Everyone can be an organic farmer and produce his or her own food using recycled plastic as pots instead of throwing them in the bin.
Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.
Mauritius is my country of birth and I am proud to be a Mauritian ( citizen of Mauritius). I have stayed continuously in Mauritius since birth except for short periods abroad for study purposes. While I had the opportunity to settle abroad, I chose to come back and work to contribute to the socio-economic development of the country. I also do farming. Therefore, I am attached to my country and the land of my ancestors. While the country has experienced economic development, I have seen a gradual degradation of the environment and quality of life. I have witnessed some members of my family impacted ( sick and dying) after being afflicted by non-communicable diseases and the miseries it has caused to the family members. In addition, I have seen the country I love being taken over by plastic waste. I am now worried for the next generation including my kids. In addition, Mauritius as an island-state is on the front-line of natural calamities caused by climate change. Many in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change ( COP25) say that island-states are in a fight to death. I have tried to make a difference by first changing my own habits, communicating to people, mostly through Facebook groups but realize that it requires a vision which can transcend through the masses and collective action to make a difference.
Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.
Mauritius is an ethnically diverse nation with the major ethnic groups, namely Africans, Chinese, Europeans and Indians, represented. Same is the case for religion. An officially secular state, Mauritius is a religiously diverse nation, with freedom of religion being enshrined as a constitutional right. The culture of the Mauritian people is reflected in the various religious festivities that are celebrated throughout the year, some of which are recognized as public holidays. The cuisine of Mauritius is a blend of Chinese, European and Indian influences in the history of Mauritius.Dishes from French cuisine have grown very popular in Mauritius. Most of the dishes and practices into the culinary traditions are inspired by former slaves, Indian workers and Chinese migrants. Since industrialization , the agricultural Sector has evolved from a mono-sugar industry into multi-agro products much oriented towards exportation. Today, the agro sector has emerged three main sub-sectors: Sugar, fresh Produce for export, fresh produce for local market. However, Mauritius imports most of the food it consumes. There has been an increase in exotic food crop cultivation at the expense of endemic varieties with the result that more chemical fertilisers and pesticides are being used. People’s taste and eating habits have changed and they have complete dis-regard for endemic food sources. There has been awareness campaigns but habits have not changed or are changing too slowly. It must be mentioned that there is an over-consumption of junk food in Mauritius, a problem so severe that the government has banned the use of soft drinks and fast food in schools. People’s habits are changing and there is a tendency to consume less home-made food. This is also the result of a changing life style. In Mauritius, from the Non-Communicable Diseases survey in 2015 by the Ministry of health, we have 257,442 adults with diabetes, around 20-21% of the adult population. For every two persons who are known to have diabetes, there is one who is not diagnosed. There is also increased risk of heart disease and stroke and risks of significant complications. The International Diabetes Federation Diabetes Atlas 2015 ranks Mauritius in terms of diabetes prevalence as the highest in Africa and the third highest in the world. Diabetes is the second leading cause of mortality in Mauritius. In 2016, 24.1% of deaths were due to Diabetes Mellitus. Also, according to the Geneticliteracyproject.org, Mauritius is one of the top users of pesticides in the world. Therefore, the quality of food, especially fruits and vegetables produced locally is a serious concern. The Ministry has taken steps to raise awareness and test food but the problem is still there. People have fallen sick as a result of consuming contaminated food. The government has carried out an awareness campaign and even recently passed legislation to limit use of pesticides but implementation is taking time. Mauritius
Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.
First, Mauritius being a small island state, the amount of arable land available for crop cultivation is limited. Also, most arable land is being used for growing of cash crops leaving little land for stable food like potato, rice and flour. Second, most of the farmers who produce food crops use chemical pesticides, sometimes above norm. The Ministry of Agriculture tests and controls the use of pesticides and found chemical pesticides residues in samples. Third, ecological food is produced by only a handful of certified producers, and therefore, the economics mean that these cannot be afforded by the majority of the population. The government and other organisations have been encouraging the consumption of more balanced and healthy food but there has not yet been major changes in people's diet. Fourth, junk food is a major problem with diabetes and hypertension being prevalent among a high proportion of the population and Mauritius is currently the at the 7th rank for diabetes. Fifth, is that Mauritius being a small country with limited resources, the cost of producing rice and flour, our staple foods will be prohibitively high. Mauritius therefore imports most of its food need thereby causing a food security issue. Finally, fact that people consume mostly imported food means that these come in plastic packages. As a result, there has been a huge rise in the amount of plastic waste and there is a capacity problem in the island only solid waste land fill site. With tons of solid non-biodegradable, consisting mostly of plastics being produced every day, disposal of these will be problematic in the near future and the solution has to be found to limit production of waste in the first place.
Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.
