The Big Thinking of Carbon Credits in Guyana

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Caribbean News Service
Dr. Lorraine Sobers is a Fulbright Scholar and currently lectures at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine. Dr. Sobers has a BS in Chemical Engineering and postgraduate degrees, MS and Ph.D., in Petroleum Engineering from Texas Tech and Imperial College London respectively. She has 18 years’ experience in the energy sector specializing in geologic CO2 storage. Dr. Sobers is the Project Coordinator for CO2 Emission Reduction Mobilisation (CERM) Project and a Fellow of the Caribbean Policy Consortium (CPC).

By Dr Lorraine Sobers

John Hess, CEO of Hess Corporation, speaking at the recently concluded International Energy Conference and Expo Guyana, explained to the audience that “Carbon credits provide financial incentives to preserve forests and biodiversity that are at risk to growing economic activities and demand for natural resources.”

The purchase of carbon credits by an oil producer within the jurisdiction of its operations is direct as any carbon emission offsetting arrangement can be. In December 2022, American-based Hess Corporation announced that their company will purchase US$750 million in carbon credits, over a 10-year period. Hess Corp is currently a consortium partner in the prolific oil-producing Stabroek Block, located offshore Guyana. These carbon credits are intended to help conserve Guyana’s lush rainforest which consume CO2 and release oxygen into the atmosphere. In the simplest terms, carbon credits are a mechanism to obtain waste disposal services for CO2.

I remember booking my first online flight, with my first credit card in hand, to travel to Trinidad while a student at Texas Tech University. The travel website offered the sale of carbon credits to offset emissions attributed to my 3000-mile flight from Lubbock, Texas to Piarco, Trinidad, with a stop or two along the way. “Would you like to purchase carbon credits to offset your trip?” the screen prompted, with the options, ‘yes’ or ‘no’. A similar question is posed to corporations and countries worldwide “Would you like to purchase carbon credits to offset your operations?”

The United Nations’ Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) program, established in 2007 under the Paris Agreement, facilitates carbon offsets for forest conservation a larger scale. The program provides guidance for the management of the forest sector to mitigate climate change. REDD+ and its formal mechanism to operate, Architecture for REDD+ Transactions (ART), are outlined in Article 5 of the agreement. A company can offset its carbon emissions by purchasing credits, these funds support projects that promote conservation and forestry.

Guyana’s forests are estimated to store almost 20 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide within 18 million hectares of rainforest, making Guyana a significant carbon sink on the planet. Recently, ART verified 33.47 millions tons of Carbon Credits to Guyana for the period 2016 to 2020; each carbon credit offsets one metric ton of carbon emissions. By purchasing these carbon credits, Hess Corp moves closer to achieving its objective of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and Guyana is able to conserve its forest and maintain one of the lowest deforestation rate in the world. This initiative to avoid deforestation is aligned to aim stated in the Paris Agreement to limit global average temperature increase to well below 2 ?C. Under this agreement Guyana and over 100 countries committed to end deforestation by 2030

Several speakers at Guyana’s International Energy Conference and Expo referred to Guyana’s strategy as a model for global sustainable development. Featured speaker, President Dr Irfaan Ali, said, “When we speak about development and transformation and the positioning of Guyana, it is not guesswork…It calls for big thinking.” President Ali hailed Guyana’s expanded Low Carbon Development Strategy 2030 (LCDS) as a document and approach that the world should emulate stating, “The LCDS is not an idea…The LCDS is a demonstration of a practical document and Guyana’s position is to make the LCDS a global model for sustainable development.”

At the forefront of this document is Guyana’s proposed “new ecosystems services economy” which currently focuses on “forest climate services” with future intentions to integrate biodiversity, water management, ocean, and marine resources into these services. The ‘big thinking’ that President Dr Ali refers to includes placing monetary value as carbon credits on natural resources that provide climate services to the planet. It is well known that under the LCDS, the government of Guyana also plans to use funds to support renewable energy and climate mitigation projects.

Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo put forward the argument that Guyana was not only a model for sustainable development, but the country is also able to develop its resources with credibility because of its long time advocacy for climate action and its carbon negative status. Several Guyana government ministers and Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Minister of Energy, Stuart Young, pointed out that developed countries returned to coal fired power stations following the recent gas shortage resulting from the Ukraine-Russia conflict. However, these countries persist in asking developing countries not to develop their hydrocarbon resources, including natural gas, which is a much cleaner burning fuel than coal.

Each Guyanese government official at the conference reiterated Guyana’s credibility and right to produce hydrocarbon because 1) the country needs to develop its resources before peak oil demand, 2) the country needs funds to improve its infrastructure and adapt to climate change, and 3) the country has been doing more than its share for the planet as a carbon sink by maintaining its very large, pristine forest.

If developed countries are displeased with this perspective, they have only themselves to blame. The roll out of funding from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is painfully cumbersome and slow. Vice President Jagdeo stated that other Caribbean countries may be waiting for these promised funds, but Guyana cannot afford to wait. As I said previously, developing countries are footing the bill for climate change. Guyana has presented an innovative way to achieve its low carbon development objectives without sacrificing its progress. This solution may not be applicable to all CARICOM or Small Island Developing States but I hope this approach is a catalyst for at-risk nations to explore affordable funding options that meets national development objectives.

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ILO launches innovative platform to strengthen policy action for full employment

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Caribbean News Service

A new web-based platform that provides easy access to cutting-edge employment policy expertise has been launched by the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The Employment Policy Action Facility (EPAF), is a comprehensive platform that brings together the ILO’s latest evidence, expertise and policy advice. It offers innovative tools, including a curated list of key resources relevant to different stages of the policy action process.

Ensuring the gender-responsiveness of employment policies – a guiding principle of the ILO’s core approach – is a cross-cutting theme of EPAF. The platform mainstreams a gender perspective, including gender-responsive employment diagnostic guidelines and gender-sensitive pro-employment policies.

The EPAF comprises of two sections. The Employment Diagnostic Toolbox gives access to key ILO tools, resources, and guidance on country analytics, to support evidence-based policymaking.

In addition, the Employment Policy Design Lab showcases the ILO’s approaches and good practices that can support policymakers throughout the policy cycle, including design, implementation, financing, monitoring and evaluation. It also offers information on pro-employment macroeconomic policies and budgeting, employment services to support jobseekers, youth employment, and job-rich and just green transition policies.

“The value of ILO’s expertise is measured in the action it can deliver in countries that we serve. I am proud to launch the Employment Policy Action Facility that will help to bridge the gap between technical support and policy action that can make a difference in people’s lives,” said Mia Seppo, the Assistant Director General for Jobs and Social Protection at the ILO. “The launch is also very timely as the ILO is now working to implement the UN Global Accelerator on Jobs and Social Protection for Just Transitions in countries and the EPAF has much to offer to support this collective initiative at the crucial juncture of global economy and labour markets.”

“The EPAF allows us to present ILO resources in an efficient way that makes them easily accessible for those who make the action happen. Combining existing knowledge and tools with the latest developments in one place summarizes the service offer of EPAF,” said Sangheon Lee, Director of the ILO’s Employment Policy, Job Creation and Livelihoods Department. “We hope the EPAF will stimulate further policy innovation and action towards productive and decent work for all. The facility will be continuously updated with the latest resources. We look forward to engaging with our constituents in a demand-driven manner, to help them make full use of the EAPF’s resources.”

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UN gathering in Doha concludes, ushering in new era of solidarity for world’s Least Developed Countries

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Caribbean News Service

The Fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC5) in Doha, Qatar ended today with member states committing to measures to deliver on the Doha Programme of Action, a 10-year plan to put the world’s 46 most vulnerable countries back on track to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Bold commitments at the conference marked a transformative turning point for the world’s poorest countries, whose development has been hindered by crises including COVID-19, climate change and deepening inequalities.

“Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in the Least Developed Countries is a litmus test for achieving the 2030 Agenda writ large, including by ensuring that no one — and no LDC — is left behind” said UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed. “That is why the Doha Programme of Action must be seen as a vehicle for SDG Acceleration.”

