A Showcase for Sustainable Living

An interview with the Honorable Ian Douglas who serves the commonwealth of Dominica in leadership over the Ministry of Trade, Energy and Employment.

Dominica is considered to be the Nature Island of the Caribbean.  With that standard, the government, the business community and the people are committed to developing a nation that is sensitive to sustainability principles.  Around the island you will find solar panels on homes, street lights and other buildings; I even saw some photovoltaic panels over a Save-a-Lot grocery store and a KFC.  You will also find hydropower, wind-power and the early stages of geothermal power.  This opens up a great opportunity for USF students interested in sustainable energy to come to Dominica and experience firsthand the work conducted by engineers from Iceland and the development to come.  There are high hopes that the geothermal project will reduce electricity prices, provide jobs and encourage more business development.  I was able to interview the Minister of Trade, Energy and Employment to discuss how these three areas contribute to Dominica’s overall Green Economy.

With the demand for organic agriculture rising, how is Dominica fulfilling that demand and ensuring that these products are making it to market in good condition?

Because of the shelf life of many products, getting to the market in good condition can be a challenge. So we are working with the boat owners right now to equip them with refrigeration, cold storage and capacity onboard their boats to get the produce into the markets and on the shelves in the condition that the customer would want it. We have also invested in multi-purpose stock houses. All the stuff leaving Dominica, must go through these stock houses so that they are properly washed, sorted and packed properly. This is a multi-pronged approach. We are an agency committed to raw standards. Another thing that we are doing is certifying the farms to make sure that the farming practices of the farmers conform to this kind of conveyor belt system from the farm to the market. We are looking at all of the aspects up and down the product chain to ensure that what eventually ends up on the market is what the brand says it is.

Are there any plans for marketing to the U.S. or other nations?

Our exports are more or less targeted toward the regional, Caribbean markets. There are a lot of requirements for products entering the U.S. from Dominica, so initially, our export strategy is to grow our smaller markets like Martinique, Guadeloupe, St. Martin, and Anguilla and then eventually move on to some larger markets. We have our eyes set on expanding to places like St. Thomas, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico which are U.S. territories but we will need to grow incrementally and get more transportation involved. As we open more markets and create more demand for Dominican products, then we can encourage our farmers to produce more. Creating the demand is important. If we ask Dominican farmers to produce more now, but we cannot get those products to the market, then we will consequentially create a glut which will discourage the market because the farmer cannot sell. Therefore, we have to grow slowly and do it right.

We have to be able to enter the market and sustain it because what the supermarkets are looking for is consistency, regularity and reliability. We cannot send 10,000 pounds of ripe bananas today and then the following week only send a box; that just doesn’t make sense. So, we also have to stagger our production. Farmers have typically planted around the seasons, but now they will need to plant non-traditionally to ensure that they can sustain regularity on the market.

What challenges in trade have those in the agriculture sector faced in Dominica?

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This image of workers loading bananas at the docks in Portsmouth Dominica was sent to me by a friend on WhatsApp.

Back in 1998, Dominica made over a hundred million dollars sending bananas to the United Kingdom. We, along with some other small island nations were given preferential treatment because of the 400 years of exploitation that England had engaged in throughout the Caribbean. For those in the U.S. and around the world who supported Dole, Chiquita and Del Monte bananas, they believed that Dominica and other small islands had an unfair advantage and that they should compete on the same level as all other nations of the world. Consideration was not given to fact that small islands had less arable land, and smaller population sizes that could not compete on the level of those nations with hectares of agriculture bigger than the whole size of Dominica and which could easily out produce the island nations in quantity. When Dominica lost preferential treatment on the U.K. market, the price of bananas dropped, the farmer couldn’t produce for the price that he was getting, the boxes used to contain the bananas were costing more than its contents and many had to abandon their fields. This disillusioned some farmers, but we are determined to find our way in the market.

What other commodities will Dominica export and to what other destinations?

Bananas, both green and ripe; ground provisions including potatoes, sweet-potatoes, dasheen, yams; vegetables, especially those that have a longer shelf-life like cucumbers, tomatoes, cabbages, teas, spices, fruit and others. We just spent about 5 million dollars (XCD), developing two new buildings in both Portsmouth and Roseau and equipping them with a conveyor-belt system for washing, sorting, spraying, weighing, packaging and preparing produce for export.