By encouraging and motivating people to perform backyard and vertical farming using plastic bags and containers as planters, while at the same time using organic pesticides, we aim to breed a new generation of farmers. These “part-time” small scale farmers will be encouraged to share food and best practices with the local community. Another aspect of this farming will be the use of home-made pesticides, examples being garlic, neem, onion mixtures. Also, people will be encourage to switch habits so that they consume more locally available endemic varieties of food which require less pesticides compared to exotic imported varieties. Examples are bravate ( vesus lentils), cassava ( versus flour) , sweet potato ( versus potato), papaya ( versus carrots). These farmers will grow healthy food while at the same time limiting the amount of waste they throw in the garbage bin. We also aim to encourage them to use their organic kitchen waste to produce compost. Also, by creating awareness, it is anticipated that the demand for organic food will rise, thereby encouraging more cultivators to produce organic food up till the point that it is economically viable . Also, the eating habit of people will change since an early age. By a reduction in chemical pesticides use, we aim to reduce both air and water pollution and thus make the environment friendlier. More healthy food will have a beneficial effect on the people’s health and future generation well-being. At the macro-economic level, the combined effect of many small-scale farmers will mean production of more food locally will mean less expenditure of scarce foreign currencies for imports. At the same time, less transportation cost will mean less Co2 emissions. Also, there will be more food security in case of problem in countries where food is sourced from especially with climatic change. An immediate effect will also be seen on the amount of waste generated : both organic and plastic. Organic waste will be used to make compost and plastic waste ( bottles and bags) will be used as planters. The result will be that less environmental degradation our unique solid waste landfill situated in Mare Chicose will get some relief.
High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.
First and foremost, we envision people, whether they are staying in flats, houses both detached and semi-detached growing part of their own food. We see them deriving pleasure from this activity and sharing their experiences and best practices mostly through social media like Facebook as well as interactive sessions which we will promote at the local community level. We also see them making responsible and minimum use of pesticides which have either been prepared locally or bought from shops selling bio-fertilizers. To support them, we see pesticides and seeds shops selling more local and disease-resistant varieties of seeds. We also see an evolving food chain, right from the producers, distributors, retailers and consumers more geared towards organic food produce and changing eating habits. We also see people eating more endemic varieties of food which either do not require any pesticide or have been treated with bio-pesticides. We also see them more aware of seasonal fruits and vegetables. We also envision school students doing gardening and putting into practice the lessons from textbooks on healthy eating. We also see people working in their gardens producing their food and at the same time doing physical excercises. For those who are not in a position to produce or produce food on a daily basis, we envision producers, whether planting on land or in green houses and food outlets which offer organic food and adopt ways that protect the environment. Our ancestors were farmers who derived their living from cultivating the land. We strongly believe that by triggering the right catalysts, we can make them cultivate their food. We also see an environment where there are bees and butterflies. We also want to hear bird songs. We also want to stop seeing stockpiles of plastic waste with mosquitoes all around them. We see our island as a model for island states throughout the world.
Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?
Ecological farm with papaya, manioc ( tapioca), and lots of other disease resistant food crops
Our food system since industrialization in the mid 1970s
The agricultural (agro) Sector has evolved from a mono-sugar industry into multi-agro products much oriented towards exportation. Today, the agro-sector has emerged three main sub-sectors: -Sugar -fresh Produce for export -fresh produce for local market. However, Mauritius imports most of the food it consumes. There has been an increase in exotic food crop cultivation at the expense of endemic varieties with the result that more chemical fertilizers and pesticides are being used.
Despite awareness, no move towards organic food
People’s taste and eating habits have changed and they have complete dis-regard for endemic food sources. There has been awareness campaigns but habits have not changed or are changing too slowly. Our vision includes the following interconnected themes : The community First, we are already involved with stakeholders throughout the food chain through a traceability project using Blockchain. Hence, we already have networking with producers, distributors, wholesalers and retailers. We also have connections with super markets and farmers, located both in rural and urban areas who have been making desperate attempts to sell organic products. In addition, we are also we are ourselves producers of our own food in our ecological farm and house garden. We have posted best practices on Facebook. We also aim to include those farmers or interested parties whose land are in semi-arid locations with less rainfall by promoting food crops which require less water. We regularly visit food fairs and vegetable markets, SMEs, NGOs, health food shops, private companies and governmental organizations.
Our vision is to bring about a dietary change whereby people eat more organically produce food and is thereby less exposed to pesticide residues and are less prone to diseases like cancer. We also foresee them eating less junk food and eat more nutritious food richer in fiber, magnesium and Vitamin A as we create awareness of the convenience of readily available fresh produce from their own backyards. These food can become alternatives to their frozen and canned counterparts competitors, being consumed in larger amounts and leading to increased exposure to diabetes and obesity. The International Diabetes Federation Diabetes Atlas 2015 ranks Mauritius in terms of diabetes prevalence as the highest in Africa and the third highest in the world. We fully understand that this change will not be an easy one and has to be brought in a subtle fashion using a community based approach involving our own family first. Our strategy to achieve this vision will span over a 25 year period with a gradual yearly rate of change of 5% till 2045.
