In April of 2016, the owner of duPlooy’s Jungle Lodge and Belize Botanic Gardens, Judy duPlooy, decided to convert a local waste product, coconut husks, into something useful – coconut coir. For centuries, many cultures have used coconut fiber for items such as ropes, mats, sacking, upholstery padding and brushes. It’s also useful as a mulch and a soil amendment.
DuPlooys picks up empty coconut husks from coconut water processors in Cayo District where the coconuts have been harvested and drained of their coconut water. Their MerryMac commercial chipper can process about 1600 coconut husks per hour. There is no waste as everything is used. The coir from their facility is either used at the resort and gardens grounds or sold at the Belize Botanic Gardens Shop at 37 Far West Street, San Ignacio.
Coconut coir mulch retains moisture and reduces watering requirements. Coir is rich in carbon and is excellent for compost piles and helps to balance nitrogen-rich materials like grass clippings and kitchen waste. It has a near neutral pH level (5.5-6.8), unlike peat which is highly acidic (3.5-4.5). A 3 to 4 inch layer is adequate to keep weeds down in your garden. Coir is mixed with soil for potting mediums. It can be very useful on clay soils; it prevents compaction, allowing freer movement of nutrients and moisture.
Editor’s Note: Coconut production in Belize is rising steeply as the world learns more about coconut products and their virtues. The EU has invested heavily in regional Caribbean coconut projects, which are overseen in Belize by CARDI and the Ministry of Agriculture.