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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Government calls for national cooperation in combating desertification and drought in St. Lucia

Thursday, October 1st, 2009
Castries, St. Lucia (Sept 30, 2009) – The Banana Industry Trust and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) are this week calling for national support for the adoption of the National Action Plan and Strategic Action Plan (NAP/SAP) to Combat Desertification and Drought for St. Lucia.
St. Lucia's Chief Forestry Officer Michael Andrew. * Photo credit:
Since signing the 1997 United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), St. Lucia still continues to be faced with challenges with land degradation and drought-like conditions, particularly in watersheds with high agricultural activity.
Chief Forestry Officer, Mr. Michael Andrew stated that the persistent problem of soil loss and land degradation in key watersheds and coastal areas highlighted the need for sustainable land management practices in the agricultural and construction industries. “It is estimated that soil loss is as much as 25 to 63 tons per hectare per year for some of the larger watershed and approximately 300,000 tons annually due to banana cultivation alone,” Andrew said. “For every ton of bananas produced, some 2 to 3 tons of soil is lost. Almost half of this erosion is due to cultivation on steep slopes which has increased sedimentation of waterways and the dwindling of the islands water resources,” he said.
In order to stem the continued loss of land productivity and reverse the declining trend in the availability and quality of the island’s water resources, the NAP/SAP for Land Degradation and Drought was undertaken.
The NAP/SAP will serve as one of the fundamental components of the National Land Policy (NLP) by promoting and enforcing the adoption of sustainable land management in St. Lucia. The NAP/SAP will establish a system for monitoring and evaluation of land degradation and drought using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) applications and Geographic Position System (GPS) as assessment tools. A user-friendly manual has also been developed identifying sustainable land management approaches and practices.
For more effective participation in and adoption of sustainable land management, Andrew emphasizes the need for partnerships between the public and private sector, and non-governmental organizations. “Land degradation is largely due to limited knowledge or poor attitudes towards the management and utilization of land resources. As such, sustainable land management calls for public and private sector organizations, Government, communities, corporate citizens and individuals, to take actions to manage land resources sustainably and correct negative impacts that may have been brought about by their actions,” Andrew states.
Managing the EU SFA2003 program which financed the NAP/SAP, BIT’s Executive Officer Mr. Bertram Clarke states that countries with a history of poor land use practices are extremely vulnerable to drought like conditions. “One hundred and fifty years of low technology agriculture like slash and burn, down slope tilling, absence of contouring and excessive land clearing has left indelible scars on the landscape, and has negatively influenced the lives of thousands of inhabitants,” he said.
“Exposed land is the most vulnerable to drought. Forest land and protected water source stand a better change at weathering drought conditions. We cannot prevent drought but we can mitigate the effects of drought.”
The NAP/SAP was developed by a team of four consultants under the aegis of Agricultural Consultancy and Technical Services Limited (AGRICO). It is currently being reviewed by the Minster for Agriculture upon which it will be presented to the Cabinet of Ministers for approval and adoption.
For further information, please contact Mr. Michael Andrew or Mr. Lyndon John, Forestry Division at 468-5635.

Photo: St. Lucia's Chief Forestry Officer Michael Andrew.

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