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Mayan Farmers in Southern Belize Hold Strong to Their Climate Change Experiment

by Zadie Neufville

The following was first published by IPS on Sep 5 2018
In one of Belize’s forest reserves in the Maya Golden Landscape, a group of farmers is working with non-governmental organisations to mitigate and build resilience to climate change with a unique agroforestry project.

Marcus Tut at his plot in the Ya’axché  agro-forestry concession

The Ya’axché Conservation Trust helps farmers to establish traditional tree crops, like the cacao, that would provide them with long-term income opportunities through restoring the forest, protecting the natural environment, while building their livelihoods and opportunities. Experts say the farmers are building resilience to climate change in the eight rural communities they represent.

The agroforestry concession is situated in the Maya Mountain Reserve and is one of two agroforestry projects undertaken by the 5Cs, the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), in its efforts to implement adaptation and mitigation strategies in communities across the Caribbean.

Close to 6,000 people both directly and indirectly benefit from the project which Dr. Ulric Trotz, science advisor and deputy executive director of the 5Cs, noted was established with funding from the United Kingdom Department for International Development (UK DFID).

“It is easily one of our most successful and during my most recent visit this year, I’ve seen enough to believe that the concept can be successfully transferred to any community in Belize as well as to other parts of the Caribbean,” he told IPS.

The Trio Cacao Farmers Association and the Ya’axché Conservation Trust have been working together since 2015 to acquire and establish an agroforestry concession on 379 hectares of disturbed forest. The agroforestry project was given a much-need boost with USD250,000 in funding through the 5Cs.

According to Christina Garcia, Ya’axché’s executive director, the project provides extension services. It also provides training and public awareness to prepare the farmers on how to reduce deforestation, prevent degradation of their water supplies and reduce the occurrence of wildfires in the beneficiary communities and the concession area.

Since the start, more than 50,000 cacao trees have been planted on 67 hectares and many are already producing the white cacao, a traditional crop in this area. To supplement the farmers’ incomes approximately 41 hectares of ‘cash’ crops, including bananas, plantains, vegetable, corn and peppers, were also established along with grow-houses and composting heaps that would support the crops.

This unique project is on track to become one of the exemplary demonstrations of ecosystems-based adaptation in the region.

The 35 farming families here are native Maya. They live and work in an area that is part of what has been dubbed the Golden Stream Corridor Preserve, which connects the forests of the Maya Mountains to that of the coastal lowlands and is managed by Ya’axché.

Farmers here believe they are reclaiming their traditional ways of life on the four hectares which they each have been allocated. Many say they’ve improved their incomes while restoring the disturbed forests, and are doing this through using techniques that are protecting and preserving the remaining forests, the wildlife and water.

On tour of the Ya’axché Agroforestry Concession in the Maya Golden Landscape. From right: Dr Ulric Trotz, deputy executive director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC); Dr Mark Bynoe, head of project development at the 5Cs; Isabel Rash, chair of the Trios Cacao Farmers Association; Magnus Tut, farmer and ranger and behind him Christina Garcia, executive director Ya’axché Conservation Trust. 

Other members of the communities, including school-age teenagers, were given the opportunity to start their own businesses through the provision of training and hives to start bee-keeping projects. Many of the women now involved in bee-keeping were given one box when they started their businesses.

The men and women who work the concession do not use chemicals and can, therefore, market their crops as chemical free, or organic products. They, however, say they need additional help to seek and establish those lucrative markets. In addition to the no-chemicals rule, the plots are cultivated by hand, using traditional tools. But farmer Marcus Tut said that this is used in conjunction with new techniques, adding that it has improved native farming methods.

“We are going back to the old ways, which my father told me about before chemicals were introduced to make things grow faster. The hardest part is maintaining the plot. It is challenging and hard work but it is good work, and there are health benefits,” Tut told IPS.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) supports the farmers’ beliefs, reporting that up to 11 per cent of greenhouse gases are caused by deforestation and “between 24 and 30 per cent of total mitigation potential” can be provided by halting and reversing deforestation in the tropics.

“The hardest part of the work is getting some people to understand how/what they do impacts the climate, but each has their own story and they are experiencing the changes which make it easier for them to make the transition,” said Julio Chun, a farmer and the community liaison for the concession. He told IPS that in the past, the farmers frequently used fires to clear the land.

Chun explained that farmers are already seeing the return of wildlife, such as the jaguar, and are excited by the possibilities.

“We would like to develop eco-tourism and the value-added products that can support the industry. Some visitors are already coming for the organic products and the honey,” he said.