Under the theme ‘From Potential to Prosperity’ the conference aimed to drive transformational change to positively affect the 1.2 billion people who live in the LDCs.

“The commitments made this week are a true embodiment of global solidarity and partnership and will pave the way for a new era of international cooperation,” said Rabab Fatima, Secretary General of the Conference and UN High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.

“This will result in more of the Least Developed Countries achieving the goal of graduation and a more prosperous and sustainable future,” she continued.

Doha Programme of ActionDiscussions at LDC5 centered around delivery of the Doha Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2022-2031, which aims to manifest a new generation of renewed and strengthened commitments between the least developed countries and their partners, including the private sector, civil society, and governments.

The Programme, agreed in 2022 after LDC5 was postponed due to the Omicron outbrea, outlines a transformative agenda to tap into the potential of the LDCs. Measures include the development of a food stockholding mechanism for LDCs; an online university focusing on STEM education, especially for women and girls; an international investment support centre; a sustainable graduation support facility; and comprehensive multi-hazard crisis mitigation and resilience-building measures for least developed countries.

Agreements reached this week will help the LDCs to address the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, to return to a pathway to achieve the SDGs, address climate change, and make strides towards sustainable and irreversible graduation.

5,000 participants attended LDC5, including 47 Heads of State or Government and 130 Ministers and Vice-Ministers. They called for developed countries to urgently provide the most vulnerable countries with the assistance they need to drive socio-economic and environmental development. Corporate leaders together with civil society, youth and other partners shared plans, innovations, and recommendations in several areas: from enhancing the participation of LDCs in international trade and regional integration to addressing climate change, strengthening global partnerships, supporting graduation, and leveraging the power of science, technology, and innovation.

The Doha Declaration The Doha Political Declaration, adopted today, reinforces the international community’s commitment to the Doha Programme of Action.

CommitmentsThe Conference has presented a unique opportunity to translate the vision of the Doha Programme into tangible results with countries and stakeholders showcasing a host of commitments. These commitments range from improving biodiversity and tackling malnutrition to resilience building in the LDCs.

Qatar announced a financial package of $60 million: $10m to support the implementation of the Doha Programme of Action and $50 million to help build resilience in the LDCs.
Germany dedicated EUR200 million in new money in 2023 for financing for least developed countries.
Canada announced $59 million to deliver Vitamin supplements in 15 LDCs and ecosystem conservation in Burkina Faso.
The EU Commission announced cooperation agreements advancing sustainable investments in Africa totalling more than EUR130 million of investment.
Finland announced an annual event called the United Nations LDC Future Forum in Helsinki, with the Office of the UN High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States – OHRLLS -, to ensure the latest thinking and research is being put to work to ensure progress on the most vulnerable states.
The Green Climate Fund announced a new project to give $80 million in equity to offer green guarantees to business in LDCs and bring down the cost of capital.
The United Nations World Tourism Organisation, announced a new EUR10 million Tourism for Development Fund for LDCs, supported by TUI Care Foundation, that will invest by 2030 to support sustainable tourism in LDCs as a key driver of development.
The government of Kazakhstan pledged $50,000 to continue their work supporting the most vulnerable member states of the United Nations.
The government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced a major new loan package for the Least Developed Countries.

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OECS Commission takes bold step to empower Youth and tackle crime

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Caribbean News Service

The Member States of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) have long been plagued by high rates of violent crime, disproportionately affecting young people between the ages of 15 and 29.

The OECS Commission, in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), continues to take bold steps targeted at reducing crime and empowering young people through its latest project, Opportunities to Advance and Support Youth for Success (OASYS).

With a planned budget of USD $5,340,223.00, OASYS will run from October 2022 to October 2026, and will focus on three expected outcomes. These include the diversion of children and youth from the formal Court systems, empowerment of children and youth in conflict with the law through opportunities that support rehabilitation and prepare them for a successful future, and successful reintegration of youth into their families and communities. The participating Member States are Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The OECS Commission has already made progress towards reducing crime and violence in the region through its Juvenile Justice Reform Project, which resulted in child justice legislation being passed in five out of the six participating Member States, and over 500 children being diverted and supported through capacity building and the creation of mechanisms for the implementation of Child Justice Legislation. However, some gaps still remained, including issues around data, sustainability, communications, and child and youth-friendly Courts. The intention of the Grant Agreement between the OECS Commission and USAID for implementation of OASYS, is a bridging of the gaps while simultaneously creating more opportunities for the rehabilitative landscape for Youth Justice.

