By Orville Williams
A comprehensive plan meant to improve Barbuda’s revenue-generating capacity, is being hailed as a unique transformation tool that will build resilience and also ensure the sanctity of the island’s cultural heritage and its environmental state.
The plan, called #FutureBarbuda, was first announced late last month and is currently in the early stages. The Maya Blue Consortium is spearheading public consultations on the island, to construct the “technically feasible, economically viable, socially inclusive, environmentally sound and climate-resilient development plan”.
Consortium Lead and Chartered Environmentalist, Elizabeth Mullings-Smith, declared that the plan is “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to safeguard the natural assets of Barbuda and protect places of scientific and cultural significance.”
Chair of the Barbuda Council, Jackie Frank, called the plan – coupled with One Planet Living, an established sustainability framework – “a good fit for Barbuda [which] complements past and present Barbudan plans and aspirations that we have seen shared in our community.”
Darlene Beazer-Parker, one of the Barbudans coordinating the venture as part of the Maya Blue Consortium, said “”This is the opportunity we have been waiting for…We aim to unearth a collective Barbudan vision that aims to improve every facet of life and livelihood in the community now and into the future.”
As mentioned earlier, public consultations have started with Barbudans both on the island and abroad; Mullings-Smith told Observer they are already witnessing the impact of the project via discourse with the native people.
“In terms of the tourism product, there will be great emphasis on heritage tourism and eco-tourism, using the [natural resources] in a respectful way and enabling Barbudans to benefit from what they’ve been safeguarding for over 300 years.
“It’s the first time that their voices are being heard in this way, [and] they are confident the information that they’ve shared is actually being taken seriously. They did open up on a lot of aspects that have been personal challenges [and] aspects of hurt.
“It was quite cathartic for them, creating a safe space so people could talk about their aspirations, their dreams, their goals. That was beautiful to see and be a part of.”
As part of its environmental objectives, the plan will be used to create more parity between Barbuda and mainland Antigua, where environmental protection is concerned.
Speaking on the Department of the Environment’s recently-released State of the Environment Report, Mullings-Smith noted that again, it is clear that more emphasis needs be placed on the sister isle.
“Listening to and reading [the report], it is as usual for all previous reports in this regard. For that report to be for [both] Antigua and Barbuda, it’s heavily skewed to Antigua with cursory regard to the Barbudan assets. As a consequence, they’re not protected [but] part of this exercise is to transform that position.”
The Maya Blue Consortium was commissioned by the government to put this plan together and it is being done under the Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Loan – Hurricane Irma Project (RLL), funded by the Caribbean Development Bank.
An initial draft of the plan will be created, following separate workshops with the #FutureBarbuda team, the Barbuda Council and community leaders.
In keeping with the socially-inclusive component, this initial draft will be shared with the community – to enable open discussion around the One Planet aspirations for the island, enabling ownership from the residents, the Barbuda Council and leaders – before it is presented to the government.
One key aspect of #FutureBarbuda is creating a One Planet Living plan for the island, reflecting the international drivers and those of the community toward sustainability.
According to the Maya Blue Consortium, this work programme could put Barbuda on the road to become the world’s first One Planet Island, an accolade that no other island community has achieved.