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GP Volunteers at a Prison in Trinidad

This August Dennis McClung of the Garden Pool organization traveled to Trinidad and Tobago furthering the reach of Garden Pool Global and embarking on GP’s first collaborative effort with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA). On the invite of Dr. Chaney St. Martin (IICA), Dennis arrived at the Golden Grove Prison with an idea and a submersible pump. Over the course of the week Dennis, Dr. St Martin, and the Inmates and staff of Golden Grove would design and build a sustainable food system that has the power to drastically increase the efficiency and capacity of food production onsite, while helping to rehabilitate inmates by teaching them about a new and innovative process.

Compared to traditional subsistence farming The Garden Pool design, utilizing a closed loop system of aquaponics, uses up to 98% less water while increasing yields significantly. This can prove to be especially useful during the dry season when labor intensive hand watering of acre plots has traditionally been the only method available to the inmates. Providing a steady source of Tilapia while at the same time employing the use of local cultivars for vegetable production, the system can provide a wide variety of nutrients while using a fraction of the space, labor, and resources of traditional food production.

One of the hallmarks of the Garden Pool Design is the inherent flexibility that allows the use of local materials found onsite whenever possible. Some of the materials found onsite for use in this particular project included a spare hurricane tarp used as a pond liner, scavenged cinder

blocks and rebar, and local sand and soil used in the production of mortar. In fact, the only sources of “imported” materials were a few bags of concrete from a local hardware store and a submersible pump brought to the island in Dennis’ suitcase. Utilizing local material during construction allows the system to be utilized virtually anywhere traditional agriculture has occurred throughout the globe, while at the same time allowing for ease of scaling when increased production is necessary, without the importation of massive outside resources.

In a nation that regularly experiences Hurricanes, the benefits of self sufficiency offered by Garden Pool’s design are multiplied by the added capacity for education and rehabilitation. Utilizing a local labor force doesn’t just cut the costs of construction and production, but in the case of Golden Grove Prison, also allows for the instruction of inmates in design, construction techniques, and operations concerning a new and innovative process in a growing field. The prisoners were and will be consistently involved in all aspects of the project, allowing them the opportunity to participate not just in the labor involved, but to learn the concepts behind the entire system. Armed with these new skills prisoners are better able to reenter society upon completion of their term at Golden Grove, thus ending a downward cycle and empowering local stakeholders with a set of tools otherwise unavailable.