UNESCO Man and Biosphere Programme Offers Great Opportunities

Basseterre, St. Kitts, February 24, 2016 (SKNIS): Antonio Maynard, St. Kitts and Nevis’ UNESCO National Commission Secretary General has acclaimed that the St. Mary’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Reserve is an area that offers great opportunities to the residents of Keys, Cayon, Hermitage, Canada and Ottley’s.

This was said at a MAB Town Hall meeting which was the fourth one in the area since discussions of the UNESCO programme in the Federation commenced in 2009. St. Mary’s, St. Kitts, was officially designated by UNESCO, and the certificate was handed over to the Federation at the 36thSession of the UNESCO General Conference, in early November 2011.

“I believe that we have a great opportunity to develop this area as one of the most sustainable developments and eco-friendly areas in the entire Caribbean,” Mr. Maynard said. “In fact, St. Kitts and Nevis is the first English-speaking Caribbean country that was inscribed on the prestigious UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Network.”

Mr. Maynard explained that the town hall meeting had been called to launch the MAB website and Facebook page and to officially unveil the MAB sign walls in the area. He encouraged participants to air their views on issues affecting the area such as garbage disposal, illegal sand mining, but also to discuss the opportunities for small businesses in the area to pursue sustainable and environmentally conscious endeavours.

The UNESCO National Commission Secretary General listed the activities that previously took place in the MAB area. These include a community survey, several field trips with students and the general public and a MAB Regional Ministerial Conference in 2013. He said that ongoing activities include the establishment of an official cooperation and management plan and the implementation of the marketing and awareness campaign.

Markysa O’Louglin, who plays a public relations role in the MAB Committee, has the responsibility of managing the MAB website and the social media platform (Facebook page). She described social media as “one of the great communicators” through which it is possible to reach the MAB community and the world.

The overall activity was termed a “digital marketing strategy.” Ms. O’Louglin said that after unofficially setting up the MAB social media page for approximately six months, it had over a thousand Facebook followers. These, she said, included students and geography teachers.

She said the page enables people to “feel that there is open connection and communication” and it keeps persons “engaged in cross promotion through links,” such as to the St. Kitts Sea Turtle Monitoring Network (SKSTMN).

Ms. O’Louglin informed that the Facebook page promotes small enterprises in the MAB area and features residents of the area.

“We made a feature on Caesar over here and we mentioned that he knows almost everything there is to know about bush medicine,” she said. “And from the time we mentioned that, and we stated some of the natural herbal remedies that are available within our Biosphere Reserve, at least 11 people commented or sent messages asking: “How can I get a tour?” “How can I be able to see for myself?” “How do they grow?” and different things like that.

Natasha Daniel, Assistant Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, addressed the gathering on behalf of Minister of Agriculture, and Parliamentary Representative of the area, Honourable Eugene Hamilton, who was absent due to a previous engagement. She emphasized the importance of conservation.

“It is vitally important that we protect our natural, historical and cultural resources,” Ms. Daniel said. “Our natural assets provide a balance of the ecosystem and by extension, balance to our own existence. Unresolved and ignored threats to our ecosystems ultimately will threaten our way of life. We cannot pretend that our actions have no consequences. Every bird or lizard that is destroyed, every branch that is broken, every turtle that is slaughtered, has a ripple effect on the ecosystem.”

All gathered were encouraged to do their part to preserve and conserve the natural environment.

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