Fishermen, National Trust To Benefit From COVID-19 Resilience Community Recovery Project
There appears to be a proverbial light at the end of the tunnel for local fishermen, who have been languishing at the bottom of the food chain in terms of funding, thanks to the European Union-Funded COVID-19 Resilience Community Recovery Project.
The project, an established collaboration with the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and the TCI Government, inclusive of the Department of Environmental and Coastal Resources (DECR), Invest TCI, the Fishing Co-operative, and the National Trust, was officially launched on Monday, January 23, at the DECR in Providenciales.
The project will give understanding of the impact on COVID-19 on entities such as fishermen, what training can be provided to those persons, what sources of funding and capital would be warranted, and what measures can be implemented to mitigate against such effects in the future.
Dr. Ali Cotton, Project Manager with JNCC, who heads the initiative, revealed that the idea came about from discussions during the COVID-19 Pandemic, where it became clear that the economic, environmental and societal resilience, which are core features of the economy, needed to be able to weather any future economic shocks.
Eve Anglefield, also of JNCC, pointed out that the TCI economy, as a result of the pandemic, shrunk by 23 percent, and although the country has seen some level of recovery as restrictions lifted, the economic impacts would have been long-lasting.
“Whilst tourism has resumed in 2022, TCI continues to be affected by COVID-19, and it remains potentially vulnerable to future events that may have additional significant economic and social impacts,” Anglefield said.
Anglefield listed tourism, fishing and agriculture as the most vulnerable industries to future hazards.
She said the goal of the project is to provide training opportunities to diversify the economy to help TCI build back from the pandemic in an environmentally conscious and resilient way. She pointed out that JNCC, under the project, would work with the local community and key stakeholders, to identify new job opportunities with a view to varying existing sectors, while supporting skills development locally in a fashion that would strengthen the economy and the country’s natural environment.
She said the initial activity of the project is to conduct two surveys – a community survey and a business survey.
The community survey, she said, would seek to understand how people’s livelihoods and the environment have been affected by the pandemic, stating that that survey would help to inform the development of training programmes across the islands, through a locally led Community Hub established through the project.
Under the Business Survey, Anglefield said the experiences of businesses in the islands would be collected, in order to understand how different sectors have been affected by the pandemic, and to collect ideas for building a more resilient economy.
She added that this survey would inform the development of a Natural Capital Investment Plan to signpost opportunities for sustainable investment in the islands.
“This would widen the opportunity for local people to input into the design of the project and express any concern for feedbacks regarding the overall objectives,” she said, asserting that the feedback would be carefully considered when developing a community training programme.
Anglefield said up under the programme, 150 Turks and Caicos Islanders would be trained in new skills.
For her part, Minister of Tourism and Environment Hon. Josephine Connolly, stated that it is imperative that local fishermen are trained to diversify their livelihoods.
“Many lessons were learnt from the COVID-19 Pandemic that we, as a country, cannot simply brush aside,” Connolly said.
“As a result, my government, with the leadership of the Premier Hon. Washington Misick, saw it fit to engage the people of these islands to discuss and seek out opportunities that will help to diversify our economy and secure the livelihoods of our people.
“I implore all fishermen, watersports operators, dive operators, beach and market vendors and the general public, to make the most of this opportunity, and share your thoughts with the government to help us do a better job for our beautiful by nature Turks and Caicos Islands,” Minister Connolly said.