Caribbean farmers learn how to turn organic waste into economic opportunities

Workshop participants learned how to formulate compost recipes for organic waste and how to use specialized equipment such as digital thermometers.

San José, February 24, 2020 (IICA). – The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) organized a series of workshops in several Caribbean countries to train farmers on how to create entrepreneurship opportunities from managing organic waste.

The workshops are part of IICA’s project “Creating Economic Opportunities through the Adoption of Bioeconomic Models”, aiming at six Caribbean countries: Belize, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and The Bahamas.

“The project has been based on the generation of capacities linked to composting as part of a solution for the treatment of biodegradable waste. The recollection of information within the framework of the project has allowed us to be able to evaluate different alternatives based on the bioeconomy to the problem of such wastes”, said Agustin Torroba, IICA’s specialist in bioenergy.

The workshop was very successful in The Bahamas with 90 participants from five islands, in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources.

“I want to thank for the opportunity to participate in the workshop; it was really educational, very informative, very inspirational”, said Ethelberg Harrison, owner of Maggie’s farm. “We deal with coconuts a lot, and we waste a lot; this opportunity shows us ways in which we can manage waste and turn it into profit for business”.

Another participant, Nathaniel Higgs, highlighted the importance of the workshop in the aftermath of hurricane Dorian, which devasted The Bahamas in 2019.

“We are going to form a cooperative dealing with waste management because every farmer has abundance of raw material for organic waste, especially in those areas affected by hurricane Dorian, like Abaco and Freepoint”, he said. “The storm devastated all of the foliage and trees in those areas and now we can go and take those resources and turn them into compost and redistribute to the community so that we can now ecologically rebuild the soil naturally”, added Higgs.

Shacara Lightbourne, IICA’s Representative in The Bahamas, believes that these workshops will help the quality of the soil in the archipelago.

“We have nutrient-poor soil, the islands are made of limestone rock, we have to do a lot to add organic matter to the soil to make it more productive, and that was another reason why this workshop is so important, to teach people how to do that so that they can reduce the use of pesticides and fertilizers”, she said.

In January, IICA held similar workshops in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.

The trainings, led by Abimbiola Abiola, IICA’s specialist in waste management, included principles of integrated waste management, waste stream analysis, comparing national and regional data, waste management options and composting as a waste management option. Follow-up workshops will be held in April and May.

“What we’ve been calling waste is a natural resource, and because we haven’t learnt how to use it, we don’t get the full benefit of it. The soils in the Caribbean are very low in organic matter, very low in nutrients and we still throw away organic matter, so by putting it back to the soil we can increase the productivity and improve the ecological situations, but also increase opportunities for people”, said Abiola.

“We are fully cognizant to the fact that the Caribbean region is one of the most vulnerable areas on the planet to the negative impacts of climate change, and initiatives such as this one fall within a broader institutional goal of assisting IICA Member States in the region in their transitioning to a circular economy to build resilience, while at the same time creating business and economic opportunities to maintain the socioeconomic and environmental integrity of their rural communities”, said Curt Delice, IICA’s special affairs coordinator for the Caribbean Region.

Participants learnt to formulate compost recipes for organic wastes and how to use specialized equipment like digital thermometers.

The workshops also help to strengthen partnerships between different stakeholders involved in organic waste management, such us suppliers of raw material, critical to create viable bioeconomy business opportunities.

Through this project spearheaded by the IICA Director General, Manuel Otero, the Institute is committed to prove that organic waste management can become a sustainable business opportunity in the Caribbean.

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