Cam Rollins | January 13, 2012
If you think forestry is only important in Alberta, Canada or even North America, you’re wrong. The forest industry is a big deal all over the world and whether you’re an engineer, forester, or a log truck driver, the opportunities for you to choose where you work are pretty awesome. I went to Jamaica on holidays and learned a little bit about their economy while I was touring coffee plantations, beaches, a rum distillery and some of the national parks they have there. It was an eye opening experience. It’s also interesting hearing the perceptions of forestry in other countries. Here, when I tell someone I took Forest Management in university they automatically think “TIMBEERRRRRR”. When I told people in Jamaica that was my degree they responded with “We need more people like you to work here”.
WHAT IS JAMAICA LIKE?
Jamaica is a very small island; only 11,000 square kilometers which is about double the size of PEI and 1/5 the size of Nova Scotia. They have a population of about 3 million people which is pretty similar to Alberta. It’s a fairly mountainous, humid island and is rich in natural resources. They have a similar Government structure to what we have here, and have been a country since 1962 (50 year anniversary!). They recently had an election, and the hottest topic was the economy and job creation. They need to stimulate the economy to help the problem they’re currently having with unemployment. Interest rates are also crazy there right now so there’s not a lot of investment going on (20%+ compared to our 1.5%). It’s kind of crazy how we don’t have enough people to work all the jobs in Alberta, and in Jamaica there aren’t enough jobs for the people.
Right now the economy in Jamaica is pretty much based on two different aspects.
A huge industry in Jamaica is tourism. They have white sand beaches, awesome wather, interesting animals like the brown pelican above who appears to be airing out the armpits (I took 100 pictures of this sweet diving bird), and the people are really nice. There’s also quite a fishing industry around the island.
There’s a couple different products cultivated in Jamaica. There’s lots of delicious fruits, sugar kane (which makes sugar, molasses and, of course, rum) and also some incredible coffee. Most of the mountains in Jamaica are about 2000ft high, but there’s one place called Blue Mountain that’s 7000ft high and gets almost 10x the amount of rain as the rest of the island. It’s a pretty unique place on the island and I would love to go visit the coffee bean plantation one day.
Jamaica has a lot of bauxite they could be mining. Bauxite is a mineral that goes into producing aluminum composite metals. The price of metals is pretty crazy right now and could create a bunch of jobs in Jamaica. They’re doing a little bit of mining right now, but based on personal communications with some of the people there, it’s not very much.
There could be a major bio-economy in Jamaica. They’ve had problems in the last decade with deforestation, but they weren’t using any of the trees they were killing. It was mostly being burnt to create areas for agriculture. I noticed they have some very valuable and cool looking hardwood tree species that could go into making furniture, hardwood floors and other decorative goods. They also have a lot of bamboo there. If we’re lucky in Canada, our trees grow a couple inches every year. In Jamaica, bamboo trees can grow 3″ in ONE DAY. Jamaica could be an energy superpower if they could start using fast growing species like bamboo to create bio-electricy and bio-fuels. It’s not a very strong wood, but it can be used for so many different things.
Hopefully Jamaica can solve their unemployment and economic issues in the near future, and hopefully they can do that by investing in the bio-economy. I can’t even imagine how much fun and how challenging it would be to to be a natural resource planner in Jamaica. There’s so many different species you’d have to preserve in a small area, but the trees grow so fast. I’m glad I’m gaining experience in the forest industry in Alberta right now. Eventually I’ll be able to travel the world with my experience. Every country in the world is worried about natural resource scarcity and their economy, and they need people like foresters to help manage those resources. They’ll also need engineers, mechanics, log truck drivers and IT people with experience in the forest industry. We’re an emerging global industry that’s about ready to take off.
By the time Jamaica is utilizing trees to build their economy, they will need experienced forest industry workers to make sure they’re doing it efficiently and sustainably. Cam is moving to beautiful Jamaica to work in 2020. “Yah mon” it’s happening.