequent and more intense with climate change. “Whilst the immediate priority is to save lives and provide relief assistance to the most affected populations, measures must be taken to make agriculture and food production more resilient to the impacts of climate change to protect livelihoods and ensure food security in the region,” said Hailu.
“The impact of climate change on food and nutrition security in the Caribbean is a reality and no longer a hypothetical future scenario,” said Olu Ajayi, CTA Senior Programme Coordinator on Climate Change and Agriculture. “But there is hope, if we continue to use relevant data and research to formulate solid plans, get stakeholders on board with strong partnerships, and show real commitment to scale out the promising climate resilient agricultural solutions to farmers.”
Meanwhile, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FOA-UN), also conducted an impact assessment of hurricanes Irma and Maria on the agriculture sector in Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica and St. Kitts and Nevis. This, in a bid to support Ministries of Agriculture across the sub-region with recovery strategies.
According to information from FAO, both tropical cyclones brought strong winds and torrential rains that caused swollen rivers, flash floods and landslides in those countries, severely damaging farm housing, irrigation infrastructure, feeder roads, crop and livestock production, forest reserves and coastal fisheries.
To evaluate the damages to agriculture and its subsectors, as well as prioritize recovery interventions, the FAO SLC participated in the multi-sectoral Rapid Needs Assessment Team (RNAT) led by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) in Dominica.
“High on the priority of countries affected by hurricanes is the restoration of agricultural production for food and nutrition security. To achieve this, the Rapid Needs Assessment is needed to determine the areas which are most badly affected and the priority needs, and to identify the vulnerable populations. FAO stands committed to assist the countries in their recovery efforts,” said Dr. Lystra Fletcher-Paul, FAO Subregional Coordinator for the Caribbean.
The RNAT assessment included a review of aerial photography, visits to communities close to the capital Roseau, and interviews with representatives of large fisheries cooperatives, the Director of Agriculture and some farmers.
Results indicate that Dominica suffered the most damage from Hurricane Maria in the Eastern Caribbean; its agricultural sector was decimated, directly impacting income, food and nutrition security for a large percentage of the island’s population. Additionally, Dominica also served as the Agricultural bread basket to a several sub-regional countries and officials are worried about the volatility of the food sector.
“Dominica was an important producer and exporter of vegetables, tubers and fruits such as banana. Therefore, the destruction caused by Maria will not only compromise the national economy and food security of the local population but will also manifest its effects in other countries of the region usually relying on Dominica’s agricultural supply,” said Daniele Barelli, FAO SLC Emergency Focal Point and Disaster Risk Management Specialist, who participated in the Dominica assessment.
Daniele Barelli was also recently deployed to Antigua and Barbuda and St. Kitts and Nevis. In each country, he provided technical support to the Ministry of Agriculture during the emergency response on behalf of the Subregional Office for the Caribbean.
Antigua and Barbuda’s post-Irma agricultural needs assessment was conducted by a team comprising the Honourable Arthur Nibbs, Minister of Agriculture, Lands, Fisheries and Barbuda Affairs, as well as Colin O’Keiffe, the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Jedidiah Maxime, Director of Agriculture, and various heads of crop, livestock and fishery divisions. It also included a field mission to Barbuda.
While Hurricane Irma caused significant damage to Antigua, it caused extreme destruction on Barbuda and forced the island’s entire population to be evacuated. Agricultural impacts include a depletion of standing crops, agricultural stations, a 250-acre coconut plantation, agricultural equipment and machinery. In addition, the livestock subsector was affected with losses of small and larger animals as well as shelter facilities. During the passage of the storm, many fishing boats, gears and other equipment were lost and destroyed, negatively affecting the fisheries sector.
St. Kitts and Nevis was affected by both hurricanes, and the FAO SLC assessment indicates the ruin of vegetable production such as sweet potatoes, lettuce and cucumbers. Other impacts include damages to animal shelters, greenhouses, as well as the death of livestock.
Following these initial post-hurricane impact assessments, the FAO Subregional Office for the Caribbean will continue to assist Ministries of Agriculture in the countries visited to mobilize resources and provide technical assistance to support efforts to rehabilitate their agriculture sectors.
“Agriculture, including fisheries, remains an important sector for the livelihoods of many people in the Caribbean region, especially in Dominica. FAO is working closely with the Governments of the countries affected and other agencies including the World Food Programme (WFP), the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), and the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) in order to implement a coordinated, timely and effective response,” said Daniele Barelli.
