North East Tobago has received international achievement after officially being designated as a UNESCO Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Reserve.
This means that Tobago is now home to the largest Man and Biosphere site in the English-speaking small Caribbean island states, the only one larger is located in Guadeloupe, which is a French territory.
This designation and associated activities directly contribute to achieving Trinidad and Tobago’s commitment to the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The MAB Secretariat, based at UNESCO’s Division of Ecological and Earth Sciences, at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris officially communicated their decision on Wednesday at approximately 7:45 am local time.
This award was also made possible with the tremendous support of the Environmental Research Institute Charlotteville (ERIC), Tobago and the environmental civil society groups in North East Tobago.
Tobago’s North-East Tobago Man and the Biosphere Reserve covers over 835 km² and encompasses three protected areas: Tobago Main Ridge which is the oldest protected tropical forest reserve in the world; the proposed North East Marine Protected Area and 15 communities with rich historical and cultural heritage in north-east Tobago which are home to approximately 10,000 residents.
The THA, with support from the Planning Ministry, developed their proposal in approximately two years for submission to the MAB Programme, which is intergovernmental in nature and aims to establish a scientific basis for enhancing the relationship between people and their environments while combining the sciences to improve human livelihoods and safeguard natural and managed ecosystems.
Planning and Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis extended heartfelt congratulations to Trinidad and Tobago, especially the people of Tobago and the leadership of the THA and Civil Society Organisations such as ERIC in making this important designation happen.
She said, “We are continuing to punch above our weight in the global arena. We are blessed with some of the richest historical, cultural and natural heritage in the world, and our pride and sensibility in protecting our gifts will continue to be rewarded.”
Councillor Kwesi Des Vignes, the Secretary for Infrastructure, Quarries and the Environment at the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) said that the achievement is another milestone for Tobago and the nation on a whole.
He said, “Trinidad and Tobago is a small nation with a fierce spirit. Northeast Tobago has always been the pearl of our paradise so it is no surprise that the area is worthy enough to attract the attention of the world.”
Due to the challenges in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Secretary Des Vignes and the THA believe that the MAB designation has placed Trinidad and Tobago in an advantageous position as it relates to branding as a premier eco-tourism destination while attracting financial and technical support from the international community.
Benefits to Trinidad and Tobago of the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Award include sustainable green and blue economic activities, including tourism, fisheries, agriculture, cultural heritage activities, research and education will be incentivised.
The UNESCO MAB Programme is a perfect tool for economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic especially for tourism and attracting international support.
Once well implemented, the UNESCO Site will be Tobago’s strategic lead investment to prepare an enabling institutional and organisational environment for future, scaled-up investment by multilateral agencies and the private sector.