The government had considered investing in a transport vessel for export, but it was determined that the issue wasn’t so much a lack of vessels but rather upgrading existing vessels and organizing them with better direction and more efficient trade routes. Some boats were traveling to St. Martin and back, but in between Dominica and St. Martin are other islands like Montserrat, St. Kitts, Antigua, and Anguilla among others, which are not being serviced. Those vessels traveling to Martinique, for example, could easily add Barbados as an additional stop on their trade route. There is a bigger market out there and we need to be more proactive about helping these vessels expand their routes and providing the facilitation that they need. The regular markets for Dominica, right now, include Martinique, Guadeloupe, Antigua and St. Martin. The next step would be to market to the greater Caribbean region and then grow from there. We hope to expand into Anguilla, Tortola, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Thomas, and St. John.

There are some things that are produced here in Dominica that would certainly be of interest to other economies. Two in particular would be coconut oil and bay oil. Producers of these products are doing very well. The Ministry of Trade is requesting some funding for them so that they can improve their packaging and labeling and so they can purchase more machinery which will enable them to supply more volume to the market.

How could marketing better reflect what Dominica has to offer?

We could definitely improve our marketing on the internet; I don’t believe we do enough web based commodity marketing because it takes a lot of funding. Even with tourism marketing, we only spend about 4 million (XCD) per year marketing the country and about half of that goes to trade shows leaving very little for e-marketing. This is a lot less than other competing small islands like Grenada and St. Vincent who spend about 10 million per year in marketing. Barbados probably spends about 20 million in marketing which enables them to capture even more of the world’s attention. This is not even considering the larger island economies like Jamaica and Trinidad. We are increasing our marketing budget to about 6 million for next year and are very hopeful for the future. The same goes for commodity marketing, we are going to have to put more into it.

Recently, eight representatives from Dominica, including a member from the Dominica Export Import Agency (DEXIA), a farmer, the manager of the multi-purpose packing houses, the director of training and others went on a trade mission within the Caribbean. The team traveled to around six or seven different islands and they returned saying that there is definitely a demand for Dominican produce which has developed a reputation for being fresh and tasty. The challenge facing Dominica is the ability to enter the market with the necessary quantity and reliability necessary to maintain those trade relationships.

Do you have high hopes for Dominica’s new coffee industry?

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Coffee Tree

Absolutely. I believe that Dominica’s coffee can rival Jamaica’s Blue Mountain Coffee easily because we have the elevation. Dominica is one of the most mountainous places, per square mile, on the face of the earth. Dominica also has the volcanic soil and tropical environment that have also proven great for growing coffee.

Ultimately, what we would like to do is brand Dominica as a totally organic, sustainable, renewable energy island. That is why we are going after the geothermal so much, because it presents so much potential for us to be able to reach that goal. Already in tourism, we are marketing the island for the ecotourism; if we can do that in other aspects, then the entire island itself can, in fact, become a showcase for sustainable living.

I’ve heard that in the long run, geothermal energy is the most affordable, most renewable source of energy but that the initial investment can be very expensive. How has Dominica financed their geothermal project and what is the present state of development?

Yes, it is true, the project has cost us an arm and a leg up front but the outcome can be very beneficial for Dominica.  We have drilled about five holes so far, tested the power, purchased turbines and spent about 100 million, 40% of which has been made up of local funding. We also received some assistance from the E.U. Engineers from Iceland assisted us with the drilling and testing and now we are ready to move on to the turbine stage which again will cost us around 70 to 80 million. It is believed that up to 120 megawatts of power can be generated from the wells. Dominica only needs between 10 and 15 megawatts, which allows for the potential to export energy to neighboring islands. Our geothermal wells are not just dry heat or wet steam either, they spring up hot water. We pump the hot water up, separate the steam from the water, and then re-inject the water back into the well.

Initially we were working with the French because we knew that viability of the whole project was in the export of the geothermal power to Martinique and Guadeloupe. We believed that a partnership with a French Consortium of companies could assist with this project, but they are holding out for now. Nevertheless, we will pursue our small plant on our own because our government has a particular agenda and a commitment to the people for the reduction of our light bills and we need to be able to deliver that. We are putting together a geothermal development company to move the project forward. The government will have a majority of the shares but we are going to open up the opportunity for other companies and individual investors to buy shares and have some equity in the company.

Would you be open to university students coming out to learn and volunteer with the geothermal project?

