A workshop to develop a comprehensive plan to protect Montserrat’s biodiversity ended on Thursday afternoon at the Montserrat Cultural Centre, with a clearer indication of the island’s needs.
The Department of Environment (DOE) in conjunction with the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) facilitated the two-day workshop which brought together stakeholders from government departments, conservation groups, media, and the private sector. Minister with responsibility for the Environment, Crenston Buffonge and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture Beverley Mendes also participated in the workshop.
Minister Buffonge welcomed the work on a new strategy which he said was necessary and timely.
Montserrat is the first stop on the JNCC programme to create a plan for the British Overseas Territories.
The aim is that the new strategy will lay out specific actions and commitments to protect and reverse as far as possible the degradation of ecosystems.
Amanda Gregory, Project Manager from the JNCC said the first biodiversity strategy was created in 2009. In 2019, the UK Government asked for a review, during which the OTs requested that the strategy should also consider their needs.
In June 2022, the UK Government and the Governments of the UK Overseas Territories agreed to work together to update the UK Overseas Territories Biodiversity Strategy. Through a collaborative process guided by the Overseas Territories, the Biodiversity Strategy aims to deliver the biodiversity and nature conservation priorities of both the UK Government and the Governments of the UK Overseas Territories.
The process will also inform investment decisions, in particular the priorities of the Darwin Plus programme, and the structure of the new Darwin Plus Local funding tier that will be available exclusively to governments and organisations based in the UKOTs.
Gregory told Discover Montserrat that the new Darwin Plus Local is a result of the OTs request for another fund to address local needs, which was simpler to access, for smaller projects, with a faster turnaround.
On Thursday afternoon, workshop participants completed a questionnaire which considered what biodiversity projects are needed within the smaller fund of 5k to 30k pounds. It would be administered several times throughout the year and use a separate set of criteria and processes to approve applications.
Darwin+ Local would have an annual budget of one million pounds for the OTs.
A larger fund which will handle projects outside the current Darvin Initiative window of one to three years, called Darwin Stategic is also in development, Gregory revealed.
Recurring themes during the workshop was that Montserrat needed more on island capacity and training opportunities, and data standards to support evidence-based decision making. There was also a concern that communities were being left out of the conversation and needed a better understanding and awareness around biodiversity and how it impacts livelihoods.
The team which comprises Amanda Gregory, Shelley Cant and Dr. Janine Robinson head to Turks & Caicos next for a similar series of workshops.