Jamaica’s Public Botanical Gardens Being Improved

Modern Jamaica Today 17
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80 per cent of what the island consumes is plant based and it in turn, produces 90 per cent of the oxygen that the people breathe.

By Alecia Smith – Jamaica Information Service

The Government is undertaking work to enhance several public botanical gardens across the island, in a bid to further protect and preserve the country’s rich biodiversity.

This was disclosed by Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Floyd Green, who informed that focus is being placed on the Castleton Botanical Gardens​​ in St. Mary; Bath Botanical Gardens in St. Thomas; and the Cinchona Botanical Gardens in St. Andrew.

The Minister, who was speaking at the virtual staging of the Public Gardens Division’s Horticultural and Botanical Seminar on Friday (February 26), said the work is being undertaken in keeping with the Division’s ongoing work to maintain and improve public gardens, while preserving the country’s biodiversity.

The Public Gardens Division of the Agriculture Ministry is responsible for the maintenance and development of these gardens, which boast a large number of endemic plants which have earned Jamaica the ranking of 5th in the world in relation to endemic flora among islands worldwide.

“Through significant partnerships, such as with the European Union (EU), we are currently doing work on our Castleton Botanical Gardens. We are looking at increasing our exotic plants and fruit trees across that garden and also constructing a bird sanctuary and a butterfly garden,” Mr. Green informed.

“We will be doing some work on the Bath Gardens in St. Thomas, and I have said to the team (at the Division), I know this year is challenging, but we will have to find some resources to at least start some work on the road leading to Cinchona, because the reality is that Cinchona has been one of our most beautiful gardens, but remains largely inaccessible due to the road conditions,” he added.

Mr. Green said the enhancement of public gardens has to be a priority area, given the importance of biodiversity to human survival, pointing out that 80 per cent of what the island consumes is plant based and it in turn, produces 90 per cent of the oxygen that the people breathe.
“We have to revive, resuscitate (and) enhance our public gardens,” the Minister emphasised.

Mr. Green lamented that over time, enough attention has not been given to preserving biodiversity, which has resulted in the extinction of a number of species, and irreversible habitat destruction, and “serve as reminders of the consequences (of) when we are irresponsible and indifferent towards protecting our biodiversity.”

As such, the Minister said his vision is to have at least one public garden in every parish …“where our families can go and where we are preserving our biodiversity.”

“We are on a drive and I really want the Public Gardens Division to take it upon themselves to start identifying areas, working with the National Land Agency and with our own Ministry, across each parish that we can look to establish a public garden,” he said.
In the meantime, Mr. Green informed that the Ministry will be ramping up its communications campaign around protecting biodiversity and highlighting the beauty of public gardens.

“So many Jamaicans still have not taken the time to visit our public gardens and I am a firm believer that once you go, you are more in tuned to provide the protection that our biodiversity needs. So, we are going to be ramping up the campaign. We want our students to be ambassadors, we want our teachers to be leading groups of students on hikes into some of our public gardens, so that they can appreciate that these spaces are critical for our very existence,” he said.

“We must strive towards protecting this rich, enviable biodiversity and find ways for us to coexist without harming each other,” he added.
As part of its mandate for the continuous maintenance and improvement of gardens in Jamaica, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, commissioned the Public Gardens Division to have direct responsibility for three botanical gardens. These gardens are used regularly for photo shoots and as educational tools to expose students to general gardening and environment conservation practices.

The mission of the Division, which also has responsibility for the Holland Bamboo Grove and Fern Gully scenic avenues, is to establish and maintain a collection of plants, including trees, shrubs, grass, and vines; and to promote the development in plant conservation, research, education and passive recreation.

The Ministry also has oversight responsibility for the Hope Botanical Gardens and Zoo, which is being managed, since May 2005, by non-government organization (NGO), the Nature Preservation Foundation. The Foundation’s functions comprise improving the aesthetics and biological content of the gardens, with an emphasis on conservation of species endemic to Jamaica.

By Alecia Smith – Jamaica Information Service

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