By Andrea Downer Journalist
Panos Caribbean kicked off its 25th anniversary celebrations in last month by showcasing the organisation’s work in environment at the annual Green Expo which was held at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston, Jamaica from June 10-12, 2011.
The Green Expo is an environment exposition organized by the Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust (JCDT). The expo is usually held during the national environment awareness week, which this year started on World Environment Day, June 5th.
“We decided to take a thematic approach to highlight the work we are doing. So since environment is our biggest area right now we decided to start there,” explained Jan Voordouw, Executive Director of Panos while adding that Panos’ Environment Programme started in 2005.
At the same time, Regional Director for Media, Community & Environment at Panos Caribbean, Indi Mclymont-Lafayette explained why the Green expo was the ideal place to showcase Panos’ work to raise environment awareness including using innovative and creative ways to spread the crucial climate change message:
“This was our second time participating in Green expo and we felt that it would give us immediate access to share our work with thousands of people,” said Mclymont-Lafayette.”We had a constant flow of persons over that weekend. We had our Voices for Climate Change Education artistes doing a mini concert. We played our anniversary video and spoke of our programme dealing with community empowerment, youth journalism etc.”
The Voices for Climate Change Education is the flagship project for Panos Environment Programme. Since it started in late 2008 it has reached an estimated 2.5 million people through a variety of activities.
Panos and the National Environmental Education Committee (NEEC), which implement the Voices Project, in late 2010 partnered with the Mocho Community Development Association in a project to communicate climate change and biodiversity at the community level. The Project is funded by the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme and the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica.
“Panos has worked with Mocho since 2005 when our environment programme started. Since that time Mocho has established its own community organization which is focusing on the community’s development. The organisation, the Mocho Community Development Association is now implementing its own climate change and biodiversity project with some help from Panos and the NEEC,” Mclymont-Lafayette stated.
The MCDA was also highlighted as part of Panos work in the environment and representatives from Mocho played an integral role at Green expo with representatives from the association manning the booth and interacting with members of the public.
The association was formed through years of training and mentorship of members of the community by Panos Caribbean. Panos Caribbean aims to empower community people, in particular those from rural areas to effectively participate in shaping national and regional responses to environmental and development issues.
“We help local communities to speak out on issues such as climate change, land degradation, energy bauxite mining, gender, coastal resource management and sanitation. Journalist training, exhibitions, articles, briefings and reports are some of the activities through which Panos increases media coverage of those issues in the region,” Mclymont-Lafayette continued.
To date Panos Environment Programme has done the following:
Documented a marginalized community voice through the production of an oral testimony booklet called Voices from Mocho and a 10 minute video called Mined and Left Behind. The Mocho Youth Journalists have also done radio programmes highlighting the issues in Mocho. These products have been displayed at the national, regional and international levels by Panos and the Mocho community.
Empowering communities – through in-depth work with communities such Mocho and Portland Cottage, raising awareness in at least 6 others in Jamaica and 7 in Haiti, 4 in the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean islands.
Conducted a yearly regional training workshop for journalists on varying environmental issues. At least 4 have been held so far.
Helped to ensure that a Jamaican journalist participates in the annual UN climate change conference through the Climate Change Media Partnership. This has been successfully done for the past 5 years.
Built an informal network of Journalists across the Caribbean with a reach of about 400 English speaking journalists and media houses and 250 French speaking journalists and media houses.
Effectively shared information on the ground with policy makers as a Panos representative now sits on Jamaica’s 2030 multi-stakeholder group on climate change and disasters. This committee looks at long term planning and how to integrate climate change and disasters into mainstream.
There will be a series of activities between June 2011 to March 2012 to mark Panos’ 25th anniversary celebrations highlighting Panos’ achievements, activities and impact under its various programme areas. Every three months we will focus on one of our themes; our Environment programme from June – August, Children & Youth from September – November, Health (HIV) from December- February and Gender from March – June 2012.
By Andrea Downer is a Jamaican Journalist