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Caribbean Builds Resilience Through Enhanced Data Collection

By Zadie Neufville

The following was published by IPS on July 31, 2018.
By the end of September 2018, the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) would have installed the last of five new data buoys in the Eastern Caribbean, extending the regional Coral Reef Early Warning System (CREWS) network as it continues to build resilience to climate change in the Caribbean.

At the same time, the centre is also installing an additional 50 Automatic Weather Stations (AWS) across nine countries to expand the existing network of hydro-meteorological stations- yet another push to improve data collection in the region. The data will help scientists to better evaluate potential risks and impacts, and provide the information national leaders seek to build more resilient infrastructures to mitigate climate risks.

met techs

Trainees get hands-on training in assembling the ASW antennae.

Enhancing the data collection and availability is central to the centre’s mandate to prepare the Caribbean’s response to climate change, Dr Ulric Trotz science advisor and deputy executive director told IPS.

He noted: “Experts here are using the critical data they collect, to enhance models, design tools and develop strategies to mitigate and build resilience to the devastating impacts – rising seas, longer dry spells, more extreme rainfall and potentially higher impact tropical cyclones – associated with climate variability and change.”

Reporting in “Volume 1 of the Caribbean Climate Series,” released ahead of the 23rd Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change  in Germany in 2017, researchers at the University of the West Indies Climate Studies Group, Mona Campus, Jamaica, pointed out that the Caribbean is already experiencing the impacts associated with changes in climatic conditions.

According to the report, nights and days are warmer; air and sea surface temperatures are higher and there are longer and more frequent periods of droughts. Not surprisingly, after the 2017 hurricane season, researchers also reported increasing intensity in rainfalls and more intense hurricanes with stronger winds and lots more rain.

“Even if global warming beyond the 1°C already experienced were limited to only a further half a degree, there would still be consequences for the Caribbean region,” the report said.

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Installing the various instruments that make up the Automatic Weather Station (AWS)

Trotz explained: “These data gathering systems, which were acquired with funding from the USAID Climate Change Adaptation Programme, are increasing the volume of real-time data and enhancing the reliability and accuracy of weather and climate forecasting in the region”.

In addition to the super computers installed at CCCCC’s Belize location, the University of the West Indies’ Mona Campus and Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH)-under previous projects- the newly installed data points, are already enhancing the capacity of regional scientists to monitor and process the atmospheric and other environmental variables that are affected by the changes in climatic conditions.

The data collection efforts support evidence-based decision-making, and improve the accuracy of the projections from the regional and global climate models while building the region’s resilience to the impacts of climate variability and change. In the end, the information provided in the 1.5 Report which will form part of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change global assessment report AR6 as well as all other Caribbean forecasts and models promises to be more accurate and reliable.

“The data collected from these stations form the baseline for all climate modelling, ensuring that we have a good baseline data to suffice our regional climate services models for regional forecast and predictions. The network strengthens the baseline for climate change projection models thereby increasing the confidence in the results that are used in the decision-making for climate change mitigation and adaptation,” Albert Jones, instrumentation technician at the 5Cs, told IPS.

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Hydro-Met Technicians and Meteorologists were trained at the CIMH with funding from USAID.

The retired weather forecaster explained, that the new AWSs are not only improving data collection, they are also expanding the capability and roles of local Met Offices from their historic roles of providing information for primarily aviation purposes.

The importance of these systems cannot be understated, particularly in countries like Guyana and Suriname where deficiencies in the data seriously hamper the coverage of areas with significant differences in the topography and climatic conditions. This is especially significant where comparisons of hinterland and elevated forested areas to the low-lying coastal flood plains are critical to development of lives and property.

The centre, which celebrates its 14th year of operation in July 2018, has worked with several donors over its existence to improve the collection of data in a region that largely depended on manual systems and where historical data has been hard to come by. The latter is an essential input for validation of the regional models required for the production of region-specific climate scenarios, which are utilised in impact studies across all of the affected sectors in the region. These, in turn, form the basis of crafting the adaptation responses required to build climate resilience in specific sectors.

Popularly known as the 5Cs, the climate change centre carries out its mandate through a network of partners including government meteorologists, hydrologists, university professors and researchers. Scientists and researchers in Universities across the region and at specialist institutions like the Barbados-based CIMH, do the data crunching.

“We are building climate and weather early warning systems to build resilience, so it is important that we collect and turn this data into useful information that will benefit the society,” CIMH’s principal Dr David Farrell told hydro-met technicians at a USAID sponsored training on the grounds of the institute in March.

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Dr Mark Bynoe, head of the Project Development & Management Division of the 5Cs  (left) and Dr. David Farrell principal of the CIMH sign the agreement for the maintenance of the AWS being installed across the Eastern Caribbean.

He noted that in designing the system, the CIMH- that has responsibility for maintaining the network- identified and reduced existing deficiencies to improve the quality of data collected.

And as global temperatures continue to soar, the World Meteorological Organisation 2018 report noted that 2017 was “was one of the world’s three warmest years on record.”

It said: “A combination of five datasets, three of them using conventional surface observations and two of them re-analysis, shows that global mean temperatures were 0.46 °C ± 0.1 °C above the 1981–2010 average, and about 1.1 °C ± 0.1 °C above pre-industrial levels. By this measure, 2017 and 2015 were effectively indistinguishable as the world’s second and third warmest years on record, ranking only behind 2016, which was 0.56 °C above the 1981−2010 average.”

With studies pointing to a warmer Caribbean and an increase in the frequency of extreme events, regional scientists are committed to improving the way they use data to guide governments on the actions that will lessen the expected impacts. In 2017, extreme weather events in the form of Hurricanes Irma and Maria claimed lives, destroyed livelihoods and infrastructure, throwing islands like Barbuda, Dominica and the Virgin Islands back several decades.

In identifying extreme weather events as “the most prominent risk facing humanity”, the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2018 noted: “Fuelled by warm sea-surface temperatures, the North Atlantic hurricane season was the costliest ever for the United States, and eradicated decades of development gains in small islands in the Caribbean such as Dominica. Floods uprooted millions of people on the Indian subcontinent, whilst drought is exacerbating poverty and increasing migration pressures in the Horn of Africa.”

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Albert Jones examines an AWS before the start of training for Hydro Met technicans and Meteorologsts

The CREWS network is part of a global system to improve the monitoring and management of coral reefs as environmental and climatic conditions increase coral bleaching and death. The centre works in collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric and Administration to install monitoring stations that collect data on climate, marine and biological parameters for use by scientists to conduct research into the health of coral reefs in changing climatic and sea conditions.

Under previous funding arrangements, CREWS stations were also installed in Belize, Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, the Dominican Republic, as well as other parts of the region.

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Peces loro, vitales para conservar arrecifes de coral

By Zadie Neufville

[KINGSTON] La interrelación entre el pez loro y los arrecifes del Caribe es vital para este ecosistema por lo que su remoción, incluso en pequeñas cantidades, pondría en peligro la capacidad de recuperación de los arrecifes y su resistencia frente al cambio climático.

“Los peces loro, por ser herbívoros, son importantes para la salud de los arrecifes de coral porque mantienen el sustrato del arrecife relativamente libre de algas”, explica a SciDev.Net.Yves-Marie Bozec, autor principal del estudio publicado en PNAS (19 de abril).

fish in cooler

Cooler with parrotfish on a beach in Portmore, Jamaica. Jamaica Observer photo.

“Los peces loro, por ser herbívoros, son importantes para la salud de los arrecifes de coral porque mantienen el sustrato del arrecife relativamente libre de algas”.

Yves-Marie Bozec, Universidad de Queensland

Esto significa que supervisando su captura, las autoridades podrían ayudar a mantener la salud y el hábitat de las pesquerías de arrecifes incluso con un clima cambiante y trastornos como mala calidad del agua, desarrollo costero incontrolado y sedimentación, añade.

Si las autoridades del Caribe quieren conservar los arrecifes después del 2030, deben incluir la protección de las especies que pastorean en sus arrecifes como parte de las soluciones de gestión de estos ecosistemas, advierte el estudio.

Según los investigadores, restricciones simples y aplicables impactarían positivamente en los resultados a corto plazo, ofreciendo “beneficios ecológicos y pesqueros” que conducirían a mayores rendimientos y mejores tasas de recuperación de corales.

Pero Bozec advierte que solo la prohibición de pescar loro no llevará a la restauración de arrecifes saludables “relativamente vírgenes”. También se requiere la recuperación plena de los corales cuerno de ciervo (Acropora) y  del erizo de mar (Diadema).