Ya’axché co-manages the Bladen Nature Reserve and the Maya Mountain North Forest Reserve, a combined 311,607 hectares of public and privately owned forest. Its name, pronounced yash-cheh, is the Mopan Maya word for the Kapoc or Ceiba tree (scientific name: Ceiba pentandra), which is sacred to the Maya peoples.

Of the project’s future, Garcia said: “My wish is to see the project address the economic needs of the farmers, to get them to recognise the value of what they are doing in the concession and that the decision-makers can use the model as an example to make decisions on how forest reserves can be made available to communities across Belize and the region to balance nature and livelihoods.”

Scientists believe that well-managed ecosystems can help countries adapt to both current climate hazards and future climate change through the provision of ecosystem services, so the 5Cs has implemented a similar project in Saint Lucia under a 42-month project funded by the European Union Global Climate Change Alliance (EU-GCCA+) to promote sustainable farming practices.

The sweet taste of white cacao

The cacao-based agroforestry project in Saint Lucia uses a mix-plantation model where farmers are allowed to continue using chemicals but were taught to protect the environment. Like the Ya’axché project, Saint Lucia’s was designed to improve environmental conditions in the beneficiary areas; enhance livelihoods and build the community’s resilience to climate change.

In the next chapter, the Ya’axché farmers project is hoping that, among other things, a good Samaritan will help them to add facilities for value-added products; acquire eco-friendly all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) to move produce to access points; and replace a wooden bridge that leads to the main access road.

Tut and Chun both support the views of the group’s chair Isabel Rash, that farmers are already living through climate change, but that the hard work in manually “clearing and maintaining their plots and in chemical-free food production, saves them money”, supports a healthy working and living environment and should protect them against the impacts of climate change.

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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.

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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.

Caribe: sistema detecta fármacos falsos y adulterados

By Zadie Neufville

Publicado por SciDev.com  Feb 23, 2018
[KINGSTON] Un sistema de notificación voluntario permitirá a los países del Caribe rastrear medicamentos falsificados y de calidad inferior, así como las reacciones adversas que causan diversos fármacos y que son informadas a través de sus respectivas patentes.

Llamado VigiCarib, se trata de una herramienta en línea que forma parte del Sistema Regulatorio del Caribe (CRS), y es administrado por el organismo responsable de la salud pública en la región: la Agencia de Salud Pública del Caribe (CARPHA). Entró en funcionamiento el 5 de febrero.

medicine bottleEl sistema permite a cualquier persona, incluido el público, informar sobre los productos y reacciones adversas, pero Charles Preston, consultor de la OMS/OPS que está supervisando la puesta en marcha del sistema, señala que por ahora se están enfocando en implementar centros reguladores del gobierno y de los proveedores de salud.

VigiCarib cuenta con el apoyo de los ministros de salud de la Comunidad del Caribe (CARICOM) y la Organización Panamericana de la Salud/Organización Mundial de la Salud.

“La iniciativa se basa en una serie de personas como coordinadores, inspectores, personal de CARPHA y de la OPS/OMS que tendrán a su cargo analizar la información, realizar inspecciones y comprobaciones para identificar los datos ingresados sobre los productos problemáticos, compartir la información y hacer recomendaciones a los gobiernos sobre las acciones regulatorias a tomarse”, explica Preston a SciDev.Net.

[VigiCarib]… protegerá la salud de los pacientes y les ayudará a ahorrar dinero, pero también protegerá al farmacéutico de los medicamentos falsos y adulterados”.

René Riveron, Asociación de Farmacéuticos del Caribe, Belice

Esas acciones podrían incluir desde alertas a las autoridades reguladoras y al público de los países miembros hasta el retiro de los productos del mercado. Las penalidades contemplan el decomiso, la anulación del registro y la exclusión de la lista de medicamentos autorizados, pero su aplicación dependerá de cada país en forma individual.

Para el químico Robert Kerr, con más de 30 años de experiencia en la Oficina de Normas de Jamaica, si bien es una buena idea, dicho sistema “no llega lo suficientemente lejos como para proteger a los ciudadanos”.

Kerr aclara que el sistema “no exime a los gobiernos de sus responsabilidades de proteger a sus ciudadanos”, y recuerda que un acuerdo regional similar para los plaguicidas, establecido por el Grupo Coordinador de Juntas de Control de Plaguicidas del Caribe (CGPC) en 1994, no ha funcionado porque los mismos gobiernos que esperan beneficiarse no lo respaldan suficientemente.

