A reforestation initiative funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for the Stephney-John’s Vale forest reserve is now in the final stages of implementation by the Forestry Department.
The project titled Jamaica Rural Economy & Eco Systems Adapting to Climate Change (Ja REEACH) Reforestation initiative which is being implemented by ACDI/VOCA was launched at a ceremony at the Hessen Castle True Church of God Apostolic in March and a closing ceremony celebrating the achievements under the Agroforestry component was held on June 24 at the Church of Jesus Christ in Douglas Castle.
The aim of the project was to enhance the bio-diversity conservation of the Stephney-John’s Vale Forest Reserve through the planting and establishment of 200 hectares of forested lands within the Rio Bueno Watershed Management Unit and to generate income for local communities through livelihood and agro-forestry programmes.
Project activities started in November 2013 with the identification and mapping of denuded lands to be planted within the Stephney-John’s Vale Forest Reserve. To date 200 hectares of land have been reforested and over 200 farmers have benefitted from training and other activities under the agroforestry component of the project.
Residents from communities within the project area have welcomed the project and its activities noting that it is a great opportunity to rehabilitate forests within the reserve. “This is a right starting point and a chance for us to restore some of what has been lost, “Verol Douglas, the Group representative for Douglas Castle said at recent closing ceremony for the agroforestry component of the project.
The residents not only worked on the reforestation project, but also benefitted from alternative livelihood activities that were undertaken throughout the project area. Over 200 farmers from the communities, which were primarily farming areas, benefitted from training in agroforestry, proper use of pesticides and other areas. They also participated in a number of workshops focused on capacity building and group dynamics.
Seven agroforestry demonstration plots were also established in the communities adjacent to the reserve to provide a guide of how to integrate timber, crops and fruit trees in farming to provide a mix of revenue streams while improving the environment. While 3,000 timber and 3,000 fruit trees were earmarked for distribution under the project, 13,000 fruit and 6,000 timber seedlings were actually provided to farmers. In addition 6,000 pineapple suckers were planted across the demonstration plots and these are to regenerate and supply farmers who require them.
The project valued at close to US$400,000 (JM $40 million) was scheduled to end in June; however it will instead end in mid-August while some final activities are completed.
The residents were most appreciative of the assistance provided by the Forestry Department staff who worked with them on the project. In impromptu thank you messages delivered at the closing ceremony representatives from Grants Mountain and Douglas Castle thanked the team and extended special thanks to the agroforestry specialist, Cheryl McLeod. The Forestry Department team also offered its gratitude to residents and partners who helped to make the project a success by handing our certificates at the ceremony.
The Stephney-John’s Vale forest reserve is one of the largest forest reserves in Jamaica covering 6,675 hectares, and stretching across St. Ann and Clarendon.