July 19, 2002 – Work is nearing completion on the first of six dams in Estate Bordeaux that are being refurbished by We Grow Food Inc. and the V.I. Agriculture Department. Last weekend brought the installation of a black plastic liner, and since then, the first water has pooled in the bottom of the 358,000-gallon earthen structure.
The dam and the five others to come will furnish water to area farmers, who constitute the membership of We Grow Food Inc., the largest farm organization on St. Thomas. Established in 1993, We Grow Food and its members practice sustainable agriculture, growing indigenous crops. It also mounts the annual Bordeaux Agricultural Fair.
The dams will also provide water for use in fighting fires in an area which lacks a large water supply, says Benita Martin-Samuel, project coordinator for the reconstruction effort.
The muscle of the organization's more than 25 members performed most of the excavation work, with help from some heavy machinery provided by the Agriculture and Public Works Department. The work to date has taken about four months, said Jambie Samuel, foreman on the site. "Agriculture is on the move; we just need the infrastructure," he said as he showed a visitor the dam with pride on Wednesday along with fellow farmers Ras Magharibi West and Bongo Aswad Meyers, who owns the adjacent farm.
The men were working on the trench, backfilling over the edge of the liner, fencing off the area, adding soil-filled tires for extra weight, and planting lemongrass and sugar apple for erosion control. "This will let us grow bigger food, better food, fresher food," Samuel said.
According to Samuel, an average Bordeaux farm in an average month consumes 20,000 gallons of water, so this dam represents nearly 18 farm-months of water. Several farms will be served by each dam, he said.
Financing for the project was made available by the Environmental Protection Division of the Planning and Natural Resources Department for a total first-phase budget of nearly $90,000. Work will go ahead soon on the next of the six dams, a million-gallon catchment below the federal radar station.
Anyone interested in seeing the first dam is encouraged to contact Benita Martin-Samuel at 777-4464 during the day or at 776-3037. We Grow Food Inc. can be reached by fax at 777-4465.
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