Rene Riveron, farmacéutico de Belize, comenta a SciDev.Net que el sistema es una buena manera de proteger la integridad de la industria farmacéutica. “Protegerá la salud de los pacientes y les ayudará a ahorrar dinero, pero también protegerá al farmacéutico de los medicamentos falsificados y adulterados”, dice.

Según Riveron, la Asociación de Farmacéuticos del Caribe (CAP) es idónea para el buen manejo de VigiCarib pues sus miembros son profesionales que representan a 24 países de la región, lo que le permite recolectar los datos porque solo los farmacéuticos registrados pueden ser miembros.

CAP recopila activamente información internacional y de sus miembros la cual circula y publica en su sitio web.

Hasta ahora, el monitoreo de los medicamentos y sus efectos secundarios habían sido incompletos, dejando a los estados y organismos profesionales esta función.

Preston espera que el sistema agilice el intercambio de recursos; proporcione un marco por el cual fabricantes y distribuidores puedan ser responsables de los productos que traen al mercado, y asegure que la seguridad y calidad de los productos sea constantemente monitoreada.

 

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

 

Building Climate Resilience in Coastal Communities of the Caribbean

By Zadie Neufville

The following was published by IPS on Aug 24, 2017
Ceylon Clayton is trying to revive a sea moss growing project he and friends started a few years ago to supplement their dwindling earnings as fishermen.

This time, he has sought the support of outsiders and fishermen from neighbouring communities to expand the operations and the ‘unofficial’ fishing sanctuary. Clayton is leading a group of ten fishers from the Little Bay community in Westmoreland, Jamaica, who have big dreams of turning the tiny fishing village into the largest sea moss producer on the island.

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Ceylon Clayton carries a crate of sea-moss onshore. He leads a group of men who are building a seaweed farming business in Westmoreland. This alternative livelihoods project is one of many that make up the 14 coastal protection projects being implemented across the region by the 5Cs. 

To protect their ‘nursery’ and preserve the recovery, the fishermen took turns patrolling the bay, but two years ago, they ran out of money. He is also one of the many thousands of fishers in the Caribbean who are part of an industry that, along with other ecosystem services, earns around 2 billion dollars a year, but which experts say is already fully developed or over-exploited.

The men began farming seaweed because they could no longer support their families fishing on the narrow Negril shelf, and they lacked the equipment needed to fish in deeper waters, he said.

As Clayton tells it, not long after they began enforcing a ‘no fishing’ zone, they were both surprised and pleased that within two and a half years, there was a noticeable increase in the number and size of lobsters being caught.

“When we were harvesting the sea moss we noticed that there were lots of young lobsters, shrimp and juvenile fish in the roots. They were eating there and the big fish were also coming back into the bay to eat the small fish,” Clayton told members of a delegation from, the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) also called 5Cs, the German Development Bank (KfW) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) who came to visit the site in May.

To protect their ‘nursery’ and preserve the recovery, the fishermen took turns patrolling the bay, but two years ago, they ran out of money.

“We didn’t have the markets,” Clayton said, noting there were limited markets for unprocessed seaweed and not enough money to support the patrols.

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Members of the members of the delegation from the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) also called 5Cs, the German Development Bank (KfW) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) pose with Jamaican officials at the launch of the UDC project.

The seaweed is thriving and teeming with marine life; fishing in around Little Bay and the neighbouring villages has also improved, Clayton said. Now he, his wife (also a fisher) and eight friends want to build on that success and believe the climate change adaptation project being implemented by the 5Cs is their best chance at success. They’ve recruited other fishers, the local school and shopkeepers.

Showing off the variety of juvenile marine animals, including baby eels, seahorses, octopi, reef fish and shrimp hiding among the seaweed, the 30 plus-years veteran fisherman explained that the experiment had shown the community the success that could come from growing, processing and effectively marketing the product. The bonus, he said, would be the benefits that come from making the bay off-limits for fishing.

This alternative livelihoods project is one of many that make up the 14 coastal protection projects being implemented across the region by the 5Cs. Aptly named the Coastal Protection for Climate Change Adaptation (CPCCA) in Small Island States in the Caribbean Project because of its focus, it is being implemented with technical support from IUCN and a €12.9 million in grant funding from the KfW.

“The project seeks to minimise the adverse impacts from climate change by restoring the protective services offered by natural eco-systems like coastal mangrove forests and coral reefs in some areas while restoring and building man-made structures such as groynes and revetments in others,” the IUCN Technical consultant Robert Kerr said in an email. Aside from Jamaica, Grenada, Saint Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines are also beneficiaries under the project.

