Nature Canada in the Caribbean: Sustainable Livelihoods at Critical Caribbean Important Bird Areas
The Caribbean Islands is one of the world's biodiversity hotspots, while also one of the areas in the Americas that is most affected by poverty.
In 2007, Nature Canada joined forces with our partners Grupo Jaragua in the Dominican Republic, Société Audubon Haïti in Haiti and Centro Nacional de Areas Protegidas (CNAP) in Cuba, to simultaneously address poverty and conservation by undertaking an integrated conservation and development project with local communities at critical biodiversity areas. See an example at work: Our Haiti Project
The islands of Cuba and Hispaniola are of great importance as stopover or wintering grounds for migratory birds that breed in Canada including Bicknell's Thrush (a species listed as at risk in Canada), Red-tailed Hawk, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Ovenbird, American Redstart, Cape May Warbler, and Black-and-white Warbler, among others.
The Macaya, Turquino and La Bayamesa National Parks, the Delta del Cauto Wildlife Refuge and the Jaragua-Bahoruco-Enriquillo Biosphere Reserve are critically important for many endemic species of plants, birds and other animals in the Caribbean and for many migratory species. Although these areas are all designated as protected areas, they are nonetheless under serious growing threats from human activities.
The challenges: poverty, environmental degradation and climate change
The Haitian, Cuban and Dominican communities living in and around these reserves have many basic needs, including food security, clean water, fuel and education. Predominantly, they base their subsistence on unsustainable uses of natural resources in fragile environments that are thus being degraded. In turn, the degradation of these natural areas increasingly reduces the ability of these communities to sustain themselves. Deforestation and ensuing land degradation diminish the ecological services these natural areas provide to these communities and to others beyond. Climate change is increasingly exacerbating both land degradation and the consequent impoverishment of the communities that rely on these natural resources.
Nature Canada has successfully secured the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to work with Grupo Jaragua in the Dominican Republic, Société Audubon Haïti in Haiti and Centro Nacional de Areas Protegidas (CNAP) in Cuba to promote sustainable livelihoods and reduce impacts on these critical biodiversity areas.
What's Being Done
People in 24 rural communities in Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Cuba are gaining the technical and material capacity to improve their lives, by adopting environmentally sustainable economic activities such as agro-forestry, eco-tourism, and organic poultry production. They’re also taking steps to mitigate the effects of climate change, by avoiding deforestation, pursuing fire and erosion control, and protecting local watersheds. The 24 rural communities, more than 10,000 people, are located in five protected areas in three countries: