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.
Coming from the heels of ‘Hour Tree’ initiative launched in two thousand (……) The unit started community arboretum in hopes of fulfilling four of the Sustainable development goals, which speaks to Zero Hunger, Good health and well Being, Climate Action and life on land. the management and maintenance of these arboretum will be under the control of Forestry Unit with a co-management relationship between the unit and the communities.
Since 2017 the unit has embarked on an aggressive drive to not only educate but update preexisting information on the current status of the bat population in Antigua and Barbuda. Workshops, newspaper article, private and public consultation on the importance of bats to the nation’s ecosystem have been and are still being carried out in hopes of dispelling myths about these key stone species.
The focus of the nursery is the propagation and distribution of native species of ferns, shrubs and trees. At present the unit propagates a variety of fruit trees to include mango, coconuts, cashew, dumbs, cherry, marly apple and guava. Forest type tree that aids in the units ongoing reforestation efforts such as Mahogany, silk cotton, royal palms, cassia fistula. Cassia javanica just to name a few. The general public is always welcome to purchase plants.
The unit provides a wide range of environmental services to include
Ø Nutrition sensitive landscape consultation
Ø Urban Forestry development: Tree husbandry (training in proper pruning, felling and or planting)
Proper Tree Care and Maintenance
Hurricane preparation, consultation and services
Trail Blazing and trail maintenance
Environmental presentations and workshops
Faces at the Forestry Unit
Adriel Thibou – Senior Forestry Officer
Algernon Grant – Forestry Assistant 1
Camillia Wallis – Forestry Assistant 3
11th Caribbean Urban Forum (CUF2022)
The OECS Commission recently held its 11th Caribbean Urban Forum (CUF2022) in Barbados. Representing Antigua & Barbuda at this meeting was Mr. Adriel Thibou, (Senior Forestry Officer – Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries & Barbuda Affairs) and the National Focal Point of the Integrated Landscape Approaches and Investments in Sustainable Land Management (ILM) in the OECS project.
The CUF is an annual three-day Conference for land use practitioners, policy makers, academics and allied professionals interested in urban and land management issues within the Caribbean. The theme of this year’s event is “Beyond COVID: Recovery-Renewable-Resilience”. Professionals engaged in planning and development including land (resources) management were urged to recognize the significance of climate change adaptation and hazard vulnerability reduction measures for future sustainable development patterns.
The OECS Commission also utilized the opportunity to meet with all (Global Climate Change Alliance) GCCA-ILM Focal Points to coordinate, discuss and update on project activities. The “Integrated Landscape Approaches and Investments in Sustainable Land Management in the OECS” project, is funded under the European Union Global Public Goods and Challenges Programme to an amount of EUR 5 million. The overall objective of the project is to optimize the contribution of land to agriculture, food security, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and the preservation of ecosystems and the essential services they provide. It is expected that initiatives under this project will contribute to; climate smart and sustainable agriculture farming system; enhancement of cross-sector approaches to land use planning and management; the National Adaptation Plans (NAPs); the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs); National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans; REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation & Forest Degradation) strategies and plans to curb deforestation and forest degradation; and strengthening ecosystem management in general.
The Specific Objective (SO1) of the OECS-ILM project is to strengthen the economic, social, and environmental resilience of Member States to the impacts of climate change and other hazards through the implementation of Integrated Landscape Management (ILM), Sustainable Land Management (SLM), Integrated Watershed Management (IWM), and other relevant approaches. Essentially, ILM seeks to integrate various economic, social, and biophysical considerations into a common framework for analysis and action.
Here on Antigua, through the execution of A Sustainable Approach to the Development and Management of the Body Ponds Conservation Area the expected Project Outputs under this objective are:
Expected Output (SO1-1): Scalable physical adaptation initiatives that help conciliate different land uses, foster innovation and lessons learning are field tested and deliver multiple agricultural, climate and biodiversity-related benefits.
