The European Union (EU) delegation to Jamaica is encouraging students to get involved in the fight against climate change through their daily actions.
André Fache—programme officer for the EU delegation to Jamaica, Belize, The Bahamas, Turks and Caicos and Cayman Islands—made the call while speaking to students on June 3 during a tree planting activity at the Constant Spring Primary School in St Andrew.
His remarks come on the heels of EU Green Week which ran between May 30 and June 5. World Environment Day was also celebrated on June 5.
The tree planting activity is a part of the EU’s broader Integrated Forest Management Project in Jamaica, which was launched in March 2020 under which over J$277million has been invested to boost climate resilience in Jamaica’s forestry sector.
Fache spoke to the students about the EU’s mandate in Jamaica and shared examples of sustainable practices that they could incorporate into their daily lives.
“Keeping our environment, especially public places clean is important. So, next time you’re on an outing somewhere like the beach try using reusable water bottles and biodegradable bags. This will reduce the negative impacts that plastic bags and plastic bottles have on our environment. If we don’t incorporate these practices into our daily life, more plastic will end up in the ocean where it harms marine life,” he remarked.
“This also affects the quality of food we eat as it can contaminate animals like fishes. Yes, it’s a mess but we can improve not only our food supply but also our planet by living sustainably,” the programme officer added.
Fache also highlighted the importance of protecting natural resources such as forests. In his capacity as programme officer, Fache is in charge of environment, agriculture, fishery and food security.
“When we use eco-friendly materials like wood, we have to ensure that we’re not destroying our forests and their eco-systems by promoting reforestation. It is an important part of protecting our environment. So, I want to encourage everyone to plant 5 trees for every 1 that is used. This will ensure that we maintain our resources and protect our animals from losing their habitats,” he said.
For the tree planting activity, EU Jamaica provided flowers and soil for the beautification of the school’s newly assigned Reading Garden – a space to encourage reading and reflection, while supporting mental health and promoting the protection of the environment.
Meanwhile, the Forestry Department of Jamaica, which was also on board for the initiative, provided seedlings and the technical expertise for the planting of what will eventually become shade trees for the Reading Garden.
Alexander Beckford, acting director of corporate planning & enterprise risk management at the Forestry Department, encouraged students to plant trees in their communities.
“We all have a part to play in protecting our environment. So, encourage your parents, friends and neighbours to collect and plant trees or flowers in your communities. These small actions can have a big impact in preserving our environment and aid in our fight against climate change,” he argued.
Beckford also reminded the students and teachers that every Jamaican can get up to ten free seedlings – a combination of timber, ornamental and selected fruit from the Forestry Department.
To date, over a million seedlings have been planted across Jamaica under the initiative launched by Prime Minister Andrew Holness in 2019. The goal of the initiative is to plant three million trees in three years to mitigate the negative effects of climate change and to contribute to the reforestation of Jamaica.
Students also participated in the day’s activities including a performance by the Environmental Club of Yasus Afari’s poem ‘We Are The Children Of The Earth.’
The club also showcased their skills with an exhibition of bird feeders made from recycled plastic bottles. The feeders were filled with grains and installed in the Reading Garden. Additionally, educational environmental messages were affixed to frequently used pavements as part of the day’s activities.
Grade six student Shamar Williams said it is important for everyone to protect the environment.
“I learned that it is very important for children to learn how to protect the environment. We all have a part to play in ensuring that our plants and animals are safe which will, in turn, help us to live healthier lives. Children can do this in small ways. For example, in the hot summer, we should remember to not only water the leaves of the plants but also the roots. This ensures that our plants are watered properly,” he said.
Donna Marie Phipps, head of the Environmental Club, Donna Marie Phipps lauded the EU’s tree planting activity, highlighting the positive impact that environmental initiatives have on children.
“The children learned a lot from today’s presentations and were excited about participating in the activities,” she added, “I believe it’s very important that we teach the next generation how to care for our planet and the best way to do that is by starting in schools. I know the students had a great day and are looking forward to more activities like these.”