The Virgin Islands Sustainable Farm Institute’s Ridge to Reef program has been selected as one of 12 finalists out of more than 250 entries from around the world in an international competition.
The contest, "Geo Tourism Challenge 2010: Places on the Edge: Saving Coastal and Fresh Water Destinations,” is sponsored by changemakers.com. Changemaers is a program of Ashoka, a nonprofit organization supporting social entrepreneurship in more than 70 countries.
The Ridge to Reef program was chosen by a panel of judges in National Geographic’s search for innovative ways to save coastal destinations.
The public will decide the winner in an online vote, picking the three best innovative solutions for coastal, waterway and island destinations that protect the environment and strengthen the heritage and livelihoods of local residents. The three entries that receive the most votes will earn a cash prize of $5,000 and then become eligible for $5 million of co-financing through Multilateral Investment Fund for entries that provide innovative ideas for sustainable destination management by companies in the Latin America and the Caribbean region, according to the changemakers.com website.
Those who want to vote can sign up on the changemakers website at http://www.changemakers.com/coastsand cast a vote for“World in a Watershed:Ridge to Reef Island Excursions for Small Community Heritage and Food Security.”Voting ends Wednesday, and VISFI program director Nate Olive is looking for local support from schools, businesses andfriends to help win.
More than 50 entries were from the United States, and Ridge to Reef Farm is the only one to become a finalist according to Olive.
“We are not just representing St. Croix, but we are representing the entire U.S.,” said Olive, who entered the competition last November after being approached by National Geographic.
In July 2009 VISFI received a top 10 finish in the same competition for its USVI Youth Heritage Farm Excursion program.
The other competition finalist include projects in two in Costa Rica, two in Nicaragua, and projects in Mexico, Madagascar, Canada, Belize and Guatemala.
The farm is situated near Creque Dam Farm in the St. Croix rainforest and offers guided watershed hikes andimmersion weeks on such subjects as beneficial farmer training, permaculture, bush skills, art of mentoring and volunteer retreats. It is the first certified organic farm in the territory, according to Olive.
Since the farm is organic, no chemicals collect in the watersheds and nutrient rich water is transferred back into the ocean, Olive said. The clean water is beneficial to the near-shore marine life.
“If you want to save the world, start with one watershed,” said Olive.
The farm also supports a web-based local marketplace in which there are currently 12 sustainable growers and craft producers to serve the territory’s only local source of certified organic produce and innovative value-added tourism products according to Olive.The year-and-a-half-old website is www.vi.locallygrown.net and the goal is to have people buying and selling locally gown food.
“Every time someone buys locally grown food they are voting for their community,” said Olive, who also mentioned that the website started with three growers and grew to12 in a short period of time.
Monday, the Art of Mentoring program starts. The program is a weeklong workshop at the farm, and scholarships for the program are still available. It is a global nature-based experience that takes particpants from observation to practice through the fundamental elements that make up healthy mentoring relationships.
Further information can be obtained online by visiting http://www.visfi.org/the-art-of-mentoring-2011-01-30/.