We would love that.

How does the geothermal project open up opportunity for job creation?

If we drop the price of electricity, more companies will be able to come here for manufacturing. Businesses will be able to allocate funds for expansion and new hires. Hotels will be able to offer more affordable room rates. The price of electricity right now is just prohibiting. For many of our hotels, the price of electricity makes the room rate uncompetitive and for that reason, some our hotels right now are self generating with off grid energy systems. All of this puts the need for the development of a renewable energy source as a top priority. If too many people are self generating, it could threaten the viability of the grid system and compromise the ability to make electricity available to everyone at a fair price. Geothermal energy will allow us to drop the price of electricity by more than 50% per kilowatt hour. Right now the price is around 55 to 60 U.S. cents per kWh and we need to drop that to around 15 and 20 cents per kWh to be competitive. One of the other spinoffs of geothermal is hydrogen gas which can potentially be used to power our vehicles. Even electric cars could plug up and be charged through our geothermal power generation.

What are some recommendations going forward for anyone interested in getting involved?

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New Coffee Production Facility in Portsmouth

For the geothermal it could be investment into the geothermal company. For trade it could be marketing and getting Dominican products out on the shelves of other countries. Dominica can readily produce ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, turmeric and other spices and herbal remedies that are gaining popularity. Dominica also has a brand new coffee production facility which needs some investors and farmers to realize that potential. Dominica could also export various teas which are not limited to the black and green teas but also include the basillic, sorrel and other gourmet teas. Pureed fruits like mango, guava, pawpaw, and sweetsop could also be made ready for export.

How can village communities benefit from regional/international trade?

There are agents here called hucksters who go into the villages to buy produce for export from local farmers who on their own cannot reach the regional/international markets. The hucksters handle all of the shipping details and often times serve as agents for their local governments for importing particular agricultural products. Though the local farmer does not deal directly in the trade, they are benefiting from the additional sale of products beyond their local area.

Dominica is such a wonderful place that the world needs to see. What else would you say is advantageous about your green economy?

Being the Nature Island of the world, we are at a comparative advantage and we have the resources like fresh water, geothermal energy, and quality produce coming out of our soil to prove it. Using sustainability principles to our advantage, we can bring about economic stability in Dominica.

Mr. Douglas and I had a great conversation and some good laughs too.  Looking to the future, I believe that at the Patel College of Global Sustainability, we have a world of opportunity in partnering with Dominica and their sustainability initiatives. – Jerry John Comellas

 

Transitioning at Drift

In this post, I would like to share how has been my first and second week at Drift as an international intern.

About the Institution  

DRIFTFounded in 2004, DRIFT – Dutch Research Institute for Transitions is the result and evidence of transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary research in sustainability transitions. It is a union of researchers and professional advisors supporting the common cause of pro-active research projects aimed to advance the understanding on how sustainability transitions can be initiated, expanded and governed. They started off by proposing a set of reliable, cutting-edge research integrating advancing transition theories and practices with high-level advisory oriented to influence transitions towards more sustainable pathways. Based on realistic assessments and by providing academic and professional training and support to transformative agents. DRIFT aims to engage public and political attention, institutions, intermediary organizations, businesses and civil society to transform and develop new system dynamics in domains such as energy, water, food, and mobility, urban and regional development, climate change and social innovation.

The Way to Go

Diving is an extraordinary and intense experience loaded with adrenaline and mix of emotions, particularly when the surroundings and what you can see beneath your dive is beautifully unexpected. Likewise, diving into a new environment can also be a stimulating experience. The new surroundings and the contribution of uncertainty and anxiety that the new internship experience involves is something unique that keeps you on your toes. However, surprisingly, my first few days at my new internship did not result in any sense of ‘diving in’ emotion. On the contrary, the job got off to a slow start. Or should I say a smooth start?

