Agreeing to band together following two days of discussion and practical involvement in the Inter-Ministerial and Expert Conference on Biosphere Reserves in the Caribbean Sub-Region, representatives signed the St. Kitts Nevis Declaration of March 27th, 2013 and developed a plan of action for the next three years.
This involved two major initiatives including the creation of a network of Biosphere Reserves in Caribbean Small Island States and the promotion of Biosphere Reserves as tools for innovative projects, bringing added value to local socio-economic activities.
The St. Mary’s Biosphere in St. Kitts, noted as the only existing Biosphere Reserve in the English Speaking Caribbean, was specifically commended as having great potential and the right ingredients as well as the national will to distinguish it as a “Lighthouse for the Region in biosphere reserve development.” This is according to Director of the UNESCO Regional Office for Science and Technology, Jorge Grandi.
In addressing the regional gathering at the opening ceremony, Minister of Education and Information with responsibility for UNESCO Hon. Nigel Carty emphasized the human element of biosphere reserves which he advised “incorporate local citizens, government departments, entrepreneurs, and other stakeholders from the very outset and make it possible to generate new products and services thereby contributing to the growth of local income streams.”
Minister Carty added that “By integrating the conservation of biodiversity and natural resources, matching new business in ecotourism with our attempts at the preservation of flora, fauna, and marine reptiles as well as linking communities to local and national climate change adaptation activities, we will be servicing both current and future generations.”
Prime Minister of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, the Right Honourable Dr. Denzil Douglas in commenting on the fact that his Federation had spearheaded the Biosphere Reserve activity in the sub-region, stated that “with the back drop of a legacy of careful sustainable planning and sound economic management, the St Mary’s Reserve was another example of visionary leadership, disciplined and focussed people”.
The Prime Minister highlighted the priority placed on the development of the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) project based on its “potential impact on addressing issues related to climate change including global warming, sea level rises, violent storms, coral reef destruction, infrastructural damage and coastal degradation.”
Secretary General of the National Commission for UNESCO, Mr. Antonio Maynard, revealed that participants committed to establishing and supporting National MAB Committees or Focal Points in each Caribbean State which will be used as a coordinating and networking vehicle as well as to identify one MAB site in each state on the basis of a consensus-driven agreement. Those states without reserves also agreed to prepare with UNSESCO MAB experts, an application for proposed Biosphere sites to be inscribed on the World Network of Biosphere Reserves.
UNESCO Expert and Consultant, Dr. Antonio Abreu, in delivering a presentation on the development and promotion of new products, services and employment sustainability, emphasized the importance of recognizing that countries would need to identify specific strengths that make their biospheres exceptional as “sun, sea and sand” no longer prove sufficient in the competitive global environment.
Countries involved in the project include Jamaica, Curacao, Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Maarten, Bahamas, Antigua and Barbuda, Trinidad and Tobago and St. Kitts and Nevis.
The St. Mary’s Biosphere Reserve includes Sugar Plantation ruins, Cayon Village Historic District, Maroon Settlements; Spooners’ Level and Cotton Ginnery; Bayford’s Historic Dairy Farm; Jack in the Box Mountain Passage; Cayon River Historic French/English Division, Keys leatherback nesting turtle beach and a central forest reserve that is home to many endemic birds.