Sun | Sep 20, 2020

Earth Today | Environmental Foundation of Jamaica projects rebound amid COVID-19

Published:Thursday | August 6, 2020 | 12:07 AM
Damion Young (right) with one of the participants, Shelton Watson, from the recent farmers training session held in St Elizabeth.
Damion Young (right) with one of the participants, Shelton Watson, from the recent farmers training session held in St Elizabeth.

IT’S BEEN more than four months since COVID-19 first visited Jamaica’s shores, disrupting project schedules for local community actors keen on tackling climate change and other environmental ills with grant support from the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ).

Despite the initial shock of social distancing and the imposition of other infection prevention and control measures, including mask wearing, the frequent washing of hands and the need for sanitisation of public or otherwise frequently used spaces, the EFJ is reporting that grantees are rebounding.

“We can report that the projects that were impacted have been slowly getting back on target,” said Chief Executive Officer Barrington Lewis.

“In general, most projects would be about six weeks behind their original targeted timelines. Training and any form of workshops continue to be impacted but our grantees are industrious and are working around the challenges of the ‘new’ normal,” he added.

Damion Young, managing director for Central Jamaica Social Development Initiative, one of the EFJ grantees, attested to that.

“To deal with this particular challenge, we have had to resort to technology (including) WhatsApping partners, and using the phone to call partners,” he said.

“We also go to meetings, but ask persons to remain at least six feet apart from each other; and it works because people listen to the media and understand the gravity of the situation,” he said.

The result, according to Young, whose organisation is managing the implementation of the ‘James Hill Medicinal Plant’ and the ‘Promoting Sustainable Livelihoods and Climate Change Awareness in Giddy Hall, using Agroforestry and Rainwater Harvesting Technology’ projects, is that their projects are progressing.

“It is 70 per cent back to normal. Persons are coming out. In fact, just about the end of June we had a training at St Elizabeth where we engaged in training of over 60 farmers. From two communities in the area – Giddy Hall and Emmaus,” he said.

The EFJ currently has more than 100 active projects running, valued at more than $600 million, and made possible with the funding support of the Special Climate Change Adaptation Fund and the European Union/Forestry Department.

The projects, including the two on which the Central Jamaica Social Development Initiative is leading implementation, are expected to yield various environmental benefits for communities and the island as a whole.

This is courtesy of the focus on tying livelihoods to environmental conservation. In the case of Young’s projects, this approach is yielding dividends as farmers gain access to the markets for goods and are provided the requisite training to improve yields, while also protecting the environment.

For this, Young said he is grateful to the EFJ.

“We are very encouraged by the work of the EFJ. The EFJ is very close to the grassroots people of this country. They are active listeners. They take both criticism and suggestions very well. They are responsive, compassionate and understanding. They help to lift up communities at whichever rung of the development ladder that they are,” he said.

“Agencies like the EFJ have to be commended for their attention to unearthing the solutions that lie at the community level with the community actors at the centre of it,” he added.