Expected Output (SO1-2): improved land governance and management systems are promoted, notably through better cross-sectoral coordination, enhanced participation of land users and local stakeholders, including local communities, women, and the private sector, in land-related decisions, and other appropriate land governance measures.
Expected Output (SO1-3): the capacities of actors and institutions for sustainable landscape management are enhanced.
Forestry Division hosted Kids Unlimited
Last week, the Kids Unlimited Summer Campers were the first group of children to be given a guided tour of the Body Pond area since 2019. Due to the lock-down caused by the Covid 19 Pandemic no tours were conducted over the three-year period. A group of 45 campers along with their counsellors arrived by school buses to Body Pond. Once there they were met by several staff of the Forestry Unit.
The visitors were briefed by the Senior Forestry Officer, Mr. Adriel Thibou who explained the project (the creation of a fruit orchard) and the tree planting activity. Afterwards, they journeyed to the planting site, and this required a hike to the top of the newly created trail. Ms. Jenel Warner and Ms. Reba Ambrose Forestry Unit Staff led the party up the trail where they were joined at the top of the hill by Mr. Ezra Francis. Mr. Francis assisted in the tree planting exercise activity of the day. In preparation for this activity the Unit staff had holes dug for the number of plants requested by the camp leaders. They were given the option of either mango or tamarind trees to plant.
The feedback received from the group was that they were very pleased to be able to participate in assisting the Forestry Unit in the expansion of the Body Pond Orchard, which will one day serve as the climax of the trail system.
THE ANTIGUA and BARBUDA COCONUT REHABILITATION PROGRAMME
On Thursday 29th September, the Forestry Division within the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Barbuda Affairs launched and began the distribution stage of the Coconut (Cocos nucifera) Rehabilitation project. The modality of this Initiative is a simple yet novel exercise which promises great national yield pending the participants’ full cooperation. After registration and site inspections there are three phases:
Interested businesses and participating farmers through this initiative will be given coconut trees by the Forestry Division, the quantity will be based on the size of the farms and or space available for these trees;
A contractual agreement would be signed by the farmers before receiving the plants;
One and a half years thereafter, from each tree ten (10) coconuts must be given back annually. This arrangement will support the continuation and furtherance of the project.
Thus far, the seven (7) participants (five males and two females) are:
Odessa Hopkins is an entrepreneur and plant farmer. Ms Hopkins was the first female farmer who showed keen interest in this project and was the recipient of thirty (30) trees to be planted on her two acres of farmland.
Jamie Carty is a police officer and fruit tree farmer in the southern section of the island. He received ten (10) in this first instalment.
Neil Gomes, the first male who showed tremendous interest and then spread the word, encouraged another farmer Gregg Skepple to participate, both plant farmers located in the north were recipients of fifty (50) trees.
Casey Roberts is the second female farmer and her two acres farm is located in the east. She too collected thirty (30) trees.
Brian Benjamin, a retired tourism tour guide and presently owns and operates a large farm with the assistance of his five children started a coconut plantation that received one hundred (100) trees. Additionally, Casmore Joseph, who is a mixed farmer and beekeeper also received one hundred (100) trees.
The coconut seeds were imported from Costa Rica. According to Adriel Thibou (Senior Forestry Officer)” The program involves the procurement, propagation, and distribution of approximately 15,000 coconut seedlings. To date, no coconut variety has proven to be completely resistant to Lethal yellowing however two stand out as being more resilient than others. From research done in Jamaica, a variety of the Malayan dwarf has shown to be 96% resistant. The program will first seek to replant coconut trees along the beaches and agricultural byroads. Sixty-four participants have signed up for the program and an additional twelve hotels and private homeowners as well. The novel approach to sustainability is being monitored to hopefully replicate in neighbouring islands by CARDI and other stakeholders”.
