Progress in promoting biodiversity agricultural efforts in St. Kitts and Nevis’ St. Mary’s Man & Biosphere Reserve, was highlighted this week at the UNESCO 35th Session of the International Coordinating Council (ICC) of the Man and Biosphere Programme (MAB) held in Paris. A short video demonstrating the successful launch of the UNESCO Earth Network initiative at the St. Mary’s MAB reserve in Cayon was presented to an audience of ambassadors, biodiversity and science experts, and, FAO, WHO, and UNESCO officials.
The video contained some compelling pictures of the St. Mary’s Reserve, commentaries by farmers, young people, and Ms. Telca Wallace – the MAB activity coordinator – all living in the Cayon area. On the agenda of the MAB Council for 12th June, 2023, the video presentation formed part of a discussion of four pilot Earth Network biodiversity schemes launched in Bulgaria, Ghana, Zambia and St. Kitts and Nevis. The Federation is the first country and only small island state to benefit from the Earth Network initiative, financed entirely by the Government of Italy.
The UNESCO MAB Council, comprising 34 UN Member States, including Japan, Russian Federation, France, Spain, China, Egypt and Italy, heard presentations made by the UNESCO MAB Secretariat on progress made in launching the Earth Network project in St. Mary’s MAB site. The project, launched on the site in February this year was overseen by a UNESCO-accredited ecological and biodiversity expert from Surinam, Dr. Haydi Berrenstein. The project seeks to address specific challenges associated with agricultural practices, tools, methods of cultivation, preservation, and monetization of biodiversity-led sustainable agriculture processes on the reserve. The overall aim is to embrace better use of tropical forests, enhance the cultivation of new fruits, and combat soil erosion, explore introducing seed varieties more tolerant to heat and drought.
The video showcasing the Earth Network project in St. Mary’s MAB site contained interviews with Mr. Otis Jeffers, a St. Mary’s farmer, who extolled the virtues of the initiative as a means of strengthening the Cayon area capacity to introduce more biodiversity-friendly and sustainable farming practices. Ms. Telca Wallace, the lead coordinator of the UNESCO MAB reserve commented on the video: “My relationship with the biosphere character of the Cayon area goes back since I was a child”.
Encapsulating in a few words her personal commitment to the St. Mary’s MAB reserve since the site was inscribed on the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve List in 2013, she noted: “It’s about life!”
As the UNESCO-designated ambassador of the Earth Network Initiative in 2022, the Federation’s envoy to UNESCO in Paris, H.E. David P. Doyle, made an intervention at the MAB Council to emphasize the tangible benefits to be derived for residents in the Cayon area in terms of what he described as “cultivation, preservation and monetization of biodiversity-led sustainable agriculture processes in the reserve”.
The Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment, Climate Action, et al. joins with UNESCO MAB in supporting the steps towards addressing tropical forest restoration. According to Dr. Clarke, “This speaks to biodiversity conservation and stemming climate crises through creating more carbon sinks. We must protect the very resources which allow us to thrive in our small island state. Our people must always be equal partners in the steps to protect our planet. This is one integral step that the Ministry is happy to support.”
Referring to Dr. Berrenstein’s mid-term report following her study visit to St. Mary’s MAB site in February last, Ambassador Doyle noted, “There are a number of longer-term prospects, all linked to further data collection needs, such as an ESIA study into water sources, mangrove cultivation, the extent of fauna and different species of birds, bees and other pollinators, etc as part of the SMMAB biodiversity profile, and the longer-term trends of climatological conditions”.
However, he stated that a number of immediate initiatives could be envisaged in terms of scaling up the biodiversity attributes in the MAB reserve, which include certain agroforestry projects, better waste management, the establishment of agricultural nursery and seed bank structures for new fruit and vegetable, improved rainwater collection from higher ground and use of bio-waste as fertilizer.