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The integrity of ecosystems on which biodiversity, agricultural production and income-generating opportunities in rural Jamaica depend is seriously affected by land degradation. Of particular concern are the removal of trees and vegetative cover on hill slopes, leading to soil erosion that causes significant impacts even in coastal areas. This is severely compounded illegal harvesting of timber and fuelwood; slash-and-burn cultivation by farmers who do not own their land; unplanned settlements in environmentally fragile areas; high dependence on rain-fed water resources; and reduction or loss of biodiversity because of habitat destruction. Because of the low financial returns and risks associated with farming, prime agricultural lands offer potentially higher returns on investment from housing rather than farming, adding to rural poverty. The mineral extraction sector also contributes to land degradation, leaving behind scarred hillsides and mined-out pits.
Our initiatives in sustainable land management are through UNDP’s capacity as an implementing agency for the Global Environment Facility (GEF). We assist in developing a coherent policy and legal framework that mainstreams sustainable land management into the country’s planning and strategy development. This sets out to remove barriers that have resulted in fragmented or overlapping policies on land resources, weak enforcement of legislation, and unsustainability of programmes beyond donor investment. It also enables Jamaica to meet its national and international environmental obligations. Particular attention is given to clarifying institutional mandates and responsibilities.
We also work to strengthen capacities in Government institutions and key stakeholder groups to minimize and prevent land degradation, removing barriers associated with low public awareness and technical capacities, including insufficient economic incentives to pursue sustainable land management. In so doing, we support meeting national socioeconomic priorities while contributing to international objectives under the Convention to Combat Desertification.
Specifically, we support the demonstration of improved methods of land rehabilitation and soil conservation, as well as small-scale irrigation systems and agro-forestry, for resource user groups, farmers’ groups, and Government and non-Government organizations. Our demonstration projects include: