Youth Take Pride in Protecting Beaches

The island of Bequia is known for its white sand beaches and idyllic blue waters. But the effects of climate change including rising sea levels and severe weather patterns are putting the island’s treasured resources in danger. One of the most popular beaches in Lower Bay has seen a lot of erosion.

“We anticipate storms will become more intense,” says Cornelius Richards, Senior Forestry Supervisor with the St. Vincent Ministry of Agriculture. He points to the exposed roots of mangrove trees. “What we’re trying to do is restore the natural vegetative barrier that existed on the beach.”

After participating in a PADF training on climate change and disaster risk reduction, youth in the Bequia Resilient Livelihoods group are embarking on a community restoration project. 

The group has leveled off the beach in order to plant grass. Rocks strategically placed along the road will prevent cars from parking and tearing up the beach.

“We’re cleaning up the beach. It affects our livelihood,” says 20-year-old Kendra Lewis. “The beach is a tourism asset.”

With 30 members, the Bequia group has a strong presence in this small community. Many of them hail from Paget Farm, one of the most economically depressed areas on the island, says PADF project coordinator Christobelle Ashton.

“They network, they help each other grow. You can see transformation taking place.”

Youth plant grass at the edge of Lower Bay Beach. Credit: Dillon Ollivierre

Youth plant grass at the edge of Lower Bay Beach. Credit: Dillon Ollivierre

The community is taking notice. People pass by and cheer the group on as they work to improve and protect the beach.

A member of the St. Vincent Forestry crew plants Neem trees on the beach to reduce coastal erosion.

A member of the St. Vincent Forestry crew plants Neem trees on the beach to reduce coastal erosion.

Inspired by their success thus far, the Bequia group is raising funds to visit neighboring Union Island to network with another conservation group that is making hazard maps.

“I believe youth groups should become more active in building the country,” says Dillon Ollivierre, the group leader. “The more we get involved, the more we feel ownership.”