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Going Green In 2019: The Mission of The Saint Lucia National Trust

by Karen Rollins Sep 9, 2019

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Since its formation by an Act of Parliament in 1975, the Saint Lucia National Trust (SLNT) has been working to, “conserve the natural and cultural heritage of Saint Lucia, and to promote values which lead to national pride and love of country.”

The SLNT is a non-profit organisation governed by an 11-member elected council. It has over 2,200 members on its database, although only about 700 are ‘financially current.’

In 2016, the Trust lost its $700,000 (EC) government subvention and therefore relies on donations and grants, as well as money raised from activities such as events and tours, to run its conservation and environmental initiatives.

Some of the programmes the Trust has coordinated include:

*Enhancing public education and awareness about the island’s natural and cultural heritage.

*Coastal stabilisation in Vieux Fort including the creation of a mangrove nursery.

*Undertaking redevelopment work at Pigeon Island National Landmark to increase beach space and reduce coastal erosion.

*Protecting the endemic Fer-de-lance snake on Maria Islands.

*Creating Walcott Place in the Chaussee Road-Grass Street area to educate, inspire and celebrate the achievements of Roderick and Derek Walcott.

*Training teachers to help increase student awareness and understanding of the importance of marine protected areas.

*Turtle monitoring in partnership with government agencies.

*Advocating against the creation of a Dolphin Park because of the potential damage to the environment and the local fishing industry.

National Trust director, Bishnu Tulsie, says the Trust’s programmes are implemented with sustainability in mind and that’s why many are also linked to local livelihoods.

“This isn’t conservation for conservation’s sake,” Mr Tulsie explains. “We tie everything into livelihoods so that people benefit from our conservation efforts.

“For instance, within the mangrove area we trained people on horseback riding. We bought them bridles and saddles and they are now an organised group offering tours through the mangrove. We’ve also trained sea moss farmers in marketing and business skills, and we provided them with a vessel.

“Some of the young men in that area were also trained as tour guides and we bought them kayaks so they can provide tours. These groups now work with us to protect those resources.”

One of the SLNT’s key goals is to engage with the island’s young people through various awareness initiatives. It has an active youth group with about 30 members, ages 17-25, and it also partners with other agencies to host lectures and workshops at local schools and summer camps.

The SLNT programme officer, Joanna Octave-Rosemond, believes St Lucians are becoming increasingly aware of the need to take care of the environment but sometimes it’s low on their list of priorities.

She explains: “When you are talking to a fishing community about reducing overfishing, they will often say ‘but I have a family of four, how can you tell me not to go fishing?’

“That’s why we take time explaining that ultimately it will benefit them to protect the resources that they depend on for their livelihood, to keep it sustainable in the long run. So, it takes psychology to translate knowledge and awareness into action.”

Mr Tulsie also adds: “A lot of people know what they should do, but the need to survive is their priority.

“It’s difficult to tell someone who’s unemployed, poor, hungry, or struggling to send their child to school, to worry about fish or turtles. And that’s part of the problem we face, because the social and political environment makes it harder for people to care.”

Relying on people who want to make a difference is key to the success of the SLNT’s projects. Several of the organisation’s programmes are supported by members who voluntarily give up their time and money, according to communications and advocacy officer, Karetta Crooks Charles.

She says: “A lot of our members get involved in activities when we call on them. Of course, there is some room for improvement, but they do come out in quite large numbers and offer support.”

Looking ahead, the SLNT is focusing on plans to establish a coalition of civil society organisations which will work together for the benefit of St Lucia’s natural and cultural environment.

Ms Octave-Rosemond explains: “The idea behind the coalition is to get civil society more involved in sustainable development issues.

“We believe an umbrella organisation will enable us to engage with a wider cross-section of stakeholders and compile their views. It will also help us to inform more groups about what is happening at the government level.”

In February 2019, the SLNT launched a new strategic plan to coincide with St Lucia’s 40th anniversary of independence. The aim of the 2019-2029 plan is to analyse the success of the Trust’s projects and shape how it operates in the future.

In a press release the SLNT’s chair, Alison King, said: “This strategic planning exercise forces us to take a step back and engage in some critical self-examination and consider what we do and how well we do it. Whether we should be doing it at all, what we need to do more of, and what we are realistically able to do in the prevailing, and at times, hostile environment.

“It gives us a unique opportunity to engage with our friends as well as our detractors as we reflect and plan.”

Anyone interested in becoming a member of the Saint Lucia National Trust can visit the website or call 1-758-452-5005.

For more stories on St Lucia’s ‘Green’ advocates and innovators and ways you can go green in 2019, make sure you grab a copy of the new Find Yello St Lucia phone directory – available now!