Smithfield Community partners with Forestry Department to manage forest

More communities islandwide are signing up to co-manage the forest resources in their area through the establishment of partnerships with the Forestry Department.

On Wednesday, March 28, 2012, at the Cascade Complex, Smithfield in Hanover became the eleventh community to enter into such a partnership with the Agency with the official launch of a Local Forest Management Committee (LFMC) in the community. Five additional LFMCs are expected be launched in the coming financial year.

Smithfield joins Dallas Castle and Constitution Hill in St. Andrew to become the third LFMC launched since the start of this year. “The LFMC is a forum for community members to get involved in Forest Management,” Noel Bennett, Rural Sociologist at the Forestry Department said at the launch.

Hon Luther Buchanan, Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister in delivering the main address also expressed similar sentiments. “This is exactly the type of community involvement project that is needed to foster awareness about the environmental importance of our forests,” he stated.

He added, “We believe that public awareness is critical in order for us to understand the environmental issues facing us as they have implications for our development, disaster risk reduction, the preservation of our natural resources, sustainable land management, and proper planning.”

Hon Dr. David Stair, Custos of Hanover also added his voice to the need for greater community involvement in the protection of our forests. “When driving to Cascade as a youth, I use to see water flowing from rocks…today I saw none,” he said.

He indicated that the droughts are getting longer and harsher and floods are more devastating because of the destruction of the forest and by extension it resources. “Every year around this time in the parish, we seem to go on a burning spree destroying trees and vegetation, which also means we destroy the homes of animals and birds,” he said.

He therefore urged everyone to do their part in protecting the forest, which will ensure that its benefits are retained.

The formation of Local Forest Management Committees (LFMCs) is provided for by the Forest Act, 1996 and is an integral component of the “Community Participation” strategy of the Forestry Department. The LFMC is the institutional body created in watershed management units to enable the participation of the communities in the co-management of forested areas (specifically those managed by the Forestry Department). In addition to assisting with Forest Management, these committees also are able to engage in income earning opportunities such as beekeeping, nursery production, ecotourism and nature tourism among others.

The first two LFMCs were launched in the Buff Bay/Pencar watershed of Portland and St. Mary in December 2000. The third was formed in North Rio Minho Area of Clarendon in May 2004. Since then additional LFMCs have been launched with three in Cockpit Country and others in Dolphin Head in Hanover and one in Spring Bank in St. Thomas.

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