Saline agriculture on Bonaire

2020: Setting up test locations for saline agriculture on Bonaire - Saline Knowledge Area Bonaire

Drought, salinization and less food for livestock and people:

On Bonaire, few plants can grow due to the dry climate. The plants that do grow there are plants such as Aloe Vera, cacti and crops that serve as cattle feed. Even these crops and plants are in danger due to drought and rising sea levels. As a result, the salt content in the soil keeps rising and there is a shortage of water all over the island. The food supply of the island is therefore very dependent on import from the Americas and European countries, this solution is unsustainable and very detrimental to the economy.

In 2015 our organization visited Bonaire at the invitation of the State Secretary of Economic Affairs, Sharon Dijksma. Together with the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Wageningen University, we investigated the possibilities of starting a knowledge centre and a test facility on Bonaire. A memorandum of understanding was established with the Public Entity of Bonaire to realize the setup of this project. After our visit, we received several requests from local farmers to help them grow crops on their saline farmland.

Salt Farm Foundation wants to support the mission of the Dutch and Bonairean governments by helping farmers grow crops locally with saline/brackish water. The Foundation wants to contribute to food security by reducing the import of food products and consequently combat poverty on Bonaire. We want to stimulate the usage of saline agriculture, in cooperation with local Kunukeros, by setting up test sites and sharing knowledge.

Test location of a farmer on Bonaire

First phase: Since 2015, we have paid two more visits, for further research and to make a strategic plan to implement saline agriculture on Bonaire. The visit that Salt Farm Foundation made in 2019, has led to cooperation with three local Kunukeros for setting up the test sites. In February 2020, in connection with setting up the test location, Salt Farm Foundation organized an information evening at Jong Bonaire for Kunukeros who want to participate in the project. 35 people were present, and the evening resulted in eight new participants in the project. In total there are eleven Kunukeros now participating in the project.

Starter package for the participants:

The participants were given a package with material and seeds so that the Kunukeros could start testing immediately. The package included seeds of multiple crop varieties to test which grow well on Bonaire, a salt meter to measure the salt content of both the water and the soil, a liquid fertilizer of seaweed concentrate of which one is specific for soil and the other should be used for leaf fertilization, and water meters that measure the salinity of the water needed for cultivation.

Participants also received an information folder with all kinds of relevant information: how is crop cultivation with saline/brackish water handled, how does watering work, how are cultivation beds made, how are water and soil samples made for measuring the salt content. They also received forms to record the test results of the cultivation.

Information evening with the Farmers
Starter package for the participants

Opensource knowledge - We have published much of our information online through our open source knowledge centre. We recently published a report based on the cultivation research carried out on Texel in 2018, which farmers will have access to. Together with Rosemarijn de Jong and her team, farmers will be able to make use of all our knowledge.

Sharing information via a Facebook group - The participants will be able to share their findings, knowledge and other information via a private Facebook group set up by us. The Facebook group was chosen for its ease of use and easy access.

For more information about the project, please contact Rosemarijn de Jong via bonaire@saltfarmfoundation.com.