In an attempt preserve the natural environment while enhancing the lives of TT citizens, the Ministry of Planning and Development has launched its Socio-Economic Survey training workshop. Deputy Permanent Secretary of the ministry Ayleen Alleyne-Ovid addressed the media on Monday at the workshop's media launch at Plaza 47, Port of Spain. The ministry has partnered with the TT Central Statistical Office (CSO) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO).
Alleyne-Ovid said the survey had been designed to provide key information to guide the management of six important protected areas in TT. The areas are the Caroni Swamp, the Nariva Swamp, the Matura Forest, the Trinity Hills Game Sanctuary, the Main Ridge Forest Reserve and the North-East Tobago Marine Area. She said, "The survey seeks to determine the importance of the forests and its products to the immediate communities, the types of forests and wild products that are collected by households within the various communities. It will also look at how these are used by different genders and age groups, how the income derived from the use of the forests and its products contribute to household livelihoods and the quantities and values of medicinal plants collected."
She said the survey would look at the socio-economic attributes of those protected areas, residents' reliance on them for their various needs and the opportunities that might exist for sustaining and enhancing income opportunities through biodiversity-related ecosystem services.
"While the bulk of our GDP has come traditionally from the energy sector, our current economic realities point us in the direction of a much more diversified economy. Our five terrestrial species of game animals also support a hunting industry worth hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. The results of this survey could lead us into a whole new era where our land, coastal and marine ecosystems facilitate increased employment a decreased food import bill simultaneously."
Director of the CSO Sean O'Brian said the data collected from the survey would result in evidence-led decision making.
He said, "The CSO provides data on the country's social condition to inform policy makers to make sure they serve the people. Results from the survey will provide decision makers and citizens with a certain level of environmental literacy."
He added that though the CSO is in its last days and will be dissolved into the National Statistical Institute of TT (NSITT) soon, he hopes the partnership with the FAO and the ministry would transcend the CSO. "We also have a Survey of Living Conditions coming before the year is up. The NSITT is envisioned to have greater legislative potencies."
FAO representative to TT and Suriname Reuben Robertson said he appreciates the confidence the ministry and the government has placed in the FAO. "The survey will provide evidence-based information which can effectively improve forest and protected area management while stimulating support through sustainable livelihood connections for those who depend on these areas for their livelihoods. It is clear that protected area management in TT has largely been financed through state funds and opportunities for an innovative approach to financing have not been explored and are greatly needed."
He said the survey would gather technical and critical data to facilitate decision-making on the types of supportive actions that were possible and would be required to set protected area management on a sustainable, people-supported and financially feasible path. He added that he was also grateful to the Government for selecting the FAO as its partner to allocate $4.3 million to Mainstream Biodiversity in the Agriculture Sector in TT.
In the workshop, a number of trainees will be instructed on how to conduct the survey utilising tablet devices. The workshop's training will go on for two weeks and the pilot stage will be conducted on August 26. The six week period of conducting the survey will begin on September 2.