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3. Review of the Forestry Sector

3.1 Role of Forestry and Trees in the National Economy
3.2 Relevant Development Policies
3.3 Legislation
3.4 Administration
3.5 Constraints Affecting the Subsector's Development

12. With the decline in agriculture, the area of land under tree cover has increased over the years, and various reports estimate that there are 9,254 ha of woodland (33% of Antigua's land area) and 10,000 ha of scrub growth (36% of the land area). Table 1 below classifies the woodland areas of Antigua.

Table 1. Woodland Composition for Antigua




Moist Forest



Dry Woodland



Cactus Scrub









Table 2. Woodland Distribution for Barbuda.




Wooded Areas



Mangrove Swamp



Scrub & Rough Grazing



13. The species composition and structure of the vegetation has been described (Beard, 1949) and although all the forests are of secondary growth, they contain a number of valuable timber species, including mahogany (Swietenia mahagoni) and white cedar (Tabebuia pallida). On the present sites, however, they are unlikely to produce quality timber, as most of the forested lands are only suitable for conservation purposes.

3.1 Role of Forestry and Trees in the National Economy

14. As a small open market, forestry and related activities can play only a supplementary role in the Antigua and Barbuda economy which is primarily driven by the tourism industry, in the wake of the steady decline of agriculture.

15. Between 1977 and 1990, the country experienced strong economic growth, supporting one of the highest per capita standards of living among the OECS countries in the Eastern Caribbean. During this period, real GDP increased from EC $158.8 millions to EC $355.9 millions, an average growth rate of 6.2% per annum. However, the Government has been running a fiscal deficit for a number of years, having financed its capital investment programme through loans, a significant portion of which are denominated in foreign currencies. The Government has therefore announced austerity measures which include a freeze on public sector spending, more effective revenue collection and divestment of assets.

16. Nevertheless, tourism continues to grow, contributing an estimated 60% to the economy. However, it has placed considerable demands on the local infrastructure, particularly water and sewage, and crowded out alternative investment opportunities, while severely stressing the use of the natural environment for construction of additional resort facilities. The Forest Economics consultant has pointed out that changes in the market place can be affected by changes in societal values and a variety of products in the developed countries have suffered because they were determined as being "environmentally unfriendly". The tourist industry is dependent on visitors from the metropolitan countries where this discrimination is particularly rife. In these circumstances, it would be prudent for the Government to ensure that natural resources which enhance the tourism plant are well protected and, at the same time, properly utilised.

17. In this respect, the GOAB needs to adopt an enlightened approach to the planning, development and use of land and to ensure that such a policy is strictly observed. Under such a policy, forestry's role should be recognised as being essential to the protection and conservation of critical resources, such as water, and complementary to developing the tourism product, as well as the quality of life of the people of Antigua and Barbuda.

18. Other benefits which can accrue from forestry in Antigua and Barbuda include:

i) rural employment opportunities;
ii) shelter from the desiccating effects of the prevailing winds;
iii) land stabilisation and soil conservation/amelioration;
iv) production of fence posts, forage for livestock, fuelwood, fruits, nuts and other products;
v) protection of natural habitats and wildlife for recreation, scientific research and tourism.

19. Despite the reputed benefits of the tourism industry, the Government should concentrate its attention on all opportunities for economic growth and optimal use of natural resources. In tandem with other national strategies, the role of forestry and trees needs to be heightened to become an integral contributor in maintaining living standards on a sustained basis.

3.2 Relevant Development Policies

20. In pursuing the development of the tourist sector, the GOAB appears to have neglected agriculture and the need to maintain stability in all sectors. Indeed, there seems to have been an absence of clear Government policies to guide the society's growth and improvement. However, it is pleasing to report that within the last two years a Ministry of Planning has been established in Antigua & Barbuda with the responsibility for developing a National Development Plan.

21. This new Ministry has initiated an integrated planning process which will take some time to fill the existing void. Such planning will take account of the country's present economic circumstances, the nature of its physical resources, its human resource capabilities and requirements in order to determine fundamental national strategies on which future growth can rely. In the short-term, the austerity measures announced must be equitably implemented as soon as possible, along with appropriate measures to ensure cohesion among the various sectors. The proposed NFAP recognizes these needs, and its multi-disciplinary approach is recommended for adoption by the Government in planning for the country's future.

