The Conservation Collective in the Caribbean

The Conservation Collective represents and supports nine separate foundations that fund local conservation projects in different parts of the world. Here we look at two of the funds it represents, the established St Vincent & Grenadines Environment Fund and the more recent Barbados Environmental Conservation Trust.

Bottom Bay is one of the most beautiful beaches
on the Caribbean island of Barbados

The funds we see today were formed when financier and environmentalist Ben Goldsmith teamed up with his friends Serena Cook and Will Aitken to create The Ibiza Preservation Foundation (IPF), focused on conservation and sustainability projects on the island. Recognising the success of IPF’s model, in 2015 various groups of friends began to replicate it elsewhere, with funds set up in the Aeolian Islands, Majorca, Ionian Islands, The Cyclades and St Vincent and the Grenadines. More recently, the Conservation Collective has helped in the creation of funds in Sri Lanka and Barbados with further support scheduled for the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, Tuscany, the Cayman Islands and Devon.
The funds’ environmental model focuses on involving, empowering and strengthening local communities, and becoming proactive agents of positive, long-lasting environmental change. Each fund is independent, locally based, not for profit, and provided with accessible funding. One full-time, locally based executive director is designated to the fund, administering grants and fundraising, supported by a steering committee made up of the most active donors, who review and decide funding direction.

The Caribbean ecosystem
In this article we will focus in on the two Caribbean Funds, looking at the work that is happening on the ground, the environmental pressures these beautiful ecosystems are under and how the communities are being affected, and supported. All of the works and efforts you will read about are only possible through tireless fundraising and the generosity of patrons and those people who simply want to help.

St Vincent and the Grenadines Environment Fund As one of the earliest and most established funds, the St Vincent and the Grenadines Environment Fund can point to notable victories over the years and has also enjoyed Royal support, when Prince Harry visited the islands and brought attention to the work being done to protect local turtle populations. The photo of him visiting the SVGEF turtle project where he walked along the beach with the SVG Prime Minister and Governor General features on the front page of his website.
The SVGEF encouraged the government to ban the killing of sea turtles and parrot fish and has since gone on to help local whalers find new livelihoods in whale and dolphin watching.
The organisation also funded research and helped locals to protect the endangered Union Island gecko, which now has CITES protection.

Parrotfish Protection and Shark Finning Ban
Earlier this year the SVGEF changed its logo to that of a parrotfish to bring national attention to the threats facing this species of fish, and the critical role it plays in the health of coral reefs and beaches. The SVGEF also worked closely with the Ministry of Fisheries to bring the matter to their attention and appeal for an all-out ban on the killing of
parrotfish. The SVGEF is pleased to announce that as of December 1st 2019 parrotfish harvesting has become illegal in St. Vincent and the Grenad-ines, with shark finning now also officially banned.
While shark finning is not practised in SVG the ban instituted by the Government is in solidarity with the international threats to sharks caused by shark finning.

The Collective supports efforts around the world to
reduce single-use plastic.

A 30% increase in fundraising as a whole, The Conservation Collective raised more than €1,000,000 in 2019 and is aiming for a 30% increase in 2020. The Collective is also now a UK-registered charity, which will enable it to seek additional funding to supplement the support it currently gives members.

The Union Island Gecko and Pink Rhino Iguana
Project (Biodiversity Study)

The SVGEF has been integral in initiating wildlife conservation of the Union Island gecko and its sole native habitat range in Chatham Bay, Union Island. The fund was the key sponsor for the Union Island Gecko Conservation Action Plan (2016-2021),
protecting the gecko and surrounding ecosystem for the next few years and supporting discussions to designate Chatham Bay forest, coastal and marine ecosystems as a Protected Area. Through engagement with the community, clear signage and fulltime wardens tasked with protecting the
ecosystem, collecting data and educating locals and tourists alike, the geckos’ habitat is now far in a far better place.

A crucial component of this project has been biodiversity inventories for key groups of terrestrial and marine flora and fauna, including the gecko and the Union Island pink rhino iguana. The inventory has contributed to the recent description of the Grenadine pink rhino iguana as a new sub-species of green iguana; Iguana iguana insularis. The native range of this sub-species is the Grenadines and this stunning, ancient looking lizard is often seen in Chatham Bay Forest.