During the project launch, the OECS Commission stated that OASYS is aligned with the seven strategic pillars of the OECS Youth Empowerment Strategy (OECS YES), namely, Child and Youth Protection, Education and Training, Employment and Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Culture, Healthy Lifestyles and Sports, Environment and Sustainable Development, and Citizenship and Identity.

It is noteworthy that OASYS is part of the wider USAID Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI), which seeks to build Caribbean partners’ capacity to disrupt illicit trafficking and transnational crime, advancing Caribbean and U.S. citizen security. The other projects under the CBSI initiative that directly benefit OECS Member States include Youth Resilience to Crime and Violence (Y-RIE) and CariSECURE 2.0.

The OECS Commission and USAID are taking a critical step towards reducing crime and violence in the region and empowering young people to reach their full potential. According to the Director General of the OECS Commission, Dr. Didacus Jules,

“The launch of OASYS marks a critical next step in this journey, building on the work done during the JJRP to provide young people in conflict with the law with the support and opportunities they need to lead successful and fulfilling lives. We are grateful for the support of USAID and look forward to even more progress.”

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OAS boss travelled with female aide at center of ethics probe

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Caribbean News Service
Luis Almagro

The head of the Organization of American States made almost three dozen work trips with a female staffer with whom he maintained a long-running intimate relationship, according to travel records uncovered by The Associated Press.

The revelations come as an external probe is expected to wrap up this month looking into whether OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro’s romance with the Mexican staffer two decades his junior violated the Washington-based group’s ethics code.

The trips together, all but one between July 2018 and December 2019, included a four-day visit to Oxford, England to deliver a talk on Latin America, a newspaper publishers’ conference in the historic Colombian city of Cartagena and a quick jaunt to Miami to receivethe “Executive Mastermind Latino” award.

Listings of the trips were found in publicly available reports the secretary general files periodically with the OAS’ permanent council and which are buried deep in the organization’s website.

It’s not clear how much the travel cost the OAS, which has been struggling with a deep budget crunch for years. But at least 21 of the 34 trips were paid in part or full by the organization, with payment for the remainder covered by organizers of events the twoattended or not specified. In all, the couple travelled 15 times together without any other OAS staffer listed as present, according to the records.

Almagro, through a spokesman, declined an AP request for an interview and didn’t explain why the two made so many work trips together.

“No OAS rules were violated at any time due to the measures he and his team took to ensure all regulations were complied with,” spokesman Gonzalo Espariz said in a written statement.

The AP last year was the first to report that the OAS was investigating the long-running office romance between Almagro and the staffer, which had been something of an open secret inside the peace and democracy-building organization made up of 34 westernhemisphere governments.

The report led the Biden administration, the biggest donor to the OAS, to call for an external investigation into possible misconduct. A few weeks later, the OAS’ Permanent Council hired a Washington law firm, Miller & Chevalier Chartered, to carry out the probe and deliver its findings by the end of March.

Almagro, 59, was quick to welcome the oversight even while steadfastly denying he had broken any rules. He said he wasn’t the woman’s supervisor, never benefitted her in any way and said their long-running relationship was consensual.

“I definitely want to confirm, reconfirm and super-confirm that this relationship existed” for three years, Almagro said in November. “None of this changes my vision of the institution, its operations and the responsibility we have with respect to them.”

In online bios as well as in photos with Almagro as recently as a year ago, some of them posted to the OAS’ social media accounts, the woman is described as an “adviser” or sometimes “head adviser” to the secretary general. The woman, who is not being named at the request of the OAS, has been on unpaid leave at her request since June, according to the OAS. She did not respond to AP requests for comment.

At issue are OAS ethics guidelines that bar staff members from having intimate relationships with colleagues they supervise or in a way that interferes “with the performance of their duties or to disadvantage others in the workplace.”

