Communities Step Up to Help Save Jamaica’s Forests


Caribbean 360 reports that the Environment Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ) has been turning to communities throughout the island to get a strong movement going in an effort to conserve the island’s forests:

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 31.1 percent or about 337,000 hectares of Jamaica is forested. Of this, 26.1 percent or 88,000 is classified as primary forest, the most biodiverse and carbon-dense form of forest. But between 1990 and 2010, Jamaica lost an average of 400 hectares or 0.12 percent of forest per year. In total, between 1990 and 2010, Jamaica lost 2.3 percent of its forest cover, or around 8,000 hectares.

Deforestation is a crucial factor in global climate change which results from a buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It is estimated that more than 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide are released to the atmosphere due to deforestation, mainly the cutting and burning of forests, every year.

Over 30 million acres of forests and woodlands are lost every year due to deforestation; and the continued cutting down of forests, the main tool to diminish CO2 build up, is expected dramatically change the climate over the next decades.

In an effort to conserve the island’s forests, the Environment Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ) has turned to communities throughout the island. On July 3, the EFJ signed grants with 13 community-based organisations in five parishes, in support of Jamaica’s forests. The grants total US$672,000 and were allocated under the EFJ’s Forest Conservation Fund (FCF).

“Deforestation is an issue. It often takes place as a part of agricultural practices, for example ‘slash and burn’ where fires are used to clear land which is then used for agricultural purposes,” EFJ’s Chief Technical Director Allison Rangolan McFarlane told IPS. “Trees are also sometimes cut to make charcoal which is used for fuel, to make fish pots, for lumber, etc. Sometimes deforestation occurs because of construction, for example housing or roadways, or industrial activities such as mining. Our coastal forests (mangroves) are also affected.  Deforestation has the potential to reduce water quality, increase soil erosion, reduce biological diversity and further impact the watershed.” [. . .]  She said the consequences as it relates to climate change are just as serious.

“Deforestation does play a role in climate change. Trees absorb carbon dioxide for photosynthesis; carbon dioxide is one example of a greenhouse gas. Deforestation reduces the number of trees available to absorb carbon dioxide,” the EFJ official told IPS. “Additionally, the carbon stored in a living tree is also released into the atmosphere once it is felled. The greenhouse gases that are released into the atmosphere contribute to global warming which in turn contributes to climate change. Our forests produce oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide for photosynthesis while reducing the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere which contribute to global warming and climate change,” she added. [. . .]

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