The story of the launch of TobagoARC (Tobago Alliance for Resilient Communities – TARC) began with an intense wake-up call. After which, the dawn of a new era was inevitable. In 2019, two of the organization’s founding members were co-participants in a concentrated, year-round, capacity development programme hosted by the Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CPCD). Through interactions with fifteen other Caribbean NGOs, most of whom had social interests, the urgent need to rethink how we operate became obvious.
The facilitators challenged the group’s thinking on how Caribbean NGOs could be more creative in mobilizing resources to carry out their missions in the face of increasingly limited and stringent access to international development grant funding. They brought further contemplation when discussing how NGOs could be more relevant to vulnerable communities enabling them to become resilient to the imminent challenges that climate change presents.
In the wake of evaluating how to make our NGO (Environment Tobago) more relevant and impactful, 2019 transitioned into 2020. That year began like any other, however, by March 2020 it was apparent that it would be no ordinary year. The COVID-19 Pandemic struck and pushed the world well beyond its limits. Not only must we now adapt to the imminent challenges of climate change but societies now have to respond to one of the greatest crises of our times. Needless to say, the impact has brought about a paradigm shift in almost every major facet of human endeavour. Communities were now pressured to respond by re-evaluating, rethinking and resetting. It was no longer possible to continue on the old paths as a new era dawned.
The Silver Lining Behind Every Dark Cloud
As the saying goes, “every dark cloud has a silver lining” and thankfully, not all of 2020 was dark. While Tobago navigated through the darkness of the pandemic, a bright ray of hope was presented on the 28th of October, 2020, when the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme declared Tobago’s North-East region to be a Biosphere Reserve. This accomplishment was largely the outcome of the collaborative efforts of many individuals and organizations who worked together on the “Improving Forest and Protected Area Management (IFPAM) in Trinidad and Tobago” project (2014-2020)”. TobagoARC’s founding members were party to the IFPAM project.
The establishment of the North-East Tobago Biosphere Reserve welcomed a range of opportunities for Tobago inclusive of post-COVID-19 economic recovery, especially for tourism and attracting international support. Other expected benefits included the generation of sustainable green and blue economic activities beyond tourism within fisheries, agriculture, cultural heritage promotion, scientific research, education and conservation, among others.
The Launch of TobagoARC
The social, economic and environmental fallout that will result from the COVID-19 pandemic and the impending impacts of climate change is inevitable. Given the experiences of 2020 to present, it is not difficult to foresee that shortly, the communities of Tobago will need considerable interventions to survive. In retrospect, the capacity-building experiences of the years preceding (2018/2019) were preparation for what was to come – the dawn of a new era!
The founding members of TobagoARC resisted any pessimistic fate and proceeded to incorporate the organisation as a direct response to the challenges and opportunities that are imminent in the post-COVID era. So it was, inspired by the urgency of the times, the Tobago Alliance for Resilient Communities (TARC) was incorporated on the 21st July 2021 as an NPO under the Companies Act, 2019 of Trinidad and Tobago. TobagoARC was “born”. A bright and prosperous future is looming!
The Dawning of a New Era Inspires Our Vision
TobagoARC envisions a state where the “planet and its people prosper in perpetuity”. It is a Tobago in which our natural heritage remains intact as the foundation of health and prosperity for all generations – now and future. Achieving this is possible! The TobagoARC team believes that Tobago has what it takes to become a true model for sustainable development. Indeed, Tobago could become the best little island the world has ever seen. We believe it, we hope for it, we commit towards it! This is what inspires our mission “to enable and empower communities of Tobago and beyond to build resilience to climate change, enhance livelihoods through education and research, and promote healthy living, all in harmony with the natural environment“.
The first chapter of the TobagoARC story has only just begun. As we continue to compose other exciting chapters, we invite all who share in our vision and mission to partner with us in charting a new and prosperous course for Tobago.