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Feature Story

Investing in land health for sustainable recovery

January 21, 2021

Aerial shot of bay and beach in Abaco, Bahamas
A GEF/UNEP project will focus on land health and help The Bahamas regenerate climate-resilient food production. Photo: pics721/Shutterstock

The Global Environment Facility’s latest work program, approved by the GEF Council in December 2020, includes a series of projects designed to help countries protect and regenerate nature amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is one of these projects. For details on the Council proceedings, please click here.

The Bahamas is a biodiversity hotspot with at least 1,111 species of vascular plants and 406 known species of amphibians, birds, mammals, and reptiles.

These islands are home to a number of native species of global significance, including the Nassau grouper, the Bahama parrot, Bahama oriole, Bahama nuthatch, Bahama swallow, and the Bahamian pygmy boa, that will benefit from restorative land practices.

To protect the ecosystems these species call home, and to ensure the long-term health of its landscapes and coasts, the country has partnered with the GEF and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) to invest in more climate-resilient and regenerative food production practices.

Recent strains on Bahamian land have been caused by factors including over-grazing and other agricultural practices that have depleted soil nutrients. Deforestation, quarrying, mining, and freshwater pollution have also impacted land health in the archipelago of 700 islands and cays. Large swathes of land in coastal areas have been cleared for tourism and urban development.

The Bahamas now aims to build back better from the pandemic with a focus on land health.

This new project, approved by the GEF Council in December 2020, comes at an opportune time as COVID-19 has hurt tourism revenues and driven up unemployment in many areas as a result of hotel and resort closures. This has been especially difficult given The Bahamas was still recovering from the impact of Hurricane Dorian a year ago, one of the worst disasters in its history.

To meet its goals, the project will target climate-resilient food production as well as improved local conditions through sound policy and governance, improved training and tools, and the creation of incentives for regenerative agricultural practices, including a grant mechanism for ecologically focused businesses.

As it gets underway, the project will seek to introduce regenerative agricultural practices to a total of 10,000 additional hectares of productive landscape on seven target islands — Abaco; Andros; Cat Island; Eleuthera; Grand Bahama; Long Island; and New Providence.