The Caribbean is heavily dependent on tourism and other marine services, industries that the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPPC) last report indicate are expected to be heavily impacted by climate change. Most if not all states depend on the fisheries and the regional tourism industry – which grew from four million visitors in 1970 to an estimated 25 million visitors today – earn an estimated 25 billion dollars in revenue and supports about six million jobs.

The findings of the IPCC’s report is further strengthened by that of the Caribbean Marine Climate Change Report Card (2017) which stated: “The seas, reefs and coasts on which all Caribbean people depend are under threat from coral bleaching, ocean acidification, rising sea temperature, and storms.”

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Net-mending in Portland Cottage in the CCAM Project in the Portland Bight protected area,  Clarendon.

“The project is a demonstration of Germany’s commitment to assisting the region’s vulnerable communities to withstand the impacts of climate change,” said Dr. Jens Mackensen KfW’s head of Agriculture and Natural Resources Division for Latin America and Caribbean.

All the Jamaican projects are in protected areas and are managed by a mix of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), academic and local government organisations. The Westmoreland Municipal Corporation (WMC) is managing the seaweed project and two other components – to reduce the flow of sewage into the wetlands and install mooring buoys and markers to regulate the use of the sea – that focus on strengthening the ecosystem and improving the climate resilience of the Negril Marine Protected area.

The University of the West Indies’ Centre for Marine Sciences is managing the East Portland Fish Sanctuary project; the Caribbean Coastal Area Management (C-CAM) Foundation works in the Portland Bight area and the Urban Development Corporation (UDC), a quasi-government agency is managing infrastructure work on the Closed Habour Beach also called Dump Up beach in the Montego Bay area.

Clayton’s plan to include a processing plant at the local school and a marketing network in the small business community has impressed 5C’s executive director Dr. Kenrick Leslie and McKensen.

Sea moss is a common ingredient in energy tonics that target men, the locals explain. In addition, WMC’s project manager Simone Williams said, “The projects aim to protect and rehabilitate the degraded fisheries habitat and ecosystems of Orange Bay, streamline usage of the marine areas and improve quality of discharge into marine areas.”

In Portland Bight, an area inhabited by more than 10,000 people, and one of the most vulnerable, C-CAM is working to improve awareness, build resilience through eco-systems based adaptation, conservation and the diversification of livelihoods. Important, CCAM Executive Director Ingrid Parchment said, because most of the people here rely on fisheries. The area supports some 4,000 fishers – 300 boats from five fishing beaches. They have in the past suffered severe flooding from storm surges, which have in recent times become more frequent.

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The Portland Bight area supports some 4,000 fishers – 300 boats from five fishing beaches

And in the tourist town of Montego Bay, the UDC is undertaking structural work to repair a groyne that will protect the largest public beach in the city – Dump-up or Closed Harbour Beach. Works here will halt the erosion of the main beach as well as two adjacent beaches (Gun Point and Walter Fletcher) and protect the livelihoods of many who make their living along the coast. When complete the structure will form the backbone of further development for the city.

UWI’s Alligator Head Marine Lab is spearheading a project to reinforce protection of vulnerable seaside and fishing communities, along the eastern coast of Portland, a parish locals often say has been neglected, but with links to James Bond creator, Ian Fleming has great potential as a tourism destination.

Here, over six square kilometres of coastline is being rehabilitated through wetlands and reef rehabilitation; the establishment of alternative livelihood projects; renewable technologies and actions to reduce greenhouse gases and strengthen climate resilience.

In St Vincent and the Grenadines, the CPCCA is helping the Ministry of Works to rehabilitate the Sandy Bay Community, and the coastal Windward Highway where storm damage has caused loss of housing, livelihoods and recreational space, Kerr said.

The local census data puts unemployment in Sandy Bay as the country’s highest and, as Kerr noted, “With the highest reported level of poverty at 55 percent, the Sandy Bay Community cannot afford these losses.”

CPCCA is well on its way and will end in 2018, by that time, Leslie noted beneficiaries would be well on their way to achieving their and the project’s goal.

Caribbean Eyes Untapped Potential of World’s Largest Climate Fund

by Zadie Neufville

The following was published by IPS on April 12, 2018
The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) also known as the 5Cs, is looking for ways to boost the region’s access to the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

The Centre is on the hunt for proposals from the private and public sector organisations around the region that want to work with the Centre to develop their ideas into successful projects that are in line with their country’s national priorities to build resilience to climate change.

