Innovative partnership between IFRC and The Nature Conservancy equips Caribbean communities to combat climate crisis

ByInternational Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

Innovative partnership between IFRC and The Nature Conservancy equips Caribbean communities to combat climate crisis

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) have successfully prepared over 3,000 people in the Dominican Republic, Grenada, and Jamaica to adapt to the climate crisis. Leveraging coastal habitats to reduce risk, this initiative merges cutting-edge conservation science with disaster preparedness.

Central to this success is the Resilient Islands Project, an IFRC-TNC collaboration that redefines community resilience by utilizing nature’s protective power against the climate crisis. This approach is critical in the Caribbean, where the proximity of 70% of the population to the coast underscores their vulnerability.

In Grenada, the project has designed a climate-smart fisher facility, featuring twenty-one lockers, rainwater harvesting capabilities, and solar energy for electricity generation. Additional benefits include a jetty for ease of access to and from the fishers’ boats and the planting of coastal vegetation to enhance near-shore habitat, reduced erosion, and filtered runoff. These solutions make small-scale fishing safer and more sustainable.

Eddy Silva, The Nature Conservancy Project Manager, underscores the broader implications: “The lessons learned from Resilient Islands will increase awareness of climate resilience and help scale up efforts at the local and national levels in all small island developing states across the Caribbean. At a time when weather-related hazards and rising ocean temperatures are becoming more extreme and destructive, this program has demonstrated that mangroves, coral reefs, and reforestation can save lives and livelihoods.”

Protecting, managing, and restoring these ecosystems is key to limiting people’s exposure and vulnerability to hazards. The IFRC and TNC show that this should be done through laws, policies, and climate-resilient development plans that promote science-based decision-making, improve early-warning systems, and anticipate climate-related disasters.

In Jamaica, the Resilient Islands program has enhanced the existing national vulnerability ranking index by including ecosystem indicators. This allows agencies to monitor and measure not only community vulnerability levels but also the habitats’ capacity to protect people and livelihoods.

Local actors have also played a critical role in ensuring that climate change solutions are responsive to local needs, inclusive, and sustainable.

Martha Keays, IFRC Regional Director for the Americas, highlights the indispensable role of local engagement: “One significant lesson learned by the Resilient Islands program is that there is no resilience without localization. Nature-based solutions are community-based solutions, and local actors, including Red Cross volunteers, should be at the core of its design and implementation. We have also learned that change is more likely when complementary organizations work together. The alliance between IFRC and TNC is a model of the innovation, generosity and vision the world needs to address the climate crisis, arguably the greatest challenge of our time.”

Dr. Rob Brumbaugh, The Nature Conservancy Caribbean’s Executive Director, reflects on the partnership’s unique synergy: “The project is a model approach for bringing together organizations with very different but very complementary capabilities. TNC with expertise in cutting-edge conservation science, data and conservation techniques, and the IFRC, the world’s leader in the disaster planning and response.”

The Resilient Islands Project is a five-year initiative collaboratively implemented by the IFRC and TNC with support from the German Government’s International Climate Initiative (IKI). The program officially ended with a closing ceremony and project review in Panama City on February 20, 2024.