Doney Cliram is well aware of the effects of coastal erosion and floods. He has seen with his own eyes how the sea is devouring the land near his home near the beach in Telescope community, where he was born 34 years ago.
He says that when it rains heavily, the water rises over the breakwater and covers the land that usually separates his house from the sea shore.
Cliram understands that mangrove destruction is threatening his property and putting his life at risk. And he has not sat back and done nothing. Instead, he got down to work and has protected and planted mangroves at the seashore right in front of his house.
“Mangroves protect us. This is why I have planted hundreds of them here. It is the only thing that can prevent the beach from disappearing. If we don’t act, sooner or later we will have to leave our homes,” Cliram shared, while he stared out to sea.
Grenada was originally inhabited by people of Caribbean origin, an indigenous ethnic group that understood the risks posed by sea level rise and built their stilt homes above sea level. Some centuries later, this ancestral knowledge is still alive and the people from Granada build their houses on concrete or wood pillars to keep safe from the tides.
Cliram knows that his house is vulnerable because is very close to the sea shore. “My house was the last one to be built on this road and it will be the first one to go if I don’t protect the mangroves,” said Cliram.
He argued that for growing mangroves you need more than good intentions. When the tide is high, the force of the waves pulls out the mangrove’s roots. In addition, goats eat their leaves, and some people who live in the poorest areas take their branches as firewood for cooking. “My friends and I are always alert and we try to protect them. But it is an endless battle,” said Cliram.
Even though his mother is from Trinidad and his two sons live in the United States, Cliram cannot imagine his life being anywhere else. He walks almost 25 kilometres each day along the zigzag roads that run from Telescope to St. George’s, the capital of Granada, to work as a driver for a transnational company. Despite the 90 minutes he spends every day travelling to and from work, he has never thought about moving to the city.
Cliram spends his spare time taking care of the dark sand beach that has not been affected by erosion. “I built this beach hut so that visitors can change their clothes with no hassle. I also try to keep the sand clean. Around 50 people come to the beach every Sunday. It is a beautiful beach and I want everybody to enjoy it,” said Cliram.
He tells tourists that the eastern beaches in Grenada are gorgeous but they can also be dangerous. “Rip tides can be very strong here. The same tide that hits the sand and takes away our beaches can take away our lives. Four years ago a friend of mine went for a swim when the sea was rough and we never saw him again,” said Cliram.
Cliram recognized that during his teen years he didn’t care about the culture or the environment of his country. “When you are young, you don’t pay enough attention to things. But when you grow old you start to understand life and the value of the things around you. Our grandparents spoke Jamaican Patois, but our parents forgot their language. Now we have to learn everything again and by ourselves.”
Cliram knows he cannot fulfil his mission of recovering the mangroves alone. He receives the little mangrove plants from the Grenada Fund for Conservation (GFC). The GFC works jointly with the Grenada Red Cross Society and The Nature Conservancy through At the Water’s Edge, a community resilience project aimed at mitigating the effects of climate change in Grenville Bay.
This initiative is part of the Caribbean Communities Organized and Prepared for Emergencies (CCOPE) project, supported by the IFRC and the European Commission.
The aim of the At the Water’s Edge project is to inspire people like Cliram, and many other neighbours from Telescope, Grenville, Soubise and Marquis, to get involved in protecting their environment, their homes and their lives.