The 100 employees who have been working in Tobago’s reforestation programme for the past nine years have been assured of their continued employment by the three community-based groups.
THA Secretary of Agriculture, Marine Affairs, Marketing and the Environment Councillor Gary Melville said in an interview on Wednesday (8th August 2012) that the Executive Council at its weekly meeting earlier in the day ruled that no private contractor or company will be allowed to go into the natural resources of Tobago to carry out any activity that may be proposed by the National Reforestation and Watershed Rehabilitation Programme (NRWRP) of the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources..
He said the Council had taken the decision based on letters the three community groups received from NRWRP’s Acting Programme Co-ordinator Dominique Pierre Louis terminating their agreement with effect from August 17 2012, resulting in the workers being put on the breadline. The programme was carried out in Argyle, Belle Garden, Glamorgan and Speyside for the past nine years.
The Ministry said on Tuesday that the programme in Tobago will be expanded by doubling the number of contractors and increasing employment by 170 persons.
Louis had told the Tobago groups of a shift its operation and implementation of the programme “from being community-based to having company groups responsible for the maintenance of given areas”.
Melville said however that the THA was responsible for forests under the law and the Ministry of the Environment in 2003 had partnered with it in designing the programme to be executed by community groups. He added that the change from community-based groups to company groups proposed by the Ministry was not what was agreed to with the Assembly.
Melville stressed that the THA was committed to reforestation and was also committed to protecting the forests which was a valuable resource of Tobago. As a result he took a Note to the Executive Council which agreed that the persons who work in the programme were not disadvantaged in any form and their employment will continue and secondly the focus of the programme in terms of community groups must be maintained.