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Deputy Executive Director at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (5Cs) Dr. Ultic Trotz (left) in conversation with farmers at a unique agroforestry project in Belize, one of many implemented by the Centre to boost the region’s resilience to the effects of climate change. Photo Credit: Zadie Neufville

The 5Cs, the agency with responsibility for coordinating climate action in the Caribbean, has doubled its efforts in wake of the 2017 Hurricane Season which saw the devastation of several islands and which exacerbates the need for climate proofing critical infrastructure and building resilience.

“We welcome proposals from all areas and industries,” said, Dr. Kenrick Leslie executive director of the Centre, noting that as an accredited entity: “We are able to assist organisations to access Green Climate Fund (GCF) grants for climate adaptation and mitigation projects of up to 50 million dollars per project”.

The GCF has approved a couple hundred million in preparation funding for several countries across the region, but the 5Cs boss is particularly proud of the achievements of his tiny project development team.

On March 13, the Bahamas became the second of the four countries for which the Centre is the Delivery Partner, to launch their GCF readiness programme. In 2017, three countries – the Bahamas, Belize, and Guyana, and more recently St. Lucia – were approved for grants of 300,000 to build in-country capacities to successfully apply for and complete GCF-funded projects that align with their national priorities, while simultaneously advancing their ambitions towards becoming Direct Access Entities (DAEs).

Each ‘readiness’ project is expected to run for between 18-months and 2 years and include developing operational procedures for Governments and the private sector to engage effectively with the GCF; providing training about its processes and procedures, how to access grants, loans, equities and guarantees from the GCF; and the development of a pipeline of potential project concepts for submission to the Fund. These activities are not one-off measures, but will form part of an ongoing process to strengthen the country’s engagement with the Fund.

Guyana’s ‘readiness’ project began in October 2016 and is expected to end in April this year; while the Bahamian Ministry of Environment and Housing and the Centre’s recent hosting of a project inception workshop, marked the start of that programme. The Belize project is expected to begin next month and St Lucia’s will kick-off in May, and run for two years. The readiness projects are being funded by the GCF at a cost of approximately 300,000 dollars each.

Aside from these readiness grants, the Centre secured 694,000 dollars in project preparation facility (PPF) grants for a public-private partnership between the Government of Belize and the Belize Electricity Company.

The project is intended to enable Belize to utilise the indigenous plant locally known as wild cane (scientific name Arundo donax) as a sustainable alternative source of energy for electricity generation. The grant will provide the resources needed to conduct the necessary studies to ascertain viability of the plant, with the intention of facilitating large-scale commercial cultivation for energy generation purposes.

In addition, the Centre partnered with the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) to develop the proposal for the Water Sector Resilience Nexus for Sustainability Project (WSRN S-Barbados) for which the GCF announced 45.2 million dollars in funding – some of which is in counterpart funding – at the 19th meeting of the Board in Korea in March this year.

BWA’s Elon Cadogan noted that the project would directly impact 190,000 people on an island which has been described as “one of the most water-stressed” in the Caribbean. The frequency of lock-offs has been costly for the country.

“Schools have had to close due to lack of water and the potential unsanitary conditions are likely to increase health treatment costs. In addition, there have been some cancellations of tourist stays and bookings,” Dr Cadogan, who is the project management officer at the BWA said.

Because of its unique operating structure, the Centre is able to call on its many partners to speedily provide the required skills to complete the assessments required to bring a project to the submission stage for further development or full project funding. In the case of the Arundo donax project, the Centre provided several small grants and with the help of the Clinton Foundation, completed a range of studies to determine the suitability of the grass as an alternative fuel.

For the Barbados project, the 5Cs worked with the University of the West Indies (UWI) and South Florida University (SFU) and the BWA to complete the submissions on time.  With the Centre’s own GCF accreditation completed within six months, the 5Cs is turning its attention to assisting countries with their own.

Head of the Programme Development and Management Unit (PDMU) and Assistant Executive Director at the Centre Dr. Mark Bynoe said that even as the Centre continues its work in project development and as a readiness delivery partner, the focus has now shifted.

“We are now turning our attention to aiding with their GCF accreditation granting process and the completion of their National Adaptation Plans (NAPS). Each country has an allocation of 3-million-dollar grant under the GCF window for their NAP preparation,” he said.

The GCF is the centrepiece of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) efforts to raise finance to address climate change related impacts. It was created to support the efforts of developing countries to respond to the challenges posed, and opportunities presented, by climate change through a network of National Designated Authorities (NDAs) and Accredited Entities (AEs).