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On my first day of interning at DRIFT, after walking in, I found myself on the sixteenth floor of one of the largest faculty buildings at the Erasmus University Rotterdam. Suddenly, I felt my mind turning blank as I approached the offices without a clue of what to expect.  Everything was unfamiliar and new to me. Upon arrival, I was introduced to everyone, particularly to Dr. Derk Loorbach, Professor, and Director of Drift. I also met Marijke de Pous, coordinator of the Transition Academic and finally Dr. Niki Frantzeskaki, senior researcher, lecturer and my external supervisor during the time of my internship. I have to say this: they were extremely welcoming, incredibly and pleased to help with anything. Everyone at the office were extremely nice and fun to be around, and the jobs and different projects they work on are fascinating. DRIFT is involved in a broad range of national and international advisory and research projects. The one that I am happily involved is the ARTS project (Accelerating and Rescaling Transitions to Sustainability. The ARTS project is a European research consortium led by DRIFT to analyze best practices from innovative initiatives and showcase the best sustainable processes that allow continues experimentation and level playing field at the scale of a city level or region on many different domains such as food, energy, housing and mobility.

After a meeting with Niki and Steffen (another researcher for the ARTS project), the first task that I was given was to read the “Blue Bible,” a three hundred pages’ book of the DRIFT complete analysis on Transitions to Sustainable Development, and to summarize it in a comprehensive document. At first, 300 pages seemed very overwhelming, in fact, the content was very dense, but as soon I started to read the full study of long-term transformative change, I found myself delighted and I became more and more enthusiastic about the content, new concepts, theories, terminology and ideas on sustainable transitions. Understanding transitions and know how to influence them helped me to picture a holistic image of the career path Drift develops. It helped me to understand the specifics and the interdisciplinary approach to sustainable development.

After completing other different task and mini-projects during my first and second week, there were three important things that I experienced and learned. The first lesson was that not knowing and understating everything that I was learning within such a short period (5 – 6 weeks) is completely understandable and normal. Instead of having a pessimistic retroactive mindset, active approaches such as a straightforward and positive attitude would be the key factor to adjust in new environments. In fact, this positive attitude will help you during your internship experience and forward professional career. In case you do not know or do not understand something, never hesitate to ask for help. There will always be someone willing to help you, and the more you ask and look for different sources of information, what it was once topsy-turvy, prompt it becomes clear. In this regard, you will grow and learn so much faster.

The second thing I have learned was that you should NOT be reluctant or afraid to try new experiences. For instance, one of the tasks that I had to complete was to interact with people and become more familiar with the projects. Although this duty seemed like an easy one, for me was very challenging, especially when I am not a very sociable person and when the lack of fluent language is a barrier. The individuals associated with the different projects were researchers, professors, and advisors from a variety of extensive backgrounds such as environmental science, policy studies, political studies, and sociology. It has been the first time that I am involved in such environment. I had never taken part in any academic and research studies before. Therefore, the terminology, the theories, the methodology and the way they work was entirely brand-new to me. Lastly, I learned to take all mistakes as opportunities for improvement and every single task as an opportunity for growth! Even the smallest tasks have the potential to teach you great skills.

By being an active intern is when you should not be scared to try new things, enjoy unique experiences, make mistakes, and learn. This is the moment when you discover what your weaknesses and strengths are, and you develop more enthusiastic approaches to support your professional career. Thus, my advice is to continue to be curious, to give the best of yourself, put honest efforts in everything you do and be aware of the unexpected.

Let’s talk green buildings

Last week I went to the USGBC mid-year retreat in Jacksonville to discuss green buildings. It was 3 days packed with conferences, meetings and socializing with people from around the country that all work in sustainability and green buildings… so of course super exciting! Talking with different people about our WELL Community development in Tampa was interesting and I received great reviews and comments.

I got to meet Rick Fedrizzi, the founder and CEO of the USGBC. He wrote a book called Greenthink: How Profit Can Save the Planet; I read about a third of the book so far and it is very interesting and I recommend it to everyone. Plus the proceeds of the book go to USGBC’s Project Haiti and the Center for Green Schools initiatives.

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I was hoping to talk to some people that have worked on some LEED Neighborhood Development projects somewhere in the country because I have a long list of questions but unfortunately I did not get to meet someone that had experience in this field – still pretty rare. So I am going to have to do more research online and hopefully find the answers I am looking for for my paper.

I had never been to Jacksonville so it was the perfect occasion for me to discover another city in Florida… well I was a little disappointed. We didn’t have much time to walk around the city because it was mostly conferences all day. From what I saw, the city was pretty and a lot of historic buildings on the river, similar to us in Tampa. But overall, the downtown did not look very connected or engaged… some of you will say that it’s the same in Tampa; but I have seen great progress here within the past 3 years and very soon we will have a great downtown where people come to hangout at night and on the weekends.

