During the just concluded 36th Session of UNESCO General Conference early November in Paris, acting Minister of Education and Information, Hon: Patrice Nisbett, took time out to receive the certificate bestowed to the Federation by UNESCO, in recognition of St. Kitts-Nevis inscription and designation for inclusion in the world net work of Biosphere reserves on the Man and Biosphere (MAB) programme.
The International Coordinating Council of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme, at its 23rd session held in Dresden (Germany) from 28 June to 1 July 2011, approved the proposed St.Mary’s Biosphere reserve in St.Kitts.
The MAB programme proposes an interdisciplinary research and capacity building platform aimed at improving the relationship of people with their environment. UNESCO described St. Mary’s as “an important site in terms of biological diversity, comprising cloud forests, mangroves and coral reefs. The Reserve represents one of the most diverse natural communities on St. Kitts: the marine area and beaches near Canada, Keys and Cayon and the surrounding tropical forests of the mountain ridgeline. It represents one of the first Biosphere Reserves of the small Caribbean island countries and could serve as an example of village participation in preserving the outstanding mosaic of natural and cultural landscape values”.
Receiving the certificate from Ms. Gretchen Kalonji, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for the Natural Sciences, Minister Nisbett, remarked that “we are especially proud of this designation as it constitutes the first ever MAB site in the English speaking Caribbean region. He added that the “St. Kitts-Nevis MAB designation marks our strong commitment to the interdisciplinary research agenda and capacity building expertise that will assist the Federation to target the ecological, social and economic dimensions of biodiversity loss and the reduction of this loss”.
These sentiments were echoed by Mr Antonio Maynard, secretary-General of the St. Kitts-Nevis National Commission for UNESCO who welcomed the MAB programme being concerned as it does with problems at the interface of scientific, environmental, societal and development issues. “MAB brings together at an optimal level natural and social sciences, economics and education to improve human livelihoods and safeguard natural ecosystems”. “This can only but contribute to promoting innovative approaches to economic development that is socially and culturally appropriate and environmentally sustainable for a small island developing stated like ours”
Added Dr. David P. Doyle, the Federations Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, who will be coordinating the MAB plans with experts in Paris, “In recognizing St. Kitts’ St. Mary’s as a premier biosphere reserve site under UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme we now have a basis for pursuing the promotion of sustainable development based on local community efforts and sound science – a highly tangible illustration of adaptation to climate change”.
Over the past two years or so, the St. Kitts and Nevis National Commission for UNESCO, and other stake holders were in the process of nominating the Keys Beach area (St. Mary’s Biosphere Reserve) as a UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Reserve. Special commendation, and acknowledgement must therefore be given to the involvement of all the relevant stake holders who took part in the nomination process, including the Jamaican, and St.Kitts and Nevis National Commission for UNESCO, the Ministry of Sustainable Development, The St. Kitts Sea Turtle Monitoring Network (SKSTMN), the Small Island Voice Committee and the Minister responsible for UNESCO Hon: Nigel Carty.
According to UNESCO, the world’s major ecosystem types and landscapes are represented in this net work net, which is devoted to conserving biological diversity, promoting research and monitoring as well as seeking to provide models of sustainable development in the service of humankind. Participation in the world net work facilitates cooperation and exchanges at the regional and international levels.
The designation of this site also means that st.Kitts can in fact receive much needed funds from UNESCO and other related agency in order to support the wealth of activities that is been carried out on the site. These include capacity building assistant that would help conservation and resource management while offering economic opportunities for the local community such as organic farming with established markets and programs to supply products to the tourist sector, food processing of fruits and vegetables, small animal raising including wild animals, and the harvesting of sea moss.
The MAB decision comes on the heels of St. Kitts-Nevis’ first Draft Resolution approved at the UNESCO recent General Conference calling for increased priority to be given to climate change adaptation and mitigation policy-development in the Caribbean region. (for more information www.unesco.org/new/en/general-conference/draft-resolutions)