Mission and History
STEA Mission Statement
To promote development in Trelawny and its environs by implementing environmental conservation and economic opportunity projects.
The Southern Trelawny Environmental Agency (STEA) was formed on February 27, 1996 to address environmental problems affecting south Trelawny, facilitate environmentally friendly economic and community development activities and to promote sustainable use of the natural resources of Cockpit Country. In response to national focus on parks and protected areas a group of concerned citizens convened a meeting to discuss the importance of Cockpit Country as a natural forest reserve. The meeting provided a wealth of information on the the unique characteristics of Cockpit Country, with its Karst lime stone topography and high levels of biodiversity in the area. Several individuals, impressed with the content of the information, passed a resolution to launch an organization that would focus its attention on conservation and development of the area. The decision to form the organization came after a meeting was held with citizens of local communities to discuss the importance of Cockpit Country and the need to conserve and protect this high biodiversity wet limestone forest region. The organization has a membership of 221, including 12 corporate members, all of whom support the mission and goals of the institution. STEA has a small local staff with the support of U.S. Peace Corps Volunteers and a voluntary Board of Directors that oversees the operations of the organization.
To develop institutional capacity such that STEA is financially stable and can have a long-term environmental and community development impact in South Trelawny and its environs through discrete, integrated project activities in keeping with the mission of the organization.
- To promote the conservation and protection of Cockpit Country and Trelawny’s natural and built environment
- To develop community heritage and eco-tourism in Trelawny by highlighting cultural traditions, historic artifacts and the biodiversity of Cockpit Country
- To pursue the development and production of commercially viable value added by-products from yam and other local raw materials
- To develop and expand attractions like Trelawny Yam Festival to showcase the parish, increase visitors and boost economic opportunities for local residents
- To develop partnerships with government, the private sector, civic organizations, grant funders and financial institutions in order to access and combine human resources, technical expertise, physical facilities and finances in order to implement projects efficiently and effectively
Achievements, Highlights & Programs
STEA has developed an internationally recognized community and eco-tourism program in southern Trelawny called Cockpit Country Adventure Tours (CCAT) that utilizes the resources of Cockpit Country. Projects funded by the Royal Netherlands Embassy, Environmental Foundation of Jamaica, Global Environment Facility – Small Grants Program and U.S. Peace Corps have improved the ability of CCAT to offer professionally organized, guided tours through Cockpit Country. These tours generate income for trained guides, chefs, homes offering Bed & Breakfast and other service providers in the area, and help to sustain STEA’s operations. This project is in keeping with STEA’s mission to provide alternative business activities for local citizens that are consistent with conservation and sustainable use of the natural resources of Cockpit Country. The program has brought hundreds of visitors to the area and is recognized by the Jamaica Tourist Board. STEA has recruited, trained and certified over nearly 30 Tour Guides. An educational tour package has been developed that that has brought thousands of students from across the island to observe biological diversity in Cockpit Country and learn about the unique ecology of this area. STEA has worked with schools in south Trelawny to motivate teachers, students, and environmental clubs to engage in learning exercises focused on preserving the natural environment. This initiative is done in partnership with the Jamaica Environment Trust, who provides teaching materials and training workshops for teachers associated with the Schools Environment Programme.
CONSERVING COCKPIT COUNTRY BIODIVERSITY THROUGH SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT PRACTICES:
In an effort to imrprove CCAT STEA began implementation of the Conserving Cockpit Country Biodiversity through Sustainable Development Practices project in 2005. The project promotes conservation of Cockpit Country biodiversity through wise use of its natural resources. The objectives of the project are to decrease livelihood activities that are destructive to Cockpit Country biodiversity while providing alternative income generating opportunities for the 4,000 residents living in the pilot communities of Rock Spring in south Trelawny and Bunker’s Hill in the north. The project assists CCAT by increasing its capacity to profitably manage and market eco-attractions in Bunker’s Hill and Rock Spring while using its eco-tourism expertise to standardize and develop these attractions. CCAT staff are training pilot community residents in environmental management, tour guiding and entrepreneurship skills. Residents are engaging in alternative income-generating activities that utilize their local attractions, local resources, skills and creative energies. Community surveys were conducted to develop a database of attractions, artisans and Bed & Breakfast providers. The surveys also helped to mobilize the community and make them aware of the project to be implemented. Residents were also employed for work days to clean and maintain attractions. Since the start of the project CCAT has realized an increase in tour bookings and a looks to improve its revenue position over time. This project benefits from funding by the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica and the Global Environmental Facility – Small Grants Program.