Below are a few pictures of my stay in Jacksonville.

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FSC auditing and River adventure

The duration from the Jun.6 to Jun.10 was FSC annual renew certificated process for Forestfinance. My supervisor, Sabine was in charge of the renewal certificated process with the company forest engineer, Pedro and the head forest operations,Yaels. SO, what is FSC(Forest Stewardship Council)? FSC is non-government and non-profit organization dedicated to ensure sustainable production process for all forest-related products with two important elements which are forest management and chain of custody(CoC). All the suppliers and producers who are involved in the supply chain must be certificated by FSC first from forest plantation to final products that deliver to the hand of customers. However, instead of FSC performs the audition, FSC authorize the third international certificated institution party. There are three types of certification marks as below:

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ForestFinance is audited by SGS global service. The audition process continued one week. The auditor came to the office to review those documents with Yaels, Sabine and Pedro first, and then audit the plantations. During being in the fieldwork, auditor asked some questions to the employees who work in the plantation randomly in order to ensure the company obeyed the regulars/norms of forest management during the past year. After went through those auditing process, the auditor will provided the suggestions for improvements which should be completed this year by next month. There are three types of findings in the final report which are:

  1. Major non-conformities: Those non-conformities must be corrected and resolved within three months.
  2. Minor non-conformities
  3. Obsevations

The findings of categories 2 and 3 should be resolved until the next audit.

This weekend my collages and I had a forest adventure in Rio Mamoni for our rafting trip that is close (1.5 hour ride) to the Panama city where is one of the plantation locations of ForesFinance. We were a group of 10 people with two experienced guides. I saw the potential of developments of eco-tourism over there cause the river is a class II-IV river and located in the Mamoni preserved area. The trip lead visitors an amazing landscape and some nice and exciting rapids. Therefore, the green original forest grown along with the whole river trip. However, the travel agency should invest the security measures during the trip. Because this is raining season in Panama, some parts of the river were too turbulent to rafting on the small boats. Thus, we had to climb up to the rock and cliff to pass through without any security tools.

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Create a healthy workplace

First things first, I am now official and have a plaque with my name by my cubicle… I know I get excited for little things!

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I was very productive last week and tackled two big things: LEED ND and an internal report. I started looking into LEED for neighborhood Development (LEED ND) because it is part of my research to compare the certification with WELL Community. But what is very cool is that I will be facilitating my first charrette for LEED ND within the next few weeks with the whole team in order to see how feasible it would be to do it here in Tampa. And if they like my findings they might actually consider it, which is major!!

Otherwise I have been busy creating a ‘WELLNESS and Sustainability Report at SPP’ which highlights the 7 concepts used in WELL and I added more sustainable items because I can’t help but tell people about how easy it is to be more sustainable. My idea was that SPP should walk the walk and create an internal list of things that we could do to be healthier and more sustainable within our office since we are planning to make a whole district healthy and sustainable. Here are some simple things I looked into:

AIR – Use MERV 13 media filters in HVAC system for particle filtration. If you plan to remodel your office; use low or no VOC paint and choose carpet tile with low VOC. Check with the cleaning crew that green cleaning products are being used.

WATER – Promote drinking water with a filtered water station on each floor… and of course encourage people to use reusable cups or bottles.

NOURISHMENT – If your office is selling or distributing food, reduce processed and sugary food and drinks. Offer healthier chips and snacks instead of candy bars in the vending machine. Offer fruits and vegetables.

LIGHT –  If possible use as much natural light as possible. Change lights to LED.

FITNESS – Offer incentive program for people that go to the gym or use a bike share program to get to work.

COMFORT – Adjust the thermostat so people are not freezing all day at work. If repainting the office, use blue and yellow that are good for concentration and reducing stress.

MIND – Offer plants for people’s desks to increase nature interaction. Put up a hammock or fully reclining chair for people to take a quick nap during their break.

As you might have noticed by now I am passionate about making workplaces healthier and sustainable and I can’t wait to see what this internal report becomes.

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On a more fun note, I got to discover the joys of Tampa again. I finally became a member of the Coast Bike Share program (only $59 a year for students) where I get an hour of riding every day! I have been riding around the city to go to meetings or go to the gym after work and its so fun and practical. Just note to self, don’t ride in heels!

And I finally made it to Zumba in the Park which was awesome!

