Kingston, Jamaica – Friday, December 1st, 2023
Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are among the most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change. With the vast majority of its population living in urban areas and approximatively 90% of its GDP produced in its coastal zone (USAID, 2017), Jamaica is in urgent need of ensuring a climate resilient pathway for the sustainable development of its coastal cities.
The CityAdapt project, implemented by UNEP with funds from the Special Climate Change Funds of the Global Environment Facility (SCCF-GEF), addresses the growing vulnerability of cities to climate risks by increasing the capacity of governments and local communities to adapt to the effects of climate change, integrating Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) into urban planning. After 5 years of implementation, the CityAdapt initiative is coming to an end in Jamaica. From November 27th to December 1st, the CityAdapt key stakeholders, regional and national teams met in the country’s capital and project’s pilot city, Kingston, for the closing of the project.
Close-out Symposium with partners and beneficiaries
Among the highlights of the week is the Tuesday 28th official close-out symposium, celebrated at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel. Prior to the kick-off, a meeting took place between the CityAdapt team and representatives from the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation (MEGJC), its Climate Change Division, and the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ). The purpose behind this encounter was to share key lessons learnt and, above all, discuss upscaling strategies for the country to leverage the work accomplished by CityAdapt and its partners.
These institutions, along with partners and beneficiaries of the projects, then participated in the symposium, where a full overview of lessons learnt, challenges and opportunities were presented. The Forestry Department, Jamaica 4-H Clubs and The Nature Conservancy (TNC), implementing partners of CityAdapt, shared their experiences in the mainstreaming of Nature-based Solutions (NbS) in urban areas and proposals for a long-term sustainability of activities.
“We are sowing the seeds of change. (…) We are sowing the seeds of inspiration” said Damart Williams, the Senior Director for Zonal Operations in the Eastern Zone of the Forestry Department.
The Forestry Department highlighted how this project had opened a new gateway to urban forestry, for an institution that was used to working mostly in peri-urban and rural areas. The importance of natural ecosystems in cities is now being integrated into their mandate. This policy and institutional engagement was further developed by TNC, who drafted a series of recommendations within policy briefs and upscaling strategies. They applauded the important involvement in the capacity building training, organized with national authorities and key stakeholders under this project. Finally, the Jamaica 4-H Clubs, through its mandate on agriculture and education, recognized the importance of getting the youth engaged in these measures, in maintaining a strong gender focus within all activities and to showcase that technology can also harness nature’s potential in a sustainable way.
CityAdapt in Smile Jamaica TV
On Wednesday 29th, the Smile Jamaica morning TV show invited CityAdapt to present their mission and achievements in Kingston. Vincent Sweeney, Head of the UNEP Caribbean Office, Shanice Bedward-Grant, National Coordinator for CityAdapt, and Prince Palmer, Centre Manager at 4-H Clubs, highlighted the value of NbS approaches to adapt to climate change, especially important in a Caribbean Island like Jamaica, threatened by rising sea levels and other climate change impacts.
NbS implementation in Jamaican schools
Among the different NbS activities undertaken by CityAdapt, such as urban gardens, sustainable urban agriculture practices and urban planting, schools have been among the key beneficiaries of these interventions. The Abilities Foundation, Camperdown High School and Kingston Technical High School are only some of these, and the ones that received a visit from the team during the week. In these and other schools, small-scale urban agriculture was promoted through several measures: rainwater harvesting systems, sustainable water management and in some cases drip irrigation systems were put in place to water greenhouses, container gardens or hydroponics systems. This integrated system allows schools to have a small-scale self-sustained farm production, that can sustain periods of drought, generate savings from national water use and provide additional income or food for the institutions. Additionally, and as highlighted by school staff, it also maintains a pedagogical component for students and serves as a therapeutic space to reconnect kids with nature.
The CityAdapt project closes in Kingston at the end of 2023, as well as in the other cities of implementation (San Salvador in El Salvador and Xalapa in Mexico), but lessons learnt prevail. After a year of record-breaking temperatures and severe storms, floods and droughts worldwide, adapting to climate change continues to be a global emergency and priority that must be addressed locally, nationally and regionally in all corners of the world. The CityAdapt team is confident that the work done in Latin America and the Caribbean will help decision-makers and institutions to continue planning, financing and implementing NbS and adaptation actions.
“CityAdapt is a small project, yes, but you showed that even small projects can have a big impact locally, with communities!” said Claire Bernard, deputy director of the Planning Institute of Jamaica.
Cheers to a sustainable and resilient future! ?