Ministries combine on Educational Initiative
The recently formed synergy of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Education was a technical and science-based panel
On Thursday 23rd the Forestry and the Communication Units within the Ministry of Agriculture and the Science Department of the Ministry of Education held a taskforce workshop. Several teachers from primary and secondary levels are also members of this newly formed panel. This meeting was a brainstorming exercise on ways to introduce, disseminate, infuse information into the local science curriculum and data gathering pertaining to forest biodiversity.
In his presentation to the group, Adriel Thibou, Senior Forestry Officer explained the urgent need for this collaborative initiative and this was very receptive by Anthony Spencer, Education Officer Curriculum Science, his colleagues and other members of this panel.
Another presentation was done by Camille Wallace, Forestry officer on several programmes that the unit is currently focusing on, these are:
- The Body Pond Rehabilitation Programme
- Junior Forester Programme
- Youth Intervention Programme
- Forestry Highway Beautification & Clean Air Programme
- Coconut Rehabilitation Project
- Bat Conservation Project
It is a well- known fact that team work gets much more accomplished, therefore, collaborating on matters pertaining to Agriculture and the Environment should be no different. Additionally, we all should be aware that Education is the Key factor.
International Day of Forests
Annually, the 21st March since 2012 had been declared the “International Day of Forests” (IDF) by the United Nations General Assembly. This was done to raise the awareness on the importance of Forests, their significance to us and the environment world over.
Under the 2023 theme “Forests and Health” the quest continues to heighten the awareness of forests and the reasons for preserving them. “Healthy forests for healthy people” is the focus this year and each year everyone around the world is encouraged to participate in activities such as tree planting campaigns.
Worldwide, there are three main types of forests that exist: Boreal, Temperate and Tropical. However, the temperate and tropical forests are further sub-categorized.
- Tropical Forests are Evergreen Forests, Seasonal Forests, Dry Tropical, Montane, Tropical and Sub-tropical Coniferous, Sub-Tropical Forests, Moist, dry, mangrove, littoral, grassland and cactus Shrub;
- Temperate Forests are Temperate Deciduous Forests and Temperate Coniferous Forests.
Forests serve us in many ways such as purifying water (streams, lakes, rivers, ponds and dams), clean the air, provide food, assist the planet to combat against Climate Change, and provide medicines. Although, this ecosystem is vitally important unfortunately they are vulnerable and are at tremendous risks and threats such as fires, excessive logging, pests, droughts and many others. Forests need our protection for our very own survival on this planet.
On Antigua and Barbuda, we have several types of forests. These all fall within the “Tropical Forest category.
Type of Forest Some examples of place found
Moist Christian Valley and Mt. Obama Area
Dry Wetherill Estate and Mill Reef
Mangrove Cades Bay and North Sound
Littoral Pot works
Cactus Shrub vegetation Piccadilly
Everyone is hereby reminded that clearing forested land without proper authorization from the Chief Forest Officer through the Forestry Unit is prohibited and illegal. You are kindly asked to seek approval from the Forestry Unit within the Ministry of Agriculture before commencing any clearing, cutting, or felling of forest vegetation.
Let us continue to work together to preserve our nation’s Biodiversity.
For inquiries, please contact the Office at 268-764-1272.
FORESTRY BAT EXPEDITION
On Monday 20th the Forestry Unit within the Ministry of Agriculture in collaboration with the Ministry of Education held a “BAT EXPEDITION”. A group of educators comprised of education officers, primary and secondary teachers led by forestry officers paid a visit to one of the caves found in the eastern side of Antigua. This was at least forty-five minutes to an hour hike through one of the island’s Dry Forest.
This part of the hike was led by Adriel Thibou, Senior Forestry Officer and Brent Simon, Forestry Ranger. The expedition was conducted very cautiously as it was explained that the surrounding ecosystem must have minimal interference as possible. “Strive at all costs through whatever means to do little to no harm to the ecosystems, thus leaving it as nature intended” Thibou said.