Details on Almagro’s extensive travel are contained in reports the secretary general was asked to file quarterly with the OAS’ Permanent Council as part of a savings and transparency initiative approved by regional governments in 2016.

Almagro didn’t appear to submit any reports in 2020 and 2021 — a period that coincided with the worst of the COVID pandemic, when travel throughout the world was largely suspended.

But the couple — whose relationship Almagro says has since ended — appear to have made their last trip together in February 2022 to New Haven, Connecticut, for a Latin American leadership event at Yale University.

Espariz declined to explain why Almagro did not file travel reports from 2020 and 2021, and whether there were additional trips with the woman.

The U.S., which has contributed about half of the organization’s $100 million in funding in 2022, declined to comment on the trips. But the Biden administration has repeatedly said it takes allegations of ethics violations at the OAS seriously and said it supports a fair, impartial review of the facts.

Almagro was elected to head the OAS in 2015 after serving as foreign minister in Uruguay’s leftist government. Once installed, he quickly made common cause with the U.S. in opposing Cuba and Venezuela’s socialist government, once even echoing President DonaldJ. Trump’s line that he wouldn’t rule out using military force to remove Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Almagro was re-elected with the support of 23 of 34 member states, including the U.S., in 2020, overcoming questions about his leadership style that have dogged his tenure.

But more recently, as the left has regained power across Latin America, calls for his removal have been growing louder.

A few weeks after the AP reported on the romance between Almagro and the staffer, in October 2022, members of the so-called Puebla Group in Latin America issued a statement calling for his removal.

Signed by former presidents and political leaders from 16 countries, the document criticized his “amoral” conduct, including the firing of the leader of the human rights watchdog, and his intervention following messy elections in Bolivia that led to President EvoMorales’ resignation. — The Associated Press

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On International Women’s Day, IICA launches virtual entrepreneurship course for rural women

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Caribbean News Service
Puno, Peru – circa June 2015: Women singing at Uros floating island and village on Lake Titicaca near Puno, Peru

On International Women’s Day, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) is launching, for the first time ever, an introductory course on entrepreneurship for rural women from Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. The course will be geared towards fostering management and leadership skills among these groups.

The initiative addresses a request made at the Second Forum of Female Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Senior Officials of Agriculture of the Americas in July 2022. At the event convened by IICA, the officials agreed that it would only be possible to achieve food security in the countries through greater participation by women. To that end, they called for exploring the possibility of delivering training to women entrepreneurs in the agrifood sector.

In response to this request, IICA designed and presented a course at the third forum, held in November. Registration is now open for the course, which consists of five learning units and will last two months.

Participants will receive training in entrepreneurial culture, community leadership, marketing, business scale-up and how to access business loans. They will also be offered funding and marketing tools for their entrepreneurial ideas.

The Forum of Female Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Senior Officials of Agriculture of the Americas was established in 2021 by IICA, following a request by its member countries to establish a forum that would give greater visibility to and highlight the importance of rural women’s contributions, as well as drive policymaking aimed at reducing gender gaps and inequalities.

Approximately 58 million women live in rural areas of the Americas. Their work is often underreported and they face difficulties in accessing credit and technical assistance programs.

“The entrepreneurship course for rural women seeks to contribute to greater equity in agricultural and rural development processes, as well as shifting paradigms in rural areas, so that they become areas of progress, opportunities and well-being for everyone”, said IICA Director General Manuel Otero.

“We are launching a training proposal to provide rural women of the Americas with practical tools, contribute to their empowerment and strengthen their leadership as entrepreneurs. The course is aimed at enhancing their capabilities and, in turn, improving their quality of life and economic status”, remarked Priscila Z??iga Villalobos, Manager of IICA’s Gender Equality and Youth Program.

Participants in IICA’s virtual course must be nationals or residents of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru or Venezuela, live in a rural area, have basic schooling and have an entrepreneurial idea or one that is in its early stages.

On this occasion, only nine participants from each country will be able to enroll. Registration will begin on March 8 and the course, which will be delivered in Spanish, will begin on March 22. To participate in the selection process, please access this link.