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The Plan… patience is a virtue

On my second week we had a conference call with the Delos team regarding the WELL Community standards. I was expecting them to send us a scorecard with all the different requirements that we would have to meet  in order to certify the project, but they are far away from it. The certification is still being written and it will be weeks or months before we get an actual list of requirements that will be part of the WELL Community certification.

Just like I was originally planning to meet with architects, engineers and contractors on my second week, well it’s probably not going to happen anytime soon because we are still in the design process and a lot more needs to be done before plans are ready to be unveiled. Patience is not my strong suit so I will have to keep my head down and work on the project the best I can.

Although I am not in a different city or country like most students, I am still discovering a lot of new things that I had been wanting to do for a while but never got a chance to. Last Thursday I went to a Rock the Park event downtown Tampa. It’s a free event every first Thursday of the month in Curtis Hixon Park, different local bands play music and people hangout in the park with a picnic. Until now I always had class on Thursdays or had to work at night so I was never able to make it. I am sure that most of you can relate when I say that it feels SO good to not have classes or homework after a long work day.

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…and a River for Every Day of the Year

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Interview with Bernard Ettinoffe – General Manager of DOWASCO

Managing Dominica’s Most Precious Resource – WATER

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WATER SECURITY

Though it is said that in Dominica “there is a river for everyday of the year” the Dominica Water and Sewerage Company (DOWASCO), does not want to take their abundance of water for granted. Mr. Bernard Ettinoffe, General Manager of DOWASCO knows all to well how finite and vulnerable the water resource is and how it can be negatively impacted by climate change, human activities and new development, quite easily.  Therefore, DOWASCO is determined to manage this precious resource appropriately and ensure the sustainability of water resources for all Dominicans now and into the future.

What is the current statistic on water provision throughout the country?

Presently over 97% of the islanders have potable water.  We would have been at 100% had it not been for Tropical Storm Erika in August of 2015.  At the time a new water system was set to be commissioned in the village of Belles by October of that year, but the storm wreaked havoc on our work there. 1,443,000 Eastern Caribbean Dollars (XCD) have been requested to complete that project.

CLEAN and SAFE DRINKING WATER

 

IMG_0059What efforts are in place to ensure that clean drinking water is supplied?

The way that DOWASCO maintains clean water systems is to obtain intakes from way up stream where the soil is not loose, where the rocks are more solid and where the water is not prone to silting.  Our best water sources are higher up and some  within the UNESCO World Heritage Site where people do not live and where agriculture and the felling of trees is not permitted.  Because there is no construction of any kind in that area, the water is very, very clean.  The water is pulled from those sites, chlorinated and delivered to the communities.  Depending on turbidity levels, others checks and treatments may include sedimentation, filtration, coagulation, and flocculation.  We always ensure that the water is very clean.  When cruise ships come into port, Dominica supplies the vessel with this same water which is double checked on board in the ship’s water testing labs.

The raw water quality is already very good, so most of the time chlorination is the only necessary treatment.  This is because we choose areas that are higher up in the mountains and have less interaction with people.  If we require a water intake in an area that has agriculture, the farmers in that area are paid a subsidy and are no longer allowed to utilize that land.  There is zero tolerance for the felling of trees and the planting of crops near a water intake area to ensure that no fertilizer or other runoff enters the water system.  In cases where turbidity can be high, for example with the Springfield/Antrim system that serves Roseau, (after the road was constructed, a lot of debris was dumped on the hillside), we have introduced coagulation and flocculation with that particular system.

HYDROPOWER

I have noticed the Hydroelectric Complex near Trafalgar falls. How does water in Dominica help in the generation of electricity?

The Dominica Electricity Services Company (DOMLEC) uses some hydropower which is generated from water coming down Trafalgar Falls from Fresh Water Lake.  DOWASCO has a bulk waterline that extends from the mountain power plant all the way down to the seashore and which has the potential to load ships with six million gallons of water per day.  Our intention is to use that water to load the ships, but once no ship is loading, to use that water to generate hydropower and upload it onto DOMLEC’s grid. DOWASCO has a Power Purchase Agreement with DOMLEC for this process.  There is a trade-off from the electricity that DOWASCO utilizes and the balance which is uploaded to the grid.  More specifically, there is a designated price that DOMLEC would pay for the generated electricity, which is included in the Power Purchase Agreement.  If the water company uses more electricity than what is uploaded, then we pay the difference; if we use less, then the electric company will refund the difference based on the prearranged price.  Presently, less than 20% of the community is using hydropower.  The goal has always been to utilize more, but recently investment and focus has moved toward the development of geothermal energy.

