The Carifta Games, one of the world’s finest and most important annual track and field competitions for young athletes, returns this weekend after a two-year postponement. World Athletics will celebrate its return with a campaign to help plant 15,000 fruit trees in its honour in Jamaica, this year’s host.
“The Carifta Games is an integral part of the track and field experience for athletes from the Caribbean,” World Athletics President Sebastian Coe said. “The best athletes from the region, Usain Bolt, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Kirani James and Shaunae Miller-Uibo, to name just a few, have all passed through the Carifta Games ‘pipeline’. This campaign is a great way to recognise the importance of the Games to the Caribbean community and create a sustainable legacy in a meaningful way.”
World Athletics will be teaming with One Tree Planted, a US-based donor-funded environmental NGO that plants one tree for every US dollar that is donated. Since its founding in 2014, One Tree Planted has planted more than 40 million trees around the world and currently works with partners in 43 countries across six continents.
In close collaboration with local partners, the 'Welcome Back Carifta Games' project will plant trees throughout Jamaica, specifically targeting rural fishing and farming communities, communities in need, reserves and open forests. More than two dozen types of fruit trees will be planted including avocado, Barbados cherry, breadfruit, coolie plum, custard apple, guava, jackfruit, June plum, mammee apple, mango, naseberry, papaya, pomegranate, soursop, star apple and more.
Mike Fennell, the CARIFTA Games LOC Chairman, said: “We welcome the initiative of World Athletics to associate the tree planting campaign with the 49th staging of the Carifta Games. This is especially fitting as we seek to develop our junior athletes and raise the level of awareness about the environment. It is extremely important to promote a better understanding of the impact of our actions today on the environment of the future and what better way to do this than with sport and junior athletes."
Several Caribbean athletes have agreed to participate in the campaign by urging their fans, friends and fellow athletes to pitch in, including Bolt, Olympic 400m champion Steven Gardiner, world javelin champion Anderson Peters, 2016 Olympic 110m hurdles champion Omar McLeod, and Olympic 100m hurdles bronze medallist Megan Tapper.
Jamaican Olympic legend Don Quarrie is also eager to take part, noting the symbolism that the tree-planting efforts represent to the athletes who participated in the Carifta Games. “The seeds of their careers were started in these Games,” Quarrie said, “seeds that have contributed to the development of many world champions.”
Supporting global reforestation efforts is critical to combat the damaging impacts of climate change. Trees help clean the air we breathe, filter the water we drink, cool our planet by sequestering harmful greenhouse gases and provide habitat to more than 80 percent of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity. Tree-planting also helps reduce our carbon footprint by offsetting unavoidable carbon emissions.
Participants can donate as little as $2 through the contribution page.
This is the first of six area campaigns that World Athletics Sustainability will be organising this year, all coinciding with major events taking place on each continent, with a goal of planting 100,000 trees by the end of 2022. An Oceania campaign will follow in early June to coincide with the Oceania Championships in Australia. The World Athletics U20 Championships Cali 22 will be the focal point of the South America campaign in early August, followed by Europe and the European Championships in late August and Asia a month later when the Asian Games take the spotlight. The campaign will culminate in Africa in November around the COP27 UN Climate Change Conference which will take place in Sharm-El-Sheik, Egypt.