A project that includes the 13 communities that make up the Buccament Territory — Rilland Hill to Buccament Bay, including Vermont — could result in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) being among the 131 countries around the world that have biosphere reserves.
The project “The holistic management and sustainable development of the Buccament Valley Biosphere Reserve” was launched on Monday, February 21, as part of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) program in Kingstown.
Janeil Henry-Rose, Secretary General of the SVG National Commission for UNESCO, said the MAB program aims to achieve a better, more sustainable future.
“So, the interaction of humans with their environment and how we need to preserve the environment well for future generations.”
She said the program addresses challenges that arise in different ecosystems, such as B. Climate change and loss of biodiversity.
“It focuses on communities, different environments, habitats, social issues, natural issues in the environment… All of these things are taken into account, and most importantly, the economics of the community, the country, and the place and formation of a given place, given environment .
“So it combines all of these elements to improve people’s livelihoods, to protect and also manage the entire ecosystem and environment, and to equitably share the benefits of each environment.”
According to Henry-Rose, SVG continues to help ensure the environment is properly maintained for generations to come.
She said designation as a “UNESCO biosphere reserve” could take anywhere from one to 10 years. “It depends on the stakeholders… It depends on how fast we work, how we involve our stakeholders and how we move this project forward. So it’s basically up to us.”
Vincent Reid, a member of the local MBA committee, said:
“When we became aware of this program, we began to look at what would best suit a biosphere reserve. We looked at all the criteria and figured out which part of St. Vincent could best fulfill them all. And we thought Buccament Valley would be the best fit.”
Casmus A. McLeod, UNESCO’s local contact for MAB issues, provided an overview of the Buccament Valley watershed and said the project will help residents see the importance of the area.
“Our intention would be to get the community to see the value that they have because sometimes we have values and we don’t realize we have them and to see the potential that the area has and a huge endorsement of the community.”
He said groundwork has started in the community and residents are willing to get involved as they have seen the economic potential of having the area as a biosphere reserve.
“…and they are also interested in the sustainable use and protection of the area, so we are here to move the process in the right direction,” McLeod continued, adding that with integrated water resource management comes inclusion.
“And inclusion not in the middle or end stages, but at the beginning and all the way. We plan to make sure people are involved and aware of what we hope to achieve.”
He said the project leaders are soliciting ideas from community residents.
“We’ve already had some great ideas from people in the community that would… feed into the overall management plan for the area and future interventions.”
McLeod said that declaring an area a biosphere reserve gives it some priority and a certain boost.
“If this area becomes a biosphere reserve, for example, it will be recognized internationally, which of course interests us because it is very important.”
He said that in order to be declared a biosphere reserve, an area must be nominated by the government.
“…this is an area here that will have the blessing of the government,” he said, adding that even with a UNESCO biosphere reserve declaration, an area remains under state sovereignty.
He noted that the Buccament Valley, west of St. Vincent, extends from a high mountainous region down to the shore of Buccament Bay and includes 10 villages in the upper and middle valleys and three parishes in the lower valley.
Constraints include high unemployment and low levels of education.
However, McLeod pointed out that the valley is known for agriculture, housing and tourism. It also has schools, a polyclinic, a resort and fishing on the coast.
He said the area is important as it is home to some of the country’s most important biological species, including the national bird, the whistling warbler, the whistling frog and the black snake, all of which are endemic to SVG.
Once declared a biosphere reserve, the area would have international recognition, McLeod said.
“People in the areas will have a greater sense of ownership and we will look at the different resources and see how much we can create new alternative livelihood opportunities.”
He said there is an abundance of resources in the area. “But now we’re going to look at how people can benefit from the resources,” McLeod said, citing the example of training tour guides to operate the Vermont Nature Trail.
Starting next week, three meetings will be held to further raise awareness of the project among residents.
The World Network of Biosphere Reserves currently counts 727 sites in 131 countries around the world, including 22 transboundary sites.