This includes the Bluefields Bay community and watershed, and the Robins River watershed areas located in Westmoreland Parish along the south coast of Jamaica.
MSU and BPCA signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in July.
“This partnership will allow us to support the BPCA’s community development goals,” Douglas Neidigh, sustainability coordinator at Missouri State, said. “It will also provide real-world sustainable community development and research opportunities for MSU students.”
Enhancing community relations
Dr. Robert Pavlowsky is a distinguished professor of geography and director of the Ozarks Environmental and Water Resources Institute at MSU. He has conducted research in the Bluefields community for over a decade.
Pavlowsky has completed grant work there with Dr. William Wedenoja, faculty emeritus. He has also brought more than 100 students as researchers to the Bluefields Bay area.
Pavlowsky appreciates the more formal recognition of MSU’s efforts there that the MOU provides.
“The MOU will offer wider involvement in community development projects to MSU students and faculty,” Pavlowsky said. “It will also allow for strengthened sustainability service, education and research in Jamaica. These efforts support MSU’s Public Affairs mission by improving culture competence and increasing community engagement.”
Building a more diverse tourist economy
Smaller Caribbean communities often experience poverty. This can limit ways to support their local economies.
The Bluefields Bay area is no exception.
Bluefields Bay is the largest protected fish sanctuary in Jamaica. Residents in its coastal and mountain villages rely on fishing, farming and tourism to bring funds into the area.
MSU and BPCA will strive to help the community become more tourist-oriented. This can attract more visitors and greater revenue to the area.
Improvements in organic farming, local markets and water resources are also needed.
“The MOU with MSU will allow us to secure funding for building our tourist industry’s infrastructure and our food cooperative,” Dr. Wolde Kristos, president of BPCA, said. “It will also help us lead more sustainable practices as we will have land for farming and will create a plan for protecting our water resources.”
Planning for the future
MSU and BPCA are working together to form projects based on their initial strategic plan.
“Over the next few months, we will work with the BPCA to identify and prioritize projects that support their community development goals,” Neidigh said.
Pavlowsky intends to lead a return trip to the Bluefields Bay area soon.
However, the university may have to delay trips over the next year due to concerns of COVID-19.
Those of diverse disciplines will be welcome to take part in later efforts.
“The MOU represents broader university support for work in the Bluefields Bay region,” Pavlowsky said. “This may expand opportunities for faculty and students from a wide range of disciplines at MSU.”