On May 8th, Jean Wiener VicePresident of the IUCN´s Caribbean Committee and founder and director of the Foundation pour la Protection de la Biodiversité Marine (FoProBiM), an environmental NGO based in Haiti and Member of the IUCN, was announced as winner of the Whitley Gold Award 2014.
FoProBiM was established by Jean in 1992, and is Haiti’s only NGO engaged in coastal and marine environmental management and protection.
“This award is without a doubt, an echo of the world´s existing outcry to better protect the Marine Areas and for involving the people that depend on its subsistence and family income, therefore reaching a balance among its use and the conservation of its resources. In this context the work that Jean and FoProBim lead in Haiti, is an example of the nature-based solutions that the IUCN shares in response to the main challenges facing humanity and can contribute to economic development, as well as poverty alleviation and improving food security”, expressed outwardly Dra. Grethel Aguilar, Regional Director of the IUCN´s Regional Office for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.
Haiti’s most productive coastal and marine environments have been under continued threat of over-exploitation from over-fishing, marine pollution, and salt and charcoal production. As most of the local population is engaged in subsistence livelihoods, empowerment is a key goal of FoProBiM and the NGO involves local community stakeholders in all aspects of its conservation initiatives, including environmental education and technical training, partnership building, scientific research, community development, conflict resolution and alternative income generation.
For example, over the past few years, Jean has expanded FoProBiM’s core work at the grassroots level to include: environmental education activities for thousands of local coastal community stakeholders; new environmentally friendly and sustainable alternative income-generating activities in three communities, with over 310 individuals participating, including the installation of 45 bee hives; and the development of three new plant nurseries.
FoProBiM has worked with local people to reuse over 100,000 plastic containers, collected as marine debris from beaches, and recycle them as plant pots for over 100,000 mangroves in reforestation activities. The NGO has restored 20 hectares of mangroves at four locations and distributed 50,000 mangrove and fruit plants to local stakeholders.
As well as working from the bottom-up, Jean has successfully engaged with the Haitian government. As a result, the Haitian government declared the country’s first two Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in 2013, covering over 2,100 km2. The MPAs cover approximately 10% of Haiti’s territorial seas.
As a further result of Jean’s involvement, the government also passed environmental legislation in 2013 protecting all of Haiti’s mangroves, thereby providing blanket coverage to over 20,500 hectares of critical coastal and marine habitat.
This article was written based on a press release by The Whitley Fund for Nature.