The British Virgin Islands (BVI) are at an important crossroads. Residents, businesses, academic institutions, church groups, and the government recognize that the decisions and investments they make today will have an impact on the economy, environment, and social and cultural fabric of the BVI for generations to come.
Green VI is a not-for-profit organization that has been at the forefront of efforts by local environmental groups to promote a greener, cleaner and healthier British Virgin Islands. With a commitment to offering educative and capacity-building programs, Green VI works to facilitate a transition toward sustainability throughout the BVI community.
The British Virgin Islands are comprised of a small archipelago located in the Caribbean Ocean. Due to in part to geographic realities, the BVI face a host of serious sustainability challenges including: reliance on fossil fuels for transportation and imports; an economy highly dependent on tourism; and the threat of harmful chemicals to highly sensitive water table and marine ecosystems.
Green VI was established to help residents, organizations and businesses of the archipelago understand and respond to the sustainability challenges they face. The organization also serves as a catalyst for broader sustainability awareness throughout the Caribbean by focussing on environmental education and advocacy.
In 2012, Green VI partnered with The Natural Step Canada (TNS Canada), The BVI Department of Fisheries and Conservation, and H. Lavitty Stoutt Community College to deliver a capacity building program for community leaders. The key objective of this project was to build capacity for progress towards sustainability and to set the stage for further development of ‘strategic sustainability expertise’ in the BVI. The project also included the creation of a new vision and goals for the BVI and the development of sustainability roadmap to guide their progress toward a sustainable BVI.
The capacity building program took place over the course of 2012, and engaged approximately 35 participants who represented over 20 organizations and government departments. It included an e-learning course, a series of webinars, a community survey, in-person workshops, and homework assignments.
During the workshop, participants applied the Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development (FSSD), to envision a sustainable future for the BVI. This vision encompasses all aspects of BVI society and rests on the foundation of 10 key community systems: Cultural – Social, Economic, Education, Energy, Environment, Food Security, Governance, Health and Wellness, Infrastructure/the Built Environment/ Transportation, and Waste Management. Participants created a description of success for each community system and identified and prioritized actions using the FSSD.
The program engaged key community stakeholders to:
- build their capacity to understand and respond to sustainability-related issues within their organizational or business context,
- build the capacity of participants to utilize a common framework for sustainability to plan strategically for the future of the BVI, and
- assist the Conservation and Fisheries Department in drafting a sectoral sustainability policy that identifies next steps towards sustainability for the BVI.
Planning, Impacts and Outcomes
In order to bring the vision of a sustainable BVI closer to reality, the participants utilized the Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development (FSSD) to develop a set of four key recommendations (See Section 3). These recommendations set the stage for the BVI to thrive within ecological limits. These include:
- training and capacity building to enhance local skills,
- establishing a local sustainability leader’s network,
- developing sector-based sustainability initiatives by leveraging participants from the training program, and
- further developing a culture of sustainability within the government of the BVI.
Further investment in cross-sector capacity building and broad engagement around a sustainability vision are expected to help generate coordinated momentum among community, business, academic, and government leaders towards a sustainable future for the BVI. A shared understanding and broad commitment to the desired vision, and approach to achieving it will enable the BVI to begin a genuine transition towards a future that reflects the values and wishes of the people who call the islands home.
Since its collaboration with The Natural Step Canada, Green VI has been actively involved in a number of initiatives. These include: Glass Studio, a glass recycling program for surrounding restaurants; Trash to Treasure, a program which provides an opportunity for people to model how to reduce waste by recycling and reusing materials to make useful and useable products; and garden projects to help address food security. Green VI has also worked to promote job creation, skill transfer, and eco-tourism, as well as running clean energy and healthy ocean campaigns.
The Partnership with The Natural Step has enabled greater co-operation between bodies as well as a clear direction.”
-Charlotte McDevitt, Executive Director of Green VI
For more information check out the Green VI facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/greenvi