3.3 Legislation

22. Antigua and Barbuda's forest legislation (The Forestry Act, Cap. 99) dates back to 1941 and provides for, inter alia, the establishment of reserves, exploitation permits, clearing and afforestation on private lands, etc. The Forest Regulations deal with permits, control of fires, cattle trespass and survey and demarcation of Forest Reserve boundaries. Unfortunately, the Act and Regulations are no longer enforced, and uncontrolled exploitation (mainly wattle for fish and lobster traps) has been practised. However, the forest cover is still relatively intact, but species diversity has been impaired.

23. The Legislation consultant has discussed related legislation and described various deficiencies existing in the enactments supporting resource and environmental management. Related legislation includes:

the Land Development and Control Act (1977) for physical development planning;

the Fisheries Act (1983) for protection of mangroves and habitats of fauna and flora;

the National Parks Act (1984) to protect and develop ecological resources;

Antigua Agricultural Development Corporation Act (1978) to stimulate agriculture (including forestry) and undertake commercial management.

24. The deficiencies identified underscore the need for new legislation in the forestry and water resources areas, together with amendments to other legislation, especially the National Parks Act, as well as the need for regulations to provide guidance for environmental managers. Amendment to the National Parks Act should include consolidation of existing laws relating to coastal zone management and declaration of protected areas, viz. Beach Protection Act (1957), Beach Control Act (1959), Marine Areas (Preservation and Enhancement) Act (1972), Public Parks Ordinance and the Botanic Gardens Ordinance.

25. New and amended legislation should provide for: structured integrated environmental planning and control; statutorily determined time-frames for completion and approval of national and sectoral plans; and adequate financial and legal incentives for sound agroforestry development in the country. This latter element is required to facilitate agricultural credit and loan facilities to encourage farmers. The consultant also advocates umbrella environmental legislation as is found in the Bahamas, Jamaica and St. Kitts and Nevis, and which is actively being considered in Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago. Such legislation should empower the Historical, Conservation and Environmental Commission as a statutory body with the necessary functions in this regard.

26. Many of the statutes cover the same areas, while many issues are not covered by any existing legislation. As in other CARICOM countries, this situation has arisen because legal development has tended to deal with single issues, due to perceived necessities or pressing concerns. This patchwork of fragmented and uncoordinated legislation is not rooted in any central theme and has contributed to confusion among agencies, non-enforcement of regulations and a dilution of responsibility. It is hoped that the GOAB will be committed to halting environmental degradation and to improving the quality of life for its citizens as well as the quality of enjoyment for its visitors. It should therefore move urgently towards rationalization of environmental legislation to ensure adequate provisions for protection and development of forests, natural habitats and wildlife in the interest of conservation of the environment and biological diversity.

3.4 Administration

27. Forestry falls under the portfolio of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Lands and Housing and is staffed by a professional officer, two sub-professionals, four forest rangers, a nursery technician and a trainee. This is notable growth for the country which has never had the benefit of such capacity, even in colonial days.

28. The GOAB now needs to structure this team into a proper Forestry Division by providing it with clear functions and responsibilities and with adequate facilities to perform these duties effectively. This will require the promulgation of an official forest policy which, until now, has been notably lacking.

3.5 Constraints Affecting the Subsector's Development

29. As emphasized in many reports during the past decade, the main constraint is the lack of a coherent land use policy to guide the allocation of land for suitable uses and to provide security of tenure for those in dire need of adequate land space. Consequently, there has been no survey nor gazetting of forest reserves for fifty years since the Forestry Act and hence, there is no forest estate in Antigua and Barbuda. The absence of a land use policy has prevented the development of afforestation schemes and will be a serious hindrance to promoting agroforestry in the country, if not addressed urgently. At the same time, there is no forest policy nor the financial means to support one. However, the Government has moved steadily to provide trained personnel, although it has taken many years.

30. A potential constraint to the implementation of the NFAP could be the profusion of overlapping jurisdictions caused by the existing enactments. However, the dialogue initiated by the Historical, Conservation and Environmental Commission and the apparent coordinated support engendered by the TFAP suggest that suitable rationalization of these overlaps can be achieved.

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