Category Archives: General Article Archive

Tackling beach erosion and marine debris in Grenada

Tackling beach erosion and marine debris in Grenada

 

By: Odette Campbell, CERN correspondent, Grenada.

The solving of environmental problems often requires huge human and financial resources.  People in Grenada joined hands to face beach erosion and marine debris, problems which also affected their fishing and recreation.  With the help of Grenada’s Community Development Agency (GRENCODA), the residents of one West coast village have proven the old proverb that more hands make the work lighter.

The people of Beauséjour at Grenada’s West coast depend largely on fishing for their livelihood.  In that village, as early as 4 or 5 in the morning, one can see fishermen casting their nets.  One of the biggest challenges to these fisherfolks has been the gradual disappeareance of the coastline.  Therefore, the community decided that they needed to protect their livelihood and sought the assistance of the GRENCODA.

According to Benny Langaigne of GRENCODA, people face two problems: “One problem results of the ravages inflicted on the beach by years of sandmining.  The other is the loss of quite a number of trees, due to the encroaching sea.  The beach is riddled with old dead tree stumps and logs that had fallen, and haven’t been removed.  Less and less beach was available to people.  Fishermen suffered because their nets got snagged at tree stumps, got ripped and torn and had to be mended.”

In May 1997, the community first tried to address these issues by organizing a beach clean-up.  Langaigne said: “That went very well, some 45 persons turned out and did a marvelous job.  In fact, the beach was cleaned so thoroughly, that fishermen could now cast three nets simultaneously instead of just having space to cast one net at a time.”

The replacement of lost trees was seen as one solution to the problem.  Langaigne stated that the joint forces of community people and a community agency has brought excellent results.  “The community took the initiative to replant trees to replace the ones that had been lost, due to the erosion caused by sandmining and the encroachment of the sea.  Supported by GRENCODA, they contacted the Forestry Department and got quite a number of sea grape trees.  Altogether, 86 trees were planted in late 1996 and early 1997.”

It was a difficult task, but Langaigne stated that it was first necessary to remove some of the dead trees.  These had become infested with a pink mealy bug, and before planting the area had to be ridded of this bug.  He told that: “Again, the community was instrumental in that, because they cut the trees that were infested and burned the stuff.  People went to the landfill site and got fuel material, old tires and so forth, to burn the infested wood.  After leaving the beach for a month or so, the community was advised by Forestry Department personnel that is was OK to go ahead with tree planting.”

Langaigne said that GRENCODA received assistance from several agencies, including the Caribbean National Resources Institute (CANARI), the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States Natural Resources Management Unit and the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Project (an agency of the United Nations).  The beach clean-up and tree planting at Beauséjour has transformed the lives of community residents, especially the fisherfolks who can now cast three nets simultaneously as opposed to only one before.  In addition, land guarantees are a spin-off benefit for the village.

Langaigne added that there are more plans: “Eventually the community wants to develop the area into a set of parks that can attract more visitors, tourists as well as local holiday makers, for picnics and so forth.  People hope that by developing the physical landscape, and attracting more persons into the area, little businesses and small self-employment initiatives can be generated, and some income can be derived.”

[626 words]

 

 

In collaboration with the Caribbean Environmental Reporters Network (CERN), Panos produces a weekly 10-minutes radio series: “Island Beat – News from the environmental frontline of the Caribbean”.  It documents community environmental themes, in particular highlighting community experiences in finding solutions to environmental problems, reported by journalists from across the Caribbean region.  This current print feature has been derived from a radio programme which was produced in August 1997. 

Tackling beach erosion and marine debris in Grenada

Tackling beach erosion and marine debris in Grenada

 By: Odette Campbell, CERN correspondent, Grenada.

The solving of environmental problems often requires huge human and financial resources.  People in Grenada joined hands to face beach erosion and marine debris, problems which also affected their fishing and recreation.  With the help of Grenada’s Community Development Agency (GRENCODA), the residents of one West coast village have proven the old proverb that more hands make the work lighter.

The people of Beauséjour at Grenada’s West coast depend largely on fishing for their livelihood.  In that village, as early as 4 or 5 in the morning, one can see fishermen casting their nets.  One of the biggest challenges to these fisherfolks has been the gradual disappeareance of the coastline.  Therefore, the community decided that they needed to protect their livelihood and sought the assistance of the GRENCODA.

