Banner Image: Although the Turks and Caicos Islands has extensive wetland areas, in fact it has one of the largest Ramsar Sites in the region, conditions are dry and humid, making freshwater a scarce natural resource; Copyright: Dr Mike Pienkowski

Working with our partner, the Turks & Caicos National Museum (TCNM), we designed and resourced a project to develop a garden displaying traditional crops and native medicinal plants irrigated with rainwater, thus providing a demonstration of reducing the need for fertilizers and city water produced via desalination powered by imported diesel. The demonstration combined a model of a traditional garden with aspects illustrating the potential for small-scale food production in this arid region, natural vegetation and other related elements.

This project was made possible by a grant from the RBC Foundation under its Blue Water Project. The RBC Royal Bank Blue Water Project is a historic, wide-ranging, 10-year global commitment to help protect the world’s most precious natural resource: fresh water. The project was launched, at a well attended event (despite a tropical rain-storm providing more immediate water than anticipated) on 5 November 2013 at the Turks and Caicos National Museum’s Caicos Heritage House (a reconstructed traditional cottage), the Village at Grace Bay, on the island of Providenciales. It was linked also to related development at the garden in TCNM’s long-established headquarters on the island of Grand Turk. 

Speakers at launch of project
Presenters and some key personnel from linked projects; left to right: Bryan Naqqi Manco, TCI Dept of Environment and Maritime Affairs; Edgar Howell, Director of Education, TCI; Ann Pienkowski, UKOTCF; David Bowen, Director of Culture, TCI; Sanfra Foster, Country Manager, RBC TCI; Dr Mike Pienkowski, UKOTCF; Patricia Saxton, TCI National Museum Foundation; Copyright: RBC Royal Bank

 

Caicos Heritage House, with the Museum Administrative building in the background to the left. The garden starts to the right of the picture; Copyright: RBC Royal Bank

The project included a range of activities, an important group of these concerning education. It built on a UKOTCF project with the Department of Education, part-funded by UK Government’s Overseas Territories Environment Programme (OTEP), to develop a curriculum and teaching materials on water, a particularly valuable resource on these arid islands. The ‘Wonderful Water Project’ involved teachers’ workshops and consultations with teachers and other stakeholders in TCI, including Department of Environment and Maritime Affairs and the Turks and Caicos National Museum, to develop a curriculum framework and teaching materials on various aspects of water and wetland ecosystems in TCI, including mangroves. All the materials were produced as electronic pdfs, for greater flexibility and economy of use.

The garden was officially opened in June 2014.  

Presenters launch Blue Water project
Sanfra Foster, Country Manager, RBC TCI at the official opening of the garden; Dr Mike Pienkowski, UKOTCF in background summaries the activities undertaken as part of the project; H.E. Governor Peter Beckingham (left), present to open the garden, looks on. Copyright: Turks and Caicos Tourist Board

For schools, we developed materials under the theme of Vital Water, and the first section on the freshwater lenses and caves was produced. As well as the Education Department, the Museum and DEMA is able to use materials in outdoor classrooms and in programmes such as DEMA’s Junior Park Wardens programme. All the government-run schools in TCI put the course into use.

 

Education board
One of the interpretation boards installed in the model garden on Providenciales, providing information on wise water use and tradition plants which require fewer natural resources to thrive in TCI's dry climate; Copyright: UKOTCF

Appropriate signage in Provo and in Grand Turk explains key issues to the general public. As a separate project, guide books to all the islands, explain the importance of the wildlife and the links with natural freshwater systems, raising the profile of the importance of TCI to wildlife in a way that visitors find attractive. They can be purchased in our Publications for sale section.

TCI Department of Environment & Maritime Affairs were also involved in the project by helping develop plans for the garden. The garden has three zones: one for the growing planting of traditional crops; a second for mainly native medicinal plants; and a third for assisted recovery of native bush vegetation.

Tour of garden 
Bryan Naqqi Manco from Department of Environment and Martime Affairs guides visitors around the garden during its official opening; Copyright: Turks and Caicos Tourist Board
Three sister planting method being used in the model garden. It shows how a mix of plants can be used to grow crops in poor soil. Sweetcorn supports the beans as they grow, the beans fix nitrogen for the sweetcorn, and the squash keeps the soil moist and minimises weeds; Copyright: Turks and Caicos Tourist Board

See Forum News 42 (p1-4) for the full article with an update in Forum News 45 (p11).

Funds for the project came to an end in 2014, but it was always intended that the garden would be maintained largely by volunteer effort and providing Royal Bank of Canada employees and others with an opportunity to get involved. This would have multiple benefits to them, e.g. health and fitness, a reconnection with outdoors, and a feeling of responsibility for sustainable use of resources on their island. It was particularly pleasing to note that, in 2016, RBC employees from the TCI branch took on this role and are now actively managing the garden on the site of the new TC National Museum building on Providenciales (complementing the original National Museum site in Grand Turk). They also provided funds of $1,800 for the ongoing maintenance of the garden.  

Planting in garden
RBC employees assist Bryan Naqqi Manco with some planting in the model garden. Here they are planting a sapling of the endemic Caicos pine; Copyright: Dr Eric Salamanca, DECR
Garden progress
Candianne Williams (Manager, Turks and Caicos National Museum, Providenciales) and Bryan Naqqi Manco (DECR and TCNM) are presented with a cheque from Sanfra Foster (Manager, Royal Bank of Canada, Providenciales) [centre]; Copyright: Dr Eric Salamanca, DECR