Carnival 2016

Doing my capstone project close to Belize City has turned out a lot better than I expected.  I’ve been able to go to the tourism expo and I made it to the carnival this year.  I used to watch it on TV before but never made the trip to experience it in person.
It worked out nicely because the portion of the training I’m doing with the villagers from Gracie Rock this week is about Belize’s culture.

Belize has many different cultures and everyone gets along.  All the culture’s have their own way of expressing themselves through music, language, dance, clothing, food, etc.  I got to experience the Mestizo culture the last time in Orange Walk.  This time I experienced the Belizean Creole in full swing at Carnival 2016 in Belize City.  As we are learning this week in my project at the village, the Belize Creole is a mix of African and European ancestry.  There are many aspects of our culture that can be traced to African or European origin. Carnival is very popular in the Caribbean and is becoming just as popular in Belize.  Showcasing and marketing this colorful and vivacious event is a great opportunity for the tourism industry.  The Belizean diaspora is a huge market and many return in the month of September to experience carnival and celebrate our Independence Day.

Carnival attracts people of all ages.  There were many different groups who participated in the carnival parade this year. Many private sector businesses support this annual event.  Its a time for people throughout the country to unite and celebrate.  There was even a steel band performing in the carnival parade this year.

In the end I got lots of pictures and videos which I used in the project I’m doing in the village.

Planting for the Future

This week on the farm I helped in the completion of our nursery. We transplanted 288 different blueberry trees into pots, that will be sold to customers interested in growing their own berries. Each tray contained 72 blueberry saplings of two different variety. The types of blueberries we currently have in our nursery are Arcadia and Scintilla. Although this may not seem like a difficult task it proved to be most time consuming even for two people.

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The process consisted of wetting the soil to make the saplings easy to remove from their tray. Then we recycled planters from previous plants used on the farm and filled them with our compost that we have been making. After a  work table worth of pots was filled we then created some holes in the compost and filled them slightly with concentrated fertilizer called, WormGold. The fertilizer is chicken feces which is then processed by worms in the form of castings. After adding the concentrate to the holes, we then placed each plant in a pot then filled in the hole. This process took over 4 hours to complete, but is paving the way for the future of the farm. In the right photo you see the 288 re-potted blueberry saplings lined up in the nursery. The sprinklers are set to water these little plants every hour for 1 minute each day.

While on the farm this week I again sprayed the organic pesticide combination of Neem oil and Thermx on the passion fruit and other trees. Our regiment of Thuricide has begun to take control and has kept the caterpillars off our passion fruit vines for a week at least. Therefore, this week I did not have to spray the Thuricide on the trees further reducing the additives that come in contact with our plants. The social media is also making great strides as well. We are currently on average per week reaching well over 1,500 people through our Facebook page alone. Our total likes for the page are currently 519 and 59 followers on Instagram.This week as of Monday we have reached 512 people in 2 days with only 2 posts. I hope this rise in customer interaction equates to more visitors to the farm during the growing season. The property is covered in passion fruit as well as blueberries. As for the chicken coop, we still are working on getting the wire up on the support beams. Just another step to making Bob’s Berries more sustainable.

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Plans for the future also include vertical strawberry gardens to be completed by the end of this year. Also, we reused the remaining gutters from the vertical gardens to create a hanging herb garden. Included in this garden is sweet basil, purple basil, oregano, rosemary, parsley, chives, and some short sweet carrots. Beyond the fence you can see the parts we will be using to create the vertical strawberry gardens. The design will feature triangle plywood supports that hold three gutters worth of strawberries. The garden should house around 108 plants all with drip irrigation and space saving design.