The economic rationale
Our plan encompasses the following Economics. Mauritius currently imports more than 50% of its food requirements and more than 90% of its chemical pesticides and fertilizers needs. In addition, food wastage has become an issue. By encouraging locally produced and organic food through the use of locally produced compost and bio-pesticides, our aim is to bring significant reduction as to the amount spent on imported food, pesticides and fertilizers and save on scarce foreign currency reserves. We also aim to reduce the pressure on solid waste management departments and landfill sites. A quick estimate from the local community including 50 households shows that more than fifty 25KG bags of compost can be produced per year representing a savings in terms of chemical pesticides of USD 1500. In addition, about 10 liters of less chemical pesticides will be used representing direct savings of about USD 100 and significant invisible health costs. In addition, compositing and recycling plastic and rubber waste at home can decrease the number of truckloads of waste which goes to the garbage dump by more than one fifth (1/5). With a total of 297881 households in Mauritius, the savings can be considerable.
The drivers for change: systems thinking
The only way to bring such a change is through mobilizing a group of people, who are passionate about the cause of recycling /organics and harnessing the power of their conviction to push for the desired outcome. However, just teaming up with a bunch of passionate individuals is not enough : more is required and the answer is systems thinking. Hence, the change strategy will be around the following:
Synthesis : through our analysis of the food chain system, we have identified the key stakeholders as well as the intricate inter-relationships
Emergence : "There is nothing in vegetable remains being dumped in the garbage bin which tells you that it can turn into nice black compost". This ability of transformation much be shown to the participants ( refer to video)
Interconnectedness: Each component of the food chain is intricately connected to another and dealing with them on an individual basis makes no sense.
Feedback loop:By being part of the system itself, instead of having an overview, enables us to get the feedback on each our action continuously.
Priority areas: culture
Culture is the element which binds and interacts which each component of the food chain. Culture is also about values. Now, Mauritius is an ethnically diverse nation with the major ethnic groups, namely Africans, Chinese, Europeans and Indians, represented. Now, the cuisine basically a blend of Chinese, European, Indian and Creole influences. With modernization and implementation of fast food chains, fast food has grown very popular in Mauritius. Changing people’s culture, especially eating habits into one where they eat more home-based and healthy food will not be easy. This will have to be done very systematically with the help of local chef. Dieticians, doctors and other health care agents. For those who do not have time or do not change despite our most earnest efforts, we will promote a new generation of eco-friendly food caterers. Mauritius is mostly urbanized and the number of small planters cultivating land has fallen. Our vision is to compensate for this decrease by having more small scale farmers.
A database covering food varieties, seeds, bio-pesticides, best-practices will be designed and implemented. A website will be the primary means of publishing our actions Social media like Facebook and Whatsapp will be used to engage the community through posting of photos and videos. We will also invest in technologies and methodologies to control weed and develop and promote the eco-farm. We do not foresee use of technology in composting and recycling as these will be small scale community based approaches.
Our methods and processes will in fact remove part of the non-biodegradable waste off the usual path to the garbage bin and therefore this is already a positive development towards a better environment. Now, by doing composting, we also aim to reduce the amount of biodegradable waste off the usual path to the garbage bin. By promoting organic farming, we will also be marking a return to a more eco-friendly environment and better air and water quality. Moreover, by encouraging people to produce their own food, we aim to increase reduce travels to the supermarket and hence reduce travel using fossil fuel transportation and hence reduce carbon emissions.
Environment Policy and climate change on small island states
As an island-state, that is very likely to be affected by climate change, Mauritius is at the fore-front of climatic change. The government is fully aware of the challenges posed by climatic change and has taken measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. According to the Ministry of Environment, projected impacts of climate change in Mauritius Utilizable water resources will decrease by up to 13% by 2050. Increase in heavy precipitation events with increased risk of flash flood. More frequent heat waves in summer. Increasing frequency of heat spells, giving rise to cardiovascular and pulmonary complications. One of the impacts of Climate Change on Small Island Developing States is increase in food insecurity and it is one of the challenges we will be addressing through our vision.
PUBLIC Food Policy
The government of Mauritius already has legislation in place for food quality, environment protection We will work with government to ensure that each of the policies and food legislation which have been carried out are implemented. Our vision is not only to create awareness, carry our demonstrations but empower persons by carrying out distribution of plants planted in recycled bags, composting and use of organic pesticides.
COMMUNITY BASED APPROACH
The systems based approach calls for involving the community and participants who are from a broad group including gender, age, level of education, residing in towns and villages across Mauritius. The team members, shown below already exhibit some diversity but more will be looked for.
Project assistant ( Male, 18-25 years, town, high school)
Farmer ( female : 70-75 years, village, high school)
farmer ( male: 50-55 years, village, no formal education)
IT Consultant/eco farmer/Project lead ( male, 50-55 years, town, University educated)
Project participant ( female : 50-55 years, Accountant, town, University Educated)