Farmer Iokapeta Taliu starts every day the same way. “Every morning and afternoon, my husband and I work on our garden as part of our daily routine”, Iokapeta explained from her farm on Funafuti, Tuvalu’s main atoll. “My home garden is very useful to my family, because it provides us with nutritious food such as vegetables”, she said.
For the people living on Tuvalu’s remote atolls, locally-grown crops, fruits and vegetables are vital for health and food security. In recent years, however, some farmers have stopped their traditional practice of planting complementary crops and trees side-by-side, and have adopted monocropping.
The introduction of monocropping in Tuvalu has caused a decline in agricultural productivity and reduced nutrients in the soil. Combined with climate change issues, such as decreasing rainfall and soil salinisation, the use of this technique raises serious concerns for food security in Tuvalu.
To address these issues, the Tuvalu Government and the Pacific Community (SPC) are working with farmers and landowners to promote integrated farming practices that combine agricultural crops with fruit trees. “Agroforestry project sites are being established on two islands, and we’re working closely with farmers and landowners, as they play a very critical role in developing these project sites”, said Ministry of Natural Resources Director of Agriculture, Itaia Lausaveve.
At demonstration sites, Department of Agriculture officers are working with local farmers to design agroforestry plots, showing them how to thin out unproductive trees and replace them with indigenous and climate-friendly crops and trees. These visits are also an opportunity for knowledge exchange, where farmers can discuss methods for making compost, planting on rocky land and evaluating crops. “The transfer of these skills is very crucial to enhancing the production of underutilised land”, said Mr Lausaveve.
The farmers are trialling climate-ready crop varieties researched and provided by SPC’s Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees. The seedlings being distributed were collected from the outer islands of Tuvalu and bred by the Department of Agriculture in their national nursery. “All these climate-ready crops are bred to be more resilient to changes in climate, such as changes to humidity and temperature”, said Department of Agriculture Field Technician, Fialua Monise.
The project is part of the regional Global Climate Change Alliance: Pacific Small Island States (GCCA: PSIS) initiative, supported by the European Union in partnership with the Pacific Community.
GCCA: PSIS Project Coordinator, Faoliu Teakau, said they are also partnering with the National Council of Women to support community gardens with agricultural training and a competition to select the best community garden in Tuvalu. “These gardens enable women to have a chance to try new crops and to directly contribute to increasing food security on Tuvalu”, he said.
The EUR 11.4 million GCCA: PSIS project is building resilience in food and water security, health, and coastal protection in nine small Pacific Island countries. This will assist around 147,000 people – more than half the combined populations of Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Tonga and Tuvalu.
- Monocropping and climate change issues, such as decreased rainfall, are affecting food production in Tuvalu.
- The Tuvalu Department of Agriculture is working with local farmers and landowners to improve farming practices – e.g. complementary planting with climate-friendly crops and trees.
- The project supports the National Council of Women to promote community garden initiatives on all islands.