The Caribbean Protected Areas Gateway (Caribbean Gateway) has been accelerating its engagement with regional governmental and non-governmental organisations (NGO) to equip them to contribute meaningfully to its Caribbean Reference Information System (RIS) , an online access point to data and tools for analysis for biodiversity and protected area management.
The Caribbean Gateway is a joint undertaking between the Biodiversity and Protected Areas Management (BIOPAMA) Programme in the Caribbean (represented at the regional level by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature-IUCN) and University of the West Indies (UWI) Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies, an IUCN Member, at the Cave Hill Campus in Barbados.
Beginning with The Bahamas in September 2015, and continuing with Jamaica, Antigua & Barbuda, Belize, and Grenada up to January 2016, five workshops have been designed to assist the participating countries in building in-country capacity for and developing a systematic approach to collecting and managing biodiversity and protected areas-related data and information, according to Jason Williams, Technical Officer for the BIOPAMA Programme in the Caribbean and facilitator of the workshops.
In Jamaica, where 15 local stakeholders drawn from a cross-section of fishing and marine conservation enterprises were trained in October 2015, the response from local NGO partner CARIBSAVE was enthusiastic. “Overall, it was felt that the workshop was a success and that participants are now able to, if not carry out successfully every stage of the data management cycle, at minimum identify areas needing guidance and access assistance for the outlined resources. The funding provided by the BIOPAMA programme allowed for increased capacity building among protected area stakeholders, knowledge sharing and networking, and enhanced CBOs to be able to act independently of outside resources and funding agencies. These are important steps in addressing biodiversity threats and managing successful, sustainable protected areas,” concluded CARIBSAVE’s feedback on the workshop.
In Antigua & Barbuda, where 16 different agencies were represented by 23 participants, it was evident that the workshop brought to light the challenges faced by the NGOs and government agencies present in meeting their shared conservation objectives and was the impetus for them to dialogue on how these challenges could be overcome. Similar sentiments were shared from the 20 participants of the Belize training and the 21 attendees of the Grenada training.
“The workshop was well received and there was a general enthusiasm to learn new skills and put them to practice at work. It also provided an opportunity for discussions among agencies about common issues and limitations regarding improving data management. Participants were able to discuss how, as individuals, they may be able to put into practice knowledge gained from the workshop at their work places despite limitations experienced by their agencies. A Yammer group was also created which will allow participants to continue discussions and share ideas,” stated workshop partner The Environmental Awareness Group in the conclusion to its report on the workshop.
It is hoped that these regional exercises in capacity building will ultimately lead to improved access to, and availability of relevant protected areas data on which can be built sound knowledge for decision making, which is an important focus of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (EC-JRC) that is supporting the database development platform of The Caribbean Gateway.
“We have been concerned that there is a lack of systematic use of reliable, robust, science and information surrounding protected areas. Our vision going forward is to build a solid technical platform to support that and to encourage the use of better information in decision-making,” said Stephen Peedell, JRC coordinator for BIOPAMA. However, he acknowledged that a significant hurdle faced by The Caribbean Gateway was the lack of institutional arrangements and protocols to provide a clear basis on which to share the data held in-country. He underlined that BIOPAMA is developing a platform that can scale up to deal with large, complex data, but is not intended to take control of national data. BIOPAMA is a sharing platform, and should act as a hub where owners of the data retain their ownership whilst increasing access through The Caribbean Gateway. He also noted that while the project currently extended to the 16 Caribbean countries who were members of the African-Caribbean-Pacific group, he expected from the wider regional interest received that a way would eventually be found to bring other Caribbean countries on board as important partners in facing shared environmental challenges.