LEFT: Kemba Jaramogi and students
Event Date: April 18, 2008
Posted: April 20, 2008
On Friday 18th April, 2008, the Fondes Amandes Community Reforestation Project (FACRP) hosted their 12th annual Dry Season Gayap Opening Ceremony in St. Anns' Fondes Amandes hills.
Focusing mainly on environmental issues, the main objectives of the project are community development and upliftment through environmental regeneration. FARCP has involved school groups in its activities, informing them about the importance of watershed protection and the benefits of chemical-free agricultural practices. These educational efforts together with annual fire-trace Gayaps have resulted in the drastic reduction in the incidence of bush fires making the Fondes Amandes hills a fire-free zone since 1997.
The gathering consisted mainly of students from Bishop Anstey High School, St. Francois Girls' College, St. Anns' R. C. School, Final Generation Mission Academy, Servol Life Centre and several other schools.
Hosting the event was Kemba Jaramogi, one of the very dedicated and hardworking members of the FACRP.
The ceremony started about 10:30 a.m. with an opening prayer by Cecilla Migiel, a recital of the national anthem and a presentation from FACRP Manager, Akilah Jaramogi.
Ms. Jaramogi, in her overview about the event, said that Fondes Amandes Reforestation is concerned with addressing environmental degradation and addressing social issues within the community. While she admitted that the social part of the work is the hardest, she also maintained that people play a great part in conserving the environment. The structure of the project involved breaking it down into modules: during the dry season the focus is on preventing forest fires by educating the community about preventative measures; and during the rainy season the focus is on tree planting, especially the hardwood tree variety and tree survival systems which are put in place to control surface run-off and other problems.
Addressing the gathering next was representative of main sponsor BGTT, Candace Clarke-Salome, who said that the Fondes Amandes Community Reforestation Project is one of the projects the company took on board in 2004. She, like Jaramogi stated that projects such as these are both environmentally and socially beneficial and that these are important factors that are taken into consideration when reviewing their funding. In closing Ms. Salome said, "This disaster awareness caravan is the first step in what I see as a national outreach program and we look forward to working with you on this."
After Ms. Salome addressed the gathering, a brief introduction of the Disaster Preparedness Caravan video was presented by Mary Schorse, a member of the FACRP. She said,
The Gayap is always an important event held in this organization because it really is a major outreach opportunity to spread the word of what is really being done and what can be done, not just here, but hopefully the messages of the things you might learn about how you can help to protect the environment from disasters....
This video presentation is the latest project that the FACRP has taken on. Every year, there is further emphasis on the projects that they take on, and through the funding of the Canadian High Commission this project has come off. It is designed to educate the public about the kind of disasters that could happen and how we can prevent them and how we can prepare for them and how to deal with them when they happen.
Elizabeth Brown a representative from the Canadian Embassy, who has lived in Trinidad for about twenty years, spoke briefly about her own personal experience with a bush fire. She shared,
It came right up to the door. It was a very scary thing to be involved in a runaway bush fire. I didn't do anything much except stand there and watch my garden burn and hope that it didn't hit the garage. It stopped eventually. That was a very bad year, I think it was either 1996 or 1997, as I recall.
She further went on to say,
We have now a Caravan and it is going to go out into communities in the west coast hopefully to explain to people in communities how to deal with forest fires, how to prevent them and how to protect yourself against them.
Following Ms. Brown's address, the video presentation on Disaster Preparedness Caravan was displayed.
Keil Bournes, who represented the Trinidad Youth Council, also addressed the gathering. He said,
I would like to say to each and everyone of you here, what you are doing is actually helping govern your country by recognizing that there is a problem with something that is going on and taking things into your own hands to correct these problems and I would like to commend you for that.
The featured speaker, Dr. Joyanne De Four Babb, Geography Lecturer at University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) recalled her early acquaintances with Akilah Jaragomi as well as her own personal involvement with FACRP. She said,
We really go back into the early 90s. I distinctly remember Akilah as a young woman with many children. Not only was she a mother, she was a mother who was involved in the lives of her children. Being involved in the environment is the way to ensure, not only that we have a good quality of life, but the generations to come also enjoy a good quality of life. When I became involved in the project I brought a group of students to plant trees on what was then a bare grass area. It was muddy because it was in the rainy season. When I came back last year, nearly ten years later, I was simply blown away to see the difference that we made on the day that we really didn't think would make a difference.
The programme ended with closing remarks from FACRP member, Phyllis Hoyte. She said,
In the rainy season, everybody in Trinidad and Tobago sees water running down the drains or the rivers or even the gutter outside of [their homes] and we have become accustomed to think that it is absolutely normal for run-off to be a rich brown or reddish brown colour. That is not normal and it doesn't have to be. If you come to Fondes Amandes in the rainy season the run-off is absolutely clear. Every time you see red run-off in your neighbourhood or wherever, think about where that is coming from because what you are in fact seeing is Trinidad and Tobago washed into the sea. When you see that, think about what you can do on your weekends and when you have a little bit of free time to prevent it.
Akilah Jaragomi indulged the students in a brief quiz pertaining to the forest conservation. The students who answered correctly were each rewarded with tokens of appreciation. At the end of the ceremony everyone was invited for a snack and refreshments before finally breaking up into groups with guides to participate in some of the fire-prevention activities in the hills.
FACRP Gayap 2008 Opening Ceremony in pictures:
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