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CTO reports promising outlook for the region in 2023

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Caribbean News Service

Despite global pressures such as high inflation, the war in Ukraine, the ensuing energy crisis, and an impending economic recession, the outlook for Caribbean travel and tourism is favorable, according to the Barbados-based Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO).

Delivering the region’s 2022 “Tourism Performance and Outlook Report” in Bridgetown today, Neil Walters, Acting Secretary General of the CTO, confirmed that the Caribbean had one of the quickest recovery rates globally in 2022, with 28.3 million registered tourist visits in 2022. This represents 88.6 percent of the visitors who arrived in 2019, which served as the baseline year for typical tourism activity before the pandemic.

He reported that international travel is expected to contribute to the region’s substantial gains already registered thanks to the robust United States market, which continues to drive the region’s recovery.

There was an estimated 28.1 percent increase in visitors coming from the U.S. market in 2022. At the end of the year, 14.6 million American tourists visited the region, 3.2 million more than the 11.4 million in 2021.

Arrivals from the European market increased by 81 percent in 2022 when compared to 2021. The 5.2 million tourists from this market were almost double the 2.8 million in 2021. This represented 18.3 percent of all arrivals in 2022.

Due to travel restrictions in early 2022, the Canadian market has recovered more slowly at 60 percent, while the lack of availability of intra-regional airlift has negatively impacted regional connectivity.

“Nearly 90 percent of the region’s travel demand for 2019 has already been recovered,” reported Walters, with destinations such as Cura?ao, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, St. Maarten, Turks and Caicos, and the U.S. Virgin Islands already surpassing their pre-pandemic levels.

Caribbean destinations can expect this recovery to continue into 2023, albeit at a slower rate, Walters explained, predicting that growth will be uneven among the destinations, with additional countries and territories exceeding their 2019 levels.

According to STR, the average daily rate at hotels increased by 21.7 percent to US$290.60 in 2022. The revenue per available room surged by 66.4 percent to $176.46, and the number of available rooms (up 4.4 percent) as well as room income (up 73.6 percent) increased. After two challenging years for the aviation industry, global air passenger traffic recovered significantly in 2022.

It is estimated that visitors to the Caribbean region spent between $36.5 and $37.5 billion in 2022, an increase of 70 to 75 percent compared to 2021.

It is expected that overall arrivals to the region will increase by between 10 and 15 percent when compared to 2022, with 31.2 to 32.6 million tourists visiting the region this year. The cruise industry is also anticipated to continue recovering and expanding to meet increasing demand, with 32 to 33 million cruise passenger visits expected – a five to 10 percent increase over the pre-COVID baseline figure.

Chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s Council of Ministers and Commissioners of Tourism, Kenneth Bryan, who also serves as the Cayman Islands’ Minister of Tourism and Transport, summarized that in the face of the devastating blows delivered by the pandemic, “as a region, we have responded with hope, strength and the determination to prevail.”

Minister Bryan reiterated that great strides have been made in Caribbean tourism, a clear indication that the sector is bouncing back, and hopes are high that the robust pace of recovery will continue into 2023 and beyond. “So, although we have not yet surpassed 2019’s numbers across the board in every jurisdiction, the needle is certainly moving in the right direction,” he commented.

The chairman envisioned 2023 as a period of growth and development for the CTO, and he and his team were laser-focused on growing the membership, including countries, territories as well as allied partners. “It is also my intention to strengthen the relationships with other organizations, such as the United Nations World Travel Organization, the World Travel and Tourism Council, and even the Central American Tourism Promotion Agency (CATA), to foster greater collaboration,” said Minister Bryan. Consideration is being given to the restructuring of the organization and reforming its strategic vision and direction for the next five years, which includes the appointment of a new Secretary-General, he confirmed.

Minister Bryan announced the return of CTO’s Caribbean Week in New York, to be held in “The Big Apple,” from June 5 to 8 this year, and disclosed that his team was committed to addressing the nagging issue of air connectivity, a complex one that has been exacerbated by the reevaluation of airline business structures and the global pilot shortage. “It would be illogical for me to promise a solution to this issue during my tenure as chairman. But what I can and will commit to is getting the players around the table to forensically examine what we need to do as a unified region to improve this scenario and start the ball rolling towards the solution.”

