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Implementation of reforestation project

The Public Entity Saba (PES) starts the implementation of its reforestation project. The PES will carry out this project as part of its plan of action to realize the strategic goals and targets of the Caribbean Netherlands Nature and Environment Policy Plan 2020 – 2030 (NEPP). This includes the goal to restore and conserve the unique habitats and species in the Caribbean Netherlands.

Goals and targets

Saba’s tropical and dry forests have over the years been negatively impacted by hurricanes, less rainfall as a result of climate change and roaming goats. This has resulted in high levels of erosion throughout the island and limited the expansion of existing forests. The goal of this project is to boost the recovery process and expand upon Saba’s existing forests in order to reduce the land-based pressures of erosion and runoff, which impact Saba’s coral reefs, and increase the availability of local food. 5,000 trees will be planted for this purpose, of which 500 will be fruit trees. This will be done over a 3-year period. The objective is to create more habitat in order to improve terrestrial and marine biodiversity through the structural restoration and expansion of Saba’s existing dry and tropical forests and at the same time improve food security on the island. The planting of these trees will also enhance Saba’s image as a green destination.


The Saba Conservation Foundation (SCF) is also carrying out a reforestation project with similar goals and targets. The PES and the SCF will, therefore, collaborate on reforestation efforts where possible.


Project composition

The project consists of 3 components: Reforestation of wild forests, local food production and beautification. Reforestation rangers will be hired to carry out the activities of each component of the project. Reforestation and the planting of fruit and flowering trees will take place on government lands, in public spaces, and in close consultation and collaboration with private landowners.


Wild forests

For the reforestation of wild forests, trees that are native to the island or those that have become naturalized over time will be planted at various locations throughout the island to (re)create wild forests. This is a long and slow process, as the trees will be grown from seeds. Using seeds ensures genetic diversity in the trees planted and ultimately healthy and resilient forests like those in the wild. The process can be sped up by using different propagation techniques, such as grafting. This method results in trees that are clones of the original. The risk of using clones is that if there is an outbreak of a disease the trees with the same genetic copy will be negatively impacted or killed off by it. The trees used in this part of the project will, therefore, be grown from seeds in order to avoid this risk.


The reforestation rangers will start by going into the existing forests to collect seeds for growing. The seedlings will be cared for at 2 nursery sites: First in the shade house at the Agriculture Station of the Department of Agriculture and later at the hydroponics farm. When the young trees are mature enough, they will be outplanted at the various reforestation sites around the island. The first trees will be planted at pilot sites where testing can take place to determine which practices work best in the reforestation process. The lessons learned at the pilot sites can be used at the other reforestation sites to ensure future successes.


Young trees will not be outplanted until about 1.5 to 2 years of age when they are at the stage of being saplings. This is dependent on the growth rate of the tree species used for reforestation. Once outplanted, the saplings will require another 1.5 to 2 years of care, maintenance and close monitoring to ensure their survival in the wild until they are established. It is at this point that the trees should be acclimated and robust enough to survive on their own.


Local food production

Most of the fruits and vegetables consumed on Saba are imported. The supply chains which make it possible for food to reach Saba are vulnerable and can be easily interrupted. This was made evident in the aftermaths of Hurricanes Irma and Maria and more recently the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian-Ukrainian war. These events also drive up the costs of food.


In view of these events, the PES seeks to improve food security on the island. A first step is the development of a hydroponics farm with other food security initiatives to follow. Through this reforestation project, food forests will be developed for the production of fruit and some vegetables. These forests will be developed in the different villages of the island and in areas which are central and accessible. The forests will consist of various types of fruit trees and vegetable-producing plants. The trees and plants in these types of forests are grown in such a way that one tree benefits the next. Once established, these types of forests are low maintenance and, therefore, require little human input.


Beautification

Throughout the island there are many projects being carried out involving construction, especially in the town areas and along roadsides. The activities of these projects impact the natural environment and sometimes result in the removal of trees. In areas where this takes place, trees will be replanted to give back to the environment what was taken away. Flowering trees will be used for this purpose to not only beautify areas of construction, but also to create shade and cooling and enhance the wellbeing of the persons living in those areas. Numerous studies have shown that the presence of trees in urban areas positively impact the mental and physical wellbeing of the residents that live there. Beautification of the island using trees will also enhance Saba’s tourism product, which is its pristine nature.


Community engagement, education and awareness

Residents and visitors to the island will get to be a part of the project through various events that will be held throughout the duration of the project. As part of the wild forest component of the project, residents and visitors to the island will get to take part in the planting of young trees once they are ready for outplanting. Tree-planting events such as this will be done several times throughout the project and with the students of the primary and secondary schools as well. Residents and island visitors will also get the opportunity to adopt a tree. Persons who adopt trees will get regular updates on the development of their individual trees through this adoption program.


A fruit tree farming and information event will be held for island residents as part of the local food production component of the project. Grafted fruit trees will be brought to the island and made available to the public to promote backyard farming. At this event, residents will receive information on the type of trees available, how to plant them, the care they require, plant diseases and health, and when they can expect to harvest the fruit that the trees will bear. This will be done through the PES’s Department of Agriculture.


Education on reforestation processes, the importance of trees and how they can be used to produce food is an important part of this project. Knowledge and know-how on these topics will be transferred to students and members within the community through various events. Students of the primary and secondary schools will be introduced to reforestation through visits to the nursery and reforestation sites once they are up and running. Students will also be given the opportunity to shadow the reforestation rangers and take part in reforestation activities. For the local food production component of the project, workshops on the grafting of fruit trees will be held for the public to take part in. These measures ensure that the knowledge obtained during the project remains on Saba to benefit the island community and inspire the island’s youth to pursue careers in nature conservation and agriculture.

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I Raymond Peterson hereby endorse and fully support this project and would gladly like to be involved in this project.

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