Thursday, October 11, 2012

Participatory 3D model of Tobago seen as time capsule

SCARBOROUGH, 07 October 2012.  On the morning of Sunday 7 October, the air in the room where the participatory 3D model is being built, is tense but hopeful.  Trainees, facilitators and informants work at a steady pace, but there is animated discussion on the ICC Twenty 20 Cricket World Cup game between the West Indies and Sri Lanka, being played halfway across the world.  Later in the day, after much anxiety, the West Indies is declared the winner of the cricket match and there is a brief pause to celebrate!

A facilitator assists one of the informants in
putting detail onto the model
More than anything else, the screams of joy reverberating around the room remind the trainee-facilitators, facilitators and informants of their common heritage and shared geographical space.  The reflection on the impacts climate change is having on natural resources and on the actions being taken to deal with these changes takes on a new dimension.

Jacinthe Amyot of IOC-UNESCO/Marine Affairs Program, Dalhousie University/Canadian International Development Agency IYIP says that after hearing fishermen talk about the effects of the Orinoco river on the Tobago shrimp fishing industry, she has developed a keen appreciation for its effects.  She says this information will inform her actions in the future.

Cocoa farmers discuss their
contributions to the model
Jacinthe is one of a number of persons participating in this capacity building event, representing different government, inter-governmental, civil society and academia from across the Greater Caribbean.  These persons have been in Tobago since September 29th to participate in this training which is meant to introduce a participatory mapping method which could be adopted across the Caribbean region as it previously happened in Africa and the Pacific.

Meantime, a steady stream of informants continues to trickle in.  They had stayed at home in the earlier part of the day to watch the World Cup cricket match while others had gone to church, as is the local tradition.  Members of the Cocoa Farmers Association of Tobago (TCFA) and various fisherfolk associations throughout the island transpose their spatial knowledge on the model with the guidance of the facilitators.  The farmers talk about the climatic changes they have observed and they also identify areas where cocoa farms exist and verify other bits of information on the model.  The farmers share how changes in climate have affected the cocoa crop cycles and caused a high level of unpredictability over the years.

Clement Bobb, President of the Cocoa Farmers Association, says the “sporadic rainfall - short burst of intense rain followed by hot sun – means that there is a longer bearing season”.  This kind of weather is causing the trees to flower all year round, he says.  Mr. Bobb adds, “we do not know when to plant”.

A fisherman adds information to the model
Mr. Bobb does not own a cocoa farm but manufactures dark chocolates under the ‘House of Orlando’ brand.  Talking about the value of the P3DM workshop, the chocolate entrepreneur says its value will last for generations as it is a time capsule documenting the status quo of the island.

Similarly, informant Andre Greene, a fisherman from Parlatuvier, says the P3DM exercise is generating “vibrant information for the coming generations”.  He thinks that segments of the model would have to be updated as changes occur due to the impact of climate change.  On the issue of fish stock, Andre says it is “getting harder to find fishes in the sea, all year long”.  He has to go further out to the sea and stay further away from other fishing vessels.  He mentions that while he appreciates the value to the country of natural gas exploration taking place at Block 22 just off the north coast of Tobago, he has concerns that this activity may be a contributory factor to the low level of fish stock.

Continuous Evaluation

The first act of the day, as trainees and facilitators gather, is the assessment of the previous day’s activities and agreement on the agenda for the day.  Today, Nicole Leotaud, CANARI’s Executive Director and conservation biologist, takes the debriefing session a little further and does an assessment of the entire workshop.  She looks at the areas on the model that have been mapped and examines the information added about Tobago’s resources and the effects of climate change.  How locals adapt to the changes is also a part of the assessment, to the extent to which the information is being captured on the model.

In the meantime, as informants come and go, they transpose their mental maps on the model and check existing ones.  It is a process of constant cross-checking and verification marked by recurrent negotiations.

There is discussion, sometimes heated, on where lines, areas and points should be located.  When there is no consensus, CANARI facilitators and Participatory GIS experts Kenn Mondiai from Papua New Guinea and Kail Zingapan from the Philippines come in to assist.

The workshop is soon drawing to a close, with only four more days to go.  In that time, the facilitators look forward to welcome new teams of informants coming from the south western end of the island.

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