What is the origin of your innovation? Tell the Changemakers and media communities what prompted you to start this initiative.
The Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust (JCDT/Green Jamaica) is a non-government organization that was incorporated and registered as a charity in 1988. Our mission is to promote environmental conservation and sustainable development, with particular emphasis on the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park (BJCMNP), for the benefit of Jamaica and our people. JCDT/Green Jamaica manages the BJCMNP under agreements with two government agencies – the National Environment and Planning Agency and the Forestry Department. Management of the BJCMNP is guided by its Management Plan for 2005 to 2010, which describes management programmes and objectives, and a Zoning Plan.
The core of natural, undisturbed forest comprises more than fifty percent of the National Park and is designated the Preservation Zone where the management objective is strict conservation. The Recovery Zone lies between this core area and the boundary, and the focus in this zone is mainly on forest restoration. Outside the boundary, a 1km wide band defines the Buffer Zone with about 50 communities and 26,000 residents. Most Park management activities are focused on these Buffer Zone communities, for example, promoting sustainable livelihoods, environmental education in local schools and patrolling the boundary to reduce encroachment and illegal activities.
The preparation of the BJCMNP Management Plan 2005 – 2010 involved significant stakeholder consultation. It was during the development of the Park’s Recreation & Tourism, and Education & Public Involvement Programmes, along with an ecotourism plan for the Park’s main recreation area that the concept for a Blue Mountains Sustainable Tourism Programme began to crystallise. As JCDT/Green Jamaica began to implement the Management Plan, communities around the National Park’s recreation areas were targeted. The selection of these areas was for multiple reasons, in particular, these were within locations of natural and cultural importance, that were most threatened by deforestation, and which were frequented by Park staff for visitor management purposes. In some of these communities, JCDT/Green Jamaica was already conducting skills training with youth to enhance their income generating ability. In these and other communities, some groups had initiated tourism ventures e.g. rustic cabins, Maroon museum and trails, and were seeking guidance and assistance with product development and marketing.
JCDT/Green Jamaica saw an opportunity that could be mutually beneficial for Park management and conservation as well as the Buffer Zone communities. This was essentially, to create centres of sustainable commerce and development, related initially to tourism, in Buffer Zone communities closest to the Park’s recreational areas, partnering with communities, private sector and government. With funding mainly from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) JCDT/Green Jamaica prepared a manual for implementation of the Blue Mountains Sustainable Tourism Programme inclusive of community tourism concept plans and marketing plans and products. Further, 48 persons from 7 communities were trained and 32 achieved certification under Jamaica’s national, basic tourism programme – TEAM JAMAICA. JCDT/Green Jamaica is now seeking funds for the implementation of the manual and establishment of the Blue Mountains Sustainable Tourism Programme.
Please provide a personal bio. Note this may be used in Changemakers' marketing material.
Susan Otuokon is the Executive Director of the JCDT/Green Jamaica and Acting Park Manager for the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park. She assumed this position in 2002, but between 1990 and 1996 worked there initially as Protected Areas Officer, and later as Programmes Director. Between 1997 and 2002 Mrs. Otuokon worked with several organisations across Jamaica, as a consultant and in full-time positions. Her interest in the practice of protected area management, ecotourism and sustainable community development has led her to pursue Ph.D. research at the UWI to explore these issues from an academic perspective.
Describe some unique tourist experiences that your approach provides. Be specific; give illustrative examples.
“Misty Bliss” is an annual festival held at Holywell under the banner “mixing mountain pleasures and treasures”, to celebrate the natural and cultural heritage of the National Park. It features local, traditional food, craft and produce – sold by members of the nearest communities; traditional music and dance, including local school groups and the indigenous Maroon communities.
Hike the Cunha Cunha Pass Trail with local tour guides, to explore this trail that saw the military exploits of the Maroons, and later became a market route from south to north coast. The trail ends at Ambassabeth, a cluster of charming, rustic cabins around a comfortable common area where Maroon drumming and delicious food, featuring ground provisions and a variety of fresh-water crustaceans, are enjoyed.
Hike to the highest point in Jamaica, the Blue Mountain Peak (2,256m), with a local tour guide. After dinner and a rest followed by a mug of steaming Blue Mountain Coffee, at a local guest-house, the hike starts at about 1:00am. First up ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ to Portland Gap, a rest stop just within the boundary of the BJCMNP, then on to see the sun rise on the Blue Mountain Peak - an experience of unspeakable beauty.
What types of partnerships or professional development would be most beneficial in spreading your innovation?
Product development, particularly trail establishment and maintenance, as there is relatively little knowledge and experience outside of basic, local knowledge, although three of the Park Rangers have had training through the US Forest and Park Service, but there is not enough knowledge and experience at the community level.
Marketing especially outside Jamaica (our plans currently focus on domestic tourism as it has significant potential and is a good base to build a secure market in changing world).