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Saint Lucia

Location of Project
Location of Project

Title of IWEco National sub-Project:

Addressing Problems of Land Degradation and Ecosystem Degradation in the Upper Reaches of the Soufriere Watershed in Saint Lucia.

Introduction

The Soufriere Watershed, site of Saint Lucia’s IWEco Project, with an estimated area of 17.2 sq. km, is located within the west central part of Saint Lucia and is characterised by very rugged, steep terrain. It is drained by the Soufriere River, which originates in the upper reaches of Mingy, the area that is the focus of on-the-ground interventions under IWEco.

Saint Lucia

The watershed has three water intakes and a catchment that serves Fond St. Jacques and the other communities in the upper reaches of the watershed, as well as Choiseul, in the neighbouring watershed. The adjacent coastal area has a relatively small valley floor.

More than 90% of the land in the watershed is privately owned and over time has become more and more fragmented, presenting challenges for management and sustainable development. Between the 125 and 250m elevations, the landscape is forest intensive mixed agriculture with production of short term and tree crops. Root crops, especially dasheen (Colocasiaesculenta), are grown above 250m elevation and many of the existing farms are scattered within the natural and/or scrub forest.

The coastal/marine area is one of steep submarine shelf, which has been designated as the Soufriere Marine Management Area (SMMA) and forms the marine component of the world-renowned World Heritage Site (WHC), Piton Management Area, PMA. The reefs within this area are some of the healthiest and most diverse on the island but are under increasingly under threat because of high incidence of sediment and nutrient loading, solid and liquid waste.

Degradation of coastal water quality, rapid depletion of nearshore resources, poor land use practices and poor resource management, along with growing conflicts among stakeholders, are ongoing issues in the Soufriere watershed, an area that has traditionally been the eco-tourism Mecca of Saint Lucia. In addition to the abundance of natural assets, Soufriere, and in particular the Fond St. Jacques area, was traditionally referred to as the breadbasket of the island because the volcanic soils and abundant rainfall provide a good fertile environment for the cultivation of short-term food and tree crops, especially cocoa.

The IWEco Saint Lucia Project aims to mitigate the poor biophysical conditions within the Soufriere region through targeted innovative, climate-change resilient approaches; strengthening the monitoring indicator framework, capacity building; and knowledge sharing.

Status of Project

The Project officially started on 30th November 2017 and is being implemented over a three-year period, ending in October 2020. The Inception Workshop took place in January 2018 in Fond St. Jacques, Soufriere. Stakeholders were encouraged to take ownership of the project and lessons learnt from past initiatives undertaken in the upper reaches of the Soufriere Watershed were shared. The importance of the project to Fond St. Jacques and environs, noting the devastation which occurred after the passage of Hurricane Tomas in 2010, was stressed.

IWEco seeks to address the problems of land degradation and ecosystem degradation in the upper reaches of the Soufriere Watershed through rehabilitation of lands, provision of alternative sustainable livelihoods, capacity building and public awareness.

Seventy-five farms representing 22 hectares have been assessed by individuals trained and hired from the local community. These assessments have informed customized restoration plans. The required plants are being provided by a community nursery established by the Project and which presently holds 10,000 fruit and forest trees. Over 4,000 plants have been planted on denuded slopes and along vulnerable riverbanks. In addition, discussions have started on a community forestry programme which will include the creation of a forest park with only native forest species.

To ensure that farmers and other community members are provided with more sustainable livelihood alternatives that would be less destructive to the slopes than the planting of dasheen, for instance, the Project continues to work with the Forestry Officers to identify high-value tree crops.  Preparations are currently being made for three pilot initiatives encouraging unemployed/underemployed youth into agro-forestry e.g. the cultivation of edible mushrooms, orchids, organic chewing gum etc.  The Project has also partnered with the community and agencies such as GEF SGP in the implementation of an Agro Tourism Park.  Since this initiative presents endless opportunities to reconcile conservation with economic benefits, IWEco has invested considerable time assisting the community in developing and submitting a proposal for funding.

Efforts have been focused on building the capacity of farmers and extension officers on sustainable land management techniques. The Project has teamed up with engineers from the Department of Agriculture to establish three demonstration plots, and, with the Solid Waste Management Authority to host composting workshops, the first of which was held in January 2019.

Public awareness is a critical component of the Project and many activities have been undertaken, including the eco-summer camp, art competition, coastal clean-up, television and radio programmes, commissioning of a video production etc. More recently, the Project co-sponsored international day of forests and World Water Day activities through the hosting of a mini-exhibition at the Soufriere Waterfront.

Project Objectives and Impact

Project Objectives and Impact

Saint Lucia National sub-Project Background

Please click here to download the Saint Lucia National sub-Project Background document.

