Photo: Dominica after the passage of Hurricane Maria in 2017.

(THE CONVERSATION) After hurricanes Maria and Irma hit last September, it took Puerto Rico until this June to restore water to most residents. Those living in rural and hard-to-reach mountainous areas waited the longest. In Dominica, where 80 percent of the population was hit hard by Hurricane Maria, water service was not restored to the most remote areas until April 2018, several months after the storm. Now, another hurricane season is already underway in the Caribbean. Our research on rainwater harvesting – a low-cost, low-tech way to collect and store rainwater – suggests this technique could be deployed across the Caribbean to improve these communities’ access to water both after storms and in everyday life. Limited water access in the Caribbean Even before hurricanes Maria and Irma hit last September, some Caribbean islands were unable to provide reliable clean water for drinking and washing to all residents. On many islands, the government utility-run piped water system either does not reach remote rural areas and other isolated areas or costs too much for low-income households. Traditionally, residents in such places have gotten their water from underground sources, such as springs, wells or in the upriver – and thus presumably clean – section of streams. Today, water pollution from a combination of domestic sewage, agriculture, food and beverage processing and manufacturing makes most groundwater unsafe to drink. Up to 85 percent of wastewater across the Caribbean is now discharged, untreated, into local rivers, streams, lakes or straight into the ocean, according to the Caribbean Regional Fund for Wastewater Management, an intergovernmental agency. Collecting, cleaning and storing rainwater Rainwater harvesting is an alternative way to obtain and store fresh water. By collecting precipitation that naturally falls on rooftops and sidewalks in a tank, this process turns water that would normally wash away into a resource for cooking, laundry, irrigation and even water-intensive manufacturing. (Photo: An example of a biosand water filtration system.) Rainwater, especially during the hurricane season, is free and plentiful in the Caribbean. Dominica can get up to 15 inches of rain a month in the fall. Puerto Rico averages 8 to 9 inches of rainfall a month from May to November. Once rainwater is stored in the tank – which can range from 200 gallons for household use to 600,000 gallons in an industrial setting – pipes are connected from the tank into people’s homes, gardens, or wherever they need it. The tanks must come equipped with a built-in filter to clean the collected rainwater, which may pick up various kinds of molds, bacteria and protozoa when it comes into contact with a rooftop. The tank we’re developing for Caribbean islands uses a biosand filter – a container layered with gravel and sand, about the size of a small cooler – to purify rainwater. As water travels through the sand and gravel bed, pathogens and particles are filtered out. This process occurs either mechanically – solids get trapped in the gravel and sand – or by predation: Good microorganisms, which naturally live in the sand, consume bad ones. Biosand filters remove up to 96.5 percent of bacteria and up to 99 percent of viruses from rainwater. By the time the kitchen tap is turned on, the water is clean and safe for drinking. Rainwater serves the world Rainwater collection, long used to serve livestock and farmers in rural areas worldwide, is an increasingly common response to water shortages in the developing world. From 2005 to 2015, the United Nations’ “Water for Life” program actively promoted rainwater harvesting as a potential solution to global water shortages. According to one 2006 U.N. report, for example, rainfall across the African continent is “more than adequate to meet the needs of the current population several times over.” The governments of Cambodia, Haiti, China, Thailand, India and Brazil have all deployed rainwater harvesting systems for households and industries to ease rural droughts and urban water shortages in recent decades. Brazil, too, has made remarkable strides in utilizing rainwater to make citizens’ lives easier. In 2003, a public-private partnership called Articulação do Semi-Árido Brasileiro launched “1 Million Cisterns,” an initiative aimed at providing 1 million households located in drought-prone parts of the South American country with easy-to-access harvested rainwater. (Photo: Jewel Fraser/IPS) Semi-arid regions like Pernambuco, a state in the country’s northeast, can go seven to nine months without rainfall. A 4,500-gallon tank – roughly the size and weight of a Greyhound bus – collects enough water during the rainy season that a family of four can live off it for three to four months during drier weather. By 2014, the program had reached its goal of serving 1 million Brazilian households. Challenges in the Caribbean Despite these global successes, very few Caribbean countries have taken action to implement rainwater harvesting on any significant scale. In Haiti’s Artibonite Valley, biosand filters are used to purify the water obtained from shallow ground wells. And the United Nations has helped develop rainwater harvesting infrastructure in southern Jamaica to facilitate some communities’ resiliency to climate change. We believe rainwater harvesting can work for more of the Caribbean. The funding model and equipment just need to be designed to meet the islands’ special needs. Most rainwater storage tanks in big international programs are made from fiberglass, other plastic or welded steel. Those materials can be expensive for families operating on a limited budget, as many rural Caribbean households do. Tanks made of cement and chicken wire Our design is made of ferrocement – a kind of thin, reinforced concrete widely used to collect rainwater in India. This construction style is affordable – especially if subsidized by small government loans – because it uses materials readily available in the Caribbean: cement, sand and water mixed together, reinforced with chicken wire and steel bars. The cement acts as a super glue, binding the particles of sand, rebar and chicken wire together into one strong, compact mass. This cheap, durable method is ideally suited for the Caribbean environment, too. The island region is susceptible to not just hurricanes but also earthquakes. The steel bars can withstand the shaking of an earthquake, while the cement is resistant to high winds. During particularly powerful hurricanes, Caribbean islands may even get so much rain that it overwhelms their aging water infrastructure, which simply cannot handle the volume and velocity of storm runoff. When people have cisterns, that excess rain goes to good use. We have now tested a model ferrocement rainwater harvesting system on the island of Grenada. With some tweaks to improve ease of construction – which are now underway – we believe it could serve island residents well. The government there has expressed interest in introducing rainwater harvesting to increase the reliability and accessibility of its municipal water systems. Our next stop for testing the ferrocement-and-biosand system is Dominica. And after that, we hope, the rest of the Caribbean will catch on. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here:

Jack Guy Lafontant

Haitian Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant resigned Saturday amid calls for him to step down after a failed bid to raise fuel prices set off protests and unrest that left seven people dead. Lafontant told Haiti's Chamber of Deputies that he sent President Jovenel Moise his resignation letter and the president had accepted it. Moise has not yet commented publicly. The prime minister's abrupt resignation came ahead of a vote on a motion of censure Lafontant, a first step toward asking that Moise name a new prime minister to form a Cabinet to handle the crisis. The prime minister is the second highest official in Haiti after the president. Lafontant was to answer questions about the July 6-8 riots that followed the government's attempt to raise fuel prices by up to 51 percent as part of an agreement with the International Monetary Fund. Dozens of businesses were looted during the deadly unrest. Instead, Lafontant (LA-FAH-TON) used the opportunity to announce his resignation, while in various parts of Haiti's small protests were held demanding the head of state step down. As the session began, chamber president Gary Bodaeu wrote on his Twitter account that the legislature "is at a crossroads in history; it must assume its responsibilities." He had earlier called the price hikes "untimely" and "inoperative." Lafontantsuspended the fuel prices increases after protests erupted last week but the disturbances continued and calls for the prime minister to resign grew, including from the opposition and some business groups. Lafontant, a 57-year-old doctor who took office in March 2017, had said the price hikes of 38 percent to 51 percent for gasoline, diesel, and kerosene were needed for Haiti to balance its budget. Government officials agreed to reduce subsidies for fuel in February as part of an assistance package with the IMF. The agreement also included increased spending on social services and infrastructure and improved tax collection in an effort to modernize the economy of one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere. Lafontant's replacement will be nominated by Moise and confirmed by the Senate. Get the latest local and international news straight to your mobile phone for free: Download the Loop News Caribbean app on Google Play Store: Download the Loop News Caribbean app on the App Store:

Starbucks will eliminate plastic straws from all of its locations within two years, citing the environmental threat to oceans. The coffee chain becomes the largest food and beverage company to do so as calls to cut waste globally grow louder. While plastic straws account for a small percentage of the waste that ends up in oceans, they've become a flashpoint. A week after its hometown of Seattle banned plastic drinking straws and utensils, Starbucks said Monday that by 2020, it will be using straws made from biodegradable materials like paper and specially designed lids. The company already offers alternative straws in Seattle. Other cities, like Fort Myers Beach in Florida, have banned plastic straws. Similar proposals are being considered in places like New York and San Francisco. The push to ban plastic straws gained traction after a viral video in 2015 showed rescuers removing a plastic straw from a sea turtle's nose in graphic detail. The issue of waste more broadly is coming up in company boardrooms. In February, Dunkin' Donuts said it would eliminate polystyrene foam cups from its stores by 2020. McDonald's shareholders voted down a proposal requesting a report on plastic straws in May. But the burger chain recently said it would switch to paper straws in the United Kingdom and Ireland by next year, and test alternatives to plastic straws in some U.S. locations. McDonald's also said this year that it would use only recycled or other environmentally friendly materials for its soda cups, Happy Meal boxes and other packaging by 2025. One reason big chains say it will take time to change may be the difficulty in securing adequate supplies. Imperial Dade, a foodservice and janitorial supplies distributor based in New Jersey, says it's seen a huge spike in demand for alternative straws in recent months. "Our biggest challenge is trying to locate alternative sources so we can satisfy the demand," said Laura Craven, the company's director of marketing. Craven also said she's starting to see more awareness about the need for exemptions for straws that bend, which people with disabilities and others may need. Starbucks says it expects an alternative it has to work in that regard. While plastic drinking straws have become one of the more high-profile environmental issues, they make up only about four per cent of the plastic thrashby number of pieces, and far less by weight. Straws add up to about 2,000 tons of the nearly 9 million tons of plastic waste that ends up in waters around the globe each year. The advocacy group 5 Gyres notes that the top five biggest sources of single-use plastic are plastic bags, water bottles, to-go containers, to-go cups and straws. The strawless lids will begin to appear in Seattle and Vancouver Starbucks this fall, with phased rollouts within the U.S. and Canada next year. A global rollout of the strawless lids will follow, beginning in Europe where they will be used in some stores in France and the Netherlands, as well as in the United Kingdom. For the latestnews, download our app at Android; and at IoS.

