The majority of Andros Islanders make their livings from the sea.
In 2006, when Conservancy scientists set out to assess Andros Island’s natural areas, they brought sophisticated monitoring equipment and cutting-edge technological tools. But “it was the knowledge of the local community members,” notes Phil Kramer, Director of the Conservancy’s Caribbean Program, “that was the core of the project’s success. The people of Andros know their island better than anyone.”
Last year, when Andros was selected as a pilot project site to demonstrate land and sea use planning, the Conservancy and its partners turned to local community members again. Their knowledge – gained over years and decades of living on the island – provides an important foundation for ensuring that all planning considers community needs and concerns.
Around the world, the economic development of small, island nations can sometimes come at the expense of irreplaceable natural areas and resources. This is especially true in the Caribbean where tourism accounts for $4 billion annually and fishing is a way of life for many small communities.
Unfortunately, development meant to support the tourist industry, such as dredging sandy bottoms to deepen marinas or building directly on beaches, can damage the very resources – the clear water, the thriving coral reefs and pristine beaches – that attracted tourists in the first place. And man-made changes to the land can cause lasting damage to local fisheries, damage that can sometimes take years to appear and even longer to repair.
On Andros, development is impacting all the island’s natural resources – freshwater, terrestrial, and marine – and is only expected to increase over the next 5-10 years. All Government departments having responsibilities in Andros are in agreement that there is a very urgent need for a Land Use Plan and Management Strategy for Andros if the country is to avoid the contamination of its best groundwater reserve (with consequent effects to health, agriculture, fisheries and biodiversity) and destruction of its sensitive coastal habitats.
To help protect Andros’ resources and the ways of life they support, Conservancy Conservation Planner Sharrah Moss, is leading the Global Environmental Facility-funded Integrating Watershed and Coastal Areas Management (IWCAM) Project to develop a community-supported, science-based Land and Sea Use Plan. It will be used to guide future development decisions and protect the island’s sensitive habitats, with particular attention paid to priority groundwater recharge sites. This is one of nine IWCAM projects underway in the Caribbean, all focused on protecting freshwater resources.
“The 'Integrating Watershed and Coastal Areas Management (IWCAM) Project' is critical for the expansion and orderly development of the entire island of Andros,” says Edmund Rahming, Director of the South Andros Chamber of Commerce. “The resulting plan can become a catalyst and model for the establishment of a national planning process that is needed for the entire country as a whole. The initiative will benefit our economy and conservation pursuits. I welcome it and commend all involved.”
Key components of the project include:
Together, these components will develop models that can be replicated throughout the Caribbean and eventually island nations globally.