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OPPORTUNITIES FOR UNIVERSITY RESEARCH  

If students from the University of South Florida had the opportunity to participate in an internship here, what kinds of water projects could they be involved with?

If university students were interested in water projects in Dominica, they could study the linkages between forestry, the water resources and the impact of climate change.  Some water resource studies have already been conducted by the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES) of the University of the West Indies.  A team of students could follow up that work.  Presently Dominica is looking at a water audit to determine the quantity and quality of both surface water and underground water, along with the identification of the water recharge rate and an understanding of the water balance as a whole.  The country could also benefit from a study of the independent efforts at rainwater harvesting, drip irrigation and water reuse and turning that study into a campaign that encourages the sustainable use of water island-wide.

MITIGATING WATER SCARCITY IN THE CARIBBEAN

With all of this water on the Nature Island, is there any opportunity for entrepreneurship?

Not all islands in the Caribbean are as blessed with the abundance of water like Dominica.  Water-scarcity is a problem for several countries in the region and there is an opportunity to leverage the existing capabilities of Dominica to meet that need.  Dominica is known as the Nature Island; building along that theme with the promotion of quality Nature Island water from the tropical forests of Dominica, we could be a supplier to water-stressed areas in the region like Antigua, Barbuda, and Barbados, among others.  Dominica has the highest per capita of water in the region.

WATER-ENERGY-FOOD NEXUS

At the Patel College of Global Sustainability we have learned about the Water-Energy-Food Nexus and how a change to one sector can significantly impact another.  How is this systems thinking approach considered in Dominica?

 

In Dominica, energy is used to provide water and water is used to generate energy.  As much as possible, gravity is used to deliver clean water to many of the residences and business on the island.  In some areas, however, we are obliged to use pumping stations to deliver water to communities that are above the waterline. Although the cost of that water is high, DOWASCO does not pass those costs on to the consumers in that area.  Instead, we make up some of the cost of energy used to deliver that water through earnings from the hydropower production and the power purchase agreement with the electric company.  More and more, demand for water is also required for the irrigation of agriculture.  In the minds of most people, gone are the days when gardens could rely solely on rainwater.  Certainly rainwater harvesting could provide some of this water requirement and productivity could increase significantly if people would simply learn how to better manage their water usage.  But for now, the food production levels are still heavily dependent on the water system.  This all contributes to the Water, Energy, Food Nexus in Dominica.

Even though it is believed that Dominica has 365 rivers, Mr. Ettinoffe is hopeful that best practices in water management will be utilized all over the country which will conserve this finite resource and contribute even more to their status as the Nature Island of the Caribbean.

Jerry John Comellas; University of South Florida; Patel College of Global Sustainability

The start of the WELL Community

Hello everyone,

My internship is in Tampa working for Strategic Property Partners (SPP), the company that is in the process of developing a 40-acre WELL Community district. To start from the beginning, Jeff Vinik, the owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning acquired 40 acres of land around the arena in the Channel District and is now in the process of developing a district around the arena that will have office buildings, hotels, USF Health, restaurants and much much more! Additionally, SPP announced at the 2015 Clinton Global Initiative that it will  create the world’s first WELL Community Certified. For those of you that have never heard of WELL, to make it simple this new certification looks at the health and wellness of people that are interacting in and around buildings since we spend more than 90% of our time in them.

So my role is to assist with the first stages of the certification since as of right now the WELL Community does not exist and is being created by Delos (company that founded the International WELL Building Standard) as I am writing to you. As part of my internship and research I am going to compare the current LEED ND (Neighborhood Development) certification that certifies communities across the country with the new WELL Community certification. The WELL certification was designed to complement the LEED ND certification and I will therefore look into how well they complement and work together.

I officially started my internship last week and took a few days to meet the team, familiarize myself with the project and dove right into steps of certification. On my second day, the whole team was offered tickets to go to game 6 of the Lightning game (perks of working for the owner of the team!) For those of you following, we lost game 6 and ended up losing game 7 and ended our journey there, but it was great to be part of a playoff game.