Los primeros, son la base y los de mayor crecimiento de las estructuras de arrecifes del Caribe. El erizo de mar, alguna vez el herbívoro más abundante de los arrecifes, fue prácticamente aniquilado por una enfermedad en los años 80.

redtail parrot fish

Redtail parrot

“La prohibición de pescar loro sería lo mejor para la resiliencia de los arrecifes”, dice Bozac pero aclara que, si bien esto es deseable, puede que no sea política o económicamente factible en algunos países.

El Mecanismo Regional de Pesca del Caribe (CRFM) propuso a sus 18 miembros prohibir la captura del pez loro y restringir la captura de varios peces que viven en los arrecifes. Belice y las Islas Turcas y Caicos ya la implementaron, pero otros, como Jamaica, temen que la prohibición traiga dificultades para algunos pescadores.

El Caribe sólo recopila datos de las especies reguladas. Por esta razón, el WildEarth Guardian, con sede en Estados Unidos, está solicitando enlistar algunas de las especies más vulnerables y explotadas de la región, bajo el Acta de Especies en Peligro de Estados Unidos, que no incluye al loro.

“Las especies incluidas en el Acta pueden canalizar los fondos de conservación e investigación de las regiones con especies en peligro. Esperamos que nuestras peticiones proporcionarán más oportunidades de fondos para la conservación y gestión en el Caribe”, señala Taylor Jones, defensor de especies en peligro de esa organización.

Enlace al resumen del estudio en PNAS

 

Este artículo fue publicado originalmente en SciDev.Net. Lea la versión original aquí.

 

Nueva esperanza para recuperar arrecifes del Caribe

Caribbean Looks to Aquaculture Food Security to Combat Climate Change

The following was published by IPS on Dec 10, 2015

by Zadie Neufville

Jimmi Jones and wife Sandra Lee’s fish farm in Belize City is unique. His fish tanks supply the water and nutrients  his vegetable garden needs and the plants filter the water that is recycled back to the tanks.

Jones has been showing off the “JimSan Aquaponics” style of organic farming in meetings across the Caribbean to support efforts by the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) in promoting aquaculture as a food security option in combatting global climate change.

As global warming increases sea temperatures, wild catch fishery could decline by as much as 50 per cent, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned. Warming seas are expected to devastate regional fisheries by shifting the travel routes of pelagic fish and the distribution of high-value species while causing die offs of many other popular marine species.

A Sept 2015 study from the University of British Columbia noted that warmer seas could alter the distribution of many marine species and worsen the effects of pollution, over-fishing and degraded habitats, resulting in economic fallouts worldwide.

To ensure food security, the CRFM, the regional body responsible for the responsible use of regional resources, is promoting aquaculture as part of a range of initiatives to build climate-resilient fisheries. A five-year plan has been drafted by the Secretariat and a working group established to guide the process.

The CRFM strategy is among activities the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) proposed to lessen the impacts of climate change on small-scale producers.

Jones’ aquaponics operation illustrates how aquaculture can help farmers, particularly small subsistence fish and food farmers, to boost their family income while providing adequate food and protein for the table.

Sandra Jones reaping vegetables for sale

Sandra Jones reaping vegetables for sale

With modifications, this method of aquaculture can be applied on large or small operations; it reduces water use by 90 per cent while allowing farmers to produce up to 10 times more vegetables than terrestrial plots within the same footprint, while eliminating the need for pesticides and other chemicals. The addition of renewable energy systems could further reduce production costs.

“In essence you feed the fish, they produce waste, the waste goes through a bacterial process that breaks it down from ammonia to nitrate, which is basically plant food, along with other processes that happen. You’re growing fish and vegetables using the same infrastructure; the water goes through a filtration system and you grow the plants without using soil,” Jones explained.

Despite what seems to be an easy enough undertaking, aquaculture has been on the decline in the Caribbean. In 2012, production plummeted from between 5,000 and 6,000 tonnes to 500 tonnes when the Jamaican fish-farming industry collapsed under pressure from cheap imports.

Aquaculture production in Jamaica, at one time the largest producer in the region, fell from around 11,000 tonnes in 2010, to just over 7,700 in 2011, falling even further in recent years.

