The Trinidad Guardian / T&T’s Jonathan Barcant has received the Caribbean and the Americas Regional Award for Excellence in Development at the Commonwealth Youth Awards. He received the award for his work in T&T on building climate change resilience through adaptation, and towards reducing the damage caused by climate change. Climate Action is the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 13.

Barcant was given the award at the Commonwealth Youth Forum 2018, for developing a unique plant solution called the Vetiver System (VS), while leading IAMovement, an NGO he cofounded, which has been driving the civil society conversation on climate change in T&T.

In his application for the Youth Award, Barcant said: “The Vetiver System (VS) is a unique, cost-effective bio-engineering tool for solving many land and water related challenges. This is because of its deep  penetrating root system which can extend to ten feet deep in the first two years, and many other characteristics which allow it to stabilise land, prevent erosion, slow down runoff and promote groundwater recharge.

“The leaves may also be used to make many household items and handicrafts such as baskets, mats, chairs, and as mulch for topsoil rebuilding in sustainable agriculture.”

Using the VS, Barcant implemented the Vetiver Education & Empowerment Project (VEEP) in Paramin, where a total of 25,000 plants were installed on 15 properties, over 20 individuals were directly educated and over 30 more were educated indirectly.

Four plant nurseries were also created to provide ongoing supply into the future, and a new brand of sustainable carbon negative products called House of Vetiver was also launched through a handicrafts component of the project. He said: “Within the Paramin community, the project brought a greater overall sense of togetherness, environmental consciousness, as well as a sense of empowerment and ability to tackle land and water related challenges which were otherwise insurmountable.

It was also learned that older generations used to know about vetiver grass, but the knowledge was lost.”

Through the IAMovement, Barcant started the Climate Talk project in 2017. For this project, he and the other members of the NGO produced a short documentary called Small Change, which they took across T&T into over 40 schools, organisations and public spaces, and also hosted discussions about matters of climate change and building resilience. The NGO also hosted the People’s Climate Marches in 2014 and 2015.

Said Barcant: “Through Climate Talk we are tying together the conversation that climate action, economic prosperity and job creation in T&T now go strongly hand in hand. It is one which has been hugely successful in helping not just open up the people of T&T to the conversation of climate change, but to completely shift minds towards appreciating the value of climate action through renewable energies and energy efficiency.

“The project’s success can be seen in that IAMovement, a grassroots climate change NGO which is now partnering with the Ministry of Energy, National Gas Company and Energy Chamber to take the conversation further in 2018.”

Barcant said he planned to continue with the VEEP, having completed a proposal to carry out a nationwide programme over three years, “to take it into 12 more communities where it is needed most, along with installation of one million plants.

A digital application will also be created to allow citizens to learn through educational videos, and to identify and geotag landslide and erosion issues across the country in need of attention.”

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