According to Benny Langaigne of GRENCODA, people face two problems: “One problem results of the ravages inflicted on the beach by years of sandmining.  The other is the loss of quite a number of trees, due to the encroaching sea.  The beach is riddled with old dead tree stumps and logs that had fallen, and haven’t been removed.  Less and less beach was available to people.  Fishermen suffered because their nets got snagged at tree stumps, got ripped and torn and had to be mended.”

In May 1997, the community first tried to address these issues by organizing a beach clean-up.  Langaigne said: “That went very well, some 45 persons turned out and did a marvelous job.  In fact, the beach was cleaned so thoroughly, that fishermen could now cast three nets simultaneously instead of just having space to cast one net at a time.”

The replacement of lost trees was seen as one solution to the problem.  Langaigne stated that the joint forces of community people and a community agency has brought excellent results.  “The community took the initiative to replant trees to replace the ones that had been lost, due to the erosion caused by sandmining and the encroachment of the sea.  Supported by GRENCODA, they contacted the Forestry Department and got quite a number of sea grape trees.  Altogether, 86 trees were planted in late 1996 and early 1997.”

It was a difficult task, but Langaigne stated that it was first necessary to remove some of the dead trees.  These had become infested with a pink mealy bug, and before planting the area had to be ridded of this bug.  He told that: “Again, the community was instrumental in that, because they cut the trees that were infested and burned the stuff.  People went to the landfill site and got fuel material, old tires and so forth, to burn the infested wood.  After leaving the beach for a month or so, the community was advised by Forestry Department personnel that is was OK to go ahead with tree planting.”

Langaigne said that GRENCODA received assistance from several agencies, including the Caribbean National Resources Institute (CANARI), the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States Natural Resources Management Unit and the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Project (an agency of the United Nations).  The beach clean-up and tree planting at Beauséjour has transformed the lives of community residents, especially the fisherfolks who can now cast three nets simultaneously as opposed to only one before.  In addition, land guarantees are a spin-off benefit for the village.

Langaigne added that there are more plans: “Eventually the community wants to develop the area into a set of parks that can attract more visitors, tourists as well as local holiday makers, for picnics and so forth.  People hope that by developing the physical landscape, and attracting more persons into the area, little businesses and small self-employment initiatives can be generated, and some income can be derived.”

[626 words]

 

 

In collaboration with the Caribbean Environmental Reporters Network (CERN), Panos produces a weekly 10-minutes radio series: “Island Beat – News from the environmental frontline of the Caribbean”.  It documents community environmental themes, in particular highlighting community experiences in finding solutions to environmental problems, reported by journalists from across the Caribbean region.  This current print feature has been derived from a radio programme which was produced in August 1997. 

The Phenomenon of Street Children -a Real Social Challenge

 

The Phenomenon of Street Children -a Real Social Challenge

                                 Carril Desrosiers, Free-lance Journalist.

Since a number of years, Haiti, as well as some other countries of the Caribbean, faces an alarming social phenomenon: street children. In Port-au-Prince, Les Cayes, Cap-Haitian and in other urban centres of Haiti, one can see them systematically invading the streets.

Bare footed or with worn shoes, with uncut hair and wearing rags, they tirelessly criss-cross the main metropolitan roads carrying out legal, illegal and marginal activities. People attach all types of attributes to them: deprived children, tramps, thieves, delinquents, etc.

Numerous efforts to check this serious problem, attempted by institutions such as Foyer Lakay (“Home hostel”), Foyer Portes Ouvertes (“Hostel Open Doors”), Maison Arc-en-Ciel (“Rainbow House”) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), have proven insufficient up to now.

According to UNICEF representatives, the number of street children increases at an exponential and very disturbing rate. “Unfortunately, it is becoming a sizable social challenge,” said Claudette Bontemps François, in charge of a project of this organization on Children’s Rights and Children Living in Difficult Situations.

An investigation carried out in 1991 by the Centre for Development and  Human Resources (CDRH) showed that the number of street children then was rising to 2,000—the majority of which were in the capital.

The current Minister of Social Affairs, Mrs. Mathilde Flambert, who is in charge of this issue, provided the numbers 6,000 in 1993 and 10,000 in 1996 in an investigation on the impacts of the embargo that was imposed on the country between 1992 and 1994 following the military coup that overthrew the government of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

These statistical data allow the prediction of an exponential growth of this figure.  It should be noted that there are no recent reliable figures of the population of street children.

