UBEC Set to Enhance Marine and Coastal Resilience

By Reginald Andrew

The inaugural Unleashing the Blue Economy of the Caribbean (UBEC) Project was launched on Thursday (April 11), with the objective geared towards enhancing marine and coastal resilience.

UBEC is a strategic initiative aimed at revitalizing economic growth in Saint Lucia through the promotion of marine and coastal resilience across key sectors such as tourism, fisheries, and waste management.

The project endeavours to enhance climate resilience, sustainability, and competitiveness within Saint Lucia’s blue economy.

In Saint Lucia, UBEC serves as the flagship initiative under the Crisis Response Window. It was established to provide vital assistance to the Ministry of Agriculture in tackling the looming threat of food insecurity.

Defining the Blue Economy concept, UBEC’s Project Implementation UNIT (PIU) Project Manager Shermaine Clauzel said the islands have largely depended on the extractive use of marine resources for economic growth.

“The key difference between the Blue Economy approach and these other traditional approaches is the provision of greater support to other ministries and other entities who are fostering more strategic, and more responsible development,” she said.

Clauzel added that the focus is not targeted solely at progress, but also entails preservation, which ultimately results in sustainable development.

Noting that the Blue Economy approach is also cognizant of the hazards of climate change, Clauzel said it therefore incorporates “climate change adaptation”.

“This project will involve primarily two sectors that are traditionally operated in the marine space, namely tourism and fisheries. But also, importantly, will also include the Solid Waste Management Authority because of the very important role in maintaining the health of the eco-system,” she explained.

She noted that all these sectors play a significant role in contributing to the blue eceonomy.

UBEC Project

UBEC is 15-year project, of which the next five years represent Phase I. It is funded by a mix of loan credit and grant funds totalling USD29 million. Of this amount, USD10 million is earmarked to support the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to address the critical threat to food insecurity in Saint Lucia.

This project was identified as the mechanism for support from the World Bank (WB) in the event of a crisis – food security.

Citing the need for interventions and activities within the sector, Clauzel stated that though the project is complex, “we are strategic and systematic in our approach.”

To expedite its objectives, the project has activated a Crisis Emergency Response Component (CERC) with a targeted completion date of October 31st, 2024. UBEC officially commenced operations on January 11, 2023.

The project marks the beginning of a transformative journey towards a resilient and sustainable blue economy in the Caribbean.

Addressing the gathering, Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries Alfred Prospere noted that historically, “our people have relied heavily on one of the most abundant resources at our disposal – our coastal and marine resources for livelihoods, food and nutrition, security and trading.”

He said as a key agency involved in the execution of this initiative, the Ministry of Agriculture is grateful for the input from the World Bank for making available financial and technical resources, in support of this project’s objectives.

Underlying the various components of the project, the minister explained that component 1, focused on the strengthening of governance policies and capacity building at the national and regional levels is timely, as “we pursue policies, strategies and actions to overcome trans-boundary issues, such as shared fisheries inter-regional tourism and the coordination of initiatives to phase out single used plastics.”

He added, “The effects of climate change, global wars and unrest, as well as the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic all have created peculiar challenges to the sector.”

More specifically, Prospere added, the work of the fisheries sector under the UBEC initiative focused on the following critical areas. These include improvement in fisheries infrastructure and facilities, since most of these facilities are constructed in low lying areas.

Sea-level rise and changing coastal conditions brought about by the vagaries of climate change have negatively impacted the sector. “Investments will be made and redesigning current fisheries infrastructure to make it more resilient to the effects of climate change,” the minister said.

Another component involves Improvement in Safety of lives at sea. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has categorized fishing among the most challenging and dangerous jobs, as fishers interact with harsh elements in the environment.

In summing up, Prospere asserted: “The Ministry of Agriculture has embarked on a drive to encourage fishers to adopt the Vessel Monitoring System.

“Additionally, the project will support fishers in obtaining safety gear and equipment, as well as training to improve the safety of fishers’ lives at sea, including support in obtaining insurance coverage.”

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