The International day for combatting degradation and drought was celebrated on June 17th 2016. The day was instituted to increase understanding and awareness of land degradation and drought issues and the importance of conserving our scarce land resources.
The theme for Land Degradation Day 2016 is ‘Inclusive Cooperation for achieving Land degradation Neutrality’, with the slogan ‘Protect Earth, Restore Land, engage People’.
The theme focused on inclusive cooperation amongst all stakeholders, ministries, agencies and sectors, to restore and rehabilitate degraded land and contribute towards achieving the overall Sustainable Development Goals. It emphasizes the importance of comprehensive participation and cooperation in working towards achieving Land Degradation neutrality.
In the spirit of the theme for the year, activities were chosen to highlight the importance of sustainable land management and conservation. The adopted schools, Ellerton Primary, St. Bartholomew’s, St Christopher’s and Wesley Hall Infants were given the opportunity to visit Turner’s Hall Woods as part of the Ministry of Environment and Drainage public awareness activities. Turner’s Hall Woods represents the last remaining stand of original forest in Barbados and is home to many local plants and animals and its protection and conservation is of paramount importance.
Land Degradation Day fell on the Friday 17 June and the activities followed on at the start of week and the tours ran over the course of four days. The tours were conducted by approval from the Soil Conservation Unit from Tuesday 14, June to Friday 17 June, 2016.
On each day of tours, students travelled along Isolation Road in the Barbados Transport Bus to enter Turner’s Hall Woods.; St. Bartholomew Primary attended the tour on Tuesday 14th June, Wesley Hall Infants visited on Wednesday June 15, Ellerton Primary on Thursday May 16 and finally St. Christopher’s Primary attending on Friday June 17.
Tour of Turner’s Hall Woods
Picture 1: Environmental Officer Nicole Scholar Tasker speaking with students of Wesley Hall Infants School about what is land degradation and the importance of conserving areas such as Turner’s Hall Woods
Each day of the tours, students were given a brief introduction of Land Degradation Day as well as the importance of conserving areas such as Turner’s Hall Woods as these areas are high in biodiversity and contain plant species that grow nowhere else on the island. The visit through Turner’s Hall Woods was conducted by Mr. Nigel Jones, Dendrologist for the National Botanical Gardens. Mr. Jones explained that Turner’s Halls Woods was last true forest remaining in Barbados and gives an indication of what the island would have looked like when the first settlers arrived. Turner’s Hall Woods is classed as an evergreen seasonal forest consisting of mainly broad-leaved evergreen trees with some foliage reduction in the dry season.
As the students travelled through the woods, Mr. Jones identified certain species of plants that have only been identified in Turner’s Hall woods or in gullies around island. One such species was the Macaw Palm (Aiphanes minima). This is palm easily differentiated from other palms due to its spiny trunk. However, on older trees, the spines are not as visible. The Macaw Palm is native to Barbados as well as two other species which are the Cabbage Palm (Roystonea oleracea) and the Thatch Palm (Coccothrinax barbadensis), each of which can be found within Turner’s Hall Woods.
Picture 2: Dendrologist Mr. Nigel Jones speaking with the students Wesley Hall Infants School on the various species of trees found within Turner’s Hall Woods.
Picture 3: Students observing the lushness of Turner’s Hall Woods
Upon completion of the tours, students were then taken to Farley Hill National Park to enjoy lunch catered by Paradise Pizza.
Activities for Land Degradation Day were related to Government Information Services.