Progress and updates on Saint Lucia’s National sub-Project

National Focal Point:

Alwin Dornelly
Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Physical Planning, Natural Resources and Cooperatives.
email: alwin.dornelly@govt.lc  

National Project Coordinator:

Karl Augustine
Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Physical Planning, Natural Resources and Cooperatives
email: karl.augustine@govt.lc 

Snapshots of Biodiversity - Saint Lucia:Saint Lucia Snapshots of Biodiversity poster

Poster Introduction and Featured Species

Download poster

Saint Lucia has a relatively high diversity of species. In 2000, their first National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, noted a total of 1,300 known species of plants, including 7 endemics, and over 150 species of birds, including 5 endemics.  The island has a high diversity of ecosystems, ranging from dry cactus to rainforest, and including mangroves and coral reefs. 

The IWEco Saint Lucia national sub-project site is located within the west central part of the island and is characterised by very rugged, steep terrain.  Main threats are habitat fragmentation, forest and landscape degradation.

1. Saint Lucia Whiptail

Scientific name: Cnemidophorus vanzoi

Photo credit: Edward Bell

Location: Saint Lucia

Brief description: The Saint Lucia Whiptail, also known commonly as the Maria Islands whiptail, is endemic to Saint Lucia where it has been extirpated from the main island and is now only native to the small islets of Maria Major and Maria Minor, with fewer than 1,000 individuals estimated. A third population has been established on nearby Praslin Island through translocation. It is listed as Critically Endangered. The only species of its kind surviving in the Caribbean, it sports the same colours as the flag of its home nation. The conservation of this beautiful lizard is not only important scientifically, but also has cultural value.

Sources:

https://www.durrell.org/wildlife/species-index/saint-lucia-whiptail-lizard/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Lucia_whiptail

2. Saint Lucia Parrot / Jacquot

Scientific name: Amazona versicolor

Photo credit: Johnathan Cornibert & Nerius Mitchel

Location: Saint Lucia

Brief description: The Saint Lucia parrot is endemic to Saint Lucia. It is regarded as the country’s national bird. It is predominantly green with a distinct cobalt blue forehead. Saint Lucia Parrots are cavity-nesters. They lay two or three white eggs in the hollow of a large tree during the onset of the dry season, between February and April.  The species had declined from around 1000 birds in the 1950s to 150 birds in the late 1970s. At that point a conservation program was started and this galvanized popular support to save the species.  By 1990 the number of Saint Lucia parrots had increased to 300 birds and today, there are an estimated 2500 parrots flying in the wild.

3. Atlantic Ghost Crab

Scientific name: Ocypode quadrata

Photo credit: Johnathan Cornibert & Nerius Mitchel

Location: Saint Lucia

Brief description: The Atlantic ghost crab lives in burrows in sand above the strandline. They must return to water periodically to moisten their gills, and when larvae must be released into the sea, but are otherwise terrestrial. Their stalked compound eyes can swivel to give them 360° vision. Young crabs are cryptically coloured to blend in with their sandy habitats. Sandy beaches, a habitat frequented by ghost crabs, have had a decrease in the abundance of ghost crabs due to human and vehicle trampling, which results in direct crushing of crabs, as well as indirect damage such as compression of sediment which reduces habitat suitability, interference with reproductive behaviors, reduction in food supply, and light pollution. They therefore tend to be less common on beaches frequented by people.

4. Saint Lucia Oriole

Scientific name: Icterus laudabilis

Photo credit: William Hull

Location: Saint Lucia

Brief description: The St. Lucia oriole is endemic to, and exclusively found on the main island of St. Lucia. Its population is small and facing a number of threats, including brood parasitism and habitat degradation. Observations are becoming increasingly scarce. The species is therefore listed as Endangered. It is found in moist montane forest as well as dry lowland forest and does well in and around small towns and villages if there are large trees in the area. On average, it prefers and is more common in the moister highland forests than the lowlands. The sexes are alike, although the female is a little duller in color than the male which is black on the upperparts, head, neck and breast. The belly and vent are a bright orange-yellow, as is the rump and lower back. On the wing, the shoulder is orange-yellow as well. The pointed black bill has a small blue-grey patch at the base of the lower mandible. This is a long and slim oriole which builds a hanging nest, often hung under a banana leaf.

Sources:

BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Icterus laudabilis. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org 

https://birdsoftheworld.org/bow/species/stlori1/cur/introduction

5. Magnificent Frigate Bird

Scientific name: Fregata magnificens

Photo credit: Johnathan Cornibert & Nerius Mitchel

Location: Saint Lucia

Brief description: The Magnificent Frigate Bird is a massive seabird of warm tropical oceans and coastlines. It is black overall with extremely long, deeply forked tail and angular wings. Males are completely black with inflatable red pouches on their throats and a bluish ring around each eye. In good light, black coloration can show a purplish sheen. Adult females have white chests and a golden bar on their shoulders. Young birds have white heads and breasts. They can neither walk nor swim and often soar for long periods. They steal food from other seabirds and are surprisingly acrobatic during aerial chases despite their large size. They are considered a "near threatened" species in the Caribbean.

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