The natural beauty and friendly climate of the Caribbean are the envy of many, and the pride of our people. Yet, our Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are very vulnerable, due in part to our small size, vulnerable economies, heavy dependence on external energy resources, and rising populations. Unsustainable and, often unplanned, development is rapidly degrading much of our natural environment and Climate change is expected to further accelerate these negative impacts.
Over 60 representatives from participating countries, partners, and implementing and executing agencies of the Integrating Water, Land and Ecosystem Management in Caribbean Small Island Developing States (GEF IWEco) Project, will gather for its Inception Workshop, 20th – 21st September 2016 in Kingston, Jamaica.This project is being financed to the tune of almost USD 21 million by the Global Environment Facility (GEF).
GEF IWEco is a new regional, 5-year, initiative to promote a more integrated approach to water, land and ecosystems services management in Caribbean SIDS. It is a multifocal project that will implement activities under four GEF Focal Areas: International Waters, Land Degradation, Biodiversity, and Sustainable Forest Management. This wide approach is based upon an assessment of the threats and barriers within natural resources management which was carried out in consultation with national and regional stakeholders.
IWEco’s primary goal is the implementation of an integrated approach to water, land and ecosystems services management. This will be supported by policy, institutional and legislative reforms, and implementation of effective appropriate technologies and community-based solutions. The project will assist Caribbean SIDS in meeting their global targets on safe and reliable water supplies and improved sanitation, and contribute to improved ecosystem functioning in the Caribbean.
This new project builds upon previous initiatives such as the GEF-funded Integrated Watershed and Coastal Areas Management Project (IWCAM) Project, implemented from 2006 – 2011, which made significant contributions to address gaps for in and coastal water resources management, and associated land and biodiversity resources management issues, in thirteen participating countries, most of which are now participating in IWEco. While the GEF-IWCAM Project and other interventions have contributed to improvements in natural resources management governance in the region, there remain significant needs, particularly in the mainstreaming of policies into national development frameworks and identifying and broadening investments in sustainable technologies, solutions and approaches.
Eleven Caribbean countries are participating: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, The Bahamas, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Eight national sub-projects will replicate and upscale innovative solutions for water, land and biodiversity/ecosystems management, including sustainable forest management. These include a project in Jamaica that will support biodiversity mainstreaming in coastal landscapes within the Negril Environmental Protection Area, one in Saint Lucia that will address problems of land degradation and ecosystem degradation in the upper reaches of the Soufriere Watershed, and one in the Dominican Republic that will promote integrated management of the biodiversity, freshwater and land resources of the Higüamo River watershed and its associated coastal zone, including mitigating climate change impacts.In addition, GEF Small Grants Programme (GEF-SGP) will contribute to the development of community-based livelihood initiatives around the main national interventions of the Project with a total of two million dollars.
The project is being co-implemented by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and co-executed by UNEP’s Caribbean Environment Programme (CEP) and the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).
Partnerships are an important part of IWEco, which will work with several international, regional and national organizations to further the Project’s objectives. In the area of research for instance, the Center of Engineering and Environmental Management of Bays and Coasts (CIMAB) based in Cuba, and all three campuses of theUniversity of the West Indies (UWI)) are partners. The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) andthe Caribbean Community Secretariat (CARICOM)are among partners for governance matters, and PCI Media Impact and Panos Caribbean are among partners for public awareness and education. Two additional support partnership groupings will focus on resource mobilization and private sector participation.
According to Isabelle Vanderbeck, UNEP Task Manager for the IWEco project, based in Washington DC, “the project is the largest ever implemented by UNEP in the Caribbean – while a challenge – it is also an exciting opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of Caribbean persons”.