Organic Pesticides and Pest Removal

This week on the farm I had to apply some pesticides to remove some caterpillars and aphids from some of the plants on site. The aphids tend to be on the plum trees on the underside of the leaves. So in order to remove these harmful pests we use a plant extract called neem oil. This is combined with water and sprayed on the underside of the leaves to prevent more aphids from harming our plants and reproducing. To make the spray linger longer we use ThermX, which is derived from yucca plants. So far the results have been promising and the problem seems to be subsiding for now. Aphids are a common problem in Florida and are indicated by the presence of ants on plants they normally do not inhabit.

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We also have several passion fruit vines that grow around the farm on various fences and trees. However, these fast growing fruit vines are a favorite treat of caterpillars in the area. So combat this infestation we used some organic pesticide specifically designed for caterpillars called BT or Thuricide. This is a toxic concentrate made from bacteria that eliminates the caterpillars naturally. I generally add a tablespoon of the liquid to a gallon of water in the mister and go around the farm spraying the leaves and stalks. This organic pesticide has shown real promise, but the only downside is that compared to inorganic pesticides it needs to be applied more often. I took a picture before and a couple weeks after I sprayed the thuricide and the results are amazing. The first picture is before the thuricide and the second one is 7 weeks after spraying. In the space between the large branches of the tree you can see the passion fruit extended higher up the tree. This vine is our largest on the farm and it has a height of nearly 10 feet.

Additionally, this week we have  also made progress on our chicken coop with the help of some volunteers and community members. The trusses have been completed and have been attached to the roof of the structure. The next step is enclosing the space and purchasing the chickens. We plan to use the chickens for farm fresh eggs, this is a much more sustainable option than harvesting chickens for their meat without sacrificing protein. The chickens will also provide feces that we will convert into fertilizer for the farm or to sell. This organic alternative reduces waste on the farm and focuses on closed loop life cycles. The picture below we see farmer Bob and some volunteers assisting with the construction of our coop. As you can see we are nearly complete and this will make the farm more sustainable.

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As the weeks go by I continue to learn new and exciting things that will help me with my plans for the future. I hope to one day have my own farm and produce my own food. Additionally, this internship will make my resume more desirable in the field I would like to pursue a career in.

Tourism Expo

Things have been going great with my capstone project in the village of Gracie Rock. It is a wonderful experience to be working on a project like this.  The work I’m doing is directly impacting those who need it.

Apart from the community project, I recently attended a Tourism Expo in one of the Northern towns of Orange Walk.  It was an exciting time as many of the local businesses came out and showcased what they offer to the public and visitors.  There were many booths which promoted local products and services for the tourism industry.  Some of the organizations present included the Belize Tourism Board, Belize Tourism Industry Association, Belize Trade and Investment Development Service, the local Tour Guide Associations and other business promoting their local products.  I have been to the Northern part of the country numerous times before but was unaware of all it had to offer. Some of these are shown in the pictures below.

The town council was actively promoting the local culture of the region.  They were Mestizo dances which were performed by the local culture, proudly displaying their traditional clothing and colors. Many visitors come to Belize to experience our diverse culture, tasting the delicious food, dancing to the rhythmic music, and hoping to get a holistic cultural experience.  During the Tourism Expo, the crowd was treated to some remarkable dances of the Mestizo Culture.  The Mestizo is a culture with a mix of Maya and Spanish ancestry.  As such, some aspects of both the Maya and the Spanish are present in this culture. The pictures below are from one of the dances performed that day.

This was an interesting and exciting experience. I learned a lot about this region.

 

Meet The Dakakker

A Cohesive Urban Farming Initiative In Downtown Rotterdam

Food urbanism or urban farming has become one of the major sustainable urban trends -a pleasant reason to dedicate this blog post to the production of fruits and vegetables within an urban contexts.

20160714_083216322_iOSNowadays, people are extremely concern about our current food system and supply chain. People welcome the need to begin producing local organic food. They have increasingly shifted their consumer behaviors into a more healthy, fresh and grown locally diet. They feel the call to reconnect with their roots, and the need to protects people’s right to access to healthy food and well-preserved environment while providing fair compensation to the thousands of farmers and growers.

