Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 10th 2014 Contents A6
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Monday, February 10, 2014
In weary tones, Akilah Jaramogi
tells me how the thieves broke in
to her Fondes Amandes Commu-
nity Reforestation Project and
points out the route they used to
make off with the expensive equip-
ment that she assumes will be sold
The NGO, which has been serving
the community of St Ann s, Port-
of-Spain, since the 1980s, has now
been burgled twice in three years,
and while Jaramogi, who founded
the project with her late husband,
is putting on a brave face along with
her staff, it is a body blow to an
organisation which survives on min-
imal government grants and employs
25 people within the community.
All the computers were stolen, in
an apparently pre-planned robbery
in the early hours of January 31, as
well as a flat screen television used
for educational presentations for
schoolchildren and forestry equip-
ment for planting trees and pre-
venting forest fires.
In all, $30,000 worth of property
was taken, but the most valuable
thing, Jaramogi feels, is the infor-
mation stored on the computers.
Years of hard work on various proj-
ects has been lost, only some of
which was backed up to an external
"We lock up the building as much
as we can, but we like living in an
eco-style, we don t want to be living
in jail," she says when asked if they
operate a system of trust at the pro-
ject s base camp, a beautifully con-
structed wooden eco-lodge at the
foot of a hill in St Ann s.
It would indeed be a shame if
burglar proofing had been installed.
It would change the whole aura of
this organic, extremely peaceful
environment. Breeze blows through
the gaps in the wooden beams and
under the eaves of the galvanised
steel roof. It s a world away from
the air-conditioned windowless
office blocks downtown.
Above us, the trail winds up into
the hills where the herb garden, plant
nursery and a theatre for perform-
ances nestle into their environment.
If you carry on to the top, Cowin
Collett tells me during a tour, you
would reach the Lady Chancellor
Estate and then Maraval. He has
worked for Jaramogi for 14 years,
straight from school.
Some of Collett s co-workers were
crying and angry on the morning
the theft was discovered. At first
they wondered whether it was an
inside job---a member of staff didn t
turn up to work the following day,
arousing suspicion, but he appeared
the next day and was just as shocked
as the other employees that some-
body would choose to steal from an
independent community project.
The only lead Jaramogi was able
to give the police was a small silver
or white car she spotted parked near
the thatched-roof shelter with a
light on inside. She feels the thieves
were watching, hidden in the bush.
"I smelt a cigarette. I have a nose
for fire," she says. "If a fire is burning
way over in the Beetham or Lady
Young or Maraval, I can smell it. I
could smell a cigarette."
Jaramogi's "fire nose"
Her "fire nose," as she calls it, is
essential in her job. The reforestation
project s aim is to prevent forest fires
in the dry season, to replant trees
where fires have destroyed them and
to educate the community. It s a
vital job the NGO does, not only to
reduce the number of forest fires
but to reduce flooding. When hill-
sides are burnt and bare from fallen
trees, soil erosion takes place and
dead logs, leaves, silt or branches
clutter the waterways, creating flood
Jaramogi, a Rastafarian since the
late 1970s and a descendent of the
Merikins in south Trinidad, is deeply
in tune with nature. In the 1980s
she and husband Tacuma began
planting fruit trees and herb bushes
in St Ann s. The site was designated
a fire climax zone.
"Each year the vegetation during
the dry season would be brown and
dry and fires would start from the
bottom of the hill, which was a
"A lot of the deciduous trees are
bare, bamboo grasses shed their
leaves, there s leaf litter on the
ground and people light fires or
hunters go smoking out animals.
You get wildfires or slash-and-
burn farmers who want to plant
marijuana or agriculture, and it just
burns up everything and spreads
and destroys," she says.
Years of hard work erased
Fondes Amandes soldiers on despite robbery...
Continues on Page A7
Akilah Jaramogi, founder of Fondes Amandes Reforestation Project, St Ann's, sits at her desk.
PHOTO: ABRAHAM DIAZ
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