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Cuba tobacco farmers recuperate after ruinous Hurricane Ian

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Caribbean News Service

A neighbor lent him a house to dry leaves, and he had a little fertilizer saved, so he plucked up the courage to plant. Now, Hirochi Robaina can hardly believe the resulting miracle.

Robaina, one of the most recognized tobacco producers in Cuba, marvels as he walks through the intense green of plants that have grown more than a meter (three feet) high in the Pinar del Rio region.

Six months after Hurricane Ian devastated 80% of the region’s tobacco infrastructure, farmers are trying to recuperate from the disaster. And though they’ll produce less than in past seasons, they say they’ll still be able to harvest the leaves for premium hand-rolled cigars, one of the Caribbean nation’s key exports.

“Not a single tobacco house was left standing. There were no warehouses, there was no tree left,” Robaino told The Associated Press, remembering how the storm left the region at the end of September. “Everything broke and at that moment I did not believe it was possible to plant.”

Robaina, 46, is heir to a grandfather’s estate that is so famous that a cigar brand bears his name: Vegas Robaina. At the beginning of October, Robaiana was resigned to planting only beans and vegetables — something, at least, but a waste for land that can produce some of the finest export tobacco.

But then he changed his mind and decided to try planting tobacco “to maintain the family tradition of a century,” he said, showing his tobacco over two hectares (about 5 acres) — or about 30% of what he had at this time in 2022.

Ian’s impact added to an already intense economic crisis in Cuba, where the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) dropped 11% in 2020.

Many farmers don’t remember ever having lived through the kind of destruction brought by the hurricane. In the fall, they had doubted they would even be able to plant any tobacco this season. It requires special care, application of fertilizers at precise moments, irrigation, cloth to cover the plants and drying houses for the leaves.

With winds of more than 200 kilometers per hour (125 miles per hour), Ian crossed the island from south to north to the west, devastating the Pinar del Rio region where 80% of the island’s tobacco is produced including almost all of its tobacco for export.

Five people in Cuba died overall and 30,000 were evacuated. Thousands of utility poles fell. Entire communities were without electricity, water, and telephones for weeks. Rice, corn, sweet potato and fruit crops were destroyed.

Some 10,000 tobacco drying houses were toppled. About 33,000 tons of stored leaves were lost, according to authorities.

Private tobacco producers have been meeting with authorities since last fall to secure commitments for the state to help settle debts and pay for materials to rebuild tobacco drying houses. Help also has come from fellow tobacco producing nations Nicaragua andthe Dominican Republic, and producers also chipped in to help each other.

Reiniel Rojas, a 33-year-old farmer who has been cultivating premium tobacco for ten years, planted 13 hectares (about 30 acres) around La Coloma thanks to the fact that he was able to finish his drying houses.

“The recovery was quick,” Rojas said.

Rojas got seeds from a colleague to plant. Robaina received four chainsaws from producer friends from other countries and his cousin lent him the drying house, while he loaned some fertile land to two other farmers.

Nature also helped by withholding plagues of caterpillars or fungi, so demand for pesticides was low.

A tobacco house costs a producer around $20,000 at the official exchange rate. A good harvest, with the delicate work of a whole year, can pay a farming family up to $50,000 dollars, farmers told the AP.

The figure is not small for Cuba, where a state salary in the city amounts to about $200 a month at the official rate in the limited official economy, but would be only about $29 in practical terms for most Cubans in the broader, informal economy.

Enrique Blanco, agricultural director of Tabacuba, part of the state-owned Cubatabaco company that regulates and manages tobacco, told the AP that this year’s plan for tobacco planting already is down to about 9,500 hectares (23,000 acres) — down from an initiallyplanned 15,000 (37,000).

There will be some 2,100 hectares (5,200 acres) of premium leaves grown under the cover of fabric, with which the country hopes to cover the coming export demand, Blanco said.

