Title: Capacity Building For Resilient Agriculture...
Donor: International Funding for Agricultural Development
Target Countries: Cook Islands, Niue, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands
Project Status: closed
Projected Timeline: 31.12.2014 - 30.03.2020
The Capacity building for resilient agriculture in the Pacific project had the key goal of getting farmers in the three target countries to use agricultural practices that increase resilience to climate change and other natural hazards. Project activities were implemented in three major areas:
Both the Marshall Islands Organic Farmers Association (MIFOA) and Niue Island Organic Farmers Association (NIOFA) developed strategic plans mapping organic agriculture development in their countries over a five-year period.
Objectives focused on partnerships with the government, communities, schools and individual farmers to reforest the landscape, promote organic food consumption and production through training and awareness, and eventually advocate for national organic policies.
Training for Women United Together Marshall Islands (WUTMI) and high-school students
MIOFA farmers trained over 300 WUTMI members and students from Marshalls Christian High School on Rongrong Island in growing organic gardens. WUTMI is the country’s largest women’s organisation with members from all over Republic of the Marshall Islands. The collaboration was to encourage more women to take up organic backyard gardening to improve family nutrition and reduce dependence on imported, processed foods. On Rongrong, students were able to incorporate vegetables in their usual diet, which consists largely of processed meat and canned food. MIOFA also succeeded in obtaining organic certification for Eneko Island, a first for the Micronesian subregion.
Establishment of PGS groups
PGS groups of about 10 farmers each were set up in Cook Islands and Republic of the Marshall Islands. POETCom trained the farmers in the PGS system as an alternative to third-party certification. The training focused on peer review and keeping of proper farm records. The Secretariat followed up with farm inspections to verify peer review reports for certification. Several farmers, especially in Cook Islands, gained organic certification, with NKA (as the approved PGS group) and the Cook Islands government (as the licensee) awarding the use of the Organic Pasifika mark.
Training in organic principles
About 500 farmers were trained in organic farming principles, propagation and animal husbandry in the three countries. The training covered the principles of composting, mulching, intercropping and cover cropping. Eight farmers in Niue received support to attend a plant propagation workshop teaching marcotting, grafting and cutting.
E-marketing of organic products
Social media and email platforms were used to market organic products produced by farmers in Niue, Cook Islands and Republic of the Marshall Islands. The use of ICT for e-marketing was a project output. Young farmers sold their crops through Facebook, which they also used to advertise the place of sale. For example, flyers on Niue’s organic night market was circulated on Facebook and by email to inform the community of the market location and time. MIOFA farmers use similar marketing strategies.
“How to” information sheets and videos were used to capture knowledge of the organic principles applied in IFAD CBRAPP and the different styles of organic farming practised in the three countries. The information products were shared through social media, email and USB drives with a diverse range of enthusiasts. This component of the project used ICT to store farming knowledge for posterity. It also helped others take up organic farming.
Climate resilience, soil health and post-harvest handling
Soil trials continued at three project sites in an attempt to compare the effects of organic and conventional farming methods in relation to soil health and climate resilience. Organic systems consultant, Dr Shane Tutua from Solomon Islands, lead the trials. He developed a concept that links soil-resilience characteristics, measurable indicators and assessment methods with corresponding monitoring instruments. POETCom purchased 11 types of equipment to monitor soil resilience under appropriate trial designs for each country. The equipment included pH meters, plant sap extractors, infiltrometers and Solvita soil respiration test kits.
There were two groups of farmers in the trials:
(1) the conventional, or control group of farmers; and
(2) farmers implementing organic farming principles, such as composting, over a period of one to two years.
To ensure good-quality produce, the farmers received training in post-harvest handling beginning from the point of harvest to preparation for markets and storage.
Youth Learning Exchange
Young organic farmers from Fiji, Vanuatu, Niue, Cook Islands and Republic of Marshall Islands met in Port Vila, Vanuatu (9–13 October), for the Youth Learning Exchange.
They shared ideas for climate-resilient farming by demonstrating practices such as composting, contour farming, mulching, organic pesticides and fertilisers, and atoll pit planting.
The exchange was a key output of three projects coordinated by POETCom: IFAD Capacity Building for Resilient Agriculture in the Pacific; CTA Youth Leading Learning in Climate Resilient Value Chains in the Pacific; and Engaging Fiji and Vanuatu Youth in Organic Farming – A Farm to Table Chain Approach, which was supported by the UNDP Pacific Office and the SDG Fund.
Young farmers from Tanna Island demonstrated how to make an A-frame for contour planting. Cook Islands farmers demonstrated how Rarotongans use cardboard and coconut leaves (kikau) for mulching taro beds, while farmers from Republic of the Marshall Islands showed how pit planting is used on sandy atolls like Majuro. The Fijians demonstrated the use of intercropping to improve farm diversity, resilience to pests and diseases, and harvest yield.
The young farmers learned how to create narratives or story boards about their resilient practices. They created rap songs and poems, and learned how to document their practices using videos.
Awareness efforts were scaled up in 2017. In Niue, night markets were organised and promoted widely on Facebook. Cook Island’s NKA joined the World Food Day show held in Avarua, Rarotonga, partnering with the Ministry of Health to set up a booth promoting the linkages between organic vegetables and crops and good health. To promote organic food and farming, MIOFA and its members hosted an organic morning tea for the Micronesian Women’s Conference, the largest women’s gathering in Micronesia. It was the organisation’s first major national/regional event.