Thursday, May 14, 2009


Dear Friends of the SEA,

Please take a look at the full SEA REPORT on the Project Documents Page!!

We have assembled all the ideas and aspirations for the SEA into this report and are ready for your comments and feedback!

Thank you to everyone who has been so much assistance with this effort and we hope you will find the recommendations for options useful to you.

We are taking comments until 3 June and look forward to hearing from you!

With deepest thanks,

Mary (and Glenroy)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

SEA Final Presentation

The SEA Final Presentation was made on 30 April. Please visit and know we are looking forward to your comments!

And thank you to everyone, especially Kathrin Renner of the European Commission, Glenroy Ennis my constant colleague, and Mr. Jagroo for your excellent support in this effort. 

The draft report will be released mid- May and will be open for comments. Thank you to many of you for your enthusiastic and thoughtful comments so far!

Many thanks!
Mary (Matthews)
EC SEA Consultant

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Updates and Rules for Cooperatives

We've all be working hard as we pull the last few weeks of work together for the SEA. It's hard to believe it is almost over, and yet as we settle in to write, it is amazing how much information and great ideas we've collected from everyone. So in advance, THANK YOU to all who have been so helpful to us.

The ideas of the day are now being funneled into the reports, but I can honestly say that Glenroy has some good ones coming up that are truly inspired.
Today we meet with the folks at Caroni (1975) Ltd. to go over their cooperatives models. There are a lot of challenges and a lot of opportunities here, and I'm hopeful that they are on the right path.

One of the issues we'll be talking about today is how to set up management institutions for cooperatives. This is based on neo-institutional political science theories which look at why do people get along in some cases and not others. (apologies to Professors Markus Crepaz and Bob Grafstein for the simplification)

Essentially if we look at institutions as rules of the game, the question then becomes how do you set up the rules so that everyone wins?

Elinor Ostrom, a brilliant woman who studies this issue and wrote "Governing the Commons"
outlines 8 design principles that exist in long lasting cooperatives

These are:

1. Clearly defined boundaries: essentially who has access to the particular project and who does not. In the case of the 2 acre Caroni farmers with property in the cooperatives - the holder of the lease, and those who work on the property have access. Those who don't fit this do not. It may require clarification in terms of taking of produce prior to official harvests, and there will need to be clear agreements on what the return on the investment will be to those leasing the land. 

2. Congruence between appropriation and provision: the rules have to match what the local conditions can provide. There must be sufficient resources for everyone to make a return on their investment. For example, if there is not enough water, there will not be enough crops, the investments won't yield the expected returns. This is important!

3. Collective-choice arrangements: who ever is governed by the rules of the cooperative has a say in modifying these rules at specific intervals. They need to know they have a right to help make the decisions.

4. Monitoring: the monitors who actively audit are accountable to all members of the cooperative and their findings must remain transparent at all times. This will be critical for these cooperatives to work.

5. Graduated sanctions: if there are violations to the operational rules, there are graduated sanctions depending on the seriousness of the offense. This applies to everyone working on and with the cooperative.

6. Conflict resolution mechanisms: if there is a disagreement, the members of the cooperative and the operators have access to a low cost local arena for resolution of the conflict. This should be done according to consensus based models to increase buy in and a sense of ownership in the outcome.

7. Minimal recognition of the rights to organize: this just means that the government agrees that these cooperatives have a right to be established and that they have a supporting structure for that without interfering in the governance of the cooperative.

and, for cooperatives that are part of other larger organizations:

8. Nested enterprises: meaning that the governance principles for the organization are reflected and supported by the next level up and, most importantly, they do not conflict with the operational rules set up at other levels. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Please visit the projects page to see some exciting new developments in the trends towards increasing food security throughout Trinidad and Tobago. 

Look specifically at the 

  1.   The Caroni WORKING DRAFT Cooperative Model

  1.  The Caroni Initiative for Food Production - Christine Sahadeo, UWI

    And please feel free to make your comments here!! They will be passed to the relevant folks! 

IDEA OF THE DAY! Social Infrastructure!

The increase building on the former Caroni (1975) Ltd. properties will have some significant impacts on communities as well as on the environment. People as a species do not deal well with changes when there is not control over it. 

As part of the development and planning process, and in order to improve public support, enhance the environment and make the area more livable, why not build in social infrastructure projects?

It does not need to be a huge investment, or even particularly expensive. By giving people a place to gather, to socialize and play creates a wonderful sense of community and strengthens communities. It gives a safe place for children to learn to be healthy and move and gives parents a place to enjoy too. 

One only needs to look across the Queen's Park Savannah in Port of Spain any afternoon, or weekend or evening to see the social benefits of such social infrastructure. It's a gift left for us to enjoy from earlier generations. 

What are we leaving the Trinidad's children to enjoy tomorrow?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Idea of the Day! The Edible School Yard

One key concern people have voiced is the younger generation's the lack of interest in agriculture.

A woman in California has been doing some very interesting work with a program called the Edible School Yard.

For a nice video on it click here.

So many kids get excited about growing things when they have a way to do it, and to be part of it. 

