A major drive to reduce the release of harmful Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) through the promotion of composting technologies has started in Niue involving more than half of the country’s population.
The Global Environment Facility-Pacific Alliance for Sustainability (GEF-PAS) Pilot Project on Composting and Recyclable Waste Separation is being implemented by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) in partnership with the Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community (POETCom).
POETCom is housed in the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and is engaging in building resilient farming capacity in Niue through funding support from the International Fund for Agriculture Development. Composting is a resilient farming technique.
The over US$80,000 waste management initiative is one component of SPREP’s Pacific Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPS) Release Reduction project. At least 200 families in the seven villages of Alofi North, Alofi South, Vaiea, Tamakautoga, Avatele, Hakupu and Liku located in the south of the island, are being targeted. This section is occupied by more than half of the estimated 1600 people living on Niue as recorded by Niue’s Department of Statistics.
SPREP’s Global Environment Facility Project Coordinator Lusiana Ralogaivau said the adoption of compost techniques will help reduce harmful POPs in the Pacific region by improving the management of solid and hazardous waste. POPs are toxic chemicals that can travel long distances through air and water, and accumulate in the fatty tissues of humans and other animals.
“They do not degrade quickly over time – and so can potentially expose people to serious health issues including cancer, birth defects and immune system impairments,” Ms Ralogaivau said. “The key Persistent Organic Pollutants addressed through this demonstration project are those produced as unintentional by-products of human activities, such as through the burning of waste materials, specifically green waste.”
As well as assisting countries fulfil their obligations to the 2001 Stockholm Convention to protect human health from harmful POPs; the project will also contribute to food security. “We are also building healthy soils and a sustainable source of food for a country that relies heavily on agriculture, protecting natural ecosystems and being part of the climate change mitigation solution as composting also reduces the release of harmful greenhouse gases.”
The transfer of knowledge of composting technologies as a corner stone for healthy, organic farming systems is one of the key areas of work carried out by POETCom in the Pacific region. POETCom will work with Niuean’s in building knowledge of quality compost productions, developing guidance materials on composting and composting procedures, raising awareness and leading advocacy in close collaboration with Niue’s Ministry of Natural Resources.
POETCom coordinator Karen Mapusua said POETCom was excited about partnering with SPREP on promoting composting for waste management because it helped islanders protect the health of their soil and reconnect with the ways of their ancestors.
“If you dig up a handful of soil in the forest floor it will be moist, rich, and full of organic matter and worms, bugs and so on,” said Ms Mapusua. “Composting is a key way for farmers to copy the cycles in nature, for it returns plant nutrients to the soil in the most effective way to fertilize other plants. If we burn our gardens and kitchen waste we lose all those nutrients. We are used to burning the waste or having it collected and taken away – and the hardest part of composting is usually changing our own behaviours so it becomes part of our household routine.”
The Pacific Persistent Organic Pollutants Release Reduction project is co-funded through the Global Environment Facility -Pacific Alliance for Sustainability (GEF-PAS) and Agence Française de Développement (AFD). It is executed by SPREP, in close cooperation with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).