A key component of the Integrated Management of Marine Ecosystems Project (IMEM) is to support sustainable rice cultivation, since conventional agricultural activities can affect the environment, especially in coastal areas. In Montecristi, located in the northern part of the Dominican Republic, and the site of multiple protected areas, Counterpart and AgroFrontera, a local nonprofit focused on sustainable fishing and farming, are implementing a program to improve the practices of rice production. The involvement of community members such as Eridania Hernández in the community of La Recta de Sanita, has been essential to the success of the program.
Hernández, a technical agronomist with more than 15 years of experience, is an enthusiastic supporter of the program and a key participant in its execution. She has been involved in the sustainable rice program from the beginning, focusing on agricultural practices that minimize the impact on the environment.
Part of her role has been to build awareness among the rice producers of the effect that can result from inappropriate agricultural practices, and how they can affect coastal resources, such as mangroves forests, which comprise significant carbon reserves. She trains young technical agronomists from the community and supports local producers by recommending methods to minimize the use of pesticides and fertilizers (through soil analysis) and help to achieve improved crop productivity. She also looks for ways to reduce the wasteful use of water.
When asked what the IMEM project means to her, she said, “For me this project is very important. Otherwise, if we don’t take care of the environment we could disappear. If we are protecting from here, referring to the farms, it is because we know that we have a small reserve of carbon in the National Park Mangroves of Estero Balsa that allows us to fight climate change.”
She has seen the difference between before and after implementing such practices—both in terms of ecosystem protection and solid waste management. For example, after applying agricultural products farmers used to throw the empty containers into the canals. Now people are aware that this is a pollutant that affects water resources. She points out that the lagoons surrounding the rice fields have experienced an increase in fish stocks where previously they had been depleted due to run-off from the fields. The community can now sustain other livelihood activities that were not possible before due to the level of contamination.
The community has become highly receptive to sustainable practices and Hernández has been a key player in creating a relationship of trust among the rice producers. Thanks to the evident positive results from the project, other producers have expressed their interest in being part of the sustainable rice program. Those involved with the project see its potential as a model to be implemented on a national scale.
Hernández is gratified by the achievements made in sustainable rice farming and the opportunity to educate future generations. “I am happy to help those who need it with my knowledge of the land.”
Learn more about the Integrated Marine Ecosystems Management in Northern Hispaniola (IMEM) Program in Dominican Republic here.