Among the children and young people that one meets during the day in a-typical situations, there are several categories.  The principal ones are constituted by “children in the streets” and “children of the streets.”  The first group has maintained ties and relatively regular contact with their families where they return to hand over the fruits of their painful labour.  The second group has definitely and deliberately cut the umbilical cord and has opted for the street as workplace and shelter.

The latter category of children is mainly composed of boys between 6 and 18 years old—there are very few girls in this group.  They have their peer group and gang which they call their “base.”

According to many observers, particularly representatives of Foyer Lakay, these children tend to come from shanty towns and from homes struck by misery and idleness.  Other analysts think that the phenomenon is due to general food insecurity, rural exodus, the explosion of shanty towns, widespread unemployment, uncivilized emigration of boat-people, the deterioration of purchasing power, the high cost of living, etc.

The conspicuous insufficiency prevailing in the social service infrastructure and the gaps displayed by government institutions are also some of the major reasons.

Whatever is said, these unfortunate children are often hard workers, ready to do any job in order not to return empty-handed to their sleeping base.  Tired of begging, they choose to wipe windshields and doors of cars that are kept up in traffic, or they wash cars.  People with bad intentions abuse their vulnerability to make them work without remuneration.  Among the children, there are those who occasionally turn into thieves, stealing wallets or precious objects from naive or distracted people.

UNICEF representatives further observed that these marginal groups live in excessively precarious and unhealthy conditions.  Often, they are struck by dreadful illnesses.  Skin infections, intestinal illnesses, tuberculosis, typhoid and malaria are among the most common diseases to which they are exposed. With no sanitation or medical care at all, they live in daily familiarity with death.

To better assure their survival, some prostitute themselves in front of hotels and night-clubs. Frequently, they exercise homosexual acts with wealthy people. Thus, they easily contract infectious or sexually-transmitted diseases such as AIDS and gonorrhea.

In spite of their doomed reality, they are confronted by direct physical aggression from people who are angry at them. One remembers the case of “Ti Boutèy” (real name Jameson Dominique), who was literally crushed by an armoured vehicle of the American army when the constitutional order was re-established  on 19 September 1994.  He was 12 years old. (Information provided by Foyer Lakay, managed by Reverend Father Attilo Stra).

They are also victims of the failure of the judicial system.  According to information provided by Collin Granderson, Coordinator of the OAS/UN Civil Mission to Observe Human Rights in Haiti (MICIVIH), on 14 September 1995 in the youth prison at Fort-National, it was found that over a total of 125 cases, there were 75 convictions for minor infractions and offenses, such as tramping, brawls, etc.  However, some cases relate to murder and rape.

Packed into overcrowded cells (9 prisoners per 2.50 square meter), they are not referred to appropriate judges.

When struck by daily misery, hunger, mental and physical tiredness, most of these children fall easily for the trappings of drugs.  They consume marijuana and inhale glue vapour from plastic bottles.

Rigobert, a 14-year old child, living on the outskirts of the Sylvio Cator stadium, confides his experiences to us and justifies the reasons for his taking drugs: “Me, I am an orphan.  I only have the street for shelter.  I confront misery every day.  I don’t have any chance in life. For me, drugs are the only means to defeat my agonizing and defy social injustice.”

Contrary to what people think, these children have an enormous potential and are very talented.  They could be drawn into manual, professional or artistic activities as well as sports, crafts, etc., naturally if given adequate training.  Some charitable organizations such as La Fanmi Se Lavi (“The family is life”), Foyer Portes Ouvertes, and Maison Arc-en-Ciel offer striking examples by undertaking projects for the reinsertion and development of these children.

The children orchestra of La Fanmi Se Lavi has the 16-year old Sony Thélusma, alias “Ti Sony”, as a singer.  He is one of the many positive examples that can be cited.

However, the problem is not solved as yet. The challenge remains intact and solutions pertaining to this problematic are being awaited.  Meanwhile, children occupy the streets of big cities and continue to be victims of a system that sidelines them more and more.

There is hope for the peasants of the Caribbean

There is hope for the peasants of the Caribbean

 Fritznel Octave, Radio Voice of the Far West, Port-de-Paix, Haiti.