Jamaican fish farmer Vincent Wright pointed to government policies that have made it difficult for them to compete. “The global economic downturn, high cost of energy, theft and a lack of adequate and suitable water supplies have made things even harder,” he said.

Executive Director of CRFM Milton Haughton has challenged regional governments to implement systems and regulations that will help investors to “overcome the impediments” aquaculture farmers face.

“We do need to provide the necessary legislative and regulatory framework, the policy support and the incentives to our fish farmers and private sector investors, so that they can grow the sector and increase production, not only for local consumption but also for exports,” he said.

In the last year or so, the CTA and the CRFM partnered to review the development aquaculture in region and in bid to identify the challenges, find solutions and guide the re-development of the industry, Haughton said. Among the improvements, policies regarding the development and distribution of land and water, as well as the production of brood stock and food.

Jimmi gives a tour of the farm

Jimmi gives a tour of the farm

Wright, who is also a scientist, said most Jamaican fish farms are built on marginal lands that are prone to flooding and with limited access to water. Given the locations and the existing conditions of local farms, climate changes will likely cause increased flooding, and disease, while reducing the availability of water for farms during periods of drought, he said.

The admission of Martinique and Guadeloupe to the CRFM family in 2014 is making up for the lack of research in the industry through Martinique-based French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea (Ifremer) , an organisation with decades of research and development experience in tropical fish culture, nutrition, disease and mortality in farmed species.

The Centre also draws on the expertise of the national research capabilities of the French Republic. Before now, the 18-member states of the CRFM were short on aquaculture research. Now Ifremer is committed to helping the region develop its research capabilities. Useful as climate change is predicted to have serious economic effects on world wild catch fisheries.

But while scientists predict heavy losses for the Caribbean, they also suggest there is sufficient information for governments to begin to develop policies to help the industry adapt to the expected changes.

Jones sees aquaculture as a way of adaptation to climate change. This year he expanded the 111.5 square metre (1,200 square feet) green house to 557 sq metres (6,000 square feet), to double production in the short term with the possibility of a five-fold increase at peak agricultural production periods.

Jamaica and across the Caribbean were affected by extended droughts in the last two years and forced Wright and his counterparts to cut back production, but Jones’ green house and fish tanks were not affected. The system lost roughly one per cent, between 379 litres and 750 litres (100 and 200 gallons), from roughly 53,000 litres (14,000 gallons) of water running through the system at any one time, he said.

“Aquaculture is the way to go if we are to provide adequate protein for our people,” he said.

In fact, the position is supported by the findings of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in its 2014 State of Fisheries and Aquaculture report.

“Based on its dynamic performance over the last 30 years, with the fairly stable catches from capture fisheries, it is likely that the future growth of the fisheries sector will come mainly from aquaculture,” the report said.

According to the FAO, between 1990 and 2000, global production of food fish production grew 9.5 per cent per year from 32.2 million to 66.6 million tonnes at an average of 6.2 per cent per year between 2000 and 2012.

Regional growth has, however, remained static.

Regardless of the methods used, aquaculture “offers the region the best opportunities to provide a healthy, safe, guaranteed supply of food for our people,” Jones said.

Source: Caribbean Looks to Aquaculture Food Security to Combat Climate Change

US funded Programme to protect Caribbean marine resources launched

by Zadie Neufville

The following article was published by SCiDEv.NET on September 17, 2015
A $ 12. 5 million Programme will help to Improve the conservation and management of marine areas of the Caribbean and to protect the livelihoods of millions People Who depend on the marine ecosystem of the region.

The Caribbean Marine Biodiversity Programme (HMPC), funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) (US $ 10 million) and the The Nature Conservancy (US $ 2.5 million) was Launched on August 21 in Grenada.

“The overall objective is to reduce CMBP of Threats to marine-coastal biodiversity in priority areas Including Such high biodiversity ecosystems as coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrass beds in order to Achieve sustained biodiversity conservation; Maintain critical ecosystem services, and Realise tangible improvements in human wellbeing for Communities adjacent to marine protected areas, “Sheldon Cohen, Chief of Party for the project Said to SciDev.Net.

Birds flock to fishermen's boats at landing of Pedro Bank, Jamaica.  CHECK WITH MACR FOR USAGE RIGHTS

Birds flock to fishermen’s boats at landing of Pedro Bank, Jamaica. CHECK WITH MACR FOR USAGE RIGHTS

One of The most biologically diverse in the world, Caribbean ecosystems degraded at a rate Have you Placed That many of the region’s Most Traded and Consumed species on the Threatened and endangered lists.