Sandals Resorts International’s Deputy Chairman Adam Stewart and Margaritaville Caribbean Group’s Chairman, Ian Dear have formed Caribbean Coffee Baristas and plan to take the Starbucks coffee franchise to the Cayman Islands later this year. With five Starbucks locationsalready launched in Jamaica, Caribbean Coffee Baristas plans to open another two stores there by the end of the year. By 2020 the aim is to have fifteen operational Starbuck stores. Speaking with Loop News from the recently launched Starbucks in Liguanea, Kingston, Stewart said: “Both Turks and Cayman fall under our licensing agreement. By the end of the year, we will open a Starbucks store in both Turks and Cayman. “ We plan to roll out at least three stores in Cayman . We are looking to grow the franchise across the Caribbean and see to it that our teams are both professional and successful. Our partnership works brilliantly. Ian ( Dear) was instrumental in building Margaritaville and has operations in islands of the Caribbean. From my Group’s perspective, we are not always in the same islands as Ian so this venture gives us both an expanded footprint and that’s what I think Starbucks saw in us – our reach across the region.” Stewart and Dear came together two and a half years ago to bring Starbucks to Jamaica. They recently sent 12 Jamaican coffee farmers to Costa Rica to meet with Starbucks Global Director of Agronomy to study efficiencies in coffee production. Dear added: “ Starbucks is the right fit for the region. We have great coffee in Jamaica and thought Starbucks would be a great platform for our native coffee and can take it to an altogether new level. We want to help build a true coffee culture in Jamaica. “ We will roll out in Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Kingston and look to cruise ship ports, then look to take the brand outside of Jamaica into the wider Caribbean.” Caribbean Coffee Baristas now employs 60 people and by next year plans to increase that number to 200. In 2020 the company is expecting to have over 300 employees. Minister of Agriculture, Audley Shaw has noted that coffee production today is around 50 per cent of where it was ten years ago. Then Jamaica was producing 500,000 boxes a year and today that has fallen to 240,000 boxes. Both Stewart and Dear see Starbucks helping to get production levels back to levels last seen ten years ago. They announced that since forming their partnership with Starbucks 18 months ago, Starbucks has seen a doubling of its consumption of Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee. “ We want to work with Starbucks to see more consumption of Jamaican coffee and bring a little of Jamaica to Starbucks worldwide. This deal with Starbucks is totally endorsed by the Minister of Agriculture. Starbucks will be creating a blend called the “ Jamaica Blend” which will be pushed out to 1,800 stores across Latin America with the intention to later place the Jamaica Blend in 15,000 stores across the world. “ So not only do you get the local agricultural sector driving consumption but you also have a Jamaican brand in thousand of stores across the world. Linkages is a real thing happening here with Starbucks and we are looking to grow the brand exponentially to the benefit of Jamaica.” Championing Jamaican coffee, Dear said: “ We have one of the best coffees in the world so why wouldn’t we want to make that a centrepiece in all our stores. We will always be serving Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee in all our outlets. The stores are one thing, but if you look at Starbucks’ distribution network, it is a huge opportunity to utilize it for our global distribution of Jamaican coffee. It is incredible! “ Once we can create the right product that goes through all Starbucks’ stores and is served daily, that’s where the numbers are.” Stewart made it clear there are no plans to have Starbucks in Sandals hotels across the Caribbean. “ Today, Sandals serves 8.4 million cups of Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee blend every year in our hotels across the region. We use 5.4 million pounds of agricultural products a year and of that sum 4.9 million is Jamaican produced. “Starbucks is a separate venture run by Caribbean Coffee Baristas and is focused on the retail space,” said Stewart.

