The nation’s terrestrial biological resources and their related ecosystems to be conserved, including the prevention of land degradation, to increase the contribution of the Forestry Sub-sector to the gross domestic product.
To manage and conserve the nation’s flora and fauna including threatened, rare and endangered species, as well as their habitats and associated ecosystems
Role: Forestry falls under the Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Fisheries and Barbuda. Under this present structure, which predates the post- colonial era, the Director of Agriculture heads this Unit and by this authority assumes the role of the Chief Forestry Officer under the present legislation (The Forestry Act (Cap.178).
Forestry is one of the Government Agencies in Antigua and Barbuda responsible for the conservation and management of the nation’s terrestrial Biological Diversity. To this end the Forestry Unit has played a major role in the development of the National Biodiversity Strategy and action Plan (NBSAP). In spite of the Unit present limitations, it aims to continue all efforts towards halting and reversing the degradation of the Environment. Also to widen the range of participation in Forestry and Wildlife activities so that all sections of the community become involved in appropriate ways in national and local land improvement schemes.
Projects and activities:
Junior Forester Program
Over the past few years we have seen an increase in invasive alien species creating havoc on our shores, indiscriminate clearing of vegetation, annual bush fires further exhaust the resources of the Unit and threaten the survival of our native biological diversity. The repeated request from the various schools around the island for lectures on these themes only reinforced the need for us to develop a more compelling and lasting teaching strategy.
The Forestry Unit has developed a summer program for twenty willing students to engage in. The Junior Forester Summer Program which is designed to introduce students to various conservation activities over a course of two weeks. The objective of this program is to reach, expose and encourage Youth through conservation and the development of life skills. Students attached to this program will be exposed to reforestation and conservation methods, climate change issues and mitigation techniques, trail blazing, biodiversity assessment, nursery, general plant care to include proper planting and pruning methods.
The forestry Unit has selected four schools to be a part of this pilot program upon success we will expand to include more schools. Teachers will select five (5) students (between ages 9-13 for Primary School) who will represent the school in all activities and training. The officer heading this project will then visit the school to give an in-depth presentation on the project and its activities to the students nominated. This will be necessary so the entire school may have an opportunity to be a part of the undertakings plans throughout the year leading up to the summer program.
Forestry Highway Beautification and Clean Air Campaign
The Forestry Unit has made several attempts over the last two decades to develop an Urban Forestry Sector in Antigua and Barbuda. Unfortunately, due to the small size of the Unit the maintenance of these ventures had always proven to be most difficult. The Unit’s responsibilities then included the management of the nation’s terrestrial flora and fauna a task that demanded more man power than was available. With the rise of other environmental management bodies in the Government sector, it has given us a unique opportunity to focus more in the areas that have suffered so terribly in the past. It is with this in mind that the Unit initiated in 2013 the first “Hour trees and clean air campaign”, a program that successfully encouraged, fifty-seven schools throughout the nation of Antigua and Barbuda to participate. The project invited each school to pause for one hour and had teachers together with the student body planted trees on the school compound or on a community ground. For the period between the hours of 9am to 10am, the entire student body paused to plant trees on Tuesday 12th November 2013. The Forestry Unit with the aid of the Christian Valley Agriculture Station provided the trees. A total of, one hundred and sixty plants were distributed by the Unit to the various schools and many more donated by the student and faculty who were encouraged to bring their own plants to enrich the experience. The roadside clean air campaign started in the nineteen nineties with the use of Mahogany and Neem trees in areas along busy roadways; however, demands from the nearby communities had always been for the planting of fruit trees. As part of the Unit effort to contribute to the national food security plan we will establish small arboretum of fruit trees within each community, for the use of all community members.
The creation of green spaces within urban areas reduces flooding and water and air pollution. Within the tropics trees reduce the temperature providing shade reflecting radiation from the sun creating a natural air conditioner feeling. It has been proven that a single mature tree can give the cooling effect of five average room conditioners running twenty four hours. The health benefits of these to nation will immediately be seen as sidewalks with well-tempered lawn creates the desire in individuals to walk more and jog. As a nation we ought to have this perception and provide all with the motivation for this attitude. One need only to visit the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium and see the evidence of this being played out every afternoon; dozens of individuals walking around the well-manicured and aesthetically pleasing roads of the stadium. Imagine this scene been replicated throughout our nation. This alone will have tremendous positive implications for our national health and fitness plan. The summer temperature has always created a high demand for air condition units and by extension increases our national energy bill. This has of course in the pass created pressure on APUA to find solutions to meet the demands. Though solar power is indeed a great option to ease the pressure off the national grid, the planting of trees would change the microclimate of the island and in and of itself reduce the need for artificial cooling. The Forestry Unit will continue its highway tree planting activities that was initiated in the late nineteen nineties and will plant and maintain an added seven miles of roads each year. Exotics will be used to enhance the appeal however the Unit will seek to use native plants that are found within the various location. In the colour coded map provided the thick red lines are areas to be planted by this project this and next year. The green lines are sites that have been planted so far this year with the resources we have. The dark lines are the areas we will be assisting the Ministry of Tourism with. Though special arrangements will be made with some community groups the care of all trees island wide will be the primary responsibility of the Forestry unit. That will include the watering and the maintenance of each tree.
The Body ponds Conservation area is located in the centre of the Body ponds water shed. It is situated south of Fisher dam and east of Brecknocks number 2. I it 1.28 miles from the Forestry Units store room and Nursery located on the out skirts of Bendals. The site is an area that was frequented by fires and thus was prone to major soil erosion issues. It is a sub-watershed roughly 16.5ha with two major streams running through it. The height ranges from 100 to 450 feet with some flat land available. Originally the chief vegetation cover was the lemon grass with some Albizia, Leucaena, guava and very few mangoes. The soil then at first glances appeared overcast with a metallic coat from years of burning. At the top of the water shed very little soil remained most of the vegetation there consists of lemon grass and a few leucaena growing on shallow soil patches. The banks of the stream ways are still badly eroded and in dire need of stabilization. To date the Unit has successfully reclaimed over twelve acres of land with both fruit and forest trees.
The primary work in this area for the past six years has been in the reforestation of the upper watershed which was as stated above, over grown by the invasive lemon grass. The original project which began with funds from the Spanish government, UNDP and the Government of Antigua and Barbuda was a part of the Sustainable Island Resources Management Mechanism (SIRMM). The Forestry Unit Submitted the project for funding and it was approved as one of the four Demonstration projects of the SIRMM. The project was intended to demonstrate effective and practical methodologies for the rehabilitation and subsequent management of the watershed and for these methods to be documented and available for replication or extension to other areas as appropriate either nationally or regionally, where similar problems and environments occur. There has been so far constructed on the site three terraces one road and a fire buffer zone. Individuals both from public and the private sector have visited the site and partook of tree planting exercises organized by the Unit. Presently there is a gazebo that is under construction and will be the culmination of a short trek through an area of planted trees.
The activities on the site has been mapped and a photographic record kept by the Unit. The number of visitors to the area has dramatically increased due to the breath taking beauty of the valley making the Body ponds rehabilitation site a preferred tourist attraction for off roaders. The site was the staging ground for the first and second Youth intervention Eco-Initiative, a combined effort between the Forestry Unit and the Royal Police Force Youth intervention Unit. Troubled teens from around the island were taken to the site for four weeks out of the summer to learn ecology and life lessons.