“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up” – Luke 18:1
I first visited ‘The Nature Isle’ of Dominica in 1968 on a professional assignment. After that I returned several times a year but I probably have not been there more then three or four times in the last seven years. I was there last week for a couple of days and must say that I have never been as inspired by the potential for development in Dominica as I was on this occasion.
Part of the reason for my excitement was that Ambassador Charles Maynard made it a point to take me on a tour and to spend time with me updating me on developments in Dominica. I first met Charles at the University of the West Indies at Mona, Jamaica in the early sixties and we have both had the wonderful experience of studying in the idyllic (physical as well as socio-cultural) University town of Aberystwth at the University College of Wales. Charles pursued studies in Law and I in Statistics but we were not there at the same time.
We worked closely together as management consultants in the Caribbean since 1977 except for the fifteen year period beginning 1982 when Charles was a Cabinet Minister in the Dame Eugenia Charles Government. Since then we have been engaged in many Smart Partnership International Dialogues in Barbados, Malaysia and Southern Africa sponsored by the Commonwealth Partnership in Technology Management and the Malaysia Industry-Government Group for High Technology.
Charles is now Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Commonwealth of Dominica to the Caribbean Community (Caricom).
Dominica has had more than its fair share of devastation from natural disasters but there is a resilience and a persistence which pervades that society and it was certainly evident to me on this visit.
Dominica is of volcanic origin with: mountains reaching heights of nearly 5,000 feet; rainforests that are considered among the last true island-based rainforests in the world; more than 365 rivers, waterfalls, boiling lakes, and pristine coral reefs. Dominica’s natural diversity is truly unique. Dominica is also home to the last remaining settlement of the Indigenous Peoples of the Caribbean – The Carib Indians – and also home to the largest number of persons who live beyond 100 years!
A place where man and nature live in harmony, where adventurers and nature lovers alike revel in the Island’s eco-tourism options which include scuba diving, snorkelling, mountain biking, kayaking, horseback riding, nature tours, hiking/trekking, whale, dolphin and bird watching, sailing and fishing, Dominica’s focus on sustainable ecotourism appears to be well-placed.
The new Rainforest Aerial Tram takes you through a wild, mountainous private nature reserve in the center of Dominica’s isolated wilderness. Three hundred inches of annual rainfall support verdant greens and brilliant canopy colors. Countless waterfalls, brooks and rivers course through these tropical lands and tumble into a deep river gorge that can be viewed only from the tram gondolas.
The tram is uniquely designed to provide visitors with a view of the entire forest architecture from top to bottom, at the same time minimizing any impact on the environment. You will discover plants and life forms that are usually hidden from the human eye in the forest treetops, opening up a little-seen world of intense beauty and an extraordinary biological diversity. Halfway through the tour, accompanied by an expert naturalist guide, you may get off the tram for a short 10-minute walk across a suspension bridge that spans the Breakfast River Gorge and through the forest under-story before boarding the tram again for the remainder of the trip.
Twelve million gallons of pristine pure water go into the sea daily. There are some initiatives now to convert this resource into a commercial reality. There were six cruise ships in Dominica in one day recently between the ports in Roseau and Plymouth.
No wonder a panel discussion will be mounted at the ITB (International Tourism Exchange) in Berlin on Sustainable Ecotourism Tourism Development – Lessons from Dominica on Friday 10 March, 2006. Can Sustainable Ecotourism really Eliminate Poverty? Can Tourism be an alternative to Bananas? Have Local Communities truly benefited from Ecotourism? What is the role of the private sector? Is Dominica’s brand of Ecotourism Sustainable? What are some of the mistakes that should be avoided? What can we learn from the Dominica Experience? These questions can all be answered favourably in the interest of holistic sustainable development in Dominica if we ‘pray and do not give up’.
It has been stated for some time that Dominica has the potential to become the Fruit Basket of the Caribbean, however the wherewithal for bringing that into actualisation for mutual benefits has not materialised.
My mission to Dominica, which was to explore a specific initiative related to integrated agricultural trade on behalf of CBET and to identify the missing links to Enterprise Development. My mission was more than accomplished.
My visit was culminated by a surprise telephone call from the Governor of the ECCB in St Kitts, Sir Dwight Venner, to confirm their interest in involvement of The CBET Shepherding Model in their new East Caribbean Enterprise Fund initiative to foster sustainable Enterprise Development in the OECS.