Management of Union Island’s globally important habitats is to step up a level with a new project funded principally by the Caribbean Biodiversity Fund’s (CBF) Ecosystem based Adaptation (EbA) Facility that will strengthen wildlife conservation, help Union Island adapt to climate change and support sustainable livelihoods for Union Islanders.
The Union Island Climate Change Adaptation Project is a collaboration between local conservation NGO the Union Island Environmental Attackers (UIEA), international conservation charity Fauna & Flora International (FFI), the Forestry Department of the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines and CBF. The project has three primary objectives:
1) Underpinning sustainable development on Union Island with a better understanding of climate change risks and adaptation options, and a more socially and environmentally responsible tourism industry.
2) Conserving the globally important Chatham Bay “Key Biodiversity Area” as a ridge-to-reef model site for ecosystem-based adaptation, managed by and for the benefit of the local community.
3) Building local and national capacity to conserve natural resources and adapt to climate change, supported by greater public awareness and cooperation.
Over at least the next three years, the project, which has funding from the CBF EbA Facility, , Halcyon Land and Sea and other donors to FFI and UIEA, will deliver an exciting programme of activities. These will include:
Research on Union Island’s unique biodiversity and how people live
Promoting and investing in sustainable livelihoods, including new jobs and businesses,
Strengthening the management of protected areas, and
Building the skills and resources of local individuals and organisations to become more resilient to climate change and other challenges.
The new project, formally known as “Union Island Climate Change Adaptation Project: Building resilient communities, sustainable livelihoods and healthy ecosystems” will be integrated with existing work by UIEA, FFI and the Forestry Department to conserve the Union Island gecko and other rare and unique species on Union Island.
Forestry Department Director, Fitzgerald Providence, expressed his happiness at the commencement of the project. “The Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines, and the Forestry Department team in particular, are most grateful to the Caribbean Biodiversity Fund and the German Government for the financial support that underpins this very important project on Union Island”. He added “We look forward to working with UIEA, FFI and Unionites to ensure the project is a success and that it delivers tangible benefits in terms of both improved conservation outcomes for our forests and livelihoods for the people of Union Island.”
The project launch coincides with St Vincent and the Grenadines taking up the Presidency of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in November 2020. According to the Permanent Mission of St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) to the United Nations, this prestigious responsibility “provides an opportunity for SVG to bring to the forefront many of its priority areas, including climate change and sustainable development”. The Union Island Climate Change Adaptation Project provides a timely fit with the government’s commitment to deliver strong leadership on both matters of paramount importance to small island developing states.
Dr Joth Singh, Programme Manager of the CBF EbA Facility, shared his great excitement with the start-up of implementation of the project. “Building resilience to the effects of climate change through supporting people to adapt to these changes, in order to sustain their livelihoods, is a main focus of the EbA Facility. We are very excited to be partnering with FFI and local partners in St Vincent and the Grenadines on this initiative in Union Island. Other EbA projects are currently being implemented in 9 other Caribbean islands with another set of projects expected to be launched in early 2021.
A critical component of the project is local stakeholder engagement. “Talking with, and working alongside, Unionites for the betterment of the community and the island will be a central theme of the Project,” says FFI’s Project Manager James Crockett “I am personally very excited to get to know individual members of the community through this process. Union Island is a real gem and I am privileged to have the opportunity to contribute to the sustainable development of the island and its people through this project. Community members will be invited in the weeks and months ahead to learn more about the project, share their views on sustainable livelihood development priorities and contribute their critical local knowledge to develop a biophysical climate change impact model for Union Island.”
The model, a first for the Southern Lesser Antilles, will use leading-edge technology to simulate the potential impacts of a changing climate upon Union Island. It is something that Katrina Coy, President of the UIEA and the project’s Community Liaison Officer, is particularly excited about. “This model will help guide our decision making and ensure our investments in future developments are well placed for the long term. It will also highlight priority areas of natural habitat that we must protect so they help reduce climate change impacts on our island’s precious infrastructure. So expect to be seeing us on the ground when we come to speak to you, invite you to a meeting or get you involved in activities!”