Pelican, South Negril river, 2 February 2021With one of the planet's most captivating and idyllic sunsets, framed by seven miles of pristine white sand, Negril is a famed resort town on the western end of Jamaica. Its charm, natural beauty, and warm people have made it the epitome of relaxation and exploration. Indeed, it is referred to as “the capital of casual”. But beyond all the beauty that attracts many visitors annually, lies a diverse ecological wonderland: the island’s second largest wetland, the Negril Great Morass.  The Great Morass, neatly nestled in the hinterland of Negril, provides a home for many species of endemic flora and fauna, makes Seven Mile Beach what it is, and is the site of Jamaica's IWEco National sub- Project.

In recognition of the site's importance to Jamaica's wetland targets, the Negril Great Morass featured in several learning activities for this year’s World Wetland Day celebrations.  Since the Project started in late-2018 this celebration has been a significant public awareness activity.  For World Wetlands Day 2021, the Project Executing Unit made waves on the Negril South River through the enactment of a Safari tour.Safari Tour, South Negril River, World Wetlands Day 2021

In alignment with the W.O.W. (Why Our Wetlands?) public awareness campaign, teachers from five schools in the Negril Environmental Protection Area participated in the ecotour. The activity sought to give teachers an appreciation of the biological and ecological significance of the area. This ‘Train the Trainer’ approach was adapted to provide support for the effective delivery of environment-related lessons to their students. The activity was also meant to provide a foundation for interactive class sessions to be rolled out in coming months in the various schools participating in the W.O.W. campaign.

The chorus of oohs and ahhs punctuating the trip reminded that wetlands are dynamic ecosystems which, in addition to providing vast ecological services, are captivatingly beautiful. Although the activity's main objective was to share knowledge about the Morass, it was also an opportunity to collect information through observation and informal surveying techniques. The experience confirmed that the beauty of the wetland can set the stage for talks about their roles and functions. The visit provided participating teachers with many examples and a wealth of teaching material on wetland ecosystems found within the Morass.

World Wetlands Day and other commemorative environmental days help us to focus on particular ecosystems and aspects of the environment; as such they are great opportunities to share knowledge and influence attitudes, behaviors, and practices. Teachers’ increased knowledge and appreciation of the Morass, which so dominates the local landscape, is important because of their influence in the classroom, as well as in planning future field visits to the ecologically rich Morass. World Wetlands Day 2021, and other such opportunities, are opportunities for people people in the community to learn more about and appreciate the wonder and diversity in their backyard, and also that it is part of their heritage to enjoy and protect.

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by Wade Brown, Communication Officer, IWEco Jamaica National sub-Project 

Jamaica’s National sub-Project under IWEco focuses upon the Negril Great Morass, the second largest wetland in Jamaica and one of the largest natural coastal wetland ecosystems in the Caribbean. It supports internationally significant species, many of which are found nowhere else. It is the largest of the eight national sub-projects in IWEco, is being executed by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), and was formally launched in November 2018. The wide range of stakeholders involved in this project highlights the value of the biodiversity resources in terms of economic development opportunities as well as their importance for sustainable livelihoods. An essential part of the Project is the development of an integrated management/restoration plan for the Negril Environmental Protection Area which will serve as the basis for coordinated communication and action amongst all stakeholders.