Sustainable Land Management: an integrated approach

Sustainable Land Management: an integrated approach

By Eloise Stancioff

In the Caribbean, landscape changes are nothing new. Throughout history, the region has been one that exemplifies man-made changes to landscape, beginning with Amerindians, continuing to the importation of exotic species through the colony area, extreme land degradation caused by sugar plantation, forced settlement of millions of enslaved Africans, diverse populations of indentured labourers, and continued mixing of cultures from globalised interactions today, such as tourism.

This has created a resilient and unique region of diversity in ecology, cultures and communities.
Today these landscape changes on small islands are multiplied, creating vulnerability due to population pressure, natural disasters, economic volatility and climate change. Further, this puts communities and landscapes.

Often, landscape changes are dealt from a environmental management or heritage management perspective. This works in some cases, but does not give a full picture or create lasting sustainable results as it ignores the fact that landscape change has affect not only the natural ecology, but also the customary practices and traditions that play an integral part of the fabric of communities, their social practices, access to amenities, their communal heritage; in sum, their perceived well-being.

To create lasting solutions, NEXUS1492 research integrates ecological and human dimensions into an analysis of a complete socio-ecological system or landscape. For example, in St. Kitts, the end of sugar brought the nationalisation of more than 40% of the island. Instead of distributing this land, it lays fallow, preventing access to important agricultural fields in the mountains. On top of this, the area of rich history and heritage is also undergoing severe coastal erosion. By working with communities there, a coastal erosion model was produced to model past and current shoreline change as well as predict future changes. To understand how communities perceive this changes, a restoration priority index was created to understand the most importantly valued places.

A second example, is the Kalinago Territory in Dominica where banana exportation provided a stable and regular income to the rural and isolated community up until the early 2000s. With the end of banana came a decline in agriculture and dependable income, leading to not only environmental changes, like more slash and burn small style agriculture and increased run off into rivers but also cultural changes like community involvement. Working with communities, enabled the production of a run off potential model for better land management practices.

By using a variety of qualitative and quantitative methods, this analysis seeks to provide sustainable and lasting solutions that addresses not only at risk heritage but also the centrality of Caribbean communities in that equation. Thus, our research provides new steps in the realm of heritage, while providing rich ethnographic and state of art GIS data.