Cockpit Country Conservation
Cockpit Country, approximately 530 square kilometers of wet limestone forest, is recognized as one of Jamaica’s last remaining areas of undisturbed forest, containing critical watersheds and many species of plants and animals found nowhere else in the world. Researchers continue to find new species, highlighting the importance of protecting this region by developing among its communities and beneficiaries an appreciation of the area’s biodiversity. Cockpit Country is also central to Jamaica’s cultural heritage, as it is here that a population of Maroons was able to force the British into signing a peace treaty in 1738. Accompong, located in southwest Cockpit Country, is one of the last remaining Maroon communities. Government agencies such as the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) and the Forestry Department recognize the importance of Cockpit Country and it was declared a Forest Reserve in 1950. The Nature Conservancy, through its international program, has declared Cockpit Country as one of its Park-in-Peril sites. A collaborative team from STEA, Forestry Department, Windsor Research Centre and The Nature Conservancy developed a work plan for the conservation of the forest, which was approved in November 2001 for funding by the U.S. Agency for International Development. This funding helped develop a Site Conservation Plan over a one-year period, which identified the key conservation targets within Cockpit Country, strategies to protect them and the people, communities and agencies who are critical to carrying out these strategies to achieve effective long-term conservation of the Cockpit Country.
COCKPIT COUNTRY CONSERVATION AWARENESS PROJECT:
From 2004-2006 the Cockpit Country Conservation Awareness project achieved STEA’s goal of highlighting the importance of Cockpit Country. The purpose of this project wasfor staff and volunteers to carry out a systematic program of environmental awareness in the sixty-six communities and selected high schools that lie in and around Cockpit Country. The project activities were designed to hold community meetings and seminars to illustrate the destructive effects of human livelihood activity on the sensitive ecology of Cockpit Country. Residents were also introduced to alternative livelihood activities and income generating opportunities using local resources that are environmentally friendly for the community. When the project ended in the summer of 2006 a critical mass of the 73,000 Cockpit Country residents were aware of biodiversity conservation and are now prepared and motivated to support and implement conservation initiatives. Accompanying this reality should be new businesses that offer new opportunities for residents. The strategy employed by STEA staff in this project has been to identify community leaders and influential individuals in hub communities of the buffer zone to attend seminar meetings. We believe these persons have the influence and ability to share this environmental conservation information with 20-40 individuals in their sphere of operations. This achieves the objective of a critical mass of individuals benefiting from the information.
Water Resource Management
STEA was commissioned by UNDP/Life programme to carry out a Rapid Rural Appraisal of Spring Garden and Rock Spring communities to provide a framework for upgraded water systems in the communities. STEA successfully completed the study, wrote the project proposal to secure the funds for the project, mobilized the communities for the project activities and was the supervisory agency on the project. Both communities now have an upgraded water system. STEA mobilized the community of Wire Fence to repair its water supply system and in partnership with the Social Development Comission and the community repaired the spring entombment and the distribution line in the community. STEA developed a Water Forum series since 1997 which monitored the 21 water supply systems in south Trelawny managed by the Parish Council and the National Water Commission. This regular forum series researched and reportedthe status of the water catchments, water quality, chlorination, filtration and distribution to the community organizations represented at the forums. Technocrats from the Ministry of Health, NWC, Parish Council, Water Resources Authority, PAHO, political representatives and other related state agencies attend to provide recommendations and advise.
STEA developed a project, secured funds and managed the construction of a public sanitary convenience for the commuting public in Albert Town. The facility is located in the Grant’s Office Complex behind the Taxi stand and is outfitted with toilet, face basin, urinal and water supply tank. (Unfortunately the property owners have not made it available to the public despite the original agreement.) STEA developed a project for the upgrading of the Albert Town Square. A walkway was built through the park, the chair in the park repaired, flowers established on the periphery and a volunteer team maintained the park. (Unfortunately the plants were stolen or damaged by the frequent traffic and the volunteer team disintegrated.) STEA developed an aesthetic project and with support from a team of Canadian Exchange Volunteers painted all the concrete welcome signs located in on the main road from High Gate Hall to Mahogany Hall. STEA since 1997 holds an annual fundraiser called Jamaica Night with proceeds from the fundraiser going to various community initiatives. STEA also organizes the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony and kids treat in Albert Town. Over 200 kids are given presents and refreshments at this ceremony each year.
