Earth Today | Thinking long term to protect forests
"We want to help the community find alternatives," remarked Toussaint Brown, a member of the Sawyers Local Forest Management Committee Benevolent Society.
He was speaking at the grant-signing ceremony for 13 community-based organisations under the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica's (EFJ) Forest Conservation Fund.
The grants, signed on July 3 and totaling J$86 million, were provided through the Forest Conservation Fund.
"Via a competitive grant application process, we provide dedicated funding to promote sustainable use of our forest resources, and work to address the cause and effect of threats to our forest resources," said Allison Rangolan, chief technical director of the EFJ, which administers the fund.
The objective is to support the efforts of non-governmental and community-based organisations to protect, conserve and manage local forests, while building their organisational capacity.
For Brown, the constant nibbling away at the edges of the forest in his district is combining with other factors to degrade the environment.
"It is affecting us," he said. "We cannot predict the rainfall."
The alternatives his group is working on are beekeeping and small-scale agro-forestry. They are also committed to replanting acres of denuded woodland and plan to hold public education sessions at 12 local schools on the importance of forests.
Environmental awareness programmes such as National Tree Planting Day, celebrated last week, are growing in popularity. The day saw activities involving schoolchildren and youth high on the agenda as the Forestry Department shared information about planting and caring for trees and made hundreds of saplings available for planting.
Equally important, however, are the day-to-day practices of rural residents - and not just on one particular day.
While EFJ grants provide valuable support to communities seeking solutions, maintaining the focus is critical for their success and for the sustainable development of communities. Planning, implementing and completing a project are not the beginning and the end of the story. The EFJ's support is intended to have a growing - and lasting - impact.