As demonstrated by church leaders in the Parish of St. Mary, 52 kms from the city of Kingston, Capital of Jamaica, as well as on the Central Plateau, 137 kms from Port-au-prince, Capital of Haiti, religious congregations can collaborate with peasants in the Caribbean to help them change their conditions of living.

Seven years ago, Jesuit Fathers from Canada established an agricultural cooperative system in the Parish of St. Mary.  Their goal was to help the peasants of the region organize themselves in order  to improve their living conditions.  The system is composed of 4 cooperatives: Long Road Cooperative, Belfield Cooperative, Fort George Cooperative and Group # 41 located in the community of Annotto Bay.

Before 1991, peasants in St. Mary used to be exploited by  retailers.  Moreover, they generally did not have the means needed to produce the way they should. They have always been confronted with a lack of financial support.  Further, irrigation is needed to increase their level of production. Now things are getting better. The efforts of the Jesuit Fathers in St. Mary, along with support from the Canadian Church allow most of the peasants plowing the soil to take a deep breath.

These low income farmers have found technical assistance: seeds.  And now it is the managers of the cooperatives who usually buy the crops from the peasants and then carry them to the city.  The peasants in St. Mary reap several kinds of crops, among them: plantains, bananas, fruits and vegetables.  For the time being, it is the plantain market that is soaring.   “The demand of the local market gets up to 16,000 pounds weekly.  But we can only produce 4,000 lbs.  We are striving to increase our level of production to meet the demand of the market in the coming months”,  according to Winston Mills, an agronomist working in the programme since 1997.  Agronomist Mills informs that they are doing their best to meet the demand of the international market too.

What relationship has this with the Central Plateau?

In the beginning of the 1980s, in Thomonde and Pandyasou in the Central Plateau in Haiti, peasants were confronted with almost the same situation.  High cost of living, lack of production and drought.  Besides, most of the peasants did not have any soil to plough.  Their youngsters could not attend school.  Neither could they afford go off to Hinche  (the main city of the Central Plateau) or to Port-au-Prince, to learn skills and professions.

Father Leveque Bien-Aimé arrived in Thomonde in 1983.  He developed the idea to help the peasants organize themselves in a cooperative in order to achieve better living conditions. The church purchased 40 acres of land to let the peasants plough for themselves free of charge.  Most of this soil has been used to cultivate sugar cane, since this is the principal crop of Thomonde.  Afterwards, sugar cane is transformed into rapadou (Haitian raw sugar) which is used as a sweetener. The rapadou market is very significant for the economy of the area.  Most of its inhabitants can only get a job in the sugar cane fields and at the sugar cane mills.

Before the cooperative programme, the peasants were being exploited by haves, millowners and landowners.  Nowadays, these peasants own their own piece of land and three modern mills to transform the sugar cane into rapadou.  Before having their own mills, about 30 to 35 % of their production used to go to the big millowners’ pockets.  Now, they pay 15% at the most, to cover maintenance fees as well as provide funding to the school “Jean Baptiste Decoste” that has been serving the community since 1988.

In the locality of Pandyasou (7 kms from the town of Hinche), the congragation of the Incarnation Brothers has been working together with the peasants since 1977.  The congragation has established a good running programme of agriculture, reforestation, health services, education and housing to enable the peasants of the region to live differently.  Youngsters can find support to study and learn a profession.  And further, the congragation assists in leading them into the job market.

In the field of agriculture, the brothers have looked for a way to solve the drought problem, which used to prevent the peasants of Pandyasou from plowing the soil during all seasons.  They developed a system of lakes that enables everybody to find enough water to irrigate their crops throughout the year.  Besides, the brothers have established many transformation plants of agricultural products in the area.

 


The biggest problems of peasants in the Caribbean is that good soil to plough is hard to find and their being exploited.  In Pandyasou and Thomonde the Church has participated in purchasing land for the peasants to plough.  There are other areas such as the Artibonite in Haiti, where the government has just started distributing public land to peasants.  In St. Mary, Jamaica, farmers in the mountains went down to take possession of state lands in the plains.  This began thanks to the efforts of 4 peasants from the Annotto Bay community in 1997.  Now many peasants are taking advantage of the same experience.  For many, working conditions have completely changed during but one year.