Head of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) Milton Haughton NOTED That the five-year CMBP is significant, as it would Provide the resources needed for the region “to address some of the pressing needs in respect of marine resource conservation and management”.

TNC will work in collaboration With non-governmental organization in Five Countries of the Caribbean (Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines) to Promote conservation, Improve monitoring, management and protection of fish sanctuaries and other protected areas .

“This is good for sustainability and the rebuilding of the fish stocks,” Veteran fisherman and former president of the Jamaica Fishermen’s Cooperative Union Havelon Honeyghan Noting Said His community of Whitehouse, St Elizabeth urgently needs help.

“There are no fish left in Whitehouse. We are proposing That They Also install artificial reef some inshore and offshore Because the situation here is getting worse, “I Said.

Head of C-CAM Ingrid Parchment SciDev Told That the Programme would help Jamaica to design and Implement effective management strategies, Establish a sanctuary and reduces the Threats to the marine environment around the Pedro Cays (Peter Banks).

Pedro Banks is the main fishing gound for the CONHC Strombus gigas

Pedro Banks is the main fishing gound for the CONHC Strombus gigas

These are a group of cays and islets offshore Jamaica’s south coast, and the Whitehouse fishing village. It is Jamaica’s largest and MOST lucrative fishing community and the main harvesting ground for the Queen Conch ( Strombus gigas ).

Said Cohen, the project will work Also With the “national Governments of the targetted Countries as well as the CRFM,” the CARICOM institution responsible for the regional management of marine resources.

The hope is to build “more sustainable fish stocks, coral reef and related ecosystems healthier Establish trust funds to finance marine conservation activities into the future,” He Said.

 

SPANISH
launch program to protect marine resources in the Caribbean

A program of US $ 12. 5 million will help improve conservation and management of marine areas of the Caribbean and protect the livelihoods of millions of people in the region who depend on marine ecosystems.

The Marine Biodiversity for the Caribbean Program, funded by USAID (US $ 10 million) and Conservation (US $ 2.5 million), was announced on August 21 in Granada.

“The overall objective of the program is to reduce threats to marine biodiversity in priority areas of the Caribbean, including high biodiversity and coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass ecosystems; maintain essential ecosystem services, and achieve tangible improvements in welfare and communities adjacent to MPAs “sums Sheldon Cohen, director of the project, SciDev.Net .

The Caribbean is one of the most biologically diverse regions of the world, but their ecosystems are so degraded that many of the most marketable and locally consumed species on the list of threatened and endangered species.

Milton Haughton, head of Regional Fisheries Mechanism in the Caribbean, said that the 5-year program is important because the region will provide the resources necessary “to address some pressing needs of conservation and management of marine resources.”

Conservation work in partnership with NGOs in five Caribbean countries (Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Granada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines) to promote conservation and improve the monitoring, management and protection of fisheries and sanctuaries other areas.

“This is good for the sustainability and reconstruction of fisheries resources,” he told SciDev.Net Havelon Honeyghan, former president of the Fishermen’s Cooperative Union of Jamaica. It adds that, for example, community, St Elizabeth Whitehouse, requires urgent help.

Peter Banks

Peter Banks

“There are no fish in Whitehouse. We are also proposing that some artificial reefs installed in the onshore and offshore because the situation here is getting worse, “he stresses.

The head of C-CAM, Ingrid Parchment, told SciDev.Net that in Jamaica, the program will help to design and implement effective management strategies, establish a sanctuary and reduce threats to the marine environment around the cays of Pedro (Pedro Banks ).

This is a group of cays and islets offshore of the south coast of Jamaica, and the fishing village of Whitehouse. It is the largest and most profitable fishing community of the country and the main point of harvest of queen conch ( Strombus gigas ).

The project will also work with the national governments of the countries to which it is addressed, as well as the Regional Fisheries Mechanism, Caribbean Community institution responsible for managing the regional marine resources, reports Caribbean Cohen.

