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Power to the farmers

SHAWN CUMBERBATCH, [email protected]

Power to the farmers

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A Barbados-based entity which represents regional non-governmental organisations is leading efforts to reduce the energy costs of several farmers here.

The Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CPDC), supported by the United Nations Development Programme’s Global Environment Facility-Small Grants Programme, is managing a project involving the construction of a solar dryer for farmers, and also the design and operationalisation of a biodigester, which will convert waste to energy.

The ventures involve the hiring of consultants to carry out work related to the projects this year as part of CPDC’s effort to promote renewable energy production in farming communities.

“The project aims to support climate change mitigation efforts in Barbados. It focusses on the agriculture sector given its importance to food security and sovereignty, rural development, and overall sustainable development,” a project document noted.

“The project intends to demonstrate the opportunities available through: the use of photovoltaic energy systems for electrical production; biogas production for heating; [and] solar drying for crop production.”

CPDC added that “while there is evidence that the farming sector in Barbados is attempting to come to grips with the use of renewable energy strategies, these remain small scale and embryonic”.

“A large part of this is due to lack of resources and awareness in the sector. At present, solar water heating is the only application of renewable energy widely used in Barbados. The goal of the project is to enhance the application of renewable energy technologies on farms in Barbados.”

The overall objectives map existing farm practices and assess opportunities for the use of renewable energy sources on farms, establish one demonstration farm showcasing the practical application and utility of alternative and renewable energy sources for farms, train 30 farmers to effectively install and utilise renewable energy sources on their farms, and facilitate multi-sectoral dialogue around the opportunities and barriers to the use of renewable energy in the agricultural sector.

The organisation also said the two projects were taking place in the context of the Caribbean’s climate change mitigation measures.

“…The agricultural sector in the region is…a high user of fossil fuels as direct inputs to farm activities. This places the sector in a highly vulnerable position. High operational costs – especially electricity, water, and other inputs – continue to increase as a result of fuel costs. This has forced some farmers to cut back or end production. High costs and low returns have led to increasing use of pesticides, low interest in farming among youth and growing issues regarding food sovereignty (or lack thereof).

“Moreover, with increasing awareness of climate change and the need for requisite responses for moving towards a green economy, many sectors have been asking for enhanced guidance and support for alternative energy and water conservation options.”