 

Exploitation of peasants is not solely based on the relations between the haves and the have-nots, retailers and peasants within Caribbean countries only.  It also has to do with relations between countries.  In Haiti, peasants and craftsmen are the victims of already used products from overseas.  For example, products from the Dominican Republic have invaded the Haitian market without any control.  Similarly, Jamaican peasants are subjected to invasion of American products.

[942 words]

During 1997 and 1998, Info-Services, the Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication (CARIMAC) and the Panos Institute have implemented training seminars for Haitian journalists in reporting on community development issues in the Caribbean region.  This article was produced during this training.

Jamaica: A new bridge to community involvement and environmental protection

Jamaica: A new bridge to community involvement and environmental protection

          By: Michael Siva, CERN correspondent, Jamaica.

Many times, parks and protected areas find themselves at odds with segments of the surrounding community, and that often proves to be their downfall.  That’s why the Blue Mountains and John Crow Mountains National Park places much emphasis on interaction with the community.  When the Park was set up at the turn of the decade, it established Local Advisory Committees (LAC) in several outlying communities.  This was special, because succeeding governments and political parties generally forgot such communities.  One such LAC was established at Mill Bank, a small village in the Rio Grande Valley with a population of just over 100 people.

Susan Otuokan of the Jamaican Conservation and Development Trust (JCDT) said that the Park made and early commitment to work with the community.  “In order to protect and conserve our natural resources, you need to pay attention to the socio-economic needs of the communities using those natural resources.  Whether they use them for wood, for charcoal, for lumber, etc.  This was very clear to the management of the park and to the Jamaican Conservation and Development Trust, now responsible on behalf of government for managing the park.”

Mill Bank had an old swinging bridge that fell into to disrepair.  This was significant from a socio-economic point of view, because a functional bridge allows farmers from Mill Bank access to available farm lands on the other side of the Rio Grande.

According to Otuokan, the park was also interested in the bridge.  “From a park and natural resources management point of view, it is important to have many possible trails available for use.  When one trail becomes degraded, you can close it and start access to another area, allowing the first area to recover.  You can manage the trails so that different numbers of people use each, by splitting them up along different trails”.

The people were skeptical of the park’s plans to repair the bridge because of traditional governmental inaction as well as empty political promises.  But the Park and the JCDT wanted to see the bridge repaired.  Mill Bank boasts lush tropical forest vegetation and access to trails that lead to waterfalls in the Rio Grande and White River.  Located at the end of a road from Port Antonio, Mill Bank is a perfect ecotourism site and financial spin-offs for residents of the community should be expected.

Otuokan explained that funding was secured by efforts of both the Park and the JCDT.  “The actual project cost is estimated at over 1.5 million Jamaican dollars.  However, through astute management by the JCDT and tremendous support from organizations and individuals, we were able to reduce the actual expenditure.  A grant of 250,000 dollars from the British High Commission and 200,400 dollars from the Canadian Green Fund, provided the necessary cash.  There were also a number of in-kind contributions, including from the Jamaica Public Service Company and ALCAN Jamaica Ltd., which kindly provided over half the lumber that was needed.”

The work began in November 1996 and was completed in February 1997 with donations from a number of other small companies and professionals.  Soldiers of the Jamaica Defense Force assisted community members with the physical rebuilding effort.  Now Mill Bank is an accessible eco-tourism site, in particular patronized by quite a few European tourists.  It offers more to the ecologically aware, then the build-up tourism resorts of Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Negril.  The Mill Bank area is home to a large number of birds, animals and plants that are unique to Jamaica.  Among them is the second largest butterfly in the world, the Giant Swallowtail Butterfly.

Now, the Park and the JCDT are focusing on fixing the bad roads.  Through consistent lobbying on behalf of the communities, they’ve persuaded the government to embark on a programme of road repairs in the area.  Projects are going on all over the park: another LAC in Yallas is rebuilding a fording that was destroyed by hurricane Gilbert in 1988.  LACs have given the communities a sense of empowerment.  They now believe they can solve their problems by themselves.

[687 words]

 

In collaboration with the Caribbean Environmental Reporters Network (CERN), Panos produces a weekly 10-minutes radio series: “Island Beat – News from the environmental frontline of the Caribbean”.  It documents community environmental themes, in particular highlighting community experiences in finding solutions to environmental problems, reported by journalists from across the Caribbean region.  This current print feature has been derived from a radio programme which was produced in August 1997. 

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