Conveniently available for purchase along the main highways in Barbados is a refreshingly smooth and nourishing liquid – coconut water.
Bottled, and sometimes ‘branded’, vendors raise their hands in anticipation of capturing the attention of potential customers and securing sales.
This experience is but one of the many intricacies of living in Barbados. While the accessibility is convenient for the vendors and customers, the improper disposal of the coconut shells has been under scrutiny for years.
Such disposal facilitates the collection of rainwater in the coconut shells and leads to the breeding of mosquitoes among other health and environmental issues.
Acting General of the National Conservation Commission (NCC), Ryan Als, said that while they have been called numerous times to remove coconut shells that were illegally dumped, they have also recognised the value of the coconut shells.
This has birthed a partnership between NCC, the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) and The ‘Alliances for Coconut Industry Development in the Caribbean’ project, implemented by the International Trade Centre (ITC) Alliances for Action programme.
The result of the partnership has been the recent commissioning of a coconut crusher, a small device about four feet tall and a foot wide, to shred the coconut husks.
The National Conservation Commission’s (NCC)
Coconut Crusher. (Picture by NCC)
“The crushing of the coconut shell has presented us with an opportunity to provide coconut fibre mulch for our gardens, as decoration for household plants and potted plants, and in some instances, the fine fibre is mixed in the soil,” he explained.
The Coconut Crusher’s label explains the
TRC-40’s transformation process. (Picture by NCC)
An additional benefit, he said, is the reduction of the large piles of coconut shells at the landfill.
“Placing this fibre into soil reduces the erosion and helps with root penetration and improves the growth of plants that are placed in the soil,” he said.
The use of the bioreactor to produce energy will also handsomely benefit the Commission, Als added, as environmental conservation is their focus.
Acting General Manager of NCC, Ryan Als, giving insight into the coconut crusher’s operations. (Picture by NCC)
Coconut Vendors Eager
NCC’s efforts would have been futile without the cooperation of some of the coconut vendors. Als explained that they have identified two coconut vendors so far to supply the coconut shells for the crushing process. On completion, the fibre is packaged as mulch for sale or donation.
“The coconut vendors are cooperative and eager to bring their shells to us. They are from the Bush Hall and Bank Hall areas and it was a shorter trip to bring them to our Codrington headquarters than to drive to the landfill to dispose of them,” he added.
The vendors’ access to a coconut crusher, Als said, will yield the tossing of the husks in the machine as opposed to beside the roads.
Equally eager about the coconut crusher are members of the public, many of whom are desirous of utilising the coconut fibre in their gardens.
Als said this is a win-win for the Commission due to the affordability of the coconut crusher. He added that based on the output and the sales of the fibre, the benefits significantly outweigh the cost.
A side view of the Coconut Crusher. (Picture by NCC)
NCC’s Coconut Vision
The Commission’s vision, Als added, is to promote environmental conservation and from pollination of the coconuts to utilization of the waste – they are involved.
“Even in growing the coconuts, we conserve the bees that pollinate, we grow the coconuts as well and when people consume coconut water or eat the coconut jelly, we utilize the shell to create a product that can go back into the environment for the coconuts to grow even better – it is a complete cycle,” he stressed.