Is expected to create “more sustainable fish stocks, healthier corals and related ecosystems, establishing trust funds for marine conservation activities in the future,” he remarks.

http://www.scidev.net/america-latina/pesquerias/noticias/lanzan-programa-para-proteger-recursos-marinos-del-caribe.html http://www.lighthouse-foundation.org/fileadmin/LHF/PDF/SusGren_Accomplishment_Flyer_2008.pdf

JAMAICA’S SUGAR JOB LOSSES SIGNAL AN INDUSTRY AT A CROSSROADS

by Zadie Neufville

This article was first published by EqualTimes on 26 August 2015
JAMAICA’S  sugar industry is attempting to weather a perfect storm of high production costs, a two-year drought resulting in falling yields for some of its most productive cane fields and low price forecasts on a highly competitive global market.

As a result, restructuring and job losses are expected, as already seen in the eastern parish of St Thomas. But for some, this could mark the start of a new beginning.

On 7 August, cane cutters and harvesters for the Golden Grove sugar factory received notices and 14-weeks severance pay as the owners, Seprod Jamaica Limited, acted on a two-year plan to cut cost by outsourcing cultivation and harvesting operations.LABUSA-SUGAR-CANE-WORKERS

“Approximately 600 field workers, including those in tractor and transport operations will be given their redundancy payments on 4 September,” University and Allied Workers Union (UAWU) representative Clifton Grant told Equal Times.

There has been no agreement on how many workers will be re-employed by the new, as yet unnamed, contractor. But trade unions representing the workers – UAWU, the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) and the National Workers Union (NWU) – say they will do their best to ensure the new contracts are favourable to the workers.

Golden Grove is currently one of just six functioning sugar factories in Jamaica and one of just a handful of large-scale employers in rural St Thomas. Although factory jobs will not be affected, the loss of 600 jobs could have a major impact on the agriculture-based economy of St Thomas, which has some of the highest levels of unemployment on the island.

BITU’s representative Hanif Brown told the Jamaica Observer newspaper: “During the out-crop period these workers receive guaranteed payments, and approximately 60 per cent of them would continue working at reduced pay. We don’t know what will happen under the [new] contractual arrangement”.

Grant told Equal Times: “We will continue negotiations with the management to protect the workers rights”.

As one of the island’s top manufacturers of food and household products, and majority shareholder of the Golden Grove factory, Seprod made the decision to outsource all field operations after losing US$17.4 million of a US$26.1 million investment in the factory in 2009.

cane fieldIn Jamaica, although some aspects of cane cutting are mechanised, most sugar cane is still cut by hand, dating back to the days when the island was a British colony and sugar – the empire’s most valued commodity – was planted and harvested by African slaves.

As well as providing thousands of jobs, proponents of hand cutting say it prevents crop damage and allows farmers to keep older cane roots that result in bigger yields in the coming season. In addition, in some hillside areas, cane fields are only accessible by donkey, mule and foot.

Changing fortunes
The Golden Grove redundancies are symptomatic of Jamaica’s struggle to carve out its place in today’s highly competitive global sugar industry.

Brazil, India and China are world leaders in cane sugar production, but while its yields are tiny by comparison, in Jamaica, sugar is still king. As well as being its primary agricultural export, the sugar industry is the country’s second largest employer with some 28,000 out-of-season and 38,000 in-season workers contributing US$74.5 million to the GDP in 2010.

Changes to Jamaica’s sugar industry began in 2008 with the privatisation of five dilapidated government-owned factories. To facilitate the sale, around 8,000 sugar workers were laid-off under the European Union-funded Sugar Transformation Programme (STP).

Some €147 million (approximately US$109.8 million at the exchange rate of the time) was paid-out to assist with the privatisation process, to enhance the quality of life in ‘sugar dependent’ communities while revamping the ailing sector after years of “under-investment and poor commercial management,” according to documents from the EU mission in Jamaica.

The agreement also provided for redundancy payments to facilitate divestment and provide training and funding for alternative forms of employment. Additionally, it funded farmers to replant old fields and establish new ones to help Jamaica meet a national production target of 200,000 tonnes per annum.

cane-blog480This target is yet to be met: last year, Jamaican sugar producers yielded 154,000 tonnes of sugar; this year that figure fell to 134,000 tonnes.

In 2009, the ’sugar protocol’ – a long standing-agreement which provided Jamaica and other sugar producers from African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states duty-free and quota-free access to the EU sugar market – came to an end. Until 2012, ACP countries were still allow to export sugar duty-free to the EU, but prices and quantities were not fixed.