Since the relaunch of the RCIPS Community Policing Department in February, community police officers have been out in their communities getting to know their beats and the people within them. In two incidents over the last two weeks, officers were able to put this local knowledge to use in order to assist members of the public. On the afternoon June 23,Superintendent Robert Graham was approached while off duty at the Westin Hotel by a member of the public who had lost a ring while in the water nearby and was hoping for assistance in locating it. The ring had been given to the woman, who had just arrived on island, by her late grandmother and held significant sentimental value for her and her family. Supt. Graham initially attempted to locate the ring using his personal snorkel gear, but was unsuccessful. He then contacted PC Jonathan Kern, the community officer for Beat 8 – Seven Mile Beach South, for his help in identifying someone with a metal detector who may have been able to assist. PC Kern enlisted the help of Mike Powell, a local metal detectorist, who helped Supt. Graham to conduct further searches. After a number of attempts over the next few days the ring was eventually found. On, Saturday, 30 June, Supt. Graham handed the ring over to the woman and her family just as they were checking out of their hotel to return to the USA. "It was a real a pleasure to complete such a tangible and positive result for the family who were clearly very upset at the loss of the ring,” said Supt. Graham. "They were totally surprised that we had had gone to such lengths to get the ring back. With the local knowledge of PC Kern and the kind assistance ofPowell and his metal detector, we were able to make a real difference to this family who came to Cayman to have a nice vacation," added Graham. In another incident shortly after2:15AMon the morning of July 2,the 9-1-1 Communications Centre received a call from an elderly woman in the Windsor Park area who reported that she had fallen to the floor inside her apartment, was having difficulty breathing and was unable to get up. The woman was also unable to provide her name or exact physical address. Based on the description of the circumstances and their knowledge of the area, George Town community police officers were able to determine the location and identity of the woman and respond. The officers were then able to gain access to the apartment and allow emergency personnel to enter and treat the woman. “I have no doubt that the if the community policing team hadn’t been on duty, the much needed medical assistance would have been delayed considerably,” said Sergeant Roje Williams, who was serving as Shift Commander at the time the incident took place. “That they were able to quickly figure out who the woman was and where she was located, even with such limited information, speaks volumes to the community-based work they have been doing," He added

The hard work and application needed to master a new skill has paid off for several students who have passed an American Sign Language (ASL) course thanks to the Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS). The nine graduates of this year’s Intermediate ASL Level 1 programme included staff from the Ministry of Community Affairs and the Ministry of Education, teachers, one teacher’s aide and nine-year-old Red Bay Primary School student Ronald Simpson. The graduation ceremony on Thursday, 5 July was held at George Town, Town Hall. Taught by Norma Ferryman, the course ran from October 2017 to June 2018. Course content comprised of a number of modules including mastering a range of gestures, handshapes, movements and facial expressions. The students also learnt basic greetings, introductions, farewells and expressions of courtesy. In the ceremony’s opening address, DCFS Senior Social Worker Leanora Wynter-Young said that ASL is the fourth most studied modern language in American universities. She advised attendees that this was the second cohort to enroll and to date 30 candidates had successfully completed the course, which was set up by the Department to better serve the local hearing-impaired community. Ministry of Community Affairs Chief Officer, Teresa Echenique, congratulated the graduates and extended her appreciation to Mrs. Ferryman for sharing her talent and taking time out of her busy schedule to teach these classes. She encouraged the graduates to use their newly-learnt language and inspire others to learn ASL. “To gain proficiency in any new language is challenging but is always a highly rewarding and culturally-enriching achievement,” she said. “I commend you all on your determination and dedication and am certain that the benefits of being able to sign will make a great difference to the lives of those in our community who can now access your skills," she added. “Mastering the rudiments of signing is empowering and increases the emotional intelligence of learners,” noted DCFS Director Felicia Robinson. “ Knowing sign language is an invaluable asset for anyone whose job involves interacting with members of the public, as several of my staff fully appreciates," added Robinson. The graduates signed songs using their newly-acquired language and received their graduation certificates fromEchenique. “As a teacher’s aide, I feel blessed not only for being given the opportunity to better interact with hearing-impaired students but also for the enormous sense of achievement learning ASL has given me,” said Florence Solomon. “I can honestly say that the course was well worth the effort and signing will add to the learning and teaching strategies I already use both in a classroom setting and outside of it," sge added. The Intermediate ASL Level 1 Class of 2018 included Tamara Davis, Ronald Dylan Simpson, Lorna Palmer, Florence Solomon, Leisa Welcome,Idania Simpsom, Kaitlyn Thompson, Dalacia Wright and Suzette Donaldson.


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