“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”
The age-old proverb rings true to this day, particularly as the need for older, experienced citizens to pass on critical tools and knowledge grows louder in the face of the existential threat that is climate change.
The demand by younger generations to be left with more than dead forests, unproductive soil, toxic air and lifeless oceans gets higher by the minute, and are certainly felt far and wide in Jamaica and the Caribbean.
In a bid to deliver on its mandate of a carbon-neutral Jamaica, not-for-profit environmental charity organisation, Making An Impact All-Together (MAIA) Foundation is committed to empowering children’s homes, orphanages, shelters and other entities islandwide.
Founder and Chief Executive Officer Marvin Campbell said the MAIA Foundation achieves this by helping vulnerable entities become food secure and climate-conscious.
According to the German-Jamaican, who calls the island his home, he feels compelled to impact the lives of a subset of Jamaicans often neglected: those living in homes and shelters.
“We all live on this planet, there is only one world, there is no second attempt to [try elsewhere]; we should be one community aiding ourselves to do better and not just save what we currently have but prevent further damage going forward,” he told Our Today in an exclusive interview on Thursday (July 8).
“In this case, that is where I said, ‘How can we share knowledge, power and uplift?’. Because in the real world, as a business consultant, money is important, it makes the world go round, but it also slows down the world and has you miss certain spots. A charity organisation like MAIA was the easiest way for me to cut off some of my knowledge and pass it on,” Campbell continued.
Founded in August 2019, the MAIA Foundation’s social responsibility programmes are designed to shape today’s young minds into tomorrow’s climate leaders.
Inspired by Jamaican communities and guided by the spirit of collaboration, the foundation is openly challenging the status quo for a future based on sustainable development and shared values.
Nearly two years later, 15 of these entities have been impacted, with the foundation making visits and conducting landscape inspections on 65 more.
Currently, the MAIA Foundation is fighting the climate crisis head-on by tackling solid waste management in Jamaica.
The MAIA Foundation founder told Our Today that the island falls woefully short in this regard, as only nine per cent of solid waste is repurposed.
It pales in comparison to the 88.5 per cent that is possible, especially in light of more than two-thirds or 68-70 per cent of our waste being biodegradable.
“Whatever you scrape off the plate, when you finish reading the newspaper, when you swing the ‘lass in the yard and take down all the dead trees or the old banana comes down—all of that is biodegradable. If that is left unchecked it will break down, no question about it, but during the process, particularly when it comes to food waste, that starts to rot and it starts to smell—that is methane, a gas that is 28 times stronger than CO2 (carbon dioxide),” Campbell, 40, explained.
“A greater contributor to our global CO2 emission is what you eat for lunch. The biodegradable materials have the same element; they rot, they stink methane. So what if we would take all the biodegradable materials and compost them?” he asked.
“What happens over a long period of time is they turn into dirt. High-nutrient value soil that you can use and plant something again. And that’s what we do in phase one,” Campbell added.
Composting, the MAIA Foundation way, is done anaerobically, or without the presence of oxygen which bacteria use in the decomposition process. In the absence of oxygen, the bacteria still break down the solid waste, however, it comes sans noxious methane fumes.
In the second step, the foundation then joins reforestation efforts by installing nearly adolescent saplings that, in the composted soil would grow exponentially and bear fruit within months.
“Any and every tree is good, but there has to be a multi-level effect that you can get. In this case, when we plant trees, we plant fruit trees, and we plant these for homes, orphanages and shelters. Why? A tree is not just for shade, the production of oxygen, or capturing CO2; a tree can also feed you and for a lot of homes and shelters the challenge is they never have money but they still have to feed the children,” Campbell told Our Today.
“What happens in many cases is that people tend to donate money, which is good, however, is it me giving you a fish instead of teaching you how to fish. So, when we come and plant the fruit trees with the compost, we allow the respective entities to then get fruits that they can eat. We ensure that we don’t plant short, five-inch trees, we plant [them] 14 to 15 feet tall because we want to mitigate mortality and we shorten the maturity rate,” he said.
The entities and children get into the habit of nurturing the trees by burying its leaves and waste food near the roots. This, in turn, further nourishes the trees and speeds up the fruiting process.
Campbell said in the case where fruit trees are not applicable, the MAIA Foundation supplies crops of cucumber, sweet peppers, squash, hot peppers, tomato and pumpkin.
Among the provided fruit trees are banana, plantain, breadfruit, jackfruit, Otaheite apple, naseberry, star apple, cashew, soursop, sweetsop, avocado (pear) and a variety of mangoes.