RVA Climate Compliance: 1 month programme evaluation
Expectations: From attending the 1 month Climate Compliance programme at RVA I hoped to learn about Permaculture in relation to sustainable farming. I wanted to see how it works in practice, getting to grips with the day to day management of the farm and gardens, whilst picking up new ideas and developing skills. I also hoped to live a healthier lifestyle and perhaps even get myself fit.
Courses & Studies Morning classes
I found some of the one hour morning classes to be very useful sources of information and learning. Highlights were those on Agroforestery, Soil Structure and Solar Panels. Documentaries – documentary evenings provided opportunity to watch material selected from the wider RVA community within a focused environment. It was good to discuss the subjects afterwards, and take on board diverse insights and opinions. Effects of Climate Change Tour – perhaps the most poignant element of the course was this tour of places and people suffering recent extremities of weather. People were forthcoming with their views once they got going highlighting education and sustainable living as improvements to be made.
Climate Compliance practical actions - Solar Dryer
We constructed a solar dryer which we presented to the RVA community and to the wider community on the RVA open day for which we made flyers alongside a variety of dried fruit snacks. The principle aims of the project is to preserve seasonal fruit, reducing waste and creating a model for sustainable farming. Initially I was unsure as to how relevant the dryer would be to the people of SVG due to the cost of materials (approximately 200 USD) however I found upon talking to locals that the outlay could still be offset by potential profits from keeping fruit and vegetables from going to waste.
From a Climate Compliance perspective, the Solar Dryer is an efficient and simple means of promoting sustainable farming and it can offer farmers an alternative revenue stream (selling dried fruits to hikers, locals and tourists alike). This was also a project that could easily be taken to other countries where the construction materials are likely to be much cheaper than in SVG.
Climate Compliance practical actions in Chateaubelair Primary School
The school garden had become overrun with weeds and was not being used. Our immediate action was to remove the extensive weeds, we then met with the school principle and staff to discuss what they hoped to get from the garden, how the children could be interested in the garden and how best to maintain the garden in the long term. We shortened the seedbeds so clear pathways could be maintained throughout making it easier to reach the plants without compacting the soil. The topsoil removed was used to raise the remaining seedbeds to avoid stray dogs littering the plants. Seedbeds were re-profiled with some made into horseshoe shapes to ensure access to both sides of the larger beds facilitating cutting, weeding and replanting seeds.
The borders along seedbeds were re-enforced with bamboo and wooden stakes to maintain shape and reduce risk of run-off during wet periods. Plants and perennials were chosen along with fruit trees and herbs that would maintain year round visual structure to the garden, maximising usage of the garden (for school meals) and minimising time spent on maintaining it. Children were introduced to the garden plants and taken on a tour to memorise routes through the garden without treading on the beds themselves. Each was given something to plant in order to encourage pupils to become invested in the garden.
These provided a good opportunity to learn about the different activities involved in maintaining the RVA Garden; the mulching system is something I will take away with me, it is something I hope to talk to Land Management Advisers about in England and certainly something I would recommend as a means to keep organic matter in the soil, reducing water and weeding requirements. Overview I had achieved my aims of learning more about Permaculture in practice, picking up some new ideas that I could take away and research further such as Agroforestery, biogas, composting and mulching.
We were lucky to have knowledgeable teachers with a wealth of information on farming and skills with the patience to let us learn from them. I will take away some memorable experiences of the nature SVG has to offer, some of those still to come at the point of writing and I have enjoyed meeting some great people with like minds.
Ultimately, my interest lies in enabling farming practices which enrich biodiversity and Agroforestery is an area which I intend to research more of in the UK; I will be getting in contact with practitioners to see this in practice and I intend to speak with Agricultural Specialists in England to explore its possibilities.
If I could suggest anything that might improve the 1 month programme I think it would benefit by an introduction to farm wildlife on St Vincent enabling us to better put Climate Compliance in the context of farming practices working with sensitivity to wildlife habitat unique to the island.
I have enjoyed the healthy lifestyle and good food here, I may have kept fit although I never did get around to using the gym.
John from England