Caricom ministers warn: States at risk of more drought spells, land degradation

Regional delegates with Minister of Planning and Development Pennelope Beckles at the regional land management seminar, The Brix, Port of Spain on Thursday.
Regional delegates with Minister of Planning and Development Pennelope Beckles at the regional land management seminar, The Brix, Port of Spain on Thursday. -

Stakeholders – government and non-government alike – across the region say the Caribbean must tackle issues of land management as the effects of climate change, especially drought conditions, continue to intensify.

They said the region has been plagued by soil mismanagement for over 60 years.

Minister of Planning and Development Pennelope Beckles said climate-change trends indicate that spells of drought will become more frequent, extended and severe. "This jeopardises regional food security and potable water supplies, not to mention the stability of the terrains."

The forum which brought together ministers and other delegates from across the region was organised by the Partnership Initiative for Sustainable Land Management (PISLM) – the UN’s global registry of voluntary commitments and multi-stakeholder partnerships made in support of sustainable development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The entity is currently working to finalise its access to approximately US$90 million for the execution of sustainable land-management projects across the region.

L to R:
Executive Director,PISLM Calvin James, executive director at PISLM and Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries, Food Security and Rural Development, St. Lucia Alfred Prospere, Minister of Planning and Development Pennelope Beckles, Minister of Environment, Rural Modernisation, Kalinago Upliftment and Constituency Empowerment and chairman of PISLM high-level forum Cozier Federicks and Minister of State of Agriculture, Lands, Fisheries and Cooperatives, Grenada Adrian Thomas. - Photo courtesy Ministry of Planning and Development/ Cristel Mohammed

The UN says the platform is open to all stakeholders, including member states, civil society, local authorities, the private sector, the scientific and technological community, academia, and others, to register a voluntary commitment or multi-stakeholder partnership which aims to drive the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs.

The 5th high-level forum on regional sustainable land management forum held at The Brix Autograph Collection, Port of Spain on Thursday, stressed the importance of addressing issues related to soil management, land degradation, combatting desertification and the implementation of sustainable land use across the region.

The forum supports TT's national development strategy, Vision 2030, under theme five which places the environment at the centre of social and economic development.

Executive director at PISLM Calvin James said, "We are combatting climate change and trying to put procedures, processes, policies and programmes in place to treat with biodiversity but we are, in my view, tarrying of sorts."

James said the Caribbean is slow to observe the bigger picture of land and soil degradation.

He said it is only after accepting that the region continues to poorly manage land, can it move toward "healing" the land, after which the next step of reinforcing and implementing standard policies and practices to tend to the biodiversity and the effects may be taken effectively.

"If we fix our lands and our soils then we will truly have a big-picture view of how we can reverse degraded biodiversity areas and increase tree cover to assist in decreasing carbon sequestration."

Carbon sequestration is one method of reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to reduce global climate change.

Minister of Planning and Development Pennelope Beckles addresses the regional land management seminar at The Brix, Port of Spain on Thursday.
- Photos courtesy Ministry of Planning and Development

Minister in the Ministry of Agriculture, Grenada, Adrian Thomas said much progress has been made by partnering entities that form PISLM over the years, following its first meeting in 2011.

"Through its regional programmes, projects and plans, the partnership if fulfilling its mandate of promoting land-degradation neutrality and sustainable land and soil management."

He said the Caribbean must know when its time has come to forge new pathways that will support the visions of countries.

Thomas said, "PISLM will help us achieve our visions related to sustainable use, management and development of our lands and natural resources, and build resilience against climate change and its hazards."

Beckles said the Caribbean has a unique mix of land-management challenges and the changes being faced vary in type and scale.

"I cannot emphasise enough the importance of meetings such as these, especially for the Caricom subregion."

She said the region is particularly vulnerable to extreme weather, seismic events and the impacts of climate change.

"This high-level session is the starting point of implementation, since it may be seen as the catalyst for the necessary political momentum required to turn policy into action."

She said reducing land degradation and desertification, where lands such as grasslands or shrublands decrease and eventually disappear, will go a long way toward addressing pollution and biological extinction while fortifying the environment against extreme weather events caused by climate change.

"While it is obvious that land must be utilised for infrastructural, commercial, industrial and civil purposes, a wholly consumptive use of land resources is detrimental."

Beckles said TT has established its targets in the sectors of forestry, quarrying and agriculture which align with the national development strategy.

"Our approach will be an integrated one, which marries work already being done in the establishment and management of protected areas with the promotion of agroecological land restoration."

Agroecology is an integrated approach that simultaneously applies ecological and social concepts and principles to the design and management of food and agricultural systems.

"TT's model includes the potential for land restoration and the improvement of land productivity to be promoted in the energy sector, the overall reduction of landfill acreages and for the enhancement of the tourism sector," said Beckles.

She said it could be argued that the effects of climate change and land degradation which affect the terrain and food security may be addressed with engineering and economic solutions where food may be imported, retaining reinforcement structures built and the desalination of water.

She said, however, this approach creates a reliance on expensive technologies.

Beckles said a nature-based solutions approach will minimise potentially high national expenditure, providing economic flexibility to allow allocations for other purposes. She said the potential of utilising a nature-based approach is only now being understood.

"It is a long-term approach, the solutions of which require patience and consistency if efforts should bear fruit."


"Caricom ministers warn: States at risk of more drought spells, land degradation"

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