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There are concerns that groups under the National Reforestation and Watershed Rehabilitation Programme (NRWRP) will soon be closed. In a telephone interview project manager of the Fondes Amandes Community Reforestation Project (FACRP), Akilah Jaramogi, said she believed NRWRP groups who have been under performing or produced little to no results would be shut down.
The NRWRP was formed in 2004 under the People’s National Movement (PNM) government to replant formerly deforested areas. That, for Jaramogi, has caused a problem since, “a lot of the groups were politically formed to address poverty, etc, without the information about environmental conservation.”
Former Minister of Housing and the Environment Roodal Moonilal, under whose responsibility the project fell, could not be reached for comment to to provide additional information as to the number of groups which would be shut down, New Minister of the Environment and Water Resources, Ganga Singh, said he could not answer questions about the NRWRP since the project was not yet handed over to him.
According to the ministry’s Web site, NRWRP was divided into four zones — North, South, East and Tobago — and also included an agro forestry project, hiking trail clearance and maintenance and training and development initiatives. Although it is unclear when last the NRWRP section of the ministry’s Web site was updated, it states the project “has as its mandate reforestation of 33,030 acres of denuded lands, including 11,000 acres of watersheds.”
Progress reports on the site state, thus far, 6,851.8 acres of forest have been replanted. The site also said at least 1,190 people were employed in the programme, working with 54 separate groups. Environmentalist John Stollmeyer said although he never worked on the project, the state of local reforestation was a “disaster.”
He added: “We need to figure out how to not cut down any more forests and rehabilitate land back into forests. There is an urgent need in this country for rehabilitation but it needs to be directed. We need to be planting trees that are relevant to human beings.”
The NRWRP planted apamate, local cedar, mahogany, mahoe and yellow poui, among other types of trees. Stollmeyer believes the benefits of reforestation are wide-ranging. He said: “We need as a country to be looking at our biological resources for diversification of the economy. We will continue to suffer from severe flooding if we do not address this issue.”
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