However, a subsequent transitional agreement – known as the Accompanying Measures for Sugar Protocol Countries – which provides help to countries to help deal with the changes – ends in 2017. George Callaghan, chief executive of Jamaica’s Sugar Industry Authority in Jamaica, recently described the move as an “earth-shattering event”.

In anticipation, the Pan Caribbean Sugar Company (a local subsidiary of COMPLANT, the China National Complete Plant Import and Export Corporation Limited, which owns and operates the island’s three largest sugar factories) removed itself from a cooperative agreement to sell its sugar through Jamaica Cane Product Sales Limited (JCPS) – the agency which markets most Jamaican sugar at home abroad.

Seprod is now also seeking government approval to market its own sugar in an attempt to secure a higher price for its product on the local and global market. However, Hugh Blake, chief executive of JCPS, remains confident that the current set-up is beneficial for all those involved.

“When we lost our preferential markets three years ago, Jamaica managed to negotiate some of the highest prices paid for sugar in Europe,” he tells Equal Times.

caneblue03Whatever happens, for now, there remains some optimism despite the uncertain future. Allan Rickards, chairman of the of the All-Island Jamaica Cane Farmers’ Association, told Equal Times that his association, which represents all of the island’s cane farmers, has seen numerous improvements to the working conditions and welfare of its members in recent years.

“The lay-offs could be a blessing for workers who want to use their severance packages to set up small businesses. Some workers will grasp the opportunity to do other things; many will use the payments to boost their own farming and other businesses. Some will also find work in other sections of the island and others will get jobs with the new contractors,” he said.

Rickards pointed out that most of Golden Grove’s field workers are seasonal and frequently older workers, earning a living out-of-season as farmers, shop keepers or by planting their own cane crops. Many are tired of the hard work of cane cutting and would relish the opportunity to make money some other way. For them, receiving termination pay from Golden Grove could be a good thing.

But for those who have no choice but to remain cane cutters, things to don’t look so sweet. Over at the Worthy Park Estate in the nearby parish of St Catherine’s, drought conditions make it doubtful that extra work will be available this year. Office manager Herman Chambers told Equal Times: “We have enough cutters at Worthy Park and with the drought, I don’t think we will need additional workers”.

Original story is here

Jamaica’s Coral Gardens Give New Hope for Dying Reefs

By Zadie Neufville

The following article was published by InterPress Service on July 13, 2015
With time running out for Jamaica’s coral reefs, local marine scientists are taking things into their own hands, rebuilding the island’s reefs and coastal defences one tiny fragment at a time – a step authorities say is critical to the country’s climate change and disaster mitigation plans.

Coral farming

Diver placing fragments of coral on a ‘tree’

Five years ago, local hoteliers turned to experimental coral gardening in a desperate bid to improve their diving attractions, protect their properties from frequent storms surges and arrest beach erosion.

In 2014, their efforts were boosted when the Centre for Marine Science (CMS) at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona scored a 350,000-dollar grant from the International Development Bank (IDB) for the Coral Reef Restoration Project.

Project director and coastal ecologist Dale Webber told IPS that his team will carry out genetic research, attempt to crack the secrets of coral spawning and re-grow coral at several locations across the island and at the centre’s Discovery Bay site. The project will also share the research findings with other islands as well as another IDB project, Belize’s Fragments of Hope.

The reefs of Discovery Bay have been studied for more than 40 years, and are the centre of reef research in Jamaica. It is also home to several species of both fast and slow growing corals that Webber says are particularly resilient.

“They have tolerated disease, global warming, sea level rise, bleaching, etc. – all man and the environment have thrown at them – and are still flourishing. So they have naturally selected based on their resilience,” he explains.

A total of 60 fragments from five species of corals have been placed on the trees in the coral nursery. The five species are Orbicella annularis; Orbicella faveolata; Siderastrea siderea; Acropora palmata and Undaria agaricites. These fragments are being monitored as they grow and will be planted on the reefs.

Jamaica’s reefs – which make up more than 50 per cent of the 1022 kilometres of coastline, have over the years been battered by pollution, overfishing and improper development.  Finally in 1980 Hurricane Allen smashed them.

Many hoped the reefs would regenerate, but sluggish growth caused by, among other things, frequent severe weather events and an increase in bleaching incidences due to climatic changes sent stakeholders searching for options.