Cities are the driving axle of such a tendency that is engaging many of us into the urban farming movement. Indeed, the increasing number of people living and setting down in already dense major capital cities of the world is an underlying reason that boosts the urban agricultural initiative to high levels of expectations. Cities like New York, Mexico D.F., New Delhi and Hong Kong are feeling the pressure to feed their residents and to grow sustainable food in their own cities. And the only spaces available in these urban areas are the rooftops and the abandoned old industrial buildings. I remember  a few years ago rooftop farms, for example, were ideal imaginary places and only observable in renderings, drawings, and images. But, now they have burst around the world, making cities greener and sustainable from the top. Therefore, in the following sections,  I present two of the most successful urban farms in the downtown of Rotterdam.

The DakAkker

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The Dakakker was founded in April 2012 by Binder Groenprojecten and developed by an architecture collective firm Zus in collaboration with the Environmental Centre Rotterdam. Located on top of the Schielblock building in the downtown of Rotterdam, the Dakakker is one of the largest rooftop farms in Europe. The garden is the house of a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, edible flowers, herbs and honey bees.

The rooftop farm functions as a test site for urban agricultural projects. Currently, one the most enthusiastic project the garden is participating in is the implementation of a smart rooftop. This smart rooftop consists of implementing a sensor and weather controlled roof with a much larger water storage capacity than a regular green roof. In addition to a test site to experiment with different ways of green rooftops and farming initiatives within the city, this place also offers workshops and educational activities and provide herbs and vegetable to local restaurants and shops.

During the summer period, the urban garden opens its doors for a bistro breakfast and lunch menu, and also organize special dinners, catering, and events with a great view of the city. Here are some nice pics.

Uit Je Eigen Stad

After a delightful breakfast at The Dakakker Café, I head myself towards Uit Je Eigen Stad, another extraordinary urban agriculture initiative that grows and sells fresh veggies, grass fed chickens, mushrooms, ornamental seasonal flowers and also provide a healthy menu option at its restaurant. Uit Je Eigen Stad means literally “From Your Own City.” 20160714_113403966_iOS

This story of success was initially conceived and began as a social enterprise, but at the moment the urban farm is a commercial business that provides to its customers a quality mixture of seasonal vegetables, and organic dairy products. It also provides a space for the Farmers Harvest Market on weekends and a full-service restaurant on a daily basis. One thing that was fascinating to me was the fact that the farm was situated in an abandoned old industrial building, which makes the place more appealing to customers and increases their interest. This place also offers stylish design conference rooms with vintage farm items for conferences, workshops and all type of events.

Rotterdam is an exceptional case when it comes to urban farming initiatives. Despite the dark times from the past, over the years the city has impressively and successfully recovered thanks to the active participation and positive attitude of their citizens. This participatory role led to goals that rebuilt the city and shaped the Rotterdam of today. The driving forces that have led the development and economic grow of the city have, without a doubt, been the city government involvement and the bottom-up citizen’s initiatives. I was very impressed with the spur of creativity, innovation and the level of engagement of the citizens, particularly when it comes to urban agricultural activities. And most importantly the straightforward support from the local government. The support is not always money. Instead, they are committed to providing the institutional strength, regulations, policies, and sustainability frameworks to push forward innovative ideas and programs related to areas such as education, food security, health, welfare and local economy.

 

 

Week 1-Urban Farming In Riverview, Florida

This week marks the official start to my internship at Bob’s Berries Organic Urban Farm. Up until this point I have been volunteering on a weekly basis getting to know the in’s and out’s of working on the farm. In addition to expanding my overall knowledge of organic and urban farming practices, I also hope to do some sustainability consulting on the property to improve its efficiency. Other objectives for this  internship include expanding the farms social media presence in order to reach a greater customer base. Currently, I have expanded the social media outlets of the farm to include Instagram and Twitter. This has shown promising results by nearly doubling the amount of followers on the Facebook page and getting more people involved with social media that had not previously existed. My external supervisor is Rob Clemons, a local business owner and entrepreneur in Riverview. He runs his own A/C business and has an urban farm on his property as a side project for the community. Together we plan on teaching each other various things about sustainability and farming.

