Trinidad and Tobago– For the past ten years, there have been no bush fires in the hills of Fondes Amandes due to the work of the Fondes Amandes Community Re-Forestation Project (FACRP). Next Friday, the organisation will be launching its 16th annual Gayap which is its biggest event in its yearly calendar to include persons outside of their community in their efforts to conserve their natural space.
Over 200 schoolchildren are expected to attend the launch of the Gayap which has the theme, Gayap is Our River, Our Forest, Our People. After the opening ceremony, the children will be involved in work done by the villagers to keep their hills, known as the St Anns watershed, free of bush fires during the dry season and to provide a sustainable living for the community. While adults clear fire traces, which ensures bush fires do not spread too far, children will rake the leaves and help clean. The next day, heavier work will be done in a dawn to dusk Gayap then the group will move their work to Tamana on Sunday to assist that community with their own Gayap.
The FACRP began in 1982 when the late Tacuma Jaramogi and wife Akilah Jaramogi, the current managing director, devised a plan to fight the dry season fires that had been ravaging the Fondes Amandes watershed every year.
According to volunteer Skye Hernandez, back then forest fires denuded the hills. Tacuma was working in the Forestry Division and he started to replant trees and take care of the valleys and the rivers, she explained. He and his wife began with bush fire fighting, agri-forestry activities, including the planting of forest and fruit trees, and gathering of seeds and other natural materials for use in craft.
FACRP works throughout the year to ensure the hills remain fire free but most of their work takes place in the dry season when there are higher incidents of bush fires.
The project has always found ways to involve schools because FACRP believes it is important to educate young people about watershed protection, the benefits of chemical free agricultural practices and about the environment as a whole, as this will benefit the community and country in the future.
These educational efforts, combined with the annual fire trace Gayaps have contributed greatly to the success of the project. In recognition of FACRPs national service in the spheres of community service and environmental conservation, the FACRP was awarded the Presidents Humming Bird Medal at the 2007 Independence Day Celebrations. The FACRP has been recognised by the Caribbean Natural Resource Institute (CANARI) as a model for community forestry throughout the Caribbean, and the project has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Green Leaf award, Trinidad and Tobagos highest environmental honour, and the EMA Community Group Award.