Wednesday 19 February, 2020

Focus on environment: CSO to assess T&T's protected areas

Photo: The country's national bird, the Scarlet Ibis, in the Caroni Swamp. Photo courtesy Getty Images.

Photo: The country's national bird, the Scarlet Ibis, in the Caroni Swamp. Photo courtesy Getty Images.

The Central Statistical Office (CSO) will be conducting a nationwide socio-economic survey of communities bordering six protected areas in Trinidad and Tobago, as part of a project to protect the country’s forests and wetlands.

The project, done as part of IFPAMTT (Improving Forest and Protected Area Management in Trinidad and Tobago), is funded by a US$2.7 million grant from the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

(Photo L-R: CSO Director Sean O'Brien, FAO Representative for Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname, Reuben Robertson, Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Planning and Development, Ayleen Alleyne-Ovid, and CSO Senior Statistician Ava Mahabir-Dass.)

Assisted by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the assessment will examine the interactions between neighbouring communities and six protected areas – the Caroni Swamp, Nariva Swamp, Matura Forest, Trinity Hills Game Sanctuary, and in Tobago, the Main Ridge Forest Reserve, and the North-East Tobago Marine Area.

A total of 1,400 households will be interviewed using handheld devices which will be relayed to the CSO. The questionnaire will capture information based on the last 12 months. 

The Ministry said the CSO has already begun training enumerators who will visit the communities to conduct the surveys. It is expected that the training should be completed within the next two weeks.

(Photo: Enumerators receive training on a socio-economic survey to be done on six of the country's protected areas.)

CSO Senior Statistician Ava Mahabir-Dass added all information received by enumerators is confidential and protected by law.

FAO representative for Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname, Reubert Robertson, said the project seeks to reveal data on the activities which take place around the country's protected areas in order to assist with food production and sustainability within these areas.

“The expectation of the survey to be conducted is that the findings will enhance project actions previously undertaken, thereby providing Government with data and analysis…which can effectively improve forest and protected area management while stimulating support through sustainable livelihood connections for those persons who so depend on these areas for their sustainable livelihoods,” he said.

In February 2019 government approved a National Protected Area System Plan under the IFPAMTT project, which proposed the establishment of 136 areas which could enable the protection of the country’s biodiversity.

(Photo: The Nariva Swamp. Photo courtesy Getty Images.)

Of those areas, 92 are terrestrial/freshwater sites, 40 are coastal/marine sites and four are deep-sea marine areas.

Robertson said the project also piloted development of local management plans for these six sites, which is currently being reviewed by stakeholders.

He said to date, the majority of financing of these areas has come from the State.

“It is clear that currently, protected area management in Trinidad and Tobago has been largely financed through injection of State funds and opportunities for an innovative approach to financing have not yet been explored and are greatly needed,” he said.

He said the survey will assist decision-making on supportive actions moving forward in order to set protected area management on a ‘sustainable, people-supported and financially feasible’ path.

(Photo: A Common Opossum or Manicou. Photo courtesy Getty Images.)

Hunting industry worth hundreds of thousands of dollars

Deputy Permanent Secretary Ayleen Alleyne-Ovid, speaking on behalf of Planning Minister Camille Robinson-Regis, said that many communities depend on the country’s natural resources, including the hunting industry which generates hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.

“The importance of this socio-economic survey in these targeted areas cannot be understated…it is no secret that the country’s biological resources are of great importance to all sectors of society."

"Trinidad and Tobago’s five terrestrial species of game animals also support a hunting industry worth hundreds of thousands of dollars annually and one of the primary areas for hunting is the forested area immediately outside the boundary of the Trinity Hills Wildlife Sanctuary,” she said.

A new National Wildlife Policy was adopted in 2013 and new Protected Areas and Forest policies were adopted in 2011.

Other projects underway

The US$2.7 million in funding from GEF is being utilized for other initiatives such as:

- Development of a new National Protected Areas System Plan which was approved by Cabinet in February 2019.

- Development of draft management plans for the six protected areas identified above. This is due to be submitted for government’s consideration toward the end of August.

- Development of a National Biodiversity Information System, which is a public online platform on the country’s biodiversity data. The Ministry said the platform is at the design stage and should be launched by the end of the year.

- An assessment on Sustainable Financing for Forest and Protected Areas in Trinidad and Tobago

- A Livelihood Assessment on selected protected areas.

- Training to stakeholders on the enforcement of forest ad protected area laws, which included mock trials

- Production of a law enforcement manual for law enforcement officers involved in forest and protected areas management such as forest officers, game wardens, police and coast guard officers.

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