Works Credit Union has started on a journey to feed Tobagonians with its Green Works initiative for sustainable food production – an aquaponics system which was launched on Monday night at its compound in Spring Garden.
The Green Works aquaponics system will utilise waste produced by farmed fish or other aquatic creatures as nutrients for plants grown hydroponically – that is fish and plants will be grown together in one integrated system. It is seen as safe, uses 90 percent water less than soil farming, is less labour intensive, virtually operating itself, uses less space and can reduce the food import bill.
Speaking at the launch, President Fitzroy Ottley said the initiative was focused on strengthening the livelihood of Tobago families, especially members of the credit union.
The project envisages nonchemical, healthy produce for Tobagonians as well as exports to Trinidad and the wider Caribbean in the future.
Ottley said Green Works was particularly relevant for Tobago with the continuing increase in the cost of food on the island.
“Tobago has been challenged in many ways to put food on the table and to rely on it coming from Trinidad. What we are about is to ensure that we reach out, connect and supply the needs of our people,” he said.
Sean Austin of Sean’s Rabbitry & Aquaponics presented the idea to the credit union two years ago as an income boosting project.
“The idea of aquaponics is a stepping stone for diversification…to provide our members with the opportunity to provide food for themselves. The board of Works Credit Union took a decision to build a structure in Tobago, turning it into a thriving aquaponics production area.
“This facility will not only contribute to the economic development and wealth of Works Credit Union, but it will also contribute to the wealth to the members of Works Credit Union,’ said Ottley.
He said the facility will be managed by a team and after a cycle, that team will go into its own project, being replaced by another team drawn from credit union members.
“This will continue until we are at the place where every single member of Works Credit Union who have a piece of land and want to go into agriculture production - that is safe from pesticides, safe from all the ills and chemicals that unknowingly contribute to our death - has had an opportunity to participate in the project.
“Until that time we are now on a mission to encourage our members to eat the right foods,” Ottley said, adding that members can save $350 weekly if they begin to plant their own non-chemical produce.
He said another event will be hosted to celebrate the first harvesting of the produce grown at the facility in the coming weeks - seasonings, lettuce and kale.
“We are going to make contact with all the hotels, guest houses and we expect if you want a safe product, you will visits the credit union on a daily basis and purchase some. It makes no sense that there are members who belong to a credit union who boast of an asset base of in excess of $260 million, and is bountiful and wealthy, but you haven’t figured out how can you personally become wealthy too.
“As the tide turns and the economy turns, we cannot lead if when we look behind, all our members are stumbling. We cannot survive if we continue to lend money to only buy fridge and car. We have to face the challenges, move forwards and make it work,” he said.