Environment

Keepers of reefs and forests

Sandals launches environment sustainability programme in schools

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

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WHITEHOUSE, Westmoreland — For the rest of the school year, students at Black River and Ferris Primary schools will be able to learn about the island's terrestrial and marine ecosystems, the relationship between the two, and ways in which people's daily habits and practices can negatively impact the environment, with the launching on World Wetlands Day of The Reef and Forest Keepers Programme.

The programme is an initiative of Sandals South Coast.

Scheduled to run from February to July, it promises to engage students through a series of environmentally focused class sessions, excursions, workshops and challenge projects.

Christine O'Sullivan, lecturer in the Environmental Sciences Division at the University of Technology, who has been intimately involved with the programme which is several years in the making, addressed the gathering at the launch event on February 2.

She noted that the inclusion of both terrestrial and marine components in Sandals South Coast's Reef and Forest Keeper's Programme was strategic.

“What we do on land can have great impacts on coastal ecosystems, therefore teaching children about the importance of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems will give them a greater appreciation of both,” she said, adding that children who appreciate the environment will grow up to become better stewards of natural resources.

When asked why the resort decided to embark on the Reef and Forest Keeper's initiative, the resort's environment, health and safety manager, Vilma Smith, explained that Sandals Resorts International is always seeking ways to develop on its environmental best practices, which is why it continuously support efforts towards environmental protection.

“Creating a sustainable programme towards the preservation of our natural environment is simply an extension of that — one which must involve the larger community, and in particular our children, if it is to be successful,” she said.

Smith noted that any investment in developing environmental interests in children is never wasted, as they are the number one safeguard for the future.

She also applauded the efforts and accomplishments of existing programmes such as the Jamaica Environment Trust's School Environment Programme, which celebrated 20 years late last year.

“Through the Reef and Forest Keeper's Programme, Sandals South Coast is hoping to add not only its voice but its muscle to the cause, as together we aim to turn the tide on issues of deforestation, improper waste disposal, and environmental pollution,” Smith added.

To increase the programme's impact, Sandals South Coast has enlisted the support of several like-minded partners to play integral roles in its execution. Among them are the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), the Forestry Department, the University of Technology, Jamaica's Environmental Sciences Division, the National Solid Waste Management Authority, Sandals Foundation and the fisherman's friendly societies of Gillings Gully, Bluefields Bay and Gallion Bay, as well as other local partners, from bee farmers to marine wardens.

Chalene Roye-Myrie, co-ordinator of beaches in the Ecosystems Management Branch of NEPA who brought greetings on behalf of NEPA and made a presentation on wetlands, noted that programmes like Reef and Forest Keepers, which targets the younger generation, augments NEPA's own vision of managing Jamaica's natural resources in a sustainable way with participation amongst citizens.

“This allows for a broader understanding of environmental issues and a change in perception and behaviour,” she said.

“Sandals South Coast Reef and Forest Keeper's Programme will provide an additional outlet to engage students in a meaningful way, while helping to promulgate the important message of environmental stewardship and the need to take action now to correct the environmental ills that continue to plague Jamaica, land we love,” the south coast hotel said in a statement.

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