By Orita BaileySt. Kitts and Nevis proudly became the first English Caribbean country to launch their Man and the Biosphere (MAB) programme last week. At a one day workshop held at the FND conference room, the Executive Committee of the St. Kitts MAB was installed and began working on developing a work programme for the Programme.
The MAB programme was initiated by UNESCO 1970’s and celebrated its 40th Anniversary last year. The Federation joins a host of over 114 countries worldwide managing over 500 Biosphere Reserves (BR).
The St. Mary’s Biosphere Programme, like all MAB’s worldwide is dedicated to the sustainable development and management of an area of significant biodiversity and cultural conservation, sustainable development capacity building and information sharing. MAB’s are also significant learning and research laboratories as they facilitate the engagement of humans and the natural environment.
The St. Mary’s Biosphere Programme covers an area of considerable diversity, from the mountain peak down to the coast including mangroves and reefs. The selected area is currently home to one of the foremost nesting sites for sea turtles in the region.
The St. Mary’s Biosphere Programme came about as a result of a submission from a group of professionals in relevant fields who submitted a proposal to the National Commission for UNESCO. Having successfully gone through the application process the National MAB Committee came into being. Membership includes a wide cross section of professionals from governmental and non-governmental organisations, private sector and community organisations including; The Ministry of Physical and Environmental Planning, A representative from Ross University of Veterinary Medicine,( Sea Turtle Monitoring Network) representatives from the National UNESCO Commission, ministries of Education, Tourism, Agriculture and Fisheries, The local Tertiary Education Establishment, a scientist in the field of social or natural science, non-governmental organisations, youth and women’s organisations , the private sector, and local community organisations.
The St. Kitts-Nevis National MAB Committee has a key role and functions including, Advocacy and support of sustainable development, promotion and monitoring of scientific research, planning and management of Biosphere reserves, approval of Biosphere Reserve Proposals, capacity development of the local communities in resource management and environmental protection, the conservation of biological diversity.
The National MAB Committee must formulate a two year action plan within three months of its inception, which should include the close working with the authorities responsible for the implementation of relevant biodiversity and environmental multilateral agreements, the screening of new Biosphere Reserve Proposals, development of practical tools and guidelines for zoning at a national level, support the Government of the Federation in the inclusion of Biosphere legislation and the recognition of Biosphere Reserve zonation schemes as an important land use planning tool; and its achievement of international commitments e.g. the 7th MDG liaison with all UN agencies for the implementation of targets and goals.
The SKN MAB will support of the United Nations Decade on Education for Sustainable Development (DESD 2005-2014) led by UNESCO and in which BR plays an active role as learning sites and platforms for the DESD. The national Committee has several other key responsibilities in ensuring that SKN MAB programme is fully integrated into the developmental and public policy agenda of the nation.
The SKN MAB is located in the parish of St. Mary’s , approximately five (5) miles from Basseterre the capital, starting at Upper Canada and extending north to Lodge in the low lands and coastline including the shoreline and reefs and right up to the mountain peak, taking in a portion of the National Park, some 4297.12 hectares.Currently activities taking place in the area are; sea turtle watching, bird watching (the area is home to several species of rare sea birds) horseback riding and the harvesting of sea grapes and sea moss.
The programme allows for holistic infrastructural development – in the form of the built environment for orientation and visitor centres, facilities to accommodate eco-tourist, capacity building through the training and development of individuals from the local communities and the expansion economic activity that allows for the sensitive marriage of conservation and development.