Idea of the Day! Bamboo!

In the US and Europe in the past decade there has been a major drive to use sustainably harvested wood, and renewable fibers. Bamboo has been the leader and even bamboo clothing has become quite popular. 

While I realize that different cultivars of bamboo have different uses, this may be a very sustainable and very lucrative crop, especially in areas which are more flood prone.

Additionally, a benefit of bamboo is the amount of Carbon is sequesters (captures) because carbon sequestration is bound to be a big issue in the coming months and years.

For more information on bamboo as a crop for use see EcoDesignz and Sustainable Flooring

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Idea of the Day! Retention Ponds!

We are playing a bit of catch up here today folks - not because there is a lack of ideas, but rather because the ideas are now coming in fast and furious!

A key issue for the newly developing agricultural sector will be the need for water for irrigation. Cane can rely on being rainfed, but new food crops will need water.

The full water system in Trinidad will not be immediately able to address these needs, so other alternatives should be considered. The over all rainfall for T&T is quite high, and with Climate Change predictions of more rainfall, but with increasing intensity, there are significant concerns about erosion and how the rain can be harvested.

We've addressed this earlier, however, for agriculture, retention ponds, with over flow areas and trees planted to reduce wind and sun based evaporation could be real solution!!

The soil in the Caroni lands with the heavy clay soil are excellent for retention ponds and can provide some much needed havens for beneficial wildlife as well. It's a win-win situation!

Idea of the Day! Grow Organic

There has been a recent movement in Trinidad and Tobago to build an organic production and certification coalition.

SEA Agroeconomist, Glenroy Ennis has recently attended a meeting in Port of Spain with proponents of this movement who are linking with the Organic Initiative for a Sustainable Caribbean, the organization responsible for getting Jamaican organic farmers certified.

Certified Organic give consumers assurances that the products are produced sustainably. AND it increases the asking price for fresh and processed produce, especially in the export markets!
(For local markets it may be another issue - especially if demand can be assessed!)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Idea of the Day! Double Digging a Garden Bed for better crops!

Today we had a very informative and productive meeting with some of the great folks down in Caroni (1975) Ltd. HQ in Couva. The meeting today was to go over baseline data. Kudos to the team for collecting some great data and for some very productive brainstorming!

Sugar as a carbon sink, climate change and goats for clearing lands were all fodder for discussions. A lot of great ideas came out of it and we are looking into them.

One idea that came up on the drive home is the technique called "double digging" a garden. It helps root crops thrive and also is great for soil remediation. One example is here, and another how to is here.

The soils here have some challenges. This technique could definitely be a way to over come some of the challenges, improve soil quality, and produce hardier crops!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Governing the Commons

During today's meeting we also discussed the importance of communities working together to build their future, rather than waiting for government direction. Solutions to problems when they come from within are far more successful than those which have been imposed from the outside.

One key set of mechanisms for improving social management of shared projects comes from Elinor Ostrom's pivotal work "Governing the Commons". The central theoretic guidance for her work is available here on the projects page. (Please forgive my notes in the margins!)

Additionally a host of successful case studies is available on the web page of the International Association for the Study of the Commons! Please take a look!

The National Adaptation Strategy

One important request that came out of the meeting today is access to the National Adaptation Strategy. It is here on the project documents page. Please note, that circumstances and priorities have changed since this was drafted and therefore not all information here is up to date. 

Non State Actor Stakeholder Meeting

Today down at Couva Sevilla Estate we held a very informative meeting with Non-State Actors Stakeholders to discuss the environmental impacts of the NAS and the divestment of Caroni (1975) Ltd. lands.

The meeting was well attended and discussions of what the environmental challenges are as a result of the shift from sugar, the social, economic and environmental impacts, and potential solutions were productive. 

There is an agreed need for ideas and solutions and next steps.

Minutes for the meeting will be coming soon!

In the meantime, the presentations of the European Commission and on the SEA are here.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Idea of the Day! Dig a Swale

The rainy dry season is inspirational around here. 

Water rushing down channels isn't getting into the aquifers and instead everything every where is paved... or at least it seems that way.

When putting in new developments, for agriculture, housing, industry, or other building sites, why not put in swales. Swales capture surface run off and send it into the aquifers, both nourishing soils and reducing erosion. The berms make great fertile planting beds too!

They cost almost nothing and can have a big impact on the potable water availability throughout the country.

For more information on how to do this see wikihow's How to dig a swale

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Idea of the Day! 12 Simple Things

Today's Idea of the Day comes from UNDP

Climate change issues are significant and as we have a huge downpour here in Maraval it seems that the dry season is not so dry this year. Yes, it keeps bush fires down this year, but whether it is epic flooding or disastrous droughts, freak snow storms or blistering heat waves we are seeing a change in our climate. 

As a friend in Canada once said to me "It used to be that people talked about the weather. Now people talk about how the weather used to be."

There is a great article in the New York Times this week by Daniel Friedman about "Nature's Dow" about how we are in a global environmental crisis as well as a global economic crisis. Read the article here.

And because we need to look at solutions, see the UNDP's 12 Simple Things. Small changes can have big results IF enough people will join in. 