“Funding constraints to respond to emergency situations remain yet an issue and we hope that the donor community will help FAO and its partners to rehabilitate the agricultural sector in the short, medium and long term to build resilient communities.”
Montserrat escaped the ferocity of two monster storms, which barreled through the region resulting in the loss of lives and decimating several Caribbean island nations during the month of September.
The unusual Atlantic Hurricane Season produced five storms, three of which were categorized as major hurricanes and which all walked a similar path, threatening the most vulnerable islands.
Notwithstanding the island was spared of the wrath of Irma, Maria passed just south of Montserrat causing island wide power outage, damage to the telecommunication networks, significant damage to property, and vegetation all across the 39 square mile island which is still in redevelopment mode, after the Soufriere Hills Volcanic Eruption in 1995.
Montserrat was fortunate to have escaped the fate of Maria which caused unprecedented and catastrophic destruction in the Commonwealth of Dominica. But it was a fate it did not escape almost 30 years ago during the same month when it received a direct hit from Hurricane Hugo, a category 4 storm.
Hugo decimated the islands infrastructure, resulting in the loss of lives and causing 90% damage to homes and properties.
Hurricane Hugo, at the time was considered an infrequent weather event whose strength and ferocity residents thought they wouldn’t experience again for decades to come.
However, climate scientists now say that persons especially in vulnerable nations should expect more inordinately severe tropical cyclones. They say long-term temperature trends will cause the ocean to become warmer, and create more energy which are conducive conditions that can contribute to Hurricane development.
Economies at risk
So now that there is scientific proof Climate Change will cause storms to be more extreme, Montserrat and other small Caribbean islands are expected to implement the necessary policies and actions to mitigate these risks.
Despite that these islands contribute the least to climate change, they are on the front line of Climate change effects which have already begun to threaten their tourism, agriculture, finance and health sectors.
However, Montserrat, like many other small Caribbean islands with fragile economies, lack the resources and capacity to battle the onslaught of such impacts.
A report funded by the United Kingdom Government identified the small British Overseas Territory as one of the islands in the region which could face a heavy cost due to climate change.
The report titled Caribbean Marine Climate Change Report Card 2017 estimates that by 2025 the island would spend 10.2 percent of its Gross Domestic Product GDP on the impact of climate change if it fails to adapt.
Montserrat has already begun to bear those costs.
Following Maria, An estimated EC$3.5 million was caused to the agricultural sector alone which comprises the fisheries sector, crop, poultry and livestock farmers.
One small scale farmer reported losses of up to EC $80.000 dollars.
“This hurricane came and destroyed a lot of things for me, so I would like to get help to get back my farming on track. I [lost] aloft of plantain, bananas and seasoning peppers, avocados, pigeon peas and pumpkins...everything went down but I am glad we all have our lives” said Jah Bouka a well known farmer on island.
In light of this, several calls have been made for the region to take climate change seriously.
Deputy Director of the Caribbean Development Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) recently warned Caribbean countries to invest in resilience to allow for easier recovery in the aftermath of disasters.
Climate Change Adaptation
Montserrat has already partnered with a number of international agencies such as CDEMA, Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI) and the OECS Global Climate Change Alliance (GCCA) to assist in reducing its vulnerabilities to climate change.
The OECS through its I-Land Resilience Initiative has invested one million dollars in Montserrat which is being used to help the island improve its building codes and adopt sustainable land management practices.
The project has facilitated the upgrade of key infrastructure by increasing the capacity of bridges and waterways during heavy rainfall and flooding. The Collins Ghaut Flood Management and Slope Stabilization Project in particular, is helping to protect housing downstream which are vulnerable to landslides and river erosions that make cause damage to lives and property.
Local Focal Point for the OECS I-land Resilience Initiative Jerome Meade said this intervention was timely, adding that without it, lives could have been lost “ if the continued erosion in the area had continued, the consequence would be devastating, so this project has reversed some of the negative impacts” Meade said.
Farmers, like Jah Bouka are also benefiting from the OECS iLand Resilience. A Rainwater Harvesting and Solar Powered Project which introduced the concept of using rainwater harvesting applications as effective climate change adaptation strategies has been implemented.
The system located at the Montserrat National Trust (MNT) helps nearby farmers to enhance their water efficiency by using solar energy to pump water, thereby reducing the cost of irrigation for farmers and educating them on new approaches of transporting water from the reservoirs to their farmlands.
The introduction of these sustainable measures, along with the work of other key stakeholders is helping to move Montserrat in a positive direction, towards a climate resilient small island, a feat that will no doubt be arduous but worthwhile.