As a readiness delivery partner, the Centre will provide the necessary oversight, fiduciary and project management, as well as monitoring and evaluation of these ‘readiness’ projects, skills that are critical to ensuring that those projects are speedily developed and submitted for verification and approval.

Every success means the Centre’s is fulfilling its role to deliver transformational change to a region under threat by climate change.

Climate Scientists Use Forecasting Tools to Protect Caribbean Ways of Life

by Zadie Neufville

The following was published by InterPress Service on Aug 7, 2017

KINGSTON, Jamaica: Since 2013, Jamaica’s Met Office has been using its Climate Predictability Tool (CPT) to forecast ‘below average’ rainfall or drought across the island. The tool has allowed this northern Caribbean island to accurately predict several dry periods and droughts, including its most destructive episode in 2014 when an estimated one billion dollars in agricultural losses were incurred due to crop failures and wild fires caused by the exceptionally dry conditions.

In neighbouring Cuba, the reputation of the Centre for Atmospheric Physics at the Institute for Meteorology (INSMET) is built on the development of tools that “provide reliable and timely climate and weather information” that enables the nation to prepare for extreme rainfall and drought conditions as well as for hurricanes.

Regional scientists believe the extended dry periods are one of several signs of climate change, now being experienced across the region. Dr. Ulric Trotz, Deputy Director and Science Adviser at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) – known regionally as the Five Cs – believes climate change is threatening the “Caribbean’s ways of life”.

The drought tools allow regional authorities to guide farmers so they avoid losses

Dr. Trotz noted, “Some countries in the Caribbean like Barbados and Antigua are inherently water scarce. It is expected that climate change will exacerbate this already critical situation. We have seen in recent times the occurrence of extended droughts across the Caribbean, a phenomenon that is expected to occur more frequently in the future.

“Droughts have serious implications across all sectors – the water, health, agriculture, tourism -and already we are seeing the disastrous effects of extended droughts throughout the Caribbean especially in the agriculture sector, on economies, livelihoods and the well-being of the Caribbean population,” he said.

With major industries like fisheries, tourism and agriculture already impacted, the region continues to look for options. Both the Cuban and Jamaican experiences with forecasting tools means their use should be replicated across the Caribbean, Central and South America as scientists look for ways to battle increasingly high temperatures and low rainfall which have ravaged the agricultural sector and killed corals across the region.

Charged with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)’s mandate to coordinate the region’s response to climate change, the ‘Five Cs’ has been seeking financial support investigating and pooling regional resources to help countries cope with the expected impacts since its birth in 2004. These days, they are introducing and training regional planners in the application and use of a suite of tools that will help leaders make their countries climate-ready.

The experts believe that preparing the region to deal with climate change must include data collection and the widespread use of variability, predictability and planning tools that will guide development that mitigate the impacts of extreme climatic conditions.

The recent Caribbean Marine Climate Report card reflects the findings of the latest Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, pointing to the need for countries to ramp up their adaptation strategies. Both highlight the many significant risks climate change is expected to bring to regional economies that depend heavily on eco-systems based industries; where major infrastructure are located along the coasts and where populations are mainly poor.The report points to the threats to biodiversity from coral bleaching; rising sea temperature and more intense storms which could destroy the region’s economy, and in some cases inundate entire communities.

The tools not only allow the users to generate country specific forecast information, they allow Met Officers, Disaster Managers and other critical personnel to assess likely impacts of climatic and extreme weather events on sectors such as health, agriculture and tourism; on critical infrastructure and installations as well as on vulnerable populations.

Jamaica has more than a million motor vehicles contributing to increased emissions and traffic jams like this one at the Highway 2000 off ramp at Marcus Garvey Drive.- Gleaner photo

Training is being rolled out under the Climate Change Adaptation Program (CCAP) in countries of the Eastern and Southern Caribbean, with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). CCAP was designed to build on both USAID’s Regional Development Cooperative Strategy which addresses development challenges in the countries in that part of the region, as well as the CCCCC’s Regional Framework for Achieving Development Resilient to a Changing Climate and its associated Implementation Plan, which have been endorsed by the Heads of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries.

Regional experts and government officers working in agriculture, water resources, coastal zone management, health, physical planning and disaster risk reduction from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago are being taught to use a variety of tools.

The program aims to build resilience in the development initiatives of the countries as they tackle climate change-induced challenges, which are already being experienced by countries of the region.

