ON Sunday 8th April, the Forest and Lands Resources Division, within the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Physical Planning, Natural Resources and Cooperatives, in collaboration with the Fond St. Jacques Development Committee hosted a community fair to formally launch the IWEco project. This event was held at the Grounds of the Roman Catholic Church in Fond St. Jacques.
IWEco, which means Integrating, Water, Land and Ecosystems Management in Caribbean Small Island Developing States, is a regional initiative funded by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) and implemented by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UN Environment). The project will apply a “Ridge to Reef” approach in addressing the multiple challenges of sustainable water, land, biodiversity management and conservation within the Soufriere watershed with an aim to mitigate deteriorating conditions from the forest to the sea through the funding of initiatives such as:Reforestation and rehabilitation of lands along critical reaches in the upper Fond St. Jacques /Migny area; Alternative sustainable and viable livelihoods for various stakeholder groups; Capacity building; and public awareness and documentation of best practices.
The community launch started off with an official ceremony attended by the Parliamentary Representative for Soufriere and Minister in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Physical Planning, Natural Resources and Cooperatives, other senior Ministry officials, representatives from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), the United Nations Environmental Programme (UN Environment), GEF Small Grants Programme and the St. Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association. (SLHTA).
The Parliamentary representative, in his remarks, noted that while it is impossible to avoid natural disasters, their effects can be mitigated. He therefore encouraged residents to make use of the opportunity afforded under IWEco, which proposes interventions to lessen the impact of these disasters. The Minister also highlighted the fact that the project does not only consider land rehabilitation and other physical interventions but also supports alternative sustainable livelihoods.
Other activities at the launch included: Showcase and sale of local produce from Fond St. Jacques and environs including leather shoes, local jewellery, dried fruits, smoothies, cereal and packaged seasoning; Showcase of some of the community’s talent; Prize giveaways including t-shirts, keyrings, stationary etc.; Free children’s entertainment including face painting, bouncing castle and appearances by popular environmental mascots; and Live band performances;
The fair was able to create awareness and hype for the objectives of the project. Organizers have hailed the event a success.