Strengthening the Caribbean scientific community in natural resources management and developing integrated watershed management plans

Challenge
Land degradation and loss of ecosystems on Caribbean islands are considered severe, caused by natural hazards such as hurricanes and earthquakes, but also by anthropogenic impacts, of which the main ones stem from deforestation, unsustainable land use, deterioration and extraction of marine resources, and tourism.

Focus
The project will strengthen the Caribbean scientific community in developing integrated watershed management plans, which will contribute to sustainable use and governance of natural resources in Trinidad, Tobago and Haiti that respect and enhance indigenous knowledge, protect the natural environment, increase livelihood security, restore biodiversity and reduce the communities’ vulnerability to the effects of climate change and other natural disasters. More specifically, the project will focus on building and enhancing strong scientific and technological capacity to support research, development and innovation, and on enabling the identification and formulation of activities and policies that are critical to sustainable development. 

Rationale
On most Caribbean islands deforestation and the cultivation of steep slopes cause considerable land degradation due to erosion and landslides. Land degradation has increased the quantities of sediments entering aquatic systems via surface-runoff. This has modified these ecosystems by increasing sedimentation and decreasing soil quality. Eutrophication and over-sedimentation of bays as a result of nutrient inputs from agriculture and urban wastes, and a reduction in algal grazers, has degraded many of the reefs in the region.

As most efforts are focused on preserving these dwindling natural resources in western models of conservation areas, little concerted action has been undertaken to restore degraded areas and develop Integrated Watershed Management (IWM) plans in co-operation with rural communities. The planned development can only be achieved using participatory approaches.

The project will increase the knowledge of human-environmental interactions, specifically in relation to on-site and off-site effects of deforestation, erosion, pollution and coastal degradation processes. This will be achieved using local experience and expertise, combined with scientific and technical inputs from the region and internationally on earth system sciences, modelling and participatory planning – all focused directly on the community level. The integration of indigenous and scientific knowledge will lead to widely accepted strategies for a more sustainable use and management of Caribbean watersheds. Appropriate IWM plans will be designed in close co-operation and consultation with local stakeholders to preserve the fragile Caribbean environments.

Method
Strengthening the Caribbean scientific partner institutions in natural resources management

  • Assessment of scientific and institutional needs at the Caribbean participants’ organisations;
  • Establishment of intra-Caribbean scientific networks;
  • Formulation of short- and long-term scientific strategy visions;
  • Targeted training and capacity building programmes;
  • Preparation of joint research proposals;
  • Capitalisation of research results for further use in society and policy;
  • Preparation of a series of publications for international recognised scientific journals.

Creation of multi-stakeholder watershed networks

  • Identification of relevant stakeholders in the respective watersheds and encouragement of their participation in the multi-stakeholder networks;
  • Launch of the watershed multi-stakeholder networks;
  • Development of protocols to inform and share experiences between the multi-stakeholder networks, and strengthening of overall network performance and efficacy;
  • Support and capacity building and linkage to other existing and related Caribbean networks to engage with government on governance and sustainable utilisation and enhancement of watersheds;
  • Establishment of partnerships with associates for mutual sharing of information and knowledge;
  • Exchanges between partners to learn from their experiences and to build capacity through sharing of Caribbean expertise, including co-designing IWM plans using a participatory village-centred approach.

Environmental monitoring in project watersheds

  • Identification of parameters to be monitored, e.g. water, sediment and pollution discharges at the watershed outlets;
  • Collection of long-term data on land use, crop yields, meteorology and hydrology;
  • Collection/preparation of soil and time-variant land use maps, and topographical information;
  • Installation of monitoring sites for measuring climate and hydrological data;
  • Targeted environmental risk mapping to identify erosion, flooding, landslide and pollution risks across the watersheds;
  • Prediction of short and long-term changes on land use, biodiversity and hydrology;
  • Definition of appropriate soil, water and biodiversity conservation strategies;
  • Dissemination of results to the appropriate local, regional and national audiences.

Development of integrated watershed management (IWM) plans

  • Drafting of several versions of IWM plans;
  • Training and use of targeted analytical approaches;
  • Release of IWM plans to the multi-stakeholder networks for further improvement, adaptation and refinement;
  • Presentation of final versions of the IWM plans to local and national authorities;
  • Joint field visits to the selected watersheds with relevant policy makers, members of the multi-stakeholder networks.

Farmer training and demonstration

  • Development of materials on IWM for training and demonstration to farmers, creation of manuals, workbooks, field guides, presentations and small documentary films;
  • Provision of examples how IWM can improve farmers’ livelihood conditions, development of priority adaptation strategies;
  • Demonstration trials, field visits;
  • Development of a participatory strategy to improve the communities understanding in IWM plans.

Capacity building for advocacy and input policy formulation

  • Training in strategies for advocacy and raising the voice of rural farmers and their models for use of natural resources;
  • Exchanges between project partners and other advocacy organisations in the region to build experience, skills and networks.

Dissemination

  • Regional flyers;
  • Annual workshops with associates;
  • Demonstration workshops;
  • Scientific articles.

Outputs

  • Improved monitoring programmes.
  • Management plans for four watersheds.
  • Scientific articles on soil conservation, sedimentation, water quality and watershed management.
  • Flyers and brochures on soil conservation and watershed management
  • Plan for soil and water conservation techniques elaborated.

Outcomes

  • Improved supra-national linkages between researchers, policy makers, local authorities, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), civil society organisations (CSOs), and land users to solve urgent environmental problems.
  • Improved scientific knowledge on soil conservation and watershed management of the Caribbean partners
  • Better living conditions of local people and more sustainable use and management of natural resources.
Grant: FED/2009/218789
Project duration: 36 months (from 10/11/2009 to 09/11/2012)- CLOSED
EC funding: EUR 892,511.00
Total budget: EUR 1,121,811.00
Project contact:

Prof. Coen Ritsema
ALTERRA
Droevendaalsesteeg 3
P.O Box 47
6700 AA Wageningen
The Netherlands
Tel: +31-317-480.700
Fax: +31-317-419000
E-mail: Coen.Ritsema [at] wur.nl
Web: http://www.alterra.wur.nl/UK/

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