A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO THE OCOA CLIMATE FARMERS PROJECT


The Ocoa Climate Farmers Project is creating a viable, replicable model of how regenerative organic agriculture can confront climate change by sequestering atmospheric carbon in healthy soils.  At the same time, it addresses critical rural health, economic, and quality-of-life issues linked to the downside of globalization.  The pilot project is based in the farming village of Los Martinez, population 200, in the southwestern mountains of the Dominican Republic, and is committed to a highly participatory, community based approach to rural development.  The three project components are:

1) Organic Production:  An organic teaching garden has been started by a group of nine women, with support from the entire community.  The garden is operating under the able supervision of organic master farmer and agronomist Esmelin Mateo, who is essentially teaching the community an intensive course in organic production farming.  The garden, and associated facilities, will become a model regional teaching center, and a base for replication of the project in other villages.

2) Market Development:
 The conversion to organic agriculture requires an active market for the produce, preferably local.  We have been working with various interested stakeholders in the nearby provincial capital of Ocoa, population 50,000, to raise consciousness about climate change, organic produce, and the relationship between them.   Goals include setting up a weekly distribution of boxes of organic produce, with the involvement of high school students, and having a produce sales truck that visits different Ocoa neighborhoods on a fixed schedule.  Activities to date have included a live stream of the Soil Not Oil Conference and presentations at local high schools.

3) Climate Change Science: To demonstrate the connection between regenerative organic agriculture and climate change, we will be building a small laboratory in Los Martinez to measure the atmospheric carbon sequestered over time in the soil of the organic plots.  The facility, the only one on the island with this capability, will also be used to map soil carbon throughout Los Martinez, and in the other communities starting organic production in later phases of the project.  We have purchased the key piece of equipment, a used Skalar Primacs SLC Total Organic Carbon analyzer, and are fundraising the additional $50,000 needed to complete the laboratory. 

Organization:  The Ocoa Climate Farmers Project is a cooperative effort between the community of Los Martinez and the Rural Alternatives Center of El Limon (CAREL).  CAREL director Jon Katz has spent the last 20 years working with rural Dominican villages on community-based participatory infrastructure development, resulting in over fifty village hydroelectric mini-grids that serve some 20,000 rural residents, as well as several wireless internet access systems for remote villages.

Financial notes:  About $700 has been spent on fencing, irrigation materials, and transportation for the community teaching garden in Los Martinez.  The TOC analyzer was purchased with a $4,500 grant from the Peace Development Fund.  Cost to complete the laboratory will be about $50,000.