TRELAWNY CHILD WELFARE & BASIC SCHOOLS IMPROVEMENT PROJECTS:
In order for sustainable development to take hold in local communities STEA feels it is critical to start the process with the youngest community members. Our work in communities has brought us to the realization that the conditions of basic school education in the parish are poor, resulting in severe consequences for the welfare of the children attending these schools, their scholastic performance at higher academic levels and their adjustment as well rounded citizens living sustainable and rewarding lives. In keeping with our development and conservation mission STEA began implementation of the Trelawny Child Welfare & Basic Schools Development project after consultation and project development activities with basic school teachers in the parish. Under this project STEA made improvements to 32 Basic Schools affecting the lives of 2,000 children throughout the parish of Trelawny and with the National Parents Advocacy Group for Disabled-Trelawny (NPAG). The main objectives of the project are upgrading classroom furniture and school equipment in an effort to stimulate learning and improve the school’s overall condition; providing play equipment to encourage muscular development, stimulation and improve social skills; undertaking construction work to create a safe, sanitary, healthy and secure school environment; improving the schools educational technology by providing them with modern teaching aids; addressing the needs of challenged children; and building the capacity of schools to provide a good standard of education for the children of the parish. Basic Schools benefitting from the project were: Stettin Methodist, Wilson Valley, Lowe River, Warsop Baptist,, Wait-A-Bit, Upper Litchfield, Lower Litchfield, James Edwards, Joe Hut, Ulster Spring, Wilson Run, Dutch Hill, Sanguinetti, Brampton, Stephen Jamesl, Samuel Prospect, Duanvale, Restore, Green Park, Wire Fence, Spicy Hill, Kinloss, Hyde & Gibraltar, Sawyers, Stewart Town, Falmouth Gardens, Salvation Arm, Congregation of Yahweh, Biddiford, St. Andrew’s, Granville, Carey Park, Jackson Town, Reserve and Calabar. Activities undertaken with NPAG included sponsoring the cost of disabled children to attend school, advocacy for the acceptance of disabled children in schools, assessment of challenged students, hosting of a parenting workshop, providing institutional support to NPAG and the purchase of wheelchairs, computers, play equipment and office supplies.
STEA has mobilized citizens living in communities all around Cockpit Country and stakeholders from across the country to discuss the conservation of Cockpit Country. This was accomplished through a series of meetings in Albert Town, Quick Step, Accompong and Duanvale. Representatives from Jamaica Bauxite Institute, UWI, the World Bank, political representatives, state agencies and the private sector were a part of the exercise. This has championed the cause for conservation of Cockpit Country, a process currently ongoing. STEA, funded by The Royal Netherlands Embassy, utilized Participatory Rural Appraisal Methodology (PRA) to survey 10 communities in south Trelawny providing information and data on the communities for publication. Communities surveyed were Wilson Run, Troy, Warsop, Rock Spring, Spring Garden, Albert Town, Stettin, Ulster Spring, Alps, Freemans Hall. Copies of the research were given to the respective community organizations. The compiled study is now a reference document. STEA coordinated a partnership with 14 Community-based Organizations in south Trelawny leading to Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) funding a Planning Retreat at Silver Sands Resort with STEA and the 14 CBOs. The plan document is a published reference. STEA has held environmental sensitization meetings in numerous communities surrounding the Cockpit Country to enlighten the residents about the unique characteristics of the area, its wealth of resources and provide incentives to alternative sources of employment.
STEA has published a Community Mobilization and Assessment Survey for 10 Communities. This is a reference document regularly utilized by students. STEA has developed and published a Cockpit Country Biodiversity Manual. This manual is a reference material in many High Schools. STEA was involved in the research and publication of a Socio-Economic and Assessment of Cockpit Country Communities. This publication details a wealth of information on the key communities surrounding Cockpit Country. STEA researched Freemans Hall and the Maroon Community of Accompong for the World Bank’s 10 Year report on poor communities worldwide. This report is published on the World Bank’s website.
