Repairing our ecosystems while still producing food
We begin the New Year disappointed. The promise to bring the beverage bill to Parliament, made last October, by the “end of the year” by Minister of the Environment and Housing Dr Roodilal Moonilal is yet to materialised . Fifty million plastic bottles continue to be dumped into our already toxic dumps. When heated they release the most toxic gasses that exist. Today’s guest columnist is a man who each day saves the environment in his own way.
Born and raised in Kenya, and now settled here, Erle Rahaman-Noronha is the owner of Wa Samaki Ecosystems (established 1997), a 33-acre formerly citrus estate undergoing a permaculture restoration while producing cut flowers, tropical fish and indigenous food crops. Noronha is the current national winner of the agroforestry division and national runner-up in the horticulture division for the National Agricultural Entrepreneur of the Year 2009.
Thirteen years ago I started on a project to make a difference. Two years ago my daughter came up to me and asked if we used pesticides on our farm...to which I replied “No,” to which she happily replied “That’s great!” because she had just learned that pesticides were very bad and dangerous to the environment.
The project is making a difference. Since then I have had other questions thrown at me, from children all over Trinidad, regarding planting trees, saving wildlife and producing safe food...all of which I could answer positively.
Children these days are aware of a lot of what is going wrong. They learn about global warming, pollution, pesticides, erosion, flooding, crop losses, green house gases, habitat destruction...the list goes on and it is quite depressing. They will be inheriting a world verydifferent from what we are currently used to. Many of them would like to make a difference but almost all do not know what to do. There is an impending need amongst them for a solution... somehow. Current research places agriculture as a significant contributor to global warming. It is blamed for habitat destruction, loss of biodiversity and carbon emissions as farmers cut down forests and burn land to prepare it for cultivation.
It is blamed for flooding, erosion and siltation as land is laid bare for the sun and rain to beat down on.
Its production is becoming more and more uncertain as climates change and crops fail. It is blamed for air, soil and water contamination as herbicides, pesticides and fertiliser are used in larger and larger quantities while the returns are beginning to diminish...and it provides almost all the food we currently eat. We are what we eat. Few in Trinidad die of starvation, many currently die from eating too much of the wrong cheaply produced foods.
Conventional agriculture is not something young people want to get into any more. Although it produces food, more and more of the younger generation are also aware of the destruction it causes. There is another way. What I do, most people would not call farming! It is more of a system design. But each year the land that I am on has become more fertile, almost everything is recycled, hardly any soil has eroded, no fires are ever lit, no pesticides have ever been sprayed, we have completely eliminated our herbide use.
The project is running at a profit and over the last three years more and more food has been produced, almost as a byproduct. By next year we would probably be able to sell organic produce commercially.
Thirteen years ago I was exposed to an incredibly positive design system that changed the way I interacted with the world. It was a system created in Australia 30 years ago, that amalgamated natural ecosystems, traditional agricultural systems and current technologies to create sustainable systems in any climate, urban or rural.
The design system came with three ethics —Care for the Earth, Care of People and Care of Community and Fairshare. The system is taught to anyone over a ten to 14-day period and covers all aspects of a site including food, shelter, water and energy. It empowers people to create their own sustainable systems and make positive differences in their environment. To try to explain the system in a few words is almost impossible so I have just given you an introduction of what it can do in the hope that you will go out and find out more. Its name is not important but its results are, people will call it many things...I know it as permaculture... www.wasamakipermaculture.org
Join Ira Mathur on CNC3 on Sunday at 10.30 am and 6 pm this Sunday on Cleaning up the Mess, for a rerun of a discussion on why we urgently need a waste management and recycling bill to cope with our overflowing dumps and its attendant problems of flooding and disease, and glass recycling with Dave Gajadhar, Logistics Manager, and Roger Mew, Managing Director, both of Carib Glass.