The Barbados Environmental Conservation Trust

The Barbados Environmental Conservation Trust was launched in 2019 with a steering committee made up of people committed to building a true environmental force and enabling the funds to best support local environmental initiatives in Barbados. Neysha Soodeen, the Trust’s cofounder, explains: “over the past decade, there have been a number of much-needed projects and initiatives run by various NGOs on island focused on everything from climate resilience, marine conservation, food security, waste management and deforestation. The success rate of these projects was directly attributed to their funding – or lack thereof – and as donor pools fatigued, these projects all struggled to
perform. Through our various networks, we raise capital through new donor avenues and assist these charities/NGOs with getting the government approvals needed to launch and on plans to become self-reliant.”
Tamaisha Eytle, BECT executive director, says: “the support of organisations is not simply ‘funding’ projects, but working with all stakeholders to ensure impact and longevity.
The BECT seeks to not just be a donor but a partner to organisations, governments and environmental activists to mobilise resources strategically.” In a very short time the Trust has identified its first three projects and the team on the ground are out and about meeting local partners and developing a pipeline in the areas of environmental education and awareness, as well as waste management and the reduction of single-use plastics.

PSVGEF launches whale and wildlife tour operators on Leeward Coast of St. Vincent.

Set to become the first in the traditional whaling town of Barrouallie to explore the eco-tourism alternative of whale watching. Two boats were financed from a project co-funded by the SVGEF and officially launched in November at a ceremony in Barrouallie, the keys to the boats handed over by co-director of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Environment Fund (SVGEF), Andre Iton.

The SVGEF is working to encourage a shift to whale and wildlife watching as an alternative to whaling. This project provided new livelihoods to the Barrouallie community and brings St Vincent and the Grenadines one step closer to honouring its International Treaty commitments to protect all cetaceans. It is expected that these boats will also give children the opportunity to go out on the ocean and interact with whales and dolphins, building a better understanding of the local ecology.

Sea turtles are now safer in St Vincent and the Grenadines, thanks to the SVGEF.

SVGEF co-funded two whale-watching boats to help locals shift from whaling to ecotourism.

Future Farmers
Barbados struggles with high food importation costs and desperately needs help in improving local agricultural practices and consumer access to local foods. The answer may well be found with the island’s younger community.
With support from the Barbados Environmental Conservation Trust, the Inter-American Agency for Cooperation on Agriculture will establish a ‘Future Farmers’ website promoting youth farmers trained under IICA’s Youth Farm
projects, and featuring skill and business profiles as well as success stories, innovations and technologies. There will also be networking opportunities in Barbados as well as in Latin America and the wider Caribbean.
To date, the IICA Youth Farm Summer Programme has successfully trained and certified some 150 students, and helped at least 10 of them find employment within the private sector. The IICA hopes that with the establishment of this portal young people across the country and the region will be inspired to seek out farming as a career option.

Barbados’ First Organic Farming Hub

Another farming initiative, the Organic Farming movement in Barbados has been steadily growing for some two decades. Despite facing several challenges, there are several local farmers that dedicate their time and energy to growing organic produce and spreading the word about organic farming locally. As part of their plan to increase production and public access to organic goods, the Organic Growers and Consumers Association will be establishing an Organic Farming Hub (co-op) and delivery service. Consumers will now have a one- stop shop for all their certified organic foods and organic farmers will now have one avenue to market and sell their produce to retail outlets across the island.

Barbados has suffered massive mortality of corals
on its west coast.

photo: danielhjalmarsson/unsplash

Life Support for Barbados’ Coral Reefs
Barbados has suffered massive mortality of corals on the once vibrant fringing reefs that line the west coast. Now the almost entirely dead reef is overgrown with algae, which are over-fertilised by land-based sources of nutrients. As a result, the biodiversity, sand production, coastal protection from erosion, and the habitat for ecotourism, have largely collapsed. The Blue Green Initiative Inc. (BGI) in partnership with The Global Coral Reef Alliance will be embarking on a reef restoration pilot project using Biorock technology to grow solid limestone out of seawater and create new coral
reef and fish habitat in front of an existing virtually dead reef.
This is the first pilot of its kind for Barbados and with the support of the Barbados Environmental Conservation Trust and other partners, BGI will embark on this pilot starting in March 2020.

You can donate or find out more about the SVGEF by contacting [email protected] or visiting, for the BECT visit or follow them on Instagram @barbados_environment. To learn about the full range of global projects, contact the Conservation Collective: [email protected]

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