Montreal, Canada: The St. Kitts and Nevis’ Man and Biosphere reserve site in St. Mary’s (Cayon) received a highlighted level of visibility during the last few days of the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) in Montreal at a side-event organised by UNESCO to outline the scope and impact of the forthcoming biodiversity capacity-building support destined for the site under the UNESCO Earth Network initiative.
As part of UNESCO’s Earth Network programme, designed to tackle issues related to biodiversity loss, ocean and land degradation linked to climate change, St. Kitts and Nevis was the only small island developing UN Member State to be chosen for technical support under this initiative, focused on transforming agricultural biodiversity practices in the St. Mary’s MAB Reserve in the Cayon area.
The project seeks to address specific challenges associated with agricultural practices, tools, and methods of the St. Mary’s biosphere reserve site: cultivation, preservation, and monetization of sustainable and biodiversity-led sustainable agriculture processes. The overall aim is to embrace better use of tropical forests, enhance the cultivation of new fruits, and combat soli-erosion.
As the UNESCO-designated ambassador of the Earth Network Initiative this year, the Federation’s envoy to UNESCO, H.E. David Doyle, was invited to Montreal to present the St. Mary’s MAB as a compelling case for capacity-building provision under the Earth Network initiative and speak to the tangible benefits to be derived for residents in Cayon in terms of what he described as “cultivation, preservation and monetization of biodiversity-led sustainable agriculture processes in the reserve”.
A central feature of this capacity-building exercise, Ambassador Doyle noted, was the deployment of two leading biodiversity and ecological experts (from UNESCO Earth Network’s roster of volunteer experts), from Suriname and the USA, with experience in tropical environments, who will visit the Federation and assist the members of the MAB National Committee to enhance the biodiversity and ecology of the St. Mary’s Biosphere Reserve, as early as mid-January next year.
The side-event hosted by UNESCO at COP 15 was chaired by Meriem Bouamrane, Chief of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme Research and Policy section: Ecology and Biodiversity, and included Professor Guadalupe Yesenia Hernandez Marquez, the Chairperson of the UNESCO Earth Network Scientific Committee, and Ambassador Doyle.
In extolling the virtues of this initiative and its impact in the St. Kitts and Nevis MAB, note was taken of the specific climatic, environmental and biodiversity challenges facing small island developing states. As a result, the need arose for expertise that links tropical agriculture cultivation and water management. “Rising sea-levels and salt water intrusion in aquifers aggravates draining problems and contributes to soil and water degradation ”
The two biodiversity experts will work alongside residents in Cayon and the ministries of the environment and agriculture in mapping out a detailed plan to address biodiversity loss in the MAB site, combat soil erosion, create the basis for new sustainable agricultural processes and methods, skills optimization of land use, and explore introducing seed varieties more tolerant to heat and drought.
Tropical forest restoration will also be part of the capacity-building intervention, noted Ambassador Doyle, underlining that “healthy ecosystems such as trees are just as important a stable climate; they provide the source of new natural, sustainable products for households and absorb carbon”.
He stated that the Earth Network initiative would offer leading-edge expertise to enable the St.Mary’s MAB site to embrace better use of tropical forests, enhance the cultivation of new fruits and address soli-erosion.
Joining Ambassador Doyle at the UN Biodiversity Conference side-event in Montreal was H.E. Sherry Tross, High Commissioner of St. Kitts and Nevis to Canada. In commending the St. Mary’s Earth Network Initiative, Ambassador Tross noted that this was “an excellent example of effective partnership between the Federation, UNESCO and Italy.” She further noted that “multilateral and bilateral engagement is integral to the Federation’s climate diplomacy and sustainable development goals, particularly as St. Kitts and Nevis works to scale-up its science-led, biodiversity ambitions.”
Ms. Sharon Rattan, Permanent Secretary of the ministry of environment, climate action, and constituency empowerment, who led the St. Kitts and Nevis Delegation to the COP15 Conference, stated: “Permanent Secretary Sharon Rattan is delighted that this project aligns with St. Kitts-Nevis’s vision to become the first sustainable island state. We wholeheartedly welcome the youthful energies driving this activity, thereby shaping a thriving climate-resilient future for generations.”
Professor Guadalupe Yesenia Hernandez Marquez, an indigenous scientist and researcher on sustainable development, and the Focal Point of the Earth Charter Initiative in Oaxaxa, Mexico, stated that “The One Earth Network is an innovative initiative with high potential to be one of the axes of capacity building, knowledge generation, monitoring and reporting of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework and its implementation on the field. One of the limits that we have is time. In this regard, the Earth Network is an excellent input to the expert interventions in many UNESCO sites around the world to create models to improve the current efforts on biodiversity conservation and restoration, co-production of knowledge among different knowledge systems, and including the local community’s involvement interacting with the experts. Another valuable input could be the update of the management plans and actions on sites to have programs aligned to the Post 2020 GBF”.
The St. Kitts and Nevis’ capacity-building project is part of the wider Multi-Partner Trust Fund of the ‘UNESCO Earth Network’ created in 2021. It is in line with UNESCO’s Strategy for Biodiversity, contributing to the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement and the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework as well as to the two UN Decades of Ecosystem Restoration and Ocean Science.
The expertise provided under the Earth Network initiative is designed to open the door in recipient countries, like St. Kitts and Nevis, to transformative actions within territories to regenerate human-to-nature relationships and restore ecosystems, conserve ecosystem harmony and amplify the power of youth, which are the three pillars of UNESCO’s strategic actions for biodiversity, accentuated by climate change.
The project benefits from the Italian Government-funded UNESCO Earth Network programme with an initial support of EUR 3 million (US$3m) from the Government of Italy for three years.