IWEco’s Regional Training Workshop in Capacity Building at the National Project Level in the areas of Environmental Monitoring, Citizen Science and Stakeholder Engagement, which took place Christ Church, Barbados from 5th – 7th November 2019 and was, by all accounts, an eye-opening experience.
The Workshop aimed to improve capacity amongst IWEco participating countries in the areas of: Environmental Monitoring, Community Engagement, and Citizen Science using a multifaceted training approach, including technical presentations, group activities and guided practical exercises.
IWEco’s National sub-Projects are in varying stages of implementation and participants (including National Project Coordinators, selected persons working with the national sub-projects at local level, GEF Small Grants Programme Coordinators from five IWEco countries, and representatives from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), Sustainable Development Unit in Saint Lucia, the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), both project execution partners, as well as CERMES and The Nature Conservancy) had varying expectations. These included: gaining more knowledge and a better understanding about how to effectively communicate with and engage stakeholders, increasing ownership of their projects, increasing environmental literacy, empowering people, learning about other initiatives in the region towards greater synergy, and enhancing knowledge exchange.
All ten countries participating in IWEco were represented and, in an early session, described environmental monitoring activities in their respective countries. They shared national project goals, the types of interventions being undertaken or planned, and some of the constraints being faced, particularly in environmental monitoring and community outreach. In addition, IWEco works with, and through, UNDP GEF Small Grants Programme to fund and facilitate community engagement and livelihood projects associated with the National sub-Projects, and five UNDP Small Grants Coordinators brought their wealth of experience to the Workshop.
A very instructive field activity was conducted on nearby Rockley Beach and along the South Coast boardwalk on Tuesday 5th November. Participants worked in groups and were able to characterize and record the various uses, economic sectors and stakeholders present within the visually surveyed area. They were also able to observe specific environmental challenges arising out of stakeholder activities and built structures (e.g. drains emptying out onto the beach itself as well as along intervals along the boardwalk length directly into the sea). The discussion which followed included possible sensitisation and education approaches for stakeholders and ways to involve them in collecting information and data.
Participants then focused on indicators and the types of data they would need to collect to support their national project objectives. This set the context for discussions on Citizen Science and how to better engage stakeholders on 6th November.
Citizen Science is a way to increase community engagement and improve environmental management as a result of improved environmental literacy. A working training session, guided by Mary Beth Sutton and Nadia Cazaubon of Caribbean SEA, enabled participants to draft national site-specific environmental monitoring plans employing citizen science. This would gather useful data as well as involve and educate community members. It was apparent that as participants worked through the stages of their respective plans, their understanding of citizen science, its benefits and potential for teaching, empowering and collecting useful information and data became clearer.
The importance of stakeholder involvement, strategies for motivating people to act, of advocacy, the importance of good documentation and the application of frameworks to help make sense of experience were the focus of sessions on 7th November.
Collaboration between two Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) - the Trust for Sustainable Livelihoods (SusTrust) and IAMovement in IWEco's Trinidad & Tobago Project, funded by GEF IWEco through the UNDP GEF Small Grants Programme, and working in partnership with the Environmental Management Authority (which is responsible for executing the project) and National Quarries Company Limited, has produced significant results in terms of restoration of degraded land and benefits to the nearby communities. Working together, these two NGOs have been training Quarry Rehabilitation Champions from nearby communities in land restoration techniques and associated livelihood opportunities during the past year with very positive results. This experience was featured in a video produced by IAMovement and elaborated by Carlton Roberts, of SusTrust, and Janille Huggins, of IAMovement.
IWEco's project partner, the Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI) documented the application of CANARI’s Local Green-Blue Enterprise Radar, to assess the triple-bottom line benefits (social, environmental and economic) and governance, of the Quarry Rehabilitation Champions’ participation, using a short video case study titled “Growing a Future- Rehabilitating quarries, restoring nature and securing livelihoods in North East Trinidad” which was also presented, generating much interest and a vibrant discussion.
Takeaways from the Workshop? Most notably a better understanding of the need to plan environmental monitoring programmes in keeping with our goals, and of the contribution that Citizen Scientists can make. Engaging stakeholders in such a meaningful way may take time but the rewards of increased understanding, buy-in and sustainability are well worth the effort.