Regional countries agree to biosphere reserves

ST JOHN’S, Antigua (CMC) – Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries are among several nations committed to a ministerial declaration and a three-year action plan that aims, among other things, to create at least one biosphere reserve in each Caribbean small island developing state.

Biosphere reserves, as described by UNESCO, are terrestrial and coastal areas that promote sustainable development and act as learning sites where new and optimal practices to manage nature and human activities are tested and demonstrated. They consist of protected zones which are restricted to human interference; a buffer zone where limited human activity is permitted, and a transition zone where greater activity is allowed. They have three main aims: conservation, economic development, and research and education.

Cascade Pichon (Pichon Waterfall) in La Selle is Haiti’s first biophere reserve. The area includes a large number of different ecosystems (mountain, plain, tropical dry forest, and coastal ecosystems) and protected areas like La Visite or Forêt-des-pins (with the endemic species Pinus occidentalis). It is located in the ecological continuum of the Jaragua-Bahoruco-Enrique Biosphere Reserve of the Dominican Republic and contributes to the Caribbean Biological Corridor as an example of collaboration among countries. Four per cent of the Haitian population lives in the biosphere reserve, and the main economic activities are agroforestry, fishery, tourism, and handicraft industries. (PHOTO: DIEUFORT DESLORGES/UNESCO)

This map of Cuba shows the location of six biosphere reserves across the Spanish-speaking island. (PHOTO: UNESCO)

(From left) St Kitts & Nevis UNESCO National Commission secretary general Antonio Maynard; expert and UNESCO consultant, MAB Dr Antonio Abreu; St Kitts & Nevis Prime Minister Dr Denzil Douglas; director of UNESCO regional office for Science and Technology Dr Jorge Grandi; and St Kitts & Nevis minister responsible for UNESCO Nigel Carty at the opening ceremony of last month’s UNESCO Inter-Ministerial Conference on Biosphere Reserves in the Caribbean Small Island States. (PHOTO: SKNIS)

Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Curacao, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Maarten, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago have signed on to the declaration that will allow for them to use the reserves as tools for innovative projects to add value to local socio-economical activities.

A government statement issued here, said that these were among the utcomes of last month’s UNESCO Inter-Ministerial Conference on Biosphere Reserves in the Caribbean Small Island States – Tools for sustainable development and growth, held in St Kitts.

“The action plan will be supported technically and financially by UNESCO, under the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme,” the statement said.

“(Biosphere Reserves) are recognised under the MAB Programme to promote sustainable development based on local community efforts and sound science.”

It noted that there are 610 biosphere reserves in 117 countries. Those in the Caribbean are in St Kitts, Haiti, Cuba and the Dominican Republic.