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At the moment, we have various crops which will grow blueberries, plums, passion fruit, olives, and pecans during their respective seasons. We also sell local honey and are in the process of constructing a chicken coop to produce farm fresh eggs. As for future renovations, we are looking to install vertical strawberry gardens which I will be assisting in the design and installation process for this project. I have already done and learned so much in the past couple weeks I’m really looking forward to what I will learn in the future. Food has always been a passion of mine and in today’s world it has become clear that we are more detached from our food then we need to be. This is why I feel that urban farming is important and will help to solve many of the negative side effects of our current food system. Reduction of chemicals, waste, and emissions are just the start of what urban farming has to offer. The community in which the farm is located already features many urban farms and farmers markets so the demand for these products is there.

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At the moment we do not have anything to sell besides honey and composted soil, but have seen tremendous progress from many of the crops on property. The blueberries have just finished an amazing harvest this year and have nearly doubled in size during their downtime. Passion fruit is another crop we have been tending to on the farm and this has also shown significant growth during the off-season. The social media plays a huge role in keeping customers involved in the production process, as well as, creating a sense of anticipation for the next harvest. Social media has also provided the  farm with a greater opportunity to reach people willing to volunteer their time. I’m extremely excited to watch the progression of my work and have it positively impact my community. If you would like to add any of our social media outlets the links are listed below.

Instagram

Facebook

Twitter

 

Cruising into a Sustainable Future

For my ACE, I secured a position with Cruise Planners as a sustainable tourism and responsible travel intern. Cruise Planners is a travel franchise company that supports home-based travel agents across the United States selling both land and cruise vacations. At CP, people believe that travel makes a difference in people’s lives… and it does. People who travel are happier, are more connected to the world around them and are making happy memories that they can look back on for the rest of their lives.

When I first sought out my internship with CP, I could have never imagined a more positive work environment full of people really excited about their jobs. My internship came about after I communicated with the Human Resources director and Public Relations director and explained my sustainable tourism coursework and how sustainable tourism could help Cruise Planners. Throughout the country, there are around 1500 CP franchisees who are home-based travel advisors. At Home Office, where I work, there are around 100 staff members, many of whom support the franchisees (each franchisee is individually known as a travel advisor) in some way. In addition to research I would be doing to understand sustainable tourism offerings available through CP and throughout the tourism industry and how sustainable tourism could be promoted to potential travelers, I would be helping to create webinars, social media posts, infographics, blog posts, etc. that related to sustainable tourism. As a part of my internship, I would be helping educate both the staff at Home Office and the franchisees on what is sustainable tourism.

As a student in sustainable tourism, we learn that even major tourism brands like Disney are doing incredible things in regards to sustainability even though they aren’t “eco-tourism” operators as sustainable tourism is so much more than just a jungle trek in Costa Rica. Part of the challenge – and fun – of my internship was getting to teach people about sustainable tourism. In order to do this, I would first need to figure out what sustainable tourism and responsible travel options CP offered. I went through and really looked at the different vendors to see what companies were doing sustainable things – think innovations to make cruising better for the oceans – and what different travel options were for people wanting to have a more sustainable impact – think shore excursions with a volunteer focus. Cruise Planners offers all types of travel (not just cruises) through seemingly billions of vendors. When you think cruises, you probably think Royal Caribbean and Carnival, then maybe Celebrity, Princess, Norwegian or Holland America. The reality is, there are so many cruise lines including some companies that have just 20-80 people on each ship. If a potential traveler were to go to a travel advisor and say “I want to go on a sustainable cruise,” the travel advisor might have no idea what they are asking for or how to help them, and that’s the fun part of my internship. Getting everyone to see all these vacation options in a new way. In future posts, I’ll get in to more details about the materials I created to help educate people on sustainable tourism, as well as the realities of life outside of the PCGS bubble where not everyone thinks with the same sustainable mindset.