Are you willing to part of the solution?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Idea of the Day! COCOA!

We spent a great day at the Coffee an Cocoa Research Center as part of the Roundtable for Sustainable Cocoa Economy meeting. At the field trip we learned about how cocoa is grown, different varieties, how it is processed, graded and some of the challenges that impact cocoa. (Witches broom = bad)

Our field trip was informative and gave each of the team a chance to get a feel for what is needed for cocoa cultivation. Trinidad produces very high grade "fine" cocoa which was described in symphonic terms by one of the experts from the Roundtable.  And it draws much higher prices on the market than bulk cocoas. 

From our informal interviews with the experts from the Roundtable, cocoa as a cash crop for Trinidad has a promising future. Demand remains steady throughout economic ups and downs, and is due to increase as chocolate becomes more broadly consumed in China and India.

Environmentally, cocoa requires a good deal of water, but because it can be intercropped with other sustenance crops, and produces a lot of good mulching materials it can be a good crop and potentially quite lucrative. 

Thanks to the Roundtable for a Sustainable Cocoa Economy, and the organizers for a great day!!


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Idea of the Day! Bee Keeping

The increase in food crops, including vegetables, fruits and nuts will need pollinators!!

Bee keeping may be an option for some who want to provide support to the increased in food security.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Marine Resources has a registration site and a potential for agro-tourism!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Idea of the Day! RAIN BARRELS!

Today's great idea came from a Friend of the SEA who suggested that rain barrels should be distributed to households with guttering to capture rainwater. 

Used throughout the Caribbean to capture rainwater in areas with less rainfall or brackish groundwater, rain barrels can play and important role in providing water during the dry season to water household gardens, wash cars, wash clothes, and used for toilet water. It's also great for washing your hair with!

You can watch a video on how to make a rain barrel system here.

And of course wikipedia has a lot to say here.

Simple, easy to install, and if enough people would use them, flooding could be reduced and valuable water resources could be conserved!!

Do you have an idea of the day? Please send to

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Idea of the Day!

For the Idea of the Day, some stakeholders have suggested that there is a need to improve the image of eating locally produced foods!

A social marketing campaign may be an ideal way to do this, as more variety of fresh, sustainably grown crops come on the market. 

Social marketing can be used to change behavior for the public good, as well as for individual benefits. It is used in public health campaigns to stop smoking, to reduce the spread of some diseases, to improve environmental conditions, and to raise over all awareness. The focus is on helping people to make a small change for an overall larger benefit. (Think recycling, or anti-littering campaigns). 

Stay tuned for tomorrow's idea of the day!!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Idea of the Day!

In order to stimulate our collective thinking, we are launching the "Idea of the Day" segment!
Your contributions are welcome!!

For today, we start with Vermicomposting - using worms to break down organic matter and create GREAT SOIL.

Some articles worth exploring are: 
and  a comprehensive article from Wikipedia

Please send us your ideas and we'll add them too!

Tour of Mr. Roop's Farm

Thursday Glenroy and I went to visit Mr. Roop's farm in Freeport
Thursday we went to visit Mr. Roop's farm in Freeport
He has 3 acres on land that was formerly used for sugar cane cultivation that he has developed into a very productive farm growing a wide range of crops. 

He has used soil remediation techniques including widespread drip irrigation, use of chicken manure for fertilizer, intercropping, and row cropping with berms that create lovely, healthy crops.
The intercropping and use of select crops for his specific soil types reduces pests, increases beneficial insects and takes advantage of the irrigation techniques he has developed including a built on site pond, (complete with alligators!!) and strategic drainage system.

It was interesting to note that right next to his property is another plot that is not actively being tended. The species here include bamboo and kudzu vines. These vines grow up to 1 foot (30 cm) per day in hot humid weather and are very aggressive and opportunistic. Suffice to say, this is a cause for concern for Mr. Roop, as well as a potential problem as this species becomes more wide spread. There is no commercial use for kudzu and it does not make for good animal fodder as the vines are too sinuous.

Many thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Roop for a lovely afternoon and for your hospitality!
More information about the work Mr. Roop is doing, and additional photos are available upon request.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

International agreements of Trinidad and Tobago

Thanks to Monica for the official link to the list of international agreements that Trinidad and Tobago are members to!

This includes the environmental agreements!

Welcome to the SEA Blog

Welcome Everyone who is interested in the progress of the SEA for the Trinidad and Tobago National Adaptation Strategy!

We are in a very busy phase of the project - getting together information for the policy, institutional and framework context for the SEA and gathering baseline data. 
If you have any documents to send, please forward them to me at and thank you again to those who have already been in contact with us!

We have been holding meetings with some stakeholders and continue to follow up with others! It has been busy busy busy and Glenroy and myself are having a great time and learning so much! There is so much to understand and it is all quite exciting! 

Please take a look around and visit often - we plan to have almost daily updates of our progress and your input is welcome and needed! Please use the comments section - you do not have to be a member of blogger to use it, but please let us know who you are when you make your comments. 

We look forward to hearing from you!

Very best,