EU, Forestry Department raise awareness of forest preservation and climate change
THE INDIVIDUAL actions of every Jamaican is critical to achieving the necessary culture change to raise awareness of the critical role of forests in providing fresh water and helping to combat climate change, which is why the Forestry Department embarked on a programme between 2019 and 2020, where about 120 early-childhood, primary and secondary schools learnt about forest conservation.
The main aim of the programme was to raise awareness of the relationship between climate change and forest preservation, as well as to encourage forest conservation practices and the reduction of carbon footprint.
In the first phase, forest technicians from the Forestry Department visited the schools to conduct educational sessions and field trips with students. With regard to the second phase, the COVID-19 pandemic posed challenges, resulting in the programme being adjusted. A hybrid approach was utilised to reach students between face-to-face and online modules. This was achieved under the public education component of the European Union’s (EU) Budget Support Programme implemented by the Forestry Department.
For teachers such as Odette Francis-Wright from Ramble Primary School in Manchester, the information provided was relevant and timely. She noted that the 2019 visit piqued the interest of the students, who had never been engaged in a programme of this nature before. Thereafter, they took part in field trips, question-and-answer sessions, and tree-planting activities which gave them hands-on experience and added fun to the learning process.
Francis-Wright says the sessions conducted during the pandemic were perhaps the most significant, as they allowed for innovative changes to ensure that students were not lost in the process.
“The first lesson for grade-six students was about ‘The Environment and Us’, and we were not there to bring them to the experience. The online initiative helped, as they were able to watch videos from the Forestry Department about the benefits of the forest and how it protects them. They were also able to interact with the presenters and ask questions. So when we taught the syllabus, we asked them to do activities at home, such as examining their environment and the types of soil at their home, and what they found in the soil, and so on. The students came back with video reports like they saw in the presentations; some great reports, like journalists,” she recalled.
Francis-Wright rated the initiative as an excellent one and very necessary, especially in a community concerned about mining and the destruction it causes to their areas.
“Not only have the students benefited, but teachers also have a better understanding and appreciation of the balance between mining and forest preservation,” she said. “Many of them now have an interest in forestry and want to study the science of it so they can work in that field. I would love to see the programme come back, and I would also want to see other schools benefit”.
Ambassador Marianne Van Steen, EU ambassador to Jamaica, pointed out that the initiative is linked to the European Union’s Development Agenda for Change and is in line with the objectives of the 26th Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) to trigger actions to reduce carbon footprint. Cop26 will be held in Glasgow, Scotland, between October 31 and November 12, 2021, under the presidency of the United Kingdom.
“This initiative is about adapting to protect communities and natural habitats through individual actions. I am happy to see the inclusion of this important topic in the school curriculum, and that children are being encouraged to apply the information to their daily lives,” she said.
Noting that climate change mitigation and adaptation are priority areas of focus for the EU, Van Steen said “preserving forests is an essential solution to the climate change challenge, and public education campaigns that engage children can go a far way in helping to change some of the negative behaviours that influence climate change”.
While there were a few challenges with issues such as poor Internet connection, overall, the school tour was a success and for the 2021-2022 academic year, a total of 120 schools will be engaged under the same EU-funded programme.