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On my third day, I was invited to a discussion panel after work hours organized by Tampa AIA about WELL and one of my coworker discussed the future WELL Community and the impacts on the environment, economy and health of people in Tampa. Few people were familiar with WELL but the room was packed and people were eager to lean about the new certification that will very certainly influence and impact the architecture world.

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That’s about it for my first week. I am so grateful to be part of the SPP team for my internship and to help shape the future of Tampa. More coming next week.

 

What is On Your Plate

Food is an interesting thing. We eat it every day. We shop for it, prepare for ourselves or our loved ones (or, stand idly by while the culinarily inclined prepare food for you). We tell others about our favorite places to get food and where to get the best bang for your buck. We take pictures of it. We write long-winded blogs about it (where we repeatedly beat the point over the head until it is seemingly unconscious…)

Food just appears, as if The Fairy of Everything Bagels and Cream Cheese Spreads waved their wand…and materialized in the gluten-free section of Trader Joe’s.

A large part of my research is looking at the ways food gets to our plates (seafood, specifically).

Our food supply chain is a series of splintered back streets converging onto mains, through tunnels, crossing oceans, soaring through clouds, and landing in our backyards with a variety of different names like local, free range, wild caught, and organic. But what do these words really mean, and how do they impact our consumption? Are we taking the time to trace our vegan sushi back to the fields where the soy beans were harvested, or considering the wages and living conditions of those who harvested the beans? Would it impact our purchasing habits if we knew? And what would it cost to ensure all parties benefited equally?

These are somewhat loftier questions than I will be able to answer during this internship, but I hope it inspires some others to dig deeper than tips of their forks when it comes to food.

Down Time in Dominica

There are a routine number of activities that are common among the locals on the weekends: Saturdays involve time in the garden, going to the market and washing clothes; Sundays are about going to church, eating a big lunch and taking a long nap.  And when time allows, you fill find them hiking forest trails, swimming in the river or relaxing on the beach.

For me personally, I just spent a whole week lining up appointments, creating surveys, making phone calls, sending emails, popping in to government office buildings, connecting with tourism organizations and networking with people on the island for the development of my capstone internship project.  So to get a little down time over the weekend has been a real joy.  On Saturday I participated in an amazing ecotourism adventure called Hike Fest, which I will write about in another blog.  So let me tell you what I did today.

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Today is Sunday.  After attending a local church service filled with island style music, dancing, special artistic presentations by the youth and some powerful preaching, I decided to hike into the jungle forest to try and find that cocoa fruit that I had promised to show you guys.  As I made my way to the trail head I could smell the lemon grass that had recently been cut and all the evidence of a tropical island was around me.  The Caribbean Sea was shimmering in the distance. Village streets were lined with trees adorned by mangos, bananas, kokoi-plantains, limes, soursop, breadfruit and pawpaws (papayas).  I passed three kinds of nut trees too – coconut, almonds and cashews. (I try to avoid the cashew tree even though it has a tasty plum;  I’ve learned the hard way that tampering too much with a raw cashew nut can cause a severe allergic reaction.) Moving on.

As I entered the trail I was greeted by five baby goats that were leaping on and off of a large stone – cute and curious.  The trail meandered along a river which created the soundtrack for my afternoon trek.  I found several guava trees along the trail but the fruit was still green; so I helped myself to some of the young red leaves to make into a delicious tea later on.  I located some cocoa (cacao) trees but most of the fruit that remained had already dried up.  Finally I found a ripe one, but it was so high up I couldn’t get to it.  I started to climb the tree, but I had to step on a termite mound… so I changed my mind.  I threw a couple of rocks at the cocoa even making a direct hit but that thing was not coming down.

I decided to walk further up the mountain trail toward one of the Waitikubuli entry points (the Waitikubuli is the longest hiking trail in the Caribbean).  This segment of the trail has a primitive but adventurous swinging bridge like a scene right out of a movie.  Passion Flowers, Flamboyant Trees and wild Caribbean Orchids gave color to the green landscape.  Bananaquit birds were chirping loudly all around me, Green Throated Carib Hummingbirds buzzed by quickly then darted into the trees and two Jaco Parrots squawked overhead. At last I found more chocolate trees and one of them was ripe and in reach.  Hooray!

The walk back home was just as nice and natural as the walk up the trail and it concluded with a not as natural dip in the swimming pool, but hey, I’m not complaining.  Come discover Dominica for yourself.

Cocoa (Cacao) Fruit