Kralendijk- The Dutch foundation WeConnect goes green. On Friday January 12, the educational foundation is organising the meet-up ‘Sustainable Caribbean’ in cooperation with Wageningen University & Research (WUR). The focus is on green and sustainable initiatives on the six Caribbean islands and on how to liaise Antillean and Aruban students and young professionals with these projects. It is one of WeConnect’s initiatives to turn the brain drain on the islands into a brain gain and thus reinforcing the local employment market with homegrown talents.
The idea for a thematic meet-up on sustainability developed from the WUR microalgae project, currently being rolled out on Bonaire. A collaborative team from Bonaire and Wageningen led by René Wijffels (Professor of Bioprocess Technology) is studying the deployment of algae as a resource for food, cattle feed, fuel and chemicals. René Wijffels: “Tourism is virtually Bonaire’s only source of income. Food and energy have to be imported nearly completely. Together with people from Bonaire, we want to undertake innovative research into sustainable ways to develop new economic activities that will decrease the import dependency of the island.” The professor explains that opportunities are being looked into together with the public body of Bonaire to diversify the economy and develop knowledge and infrastructure with the objective of creating a circular economy. Bonaire’s climatic conditions are ideal for efficiently culturing microalgae. Wijffels: “We want to demonstrate that high-end sustainable resources can be produced on the island with the aid of sun and ocean water.” The AlgaePARC Bonaire project will be presented at the meet-up.
Students & Young Professionals
WeConnect Manager Tanja Fraai was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of students and young professionals who have already registered for the meet-up: “They specialise, among others, in chemistry, food technology, hydrology, marine ecology and life sciences. Additionally, they are committed to create a sustainable future for their (home) islands.” The University of Delft will also be represented by a group of Caribbean students from the technical study association ABC Compas.
The objective is to inspire the students and put them in touch with organisations that focus on sustainability. These organisations include TNO Caribbean, national parks Stenapa (Sint Eustatius) and Stinapa (Bonaire) and energy providers on the islands. Furthermore, the Ministry of Economic Affairs & Climate, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Safety will be present in Wageningen to showcase their projects on the islands to the students.
WeConnect is an educational foundation and therefore, this initiative fits perfectly in the set of activities. Paul Comenencia, Chairman of WeConnect, explains: “The meet-up on January 12 will help facilitate the joining of forces in the Kingdom: WUR’s internationally renowned expert knowledge in the field of agriculture and nature management, the talents of our young professionals, and the ideal conditions of our islands for executing innovative economic projects in the area of sustainability. The outcome: new challenges for the university and sustainable economic activities with employment opportunities on our islands is a win-win combination. WeConnect happily contributes to this.”