“Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds” – Psalm 71:17

Over the last week my faith has been restored in the potential for humanity, not to self-destruct but to be involved in activities, which could pave the way for a sustainable future. In particular, the extent to which the youth were involved in various greening projects was extremely reassuring.

The Mission of Counterpart Caribbean is “To stimulate awareness of, and address the need for, sustainable development in the physical, economic, social and cultural life of Barbados and the Caribbean”.

There were two events last week with which Counterpart Caribbean was involved. The one event was the Caribbean Coastal Co-Management and Coral Regeneration sharing meeting and evaluation workshop on Wednesday and Thursday at The Future Centre in St. Thomas.

On the first day the participants from the Grenadines, Jamaica and Barbados engaged in interactive dialogue to share the results of their activities over the last two years. The focus in the Grenadines was visioning, nature interpretation and certification for and greening of the Water Taxi Associations in the Grenadines.

The focus in Jamaica was on the Fisheries Management Planning Consultation Process in the Marine Park in Negril. This included the documentation of information for the process, a very exciting and dynamic Junior Rangers programme, mounted by the Negril Coral Reef Preservation Society, where the youth were exposed to a comprehensive environmental package, and training for further Fisheries Management Planning activities.

The focus in Barbados was on Training for Coral Reef Restoration with the Barbados Marine Trust. The overall programme was managed by Ms. Susan Mahon, a Consultant with Counterpart Caribbean, and she was supported by resources from the Caribbean Regional Environmental Programme and the Centre for Resource Management & Environmental Studies at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill.

The Workshop concluded with a session where participants reflected on their progress, examined the prospects for strengthening functional linkages, especially with the specific region and charting the way forward.

It was clear that there is a future for this very exciting set of activities, and the immediate challenge is to identify further funding to expand the programme. Funding for this project to date, was provided by the European Commission under a global project entitled, “Coral Gardens Initiative: Poverty Alleviation through Capacity Building in Community Based Fisheries Management & Coral Reef Restoration”. The global project is management by the Foundation for the Peoples of the South Pacific. It was very gratifying to see the youth in action and, at the end of the Workshop they were given a tour of The Future Centre.

We were extremely fortunate to have two resource persons join the Workshop for its entirety. The one, Dr. Austin Bowden-Kirby, a Counterpart International Senior Scientist, who helped to facilitate the south-south transfer of the innovative low-tech programme that helps rebuild reef systems from the Pacific to Jamaica and the Bay Islands of Honduras. Dr. Bowden-Kirby, who resides in Fiji, was involved in this project from its visioning stage.

The other visitor was Dr. Noel Brown, Educator and Environmental Diplomat, who is a former Director of the United Nations Environmental Programme headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya. He currently serves as President of the Friends of United Nations and is Director of Training at the International Oceans Institute in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The participants were extremely fortunate to have these two resource persons at the Workshop and, indeed, Drs. Brown and Bowden-Kirby informed me that they enjoyed it immensely.

The next event to take place this week was the official launch of the Lester Vaughn School Oil Recycling initiative. This project is a joint effort between Counterpart Caribbean, the UNDP Small Grants Programme of the Global Environmental Facility. It took place at the school’s lecture theatre and attracted a wide cross-section of participation.

Dr. Rosina Wiltshire, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative for Barbados and the OECS, gave a brief presentation on the reasons for their support. The Principal of the School, the Barbados Water Authority, the Ministry of the Environment, the Solid Waste Management Unit and the Ministry of Health also gave very kind words of encouragement for this important initiative.

Ms. Nicole Garofano, a Counterpart Caribbean volunteer from Australia, gave an overview of the project. She indicated that the school children would be asked to collect used vegetable oil from their homes, neighbours and friends and bring it to school for re-cycling into bio-diesel. Mr. Handel Callender, Managing Director of Native Sun NRG, a bio-diesel manufacturer, has agreed to take all of the oil from the school as the commercial end-user of the raw material. He explained the bio-diesel process to the gathering and emphasised the fact that a small input of bio-diesel, blended with regular diesel can increase the efficiency of engine performance beyond expectation and, hence, can make a considerable contribution to engine efficiency and the health of the environment.

We would like to thank all the children, their parents and the press who attended the launch. We trust that, in the years to come, this small beginning towards a national comprehensive recycling initiative will yield some marvellous results.