For now, enjoy this great beach photo I took of when I first moved down here as well as a picture from a CP training I attended where I learned about the company from a travel advisor perspective. Hopefully one day these training events will contain entire sustainable tourism segments, but for now I’m just excited pretty excited with a webinar and other digital communications!

 

Back in Belize

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After being gone for a year, I’m back home. My final capstone project is all that remains for me to complete my Master’s Degree.  I will be completing this project in my beautiful country, Belize.

The Belize Social Investment Fund (SIF) is implementing a sustainable tourism engagement project in Gracie Rock Village.  One of the overall objectives of the project is to engage the community in tourism and provide income generating opportunities for village residents.  The project is aimed at improving the socioeconomic development of the village.  This community engagement project involves several activities including capacity and skills training. I am working with the SIF and the Belize Tourism Board in developing and implementing a tour guide training program for the village residents.

I had the opportunity to visit the community and do a preliminary assessment.  I passed the junction to the entrance of the village numerous times before but didn’t go into the community until now.  The community is located a few miles from the George Price Highway and hidden behind a limestone ridge.

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Village is located behind these hills
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Road to Gracie Rock

I was taken on a tour of the village by a field officer from the SIF. This gave me an opportunity to see the village and identify any opportunities which  can be developed for sustainable tourism activities, especially guided tours by villagers.  The area is surrounded by lush broad-leaf forests.  I saw several birds on this trip and managed to get a few good photos.  The Sibun River passes through the village and there is a small suspension bridge for villagers to walk across. The photos of the birds and bridge are posted below.  See if you can identify the birds.

crimson tanager

oriole

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Suspension bridge at Gracie Rock

 

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View from across the river

These photos were taken before hurricane Earl passed through Belize earlier this month.  I understand that the river flooded and washed away the bridge.  I’ll revisit the village and see the damage caused by the hurricane.

I’m looking forward to working with the village of Gracie Rock, the SIF and the BTB.  I know that I will be able to contribute to this Sustainable Tourism Project and impact the lives of these residents.

Steelcase, the sustainable company

Steelcase Inc. is the global leader in office furniture, interior architecture and space solutions for offices, hospitals and classrooms.Steelcase is founded in 1912 as the Metal Office Furniture Company in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which is an over 100 year-old company.

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In this age of sustainability, Steelcase has a clear vision of sustainability: bring lasting value to customers, employees, shareholders, partners, communities and the environment.

 

This is a snapshot of some of the goals they’re reaching for and progress they have made over the last few years:

– Investing in Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) equivalent to 100% of their global electricity use

– $4.5 million donated in 2014

– 75% increase in volunteering in 2014

– 46% reduction in waste since 2010

– 22% reduction in waste

– 73% reduction in VOCs since 2010

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They are providing the best solutions for customers by ensuring their work is the best solutions for environment. That’s why in every step of the way, through design, manufacturing, delivery and product lifecycle, they consider the impact of their work on people and on the environment as well.

Singapore, the Sustainable City

Singapore, as one of the greatest economy and finance centers, is a modern and sustainable city.

Singapore is located in the southern of Asia nad close to China, and it has a nick name – Lion City. Lion City has many scenic sports and full with fresh & pleasant air, you can speak Chinese or English there, but official language is English.

As a migration city, we can easily find people from different countries, such as India, Philippines, Malaysia, and China et al. It is amazing that such a small city can contain and so many people with different background. They work together , go shopping together, and have fun together. Maybe this is what so-called culture sustainability.

For environment, Singapore is famous for its clean street. It is thanks to the super high fine for throwing garbage on the road. The clean road and environment not only offers people a pleasant place to live, but also achieve the environmental sustainability in Singapore.