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The ceremony to launch the SVG conservation Fund (SVGCF) took place on Tuesday, 12th February, 2019, at the Paradise Beach Hotel, Villa and saw government officials and members of the fund joining together to create a new platform for the conservation, protection and management of natural resources.

Chairman of the SVGCF, Vanburn Harry, disclosed that the fund was established in November, 2015, with the goal of providing a “sustainable flow of funds to support the long-term management and expansion of the SVG national system of protected areas and other activities that contribute sustainably to the conservation, protection and maintenance of biodiversity in SVG.”

Vanburn Harry

Harry added that “the SVGCF functions on a set of core values: transparency and integrity, cooperation and inclusivity, conservation and sustainability, accountability and education.”  The Chairman noted that the fund is geared at allocating funds to a variety of projects including public sector agencies responsible for natural resource, protected areas and biodiversity conservation, local colleges, local or regional NGOs, private corporations and community bodies among others; all playing their part in environmental protection and conservation.  Harry disclosed that the SVGCF will support single grants lasting no more than two years, ranging from $5000 to US$50,000.

Featured speaker, CEO of the Caribbean Biodiversity Fund (CBF), Yabanez Bastista, said “they are looking forward to partnering with the SVGCF,” noting that part of the fund will exclusively benefit Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.  Bastista revealed that the CBF currently manages US$70 Million and was formed in 2012. The CBF CEO emphasized his pride in being part of this joint accomplishment. Bastista noted that the SVGCF will be the fourth conservation fund on the national level that signed on to a partnership agreement; getting the CBF closer to its target of eight partnership agreements, which they hope will be signed by 2020 as part of the Caribbean Challenge initiative goals.

Yabanex Batista

Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Saboto Caesar, in his remarks noted the work the government has done in preserving and protecting the environment, highlighting the total ban on the capturing of turtles in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.  The minister took the opportunity to shed light on the medicinal cannabis and the prospects of a legitimate industry since there’s currently a Medicinal Cannabis Industry act and Cannabis amnesty Act.  The Agriculture and Forestry Minister pointed out that rehabilitative measures must be taken to restore significant portions of the forest and highlighted that aerial spraying will end in 2019; he also disclosed that Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is leading the way in the banning of all glyphosate products.

Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Sustainable Development, Hon. Camillo Gonsalves, explained how the eco-systems here are under major threat because of Climate Change, he said it is important that persons recognize the need for action and acknowledge the role the SVG Conservation fund can play in protecting Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.   Minister Gonsalves pointed out government’s position on promoting conservation efforts that have led to the ban on the importation of styrofoam material, turtle hunting, sand mining and the limitation of certain whaling activities. Minister Gonsalves also noted that plans are in-place to deal with the issues of “Grey Water” and single use plastic bags and the promotion of reef safe sunscreens.

He emphasized that advocacy and education are necessary now from the fund and like minded people.  The minister said conservation is not just a matter for the government and urged the business sector to become more pro-active on issues of environmental conservation.

Minister of Health, Wellness and the Environment, Hon. Luke Browne, also addressed the launch of the SVGCF and stated that “health is a shared responsibility and equally conservation is a shared responsibility.”  Minister Browne commended the organisation for taking steps to access funding from the Caribbean Biodiversity Fund (CBF).