At a recent workshop in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia, trainees were confident that the tools could become critical to their developmental goals. St Lucian metrological forecaster Glen Antoinne, believes the tools could be “useful for St Lucia because they are directly related to our ability to forecast any changes in the climate”.

He looks forward to his government’s adoption of, in particular, the weather tools to  “support the climatology department in looking at trends, forecasting droughts and to help them to determine when to take action in policy planning and disaster management”.

The tools work by allowing researchers and other development specialists to use a range of climatic data to generate scientific information and carry out analysis on the likely impacts in the individual countries of the region. They are open source, to remove the need for similar expensive products being used in developed world, but effective, said INSMET’s Dr. Arnoldo Bezamilla Morlot.

“We saw the need to develop a drought tool that was not only easy to use, but free to the countries of the Caribbean so they would not have to spend large amounts of money for software,” he said.

“The more countries use the data, the more information that is available for countries and region to use,” Morlot continued, pointing out that the data is used to generate the information that then feeds into the decision making process.

Heavy rains and high waves from Hurricane Ivan in 2004 battered coastal towns, marooned the Kingston’s International Airport, destroyed several roads and bridges .- Jamaica Gleaner Photo.

CCAP also includes activities aimed at the expansion of the Coral Reef Early Warning System for the installation of data gathering buoys in five countries in the Eastern Caribbean providing data which, among other things will be used for ecological forecasts on coral bleaching and other marine events.

The project also provides for the strengthening of the hydro meteorological measurement systems in participating countries. This will allow for better monitoring of present day weather parameters and for generating data to feed into the climate models and other tools.

Among the tools being rolled out under the project are the Caribbean Assessment Regional DROught (CARiDRO) tool; the Caribbean Weather Generator, and the Tropical Storm Model which were designed to help experts to develop scenarios of future climate at any given location and to use these to more accurately forecast the impacts, and inform mitigating actions.

There are accompanying web portals and data sets that were developed and are being introduced to help countries to enhance their ability to reduce the risks of climate change to natural assets and populations in their development activities.

These online resources are designed to provide locally relevant and unbiased climate change information that is specific to the Caribbean and relevant to the region’s development. Their integration into national planning agendas across the region is being facilitated through regional and country workshops to ensure effective decision-making while improving climate knowledge and action.

“The resulting information will help leaders make informed decisions based on the projections and forecasting of likely levels of impact on their infrastructure and economies,” Lavina Alexander from St Lucia’s Department of Sustainable Development noted, pointing to that country’s recent experiences with hurricanes and extreme rainfall events.

As one of the tool designers, Morlot believes that by providing free access to the tools, the project is ensuring that “more countries will begin to collect and use the data, providing regional scientists with the ability to make more accurate forecasts of the region’s climate.”

Putting all the information and tools in one place where it is accessible by all will be good for the region, he said.

Caribbean Scientists Work to Limit Climate Impact on Marine Environment

by Zadie Neufville

The following was published by InterPress Service (IPS) on April 28, 2017
KINGSTON, Jamaica:
Caribbean scientists say fishermen are already seeing the effects of climate change, so for a dozen or so years they’ve been designing systems and strategies to reduce the impacts on the industry.

Diver checking growing reef fragments

Caribbean scientists are finding some successes in reef gardens. This diver checks growing reef fragments.

While some work on reef gardens and strategies to repopulate over fished areas, others crunch the data and develop tools designed to prepare the region, raise awareness of climate change issues and provide the information to help leaders make decisions.

As the oceans absorb more carbon, the region’s supply of conch and oysters, the mainstay of some communities, is expected to decline further.

In December 2017, the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) secretariat, with funding from the UK government, announced a Climate Report Card to help formulate strategies to lessen the impact of climate change on regional fisheries.

“The CRFM is trying to ensure that the issue of climate change as it relates to the fisheries sector comes to the fore… because the CARICOM Heads of Government have put fish and fishery products among the priority commodities for CARICOM. It means that things that affect that development are important to us and so climate change is of primary importance,” said Peter Murray, the CRFM’s Programme Manager for Fisheries and Development.

The grouping of small, developing states are ‘fortifying’ the sectors that rely on the marine environment, or the Blue Economy, to withstand the expected ravages of climate change which scientists say will increase the intensity of hurricanes, droughts, coastal sea level rise and coral bleaching.

In its last report AR5, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported: “Many terrestrial, freshwater and marine species have shifted their geographic ranges, seasonal activities, migration patterns, abundances and species interactions in response to ongoing climate change,” patterns that are already being noted by Caribbean fishers.

In an email to IPS, Murray outlined several initiatives across the Caribbean that he says are crucial to regional efforts. The Report Card, which has been available since March, will provide the in-depth data governments need to make critical decisions on mitigation and adaptation. It provides information covering ocean processes such as ocean acidification; extreme events like storms, surges and sea temperature; biodiversity and civil society including fisheries, tourism and settlements.

In addition, the 17-members of the CRFM agreed to incorporate the management of fisheries into their national disaster plans, and signed off on the Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction Strategy for the fisheries sector.

“It means that anything looking at climate change and potential impacts is important to us,” Murray says.

The IPCC’s gloomy projections for world fisheries has been confirmed by a 2015 World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report indicating that for the last 30 years, world fisheries have been in decline due to climate change. In the Caribbean, reduced catches are directly impacting the stability of entire communities and the diets and livelihoods of some of the region’s poorest. Further decline could devastate the economies of some islands.

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

But even as climate change is expected to intensify the effects of warming ocean waters, pelagic species could avoid the Caribbean altogether, bringing even more hardships. So the regional plan is centred on a Common Fisheries Policy that includes effective management, monitoring and enforcement systems and tools to improve risk planning.

In addition to the disaster plan and its other activities, the Community has over time installed a Coral Reef Early Warning System; new data collection protocols; improved computing capacity to crunch climate data; an insurance scheme to increase the resilience of fishing communities and stakeholders; as well as several tools to predict drought and excessive rainfall.

Worldwide, three billion people rely on fish as their major source of protein. The industry provides a livelihood for about 12 per cent of the world’s population and earns approximately 2.9 trillion dollars per year, the WWF reports. With regional production barely registering internationally, the Caribbean is putting all its efforts into preserving the Blue Economy, which the World Bank said earned the region 407 billion dollars in 2012.

The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, known regionally as the 5Cs, has coordinated and implemented a raft of programmes aimed at building systems that will help the region cope the effects of climate change.

Through collaboration with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the 5Cs has been setting up an integrated network of climate and biological monitoring stations to strengthen the region’s early warning mechanism.

And as the oceans absorb more carbon, the region’s supply of conch and oysters, the mainstay of some communities, is expected to decline further. In addition, warming sea water is expected to shift migration routes for pelagic fish further north, reducing the supply of available deep sea fish even more. Added to that, competition for the dwindling resources could cause negative impacts of one industry over another.

But while scientists seek options, age-old traditions are sometimes still pitted against conservation projects. Take an incident that played out in the waters around St. Vincent and the Grenadines a few weeks ago when whale watchers witnessed the harpooning of two orcas by Vincentian fishermen.

The incident forced Prime Minister Ralph Gonsavles to announce the end of what was, until then, a thriving whaling industry in the village of Barouille. For years, government turned a blind eye as fishermen breached regional and international agreements on the preservation of marine species. The continued breaches are also against the Caribbean Community’s Common Fisheries Policy that legally binds countries to a series of actions to protect and preserve the marine environment and its creatures.

On April 2, five days after the incident, Gonsalves took to the airwaves to denounce the whaling caused by “greed” and announce pending regulations to end fishing for the mammals. The incident also tarnished the island’s otherwise excellent track record at climate proofing its fishing industry.

Murray’s email on regional activities outlines SVG activities including the incorporation of the regional strategy and action plan and its partnership with several regional and international agencies and organisations to build resilience in the marine sector.

redtail parrot fish

Redtail parrot

Over in the northern Caribbean, traditions are also testing regulations and international agreements. In Jamaica, the Sandals Foundation in association with major supermarket chains has launched a campaign to stop the capture and sale of parrotfish for consumption.

Scientists say that protecting the parrot is synonymous with saving the reefs and mitigating the effects of climate change. And further north in the Turks and Caicos, the government is searching for new ways to manage the conch and lobster populations. While trade is regulated, household use of both, sea turtles, and some sharks remain unregulated; and residents are resistant to any restrictions.

And while many continue to puzzle about the reasons behind the region’s climate readiness, scientists caution that there is no time to ease up. This week they rolled out, among other things, a coastal adaptation project and a public education and awareness (PAE) programme launched on April 26 in Belize City.

The PAE project, named Feel the Change, is funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Japan-Caribbean Climate Change Project (J-CCCP) public awareness programme. Speaking at the launch, project development specialist at 5Cs Keith Nichols pointed to the extreme weather events from severe droughts to changes in crop cycles, which have cost the region billions.

“Climate change is not just sea level rise and global warming; climate change and climate variability is all around us,” he said