Canadian Consulting Engineer

Trees for Tomorrow, Jamaica

October 1, 2008
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

The Trees for Tomorrow project has its origin in the aftermath of Hurricane Gilbert that struck the island of Jamaica in September 1988. This category five hurricane devastated the Caribbean island. I...

The Trees for Tomorrow project has its origin in the aftermath of Hurricane Gilbert that struck the island of Jamaica in September 1988. This category five hurricane devastated the Caribbean island. It killed 45 people, and causing inland flash flooding in the poorly forested watersheds of the mountainous areas.

After Hurricane Gilbert it was clear that Jamaica needed to develop systems and resources to restore and preserve the natural forest, since the forest had the capacity to reduce erosion during heavy rainfall. In that way, the country could reduce the impact of inevitable future natural disasters.

The country needed a new Forest Act, and it needed a new Forestry Department staffed with trained people and equipped with tools and resources to protect the forest estate and guard against encroachment and illegal farming. These activities became the core of the Trees for Tomorrow project.

Another important need addressed by the project was to restore a year long supply of potable water to the communities living in the deforested watersheds. Jamaica does not have lakes or reservoirs, so the only way to maintain an adequate flow of water in its creeks and rivers during the dry season is to restore the forest cover. The forest performs as a sponge to store water and regulate its release.

The project was supported by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and was begun in 1992. Phase 1 was a preparatory phase of providing assistance to the Forestry Department, and drafting policies and legislation. The Buff Bay/Pencard watershed was selected as a pilot demonstration area.

After a new Forest Act was passed in 1995, Phase II of the project was started in January 1998. Tecsult of Montreal in consortium with Simons Reid Collins (H. A. Simons)/ORM Resources Canada) was selected to realize Phase II in partnership with the Government of Jamaica. In 2002 Tecsult took over total responsibility for implementing the project and it was completed in April 2007. CIDA provided $11 million and the Jamaican Government contributed $2 million.

Field visits and demonstrations

The Buff Bay/Pencar watershed is a rural and agricultural region with around 30,000 people. It has a high rate of unemployment and an aging population.

The majority of people rely on the forests for their livelihoods, harvesting its food, water, fibre, energy and construction materials.

The Trees for Tomorrow project helped the Forestry Department to develop public awareness and programs to demonstrate appropriate agro-forestry systems that would encourage proper soil conservation and land use practices. The program improved on systems in common use locally, like the “tree home gardens,” “the forest tree gardens” (farther away from the homesteads) and the “tree boundary/live fences.” The approach was to incorporate as much indigenous knowledge as possible and provide a better match of agro-forestry systems to specific sites.

The awareness campaign included 88 field visits. There were community group presentations, training work days for farmers and students, and exhibits at community fairs and events.

Agro-forestry demonstration plots were set up in conjunction with local schools and farmers over an area of 20,000 hectares. There were eight demonstration farms and three school projects. Over 300 farmers and 500 students and teachers were involved.

A private planting program provided local farmers with 30,000 tree seedlings and helped the Pencar local forest management committee to construct a tree nursery. It now produces both tree and coffee seedlings for sale.

The project also involved preparing a five-year national reforestation plan which identified nearly 70,000 hectares of land with reforestation potential. Furthermore, the project produced a pre-feasibility study that showed potential for a private forest products industry in Jamaica.

Tecsult mobilized a team of highly qualified professionals with a focus on transferring technology to the Jamaicans. Many training sessions were provided in Tecsult’s offices in Quebec, in Canadian universities (UNB and UBC) and technical schools in Jamaica and Canada. Ten Forestry Department staff obtained degrees, and 10 received technical diplomas through funding provided by the project. The project also served to raise the public profile of the Forestry Department in Jamaica and abroad.

Name of project: Trees for Tomorrow, Jamaica

Award-winning firm: Tecsult International, Quebec City (Jean-Louis Krouac, Jacques Poirier, John Latham, Susie Latham, Roland Camirand, Marie Giasson, Dan Orcherton, Jacques Gagn, ing.)

Client: Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)

Project owner: Forestry Department of Jamaica

Other key players: ORM Resources Canada (consortium partner 1999-2002)


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