A massive Caribbean-wide bleaching event in 2005 resulted in widespread coral death and focussed attention on continuing sand loss at some of the island’s most valuable beaches. But aside from the devastation caused by the hurricane, scientists say the poor condition of the reefs are also the result of a die-off of the sea urchin population in 1982 and the continued capture of juvenile reef fish and the parrot.

erosion

Sediment from land slides and agricultural run offs smother the reefs

Predictions are that the region could lose all its coral in 20 years. Some reports say that only about eight per cent of Jamaican corals are alive. However, new surveys conducted by the UWI at several sites across the island show coral cover of between 12 and 20 per cent.

Along Jamaica’s north coast from Oracabessa in St. Mary to Montego Bay, coral recovery projects have yielded varying levels of success. The Golden Eye Beach Club, the Oracabessa Fish Sanctuary and Montego Bay Marine Park are among those that have experimented with coral gardening.

The process is tedious, as divers must tend the nurseries/gardens, removing algae from the fragments of corals as they grow. The pieces are then fixed to the reefs. The results are encouraging and many see this is an expensive but sure way to repopulate dying reefs. A combination of techniques, management measures and regeneration have boosted coral cover at Discovery Bay from five percent to 14 per cent in recent years.

“We hope to supplement this and get it growing faster,” Webber who also heads UWI’s Centre for Marine Sciences says.

At the Centre’s newest Alligator Head location in the east of the island, the aim is to increase the coral cover from the existing 40 per cent. The nurseries have also been set up at the site in Portland to compare the differences in growth rate between sites.

At the NGO-operated Montego Bay Marine Park, where an artificial reef and coral nursery was established in the fish sanctuary, outreach officer Joshua Bailey reports:  “There have been moderate successes. New corals are spawning and attracting fish.”

He cautioned that the impact of “urban stressors” on the park and in surrounding communities – high human population density and high levels of run-off – makes it difficult to judge the success of the restoration.

One of the most recent projects proposed the construction of an artificial reef off the shore of Sandals Resorts International Negril, as one of many solutions to reduce beach erosion along the famous ‘Seven Mile’ stretch of the Negril coast. The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) approved the construction of an artificial reef in 1.2 metres of water offshore the Resort’s Negril bay property.

Andrew Ross is responsible for the Sandals and several other projects. A marine biologist and head of Seascape Caribbean, he explains that the Negril project lasted one year. It allowed for the study of fast and slow growing coral species and included the construction of a wave attenuation structure to determine how wave action influences sand accumulation. The coral nursery and the structures were populated with soft corals, sponges and a variety of other corals from the area.

In Oracabessa, a fishing village on 16 kilometres east of the tourist town of Ocho Rios, the commitment of the fishermen who initiated the project and their private sector partners have kept the reef and replanted corals clean and healthy, demonstrating how successful the process can be in restoring the local fisheries.

“The fishermen have done a beautiful job of keeping the corals alive and the fish sanctuary successful,” Ross says of the project he started in 2009.

Much of Jamaica’s reefs have reportedly been smothered by silt from eroding hillsides, the algal blooms from eutrophication as a result of agricultural run-offs and the disposal of sewage in the coastal waters.

The reefs are critical to Jamaica’s economy as tourism services account for a quarter of all jobs and more than 50 per cent of foreign exchange earnings.  Fisheries directly employ an estimated 33,000 people. Overall, the Caribbean makes between 5.0 and 11 billion dollars each year from fishing and tourism, an indication of the importance of reefs to the economies of the islands.

tourismat beach

Reefs support tourism services which inturn earm billions for the country and the region.

The Restoration Project provides the CMS with the resources to undertake a series of research activities “to among other things mitigate coral depletion, and identify and cultivate species that are resistant to the ravages of the impact of climate change,” Webber says.

In an email outlining the process, he notes that the project will provide “applicable information and techniques to other countries in the region that are experiencing similar challenges,” during its 18-month lifetime.

Expectations are that at the end of the project, there will be visible changes in coral cover. The successes seen in Oracabessa, where fishermen report improvements in catch rates and fish sizes, and at other sites are an indication that coral gardening is working.

Like Ross, Webber expects that there will be changes in coral cover at replanting sites within a three- to five-year period. 

Edited by Kitty Stapp