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Aid group shutters hospital in Haiti amid spike in violence

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Caribbean News Service

Doctors Without Borders announced Wednesday that it was forced to temporarily close its hospital in Cite Soleil given a sharp rise in gang violence that has left dozens dead in recent weeks.

The slum — one of the largest in the capital of Port-au-Prince — has been the site of repeated clashes between gangs.

“We are looking at a war scene just meters from our hospital,” said Vincent Harris, the aid group’s adviser.

Officials noted that large numbers of stray bullets have hit the hospital compound, and that it’s nearly impossible for the sick and injured to reach the institution for care.

The organization added that in recent days, staff members at another nearby hospital have admitted up to 10 times the usual number of people with gunshot wounds.

Human rights activists have said that from Feb. 24 to March 4, more than 60 people have been killed in one area of the capital alone, with dozens of others kidnapped.

Gangs continue to fight over more territory and are wielding more power since the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise.

Prime Minister Ariel Henry has repeatedly asked the international community for the eployment of foreign troops, a request that has gone unanswered since October.

Instead, various countries have imposed sanctions and have sent military equipment to help Haiti’s National Police, which is severely under-resourced and understaffed. More than a dozen police officers have been killed so far this year.

On Monday, Maarten Boute, the chairman of Digicel in Haiti, tweeted that the situation has grown “increasingly desperate” in Port-au-Prince.

“Armed gangs now roam freely across the entire capital city,” he wrote. “Nobody is safe. Desperation is kicking in. We need help!”

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Eastern Caribbean Green Entrepreneurship Initiative Opens Applications for Third Cohort of Incubator Program

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Caribbean News Service

The Eastern Caribbean Green Entrepreneurship Initiative (EC Greenpreneurs) is proud to announce the launch and call for applications for the third cohort of its Incubator program, aimed at supporting green entrepreneurs in the Eastern Caribbean region.

Following the success of the first two cohorts in 2021 and 2022, the program once again seeks to help early-stage businesses with environmentally and socially sustainable business models to grow and scale their enterprises.

Through the program, the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), in partnership with the Organisation of the Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission, provides 12 weeks of virtual training, mentorship, coaching, and networking opportunities to green entrepreneurs in 6 OECS countries (including Antigua & Barbuda, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines). The selected individuals and/or teams also have a chance to secure USD $10,000 in seed funding through a Business Plan Competition to further develop their potential and showcase innovative solutions to tackle climate change while enhancing sustainability in the region.

The Eastern Caribbean Greenpreneurs program is funded by the Qatar Fund for Development (QFFD) and branches off from GGGI’s Global Greenpreneurs Program. This crucial regional program aims to foster the development of local green businesses and bring additional benefits of creating inclusive green jobs, improving sustainability, and helping the Eastern Caribbean countries achieve the global Sustainable Development (SDGs) and their national climate action goals.

“We are very excited to launch and receive applications for the third cohort of the Eastern Caribbean Greenpreneurs Incubator program and to welcome a new group of innovative and dedicated green entrepreneurs,” said Dr. Kristin Deason, GGGI’s Caribbean Representative. “This program has a proven track record of helping green startups overcome challenges, develop their business models, and increase their growth potential. We look forward to seeing the continued positive impact that these businesses will have on our environment and the economy in the region”.

In the first and second rounds of the program, 36 teams benefitted from weekly mentoring sessions, networking events, and virtual training webinars which enabled their ideas to scale and grow. 9 teams so far have been awarded USD $10,000 each in seed grants after their successful completion of the Business Plan Competition to further boost their progress. (see

“The program helped our business really network and see what other people across the Caribbean are doing. It’s good to see other blue/green entrepreneurs, people doing things with great impact, and it has been such a pleasure to be part of this program,” commented Lavern King from Grenadines Gold, a company providing authentic island experiences and eco-friendly products that are made from ethically grown sea moss in St. Vincent, and the Grenadines, and a participant in the second cohort of the Incubator program. (see

The application period for the third cohort of the EC Greenpreneurs Incubator program is NOW OPEN and will close on April 9th, 2023. Interested green entrepreneurs can apply online at

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