XpBonaire Feature Story
Agricultural development on Bonaire has always been a hard undertaking. Even though Bonaire has historically been the food producer for the neighboring islands, nowadays only a few farmers are willing to take on the challenge of growing crops and livestock.
Punta Blanku, and its family Emerenciana, the largest local producer on the island, has learned over generations, going back to the first Indian inhabitants, what it means to live from the land. Face the setbacks, embrace new technology and developments and, most importantly, never give up.
Punta Blanku, the largest egg producer on the island, has consistently built renewals and upgrades to develop, and now answer, the growing demand on the island while continuing to deliver a high quality local product.
Modern poultry housing
In 2017, the farm invested in new poultry housing that was developed in Spain and meets required European standards. It gives laying chickens more space and makes egg production more efficient. Manual feeding can now be done mechanically and the feed control is precise and safeguards the product’s quality.
Free range poultry have become a big part of egg production. Many people have become more concerned about animal welfare and choose a high quality product. What started in 2016 has now become about 40% of Punta Blanku’s egg production.
Living in a kunuku on the island comes with peace and quiet, but also means being “off the grid”, relying on water delivery and generators to produce electricity.
Finally, beginning this year, the farm now produces its own power with its new solar panel installation. The solar plant produces enough power for the farm and the family home in a sustainable way. Generators are only in place for emergencies.
Reverse osmosis water mill
For the last several years, Nadine Emerenciana has been researching and looking for solutions to one of the main problems - water for the livestock and agricultural developments.
Now a solution seems to be near with a winning innovation, “the Fresh Water Mill”. A reverse osmosis plant that converts salt water into fresh water will be installed on the Punta Blanku farm and will water the livestock and plants in a consistent and more affordable way. Surrounding farmers will also have the ability to pick up their water nearby.
The wind and solar energy water plant, specifically developed to withstand the harsh conditions of sun and salt on Bonaire, will make Punta Blanku 100% self-sufficient and sustainable, fitting the rural development goals of the island.
Agricultural Development Bonaire in Numbers
Surveys have shown that at least 250 small farmers are in need of a solution to their water problem. Many more are interested in developing a business in agriculture or farming when the water problem is solved. The agricultural plan and goal is to make the island less dependent on imports which, in many cases, are not the best quality and overpriced. Research also shows that when requirements are met, up to 40% of the demand for meats, eggs, vegetables and fruits could be produced on the island.
Eggs and more
No one at Punta Blanku sits still. There are many projects waiting to be developed or expanded.
Vegetables and fruit
Vegetable production has started again, with watermelons, papaya, long beans, okra, hot peppers and cucumbers, to name just a few. They use their family’s knowledge to grow the most resistant and tasty vegetables that fit our climate and seasons. You will be able to buy the fruits and vegetables at Carniceria Latino, a local butcher and supermarket. Of course, in the future, they hope to offer their fresh produce in other supermarkets too.
Goat is a staple meat on the island. Many of the most delicious local dishes are prepared with goat meat. At Punta Blanku, the goats are a favored animal and hopefully, will grow in numbers to become part of local meat production in the near future.
Water still remains the biggest problem for rural development on Bonaire.
What‘s the problem?
One of the major bottle necks for success in developing agriculture on Bonaire is the lack of water.
- Most farm areas are not connected to the water and electricity network and depend on truck delivered water and generators.
- The grey water produced on the island cannot be used for animals or vegetables.
- The old dams on the island that used to collect water are poorly maintained and the basins don’t hold enough water to solve the problem.
- Drinking water is too expensive to water plants and animals and succeed as a business.
- At the moment, delivery is not reliable and with continuous delivery problems, no farmer is ensured of enough water.
With the installation of the water mill at Punta Blanku, production could be expanded and new projects could be added. The watermill could also offer a more affordable and consistent water source to the surrounding small farmers and could offer better business opportunities to new farmers. This might finally be a real start to rural development on Bonaire.