While inside the cave, still under the guidance of Adriel Thibou, three bats were caught and taken outside for processing that included the collection of each bat Biomatrices and fur, for the Mercury monitoring project. Forestry Trainee, Jameel Ambrose, was charged with the task of guiding a small group of observers deeper into the cave. It must be emphasized the Spelunking can be extremely dangerous and should not be attempted with proper supervision. Mrs. Camellia Tonge, Forestry Assistant, explained to the group why bats were so important, and the importance of the data collected. “The data collected today will be entered into our database and a comparison could be made to what we have already collected. This is done to monitor changes in the roost site and the resident population and helps to guide our management practices.
The bat species were identified as “Natalusstramineus” or the Mexican-Antillean Funnel Eared Bats. They are very unusual because of the colour of their furs which range from a pale yellow to an orangish gray based on the age of the mammals. For more information on our “Chiroptera” friends please contact the Forestry Unit via 764-1272.
nternational Day of Forests Activities
Yesterday 21st March was recognized as “International Day of Forests”under the theme “Forest and Health”. In keeping with the theme and celebrations of this special day, the Forestry Unit held a hike and tree planting event in the Body Pond area.
Their invited guests were Miss Sandra Joseph, Permanent Secretary, and other staff members from several sections within the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA). Special inviteeswere education officers from CARDI, ABS, the Ministry of Education (MOE), Primary/Secondary teachers, students, and the Registrar and staff members of the Antigua Civil Registry.
The MOA staff were introduced while on the bus while enroute by Camellia Tonge, Forestry Assistant. At the location everyone was addressed by Adriel Thibou, Senior Forestry Officer and by Tonge.It was decided that the “Byam Hill” area would beutilized for the “tree planting” exercise but in two different sections.
The first section was allotted to the MOE, officers, teachers, and students. They were given twenty-five mango seedlings for their area while the remaining participants took an intense climb to the top of the hill to an area where seventy-five coconut trees were planted. In less than an hour one hundred trees were planted. These plants will be taken care of by the forestry staff. Two of the species were chosen primarily because of the mutualistic relationships they share with bats and other wildlife in the area.
Forestry Unit hosted Splash Robo Club
The official commencement of the “Spring” season was on 20th March and coincidentally the “International Day of Forest” was celebrated worldwide on 21st March. Here on Antigua those of us who are into our environment and nature can recall on the said day the Forestry Unit within the Ministry of Agriculture commemorated this celebration with several activities the main one being a hike and tree planting exercise in the Body Pond.
This was not an ordinary event, on the contrary, all the participants were on a learning and reforestation expedition coupled into one. However, the Forestry Unit has not stopped there rather their 2023 mission includes an outreach component. Therefore, all and sundry will be targeted and no one will be left out nor behind. In keeping with their quest on Wednesday 5th of April the Unit hosted the campers of the Splash Robo Camp.
The youngsters were in for a delightful treat. They thought that they would be hopping on a bus for a drive somewhere in the countryside but never had they imagined a Scavenger Hunt was organized by the Forestry staff in the form of a quiz. The goal was to put clues at particular trees, then have the children try to identify these trees. In addition to the game, they were shown the correct way to hold and care for plants and they also planted some trees. The little campers were happy to assist with this activity, some carried young plants and seedlings while others fetched the water and implement. One of the trees emphasis was placed on was the Cashew tree and its many uses.
The Splash Robo Camp is a stem-based extracurricular activity that is geared towards teaching four years to twelve years old children about coding, mechanical engineering and problem-solving. Simply put, it is a Robotic Club, it is the first of its kind on the island and the brainchild of Tiffany Azille and her sister. Living in this new era and one of technology the sisters felt strongly about the need to expose and involve the youth from a young age.
Forty curious minds accompanied by eight counsellors thoroughly enjoyed the day in the outdoors. The Forestry staff that were responsible for this successful, fun-filled day were Camellia Wallace-Tonge, Kadeema Ambrose, Kerson Casimir, Vashawn Jarvis and Karim Joseph.