Inside Cockpit Country - Project eyes conservation of key biodiversity areas
Petre Williams-Raynor, Contributing Editor
JAMAICA'S COCKPIT Country - home to the majestic Giant Swallowtail butterfly, the striking Jamaican boa, and a host of other species - forms a part of the region's seven biodiversity corridors about which Panos Caribbean is seeking to raise awareness to promote their conservation.
The efforts of the regional non-governmental organisation (NGO) fall under a new project which got under way in January.
Called 'Strengthening the Engagement of Caribbean Civil Society in Biodiversity Conservation Through Local and Regional Networking and Effective Sharing of Learning and Best Practices', the project is being funded by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) to the tune of more than US$150,000.
In addition to the Cockpit Country, North Coast Forest, Black River, Great Morass, other biodiversity corridors being looked at under the project are:
- the Portland Bight Protected Area and Surrey County, also in Jamaica;
- Massif - Plaine du Nord in Haiti;
- Massif de la Selle - Jaragua-Bahoruco-Enriquillo Binational in Haiti and the Dominican Republic;
- Cordillera Central in the Dominican Republic; and
- Central Mountain Range in St Vincent.
Together, according to CEPF's 2010 Ecosystem Profile for the Caribbean Islands Biodiversity Hotspot, the seven corridors account for populations of more than 220 globally threatened species and 38 key biodiversity areas (KBAs).
Those KBAs, according to the 145-page document, are of "high priority owing to their importance for maintaining ecosystem resilience, ecosystem services values, and the health and richness of the hotspot's biological diversity".
BENEFICIAL TO 11 ISLANDS
It is having regard to the location of the biodiversity corridors that the Panos/CEPF project activities are centred primarily on Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and St Vincent and the Grenadines, though it benefits a total of 11 islands.
The other islands are Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, and St Lucia.
Project activities, meanwhile, include:
- The collection of baseline data to identify gaps between the media and civil-society organisations that the project can bridge;
- The development of a database relating to the communication and advocacy capacity of NGOs and media, complete with basic institutional information on all NGOs and media houses in the 11 countries; and
- The conduct of workshops for NGOs and media on communication, information production, networking, and knowledge-sharing best practices.
- Also on offer are journalistic fellowships to give media practitioners the chance to report on biodiversity issues for which applications are currently being accepted in the four islands of primary focus.
Country coordinator for Panos Jamaica, Indi McLymont-Lafayette, said there is no underestimating the value of the project.
"The project is very critical for the Caribbean, as it seeks to conserve our key biodiversity areas. A lot of people don't know the importance of some of these areas to our everyday life, and the project is trying to help organisations working in these areas to publicise their work and get a better understanding of why people need to support conservation," she noted.
According to McLymont-Lafayette, the project affords NGOs not only the chance to get their work publicised at the national and regional levels, but gives them the opportunity to network, thereby enhancing their capacity to deliver on their objectives and in the best interest of the environment.
"The project provides networking across the Caribbean, so it helps in sharing success stories that various islands are experiencing. It is a key way of both highlighting their work as well as getting creative and new ideas of how they can improve conservation. Additionally, it will build their media contacts across the region so that their organisation is better known through more publicity," she noted.
As for journalists, she said, "their capacity to cover the issues will be strengthened through training as well as through fellowships across the region".
"It is also the immediate cash benefits of the fellowships, the travel and networking opportunities which are key for any professional journalists," McLymont-Lafayette noted.
"It also opens the opportunity for a lot of international awards, and Panos works with the journalists to get them more regional and international exposure. And it is not a one-off thing. They become a part of the Panos network, so there are long-term benefits," she added.
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