The Jamaica Protected Areas Trust (JPAT)/Forest Conservation Fund (FCF) noted two letters to the editor in the Jamaica Observer, "Don't use FCF funds to grow teak forests" by Dr Byron Wilson (June 6, 2012), and "Protect, restore our forests" by Diana McCaulay (June 8, 2012). In response, I would like to provide some perspective and address the concerns expressed.
The FCF was established in 2004 from a debt-for-nature swap agreement and these funds are used to support local tropical forest conservation activities and the protection and management of forest reserves and national parks.
To date, the FCF has supported over 45 projects islandwide, all related to the conservation and protection of Jamaica's forest resources. Over 100,000 hardwood and fruit tree seedlings have been planted and over 150 hectares of land reforested. The FCF supports a variety of activities (research, capacity building, sustainable alternative livelihoods, etc), geared towards forest conservation, protection and management, and implemented by NGOs, CBOs and educational institutions.
Unfortunately, in the May 30 Environment Watch article, "Calling teak farmers..." comments attributed to the executive director of JPAT/FCF were misrepresented. The organisation is certainly not advocating removal of existing forests to plant teak or any other introduced species. It is not suggesting that teak be planted in lieu of other species nor at any point did FCF indicate it would fund establishment of teak plantations. Based on recommendations arising from discussions following the teak presentation, the FCF is, however, considering funding a feasibility study on planting teak in Jamaica.
Finally, the FCF is prohibited from funding private individuals, and is able to support only NGOs, CBOs and academia. However, there are currently denuded, idle, unsustainably used lands which could benefit from tree cover - many of these are privately owned. Sufficient information about commercial forestry opportunities and options may encourage more private landowners to analyse potential investment in commercial forestry. While this will not necessarily yield natural forests, if properly managed, commercial forestry has the potential to increase overall tree cover, reduce the pressure on natural forests, yield economic benefits, and perhaps ultimately complement and contribute to the conservation, protection and management of our natural forests.
Allison Rangolan McFarlane
Suite 201, 72b Hope Road
Editor's note: The Jamaica Observer stands by its story. At no point did the article indicate that FCF advocated the removal of existing forests to plant teak. Neither did the story suggest that the organisation would finance the establishment of teak plantations.