Soil Conservation and Erosion Control
STEA’s soil conservation projects have exposed local yam farmers cultivating on steep slopes to the critical need to conserve topsoil and prevent erosion on their holdings, introducing them to a methodology that produces tangible results. Farmers are shown appropriate conservation strategies that can improve their productive capacities in a sustainable manner. Other aspects of agricultural production such as improved cultivation methods, proper costings for production, better fertilizer application and benefits of inter-cropping have also been brought into focus. With soil conservation projects jointly funded by the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica and the Canadian Green Fund, 32 field day training sessions had been held, 2,151 farmers were trained in vegetative soil conservation methods, 412 farmers received calliandra seedlings to establish the conservation method on their farms and 88 representatives from national agencies attended training sessions. STEA’s field research has shown that 60 tons of soil per acre, per year, is saved in areas implementing the method. Four demonstration plots are maintained for teaching purposes and as a model for farmers to observe.
Trelawny Yam Festival: The Pace Setter
Trelawny Yam Festival is the first food festival of its kind in Jamaica and has resulted in the staging of 14 similar festivals in other parishes across Jamaica. The Festival is an extendedcelebration in various communities in south Trelawny and features many individual events apart from the main Festival celebration on Easter Monday. These include the(Farmers Field Celebration, King and Queen Pageant, 50K Cycle Race, Schools Competition, Trelawny 1/2 Marathon and TYF Beach Volleyball Tournament. The Festival is a private sector sponsored event. Benefits of TYF include putting approximately $8M into local circulation through vendors, local businesses, new business startups, seasonal employment and investment; highlighting communities; improving visibility of the area; promoting tourism potential; encouraging investment; and leveraging the area for project focus and attention by government. Approximately 10,000 persons on average attend Trelawny Yam Festival. Several students have researched the Festival and it is the basis for Post Graduate thesis of at least 2 students. University of the West Indies Bio-Technology Centre, Life Sciences Department and Department of Geology/ Geography have all forged collaborative partnerships with STEA through the Festival. The Jamaica Tourist Board has researched TYF to enable it to promote the other food festivals across the island, and created a budget allocation of $30M to stage these festivals as a tourist attraction.
TRELAWNY YAM FESTIVAL WAS awarded A 2006 Tourism Achievement award by the Ministry of Tourism, Entertainment & Culture.
STEA has 221 members and from this group a board of directors is elected. There is a Secretariat Staff with an Executive Director that manages the daily operations. Annual meetings are held to openly disclose the performance of the institution and elect its directors. STEA has a culture of transparency which allows all activities to be open for public scrutiny and feedback. Political interference is no permitted and persons of all persuasions are eligible for membership. STEA remains its operation by developing projects which must be researched, professionally written and submitted to grant funding institutions for financing. Community equity and volunteerism is absolutely critical for the success of the institution. STEA staff is constantly undergoing training and most of the staff and some Directors have received overseas training. STEA benefits from a consistent allocation of United States Peace Corps Volunteers that work in various areas of operation alongside permanent staff. The organization is a well respected institution island-wide and is constantly consulted by local and international institutions for collaborative work, partnerships and advice.
STEA is sustained by financial resources obtained from grant funding sources. The chief funder enabling the continuation of STEA’s operations has been the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica. Program funding has been derived from a range of small projects financed by state agencies, diplomatic missions, donor agencies and the private sector. STEA engages in income-generating activities to ensure the sustainability of the organization, particularly through coordination fees from Cockpit Country Adventure Tours. Community development is facilitated through the planning and implementing of income-generating opportunities for citizens of south Trelawny through activities such as annual Trelawny Yam Festival. Membership Contributions are also an important source of funding for STEA.
Board of Directors
STEA has nine Directors who are elected by the membership for three-year tenures during the Annual General Meeting. At the AGM the Directors are given “stewardship” of the organization for one year and must report to the membership annually;. The Directors ensure the business of STEA is carried out within the forthcoming year. Their roles are as follows:
- To ensure growth and development of STEA consistent with its mission and goals
- To ensure the preparation of the accounts for the annual audit
- To approve the annual Budget and review the financial status of the organization at interim points
- To agree to and approve organizational policies
- To ensure that the legal operations of the organization are in line with national standards
- To delegate to competent management while ensuring organizational accountability