Forests and the forestry sector
Trees and forests in Grenada are economically important for their role in ecotourism and recreation. They supply forest products such as timber, posts, poles, split fencing, wildlife, dyes, honey, wax, gums and resins, and create direct and indirect employment. Hunting is an important recreational and subsistence activity. In addition, forests and trees have important environmental roles in climate regulation, erosion control, crop protection, water supply, carbon sequestration, and shade, aesthetics and habitat provision for food and wildlife.
Forest cover amounted to 5 200 ha in 2000 and there were no major changes in forest cover from 1990 to 2000. Cloud forests have suffered little degradation and are at present under no serious threat. Most of the lower montane rain forest, except in the upper watershed of the Great River, has disappeared. Agricultural crops have replaced most of the forests in the middle elevations. Remnants of deciduous forests exist in the south and north. The major threats to forest loss are housing development in the south and charcoal burning and grazing on privately owned mangrove forests in the north. However, the current deforestation rate is practically nil.
The Grand Etang Forest Reserve, declared in 1906, covers 1 547 ha. Another 3 200 ha of former Crown lands are currently under protection at Mount Saint Catherine, Levera National Park, Morne Gazo and the Annandale Estate.
Plantations have been established to reforest degraded lands; to control soil erosion and maintain watersheds; to reduce pressures on natural forests; to improve the economy of the country by increasing production and reducing imports of forest products; and to create employment opportunities, especially in the economically depressed rural areas. The Grand Etang Forest Reserve contains approximately 166 ha of exotic plantations established from 1957. Blue mahoe (Hibiscus elatus) is the main species, occupying about 75 percent of plantations. Pines (Pinus caribaea) account for about 20 percent, and mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) and Cupressus lusitanica, 5 percent. Most of the plantations are located on steep slopes with poor accessibility.
Products and trade
The Forest Department facilitates the harvest of wood from government plantations. Blue mahoe is harvested for timber, split fence and post production. Several blue mahoe plantations have been replaced with pines.
In 1992, the harvest of timber was reported to have been 2 500 m3 of round wood and 40 000 m3 of fuelwood. The figure for fuelwood is only an estimate and seems to be rather high. Wood is traditionally selectively harvested from windbreaks and the edge of farmlands. The species harvested are mahogany (Swietenia mahogani), white cedar, galba (Calofilium lucidum), maruba (Simaruba amara) and bullet (Manilcara bidentata). These species are sold to individuals with mobile saws who usually convert on site or transport to small sawmills for conversion. No records are kept by the mill owners or farmers relative to the volume harvested and converted. After conversion timber is sold to small furniture manufacturers and woodworkers, boat-builders and others.
In Grenada, woodfuels are not used on a large scale because propane gas is mainly used for domestic and industrial purposes. Fuelwood and charcoal are utilized for food preparation in rural poor communities. Fuelwood is collected from farm clearance for agricultural purposes and from dry fallen trees in wooded, mangrove and forested areas.
Non-wood forest products (NWFPs) include tannin extracted from mangroves and poles and handicraft materials from the forests. NWFPs are important for the livelihoods of some households and local communities. The leaves of screwpine (Pandanus utilis) are dried and used in baskets, mats, hats and bags. Screwpines are easy to grow but are not planted in plantations because of scarcity of land; they grow on farms and around communities and are not managed. Other products include bamboo (used in house construction and handicrafts, they are socio- economically very important), herbal medicines, fodder, spices, nuts and resins. Major issues related to NWFPs include the possibility of introducing permits, supplies and records of resource use.
Most of the freshwater used for domestic, agricultural, and industrial purposes comes from surface water that rises in the forests. Most of Grenada¿s 71 watersheds are within forests or forested areas, which offer natural protection to watersheds in terms of ground cover, soil stability, infiltration, groundwater recharge, water quality, etc.
Use of forests for tourism and recreational opportunities is still in the early development stage. Forests in Grenada offer many attractions ¿ waterfalls, rivers, natural exotic fauna and flora, steep rugged terrain and a network of trails. Most visitors to forests stay over and enjoy activities such as hiking, mountain climbing, camping and wildlife viewing. Recently, there has been an introduction of cruise-ship passengers to ecotourism sites; the number of such visitors is increasing.
Last updated: June 2004