Atoll Food Future’s Project Reaps Benefits for Target Communities

Picture: Members of Kilikali Settlement with their seedlings following the Good Agriculture Practices training jointly conducted by Live & Learn.

The Atoll Food Futures (AFF) programme is reaping rewards for two informal settlements in the Central Division after the two communities have started harvesting fresh vegetables right outside their doorstep.

Atoll Food Futures (AFF) is a three-year multi-country project operating in Tuvalu, Kiribati and Fiji. Through AFF, Live & Learn hopes to improve food production using various methods, with an emphasis on local knowledge and community-based solutions. Building upon the success of previous projects, AFF promotes traditional farming practices and utilizing new technologies to encourage a robust and diverse strategy to food security.

The goal of the AFF project is to adapt climate-smart agriculture technologies in vulnerable atoll populations in order to improve their food security and reduce the reliance on imported food.

With the AFF initiative aiming to improve the resilience and food security of vulnerable Pacific households through increased production and consumption of locally grown nutritious foods through a community-based approach using innovative ‘Foodcube’ technology (wicking garden systems ideal for growing fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables).

The pilot project aims to revive traditional integrated farming practices and consequently increase land productivity; as well as improving knowledge and awareness of the benefits of local food.

Each Foodcube has the potential to produce up to 25kg of fresh produce per annum and offers significant advantages where access to fresh water and topsoil is limited. Using Foodcubes, crops such as sweet potato, Chinese cabbage, spinach, tomato, taro and chilli can be grown effectively using less water and other inputs, less labour to reap more production.

Kilikali Settlement in Nasinu together with Waikerekere Community on the outskirts of Lami town whose residents hail from Kiribati, Rabi, Tuvalu and Kioa are the two target communities of the AFF project in Fiji, and this saw the distribution of Foodcubes to the two communities.

Live & Learn’s Food Security and Livelihoods Coordinator, Mr. Ponijese Korovulavula said the targeted sites for the AFF project was selected based on the lack of arable land and climate related issues and in the case of Kilikali settlement, land on which they had previously planted on had been developed as a sub-division and had greatly hindered their farming capabilities.

“Here at Kilikali, you can see that the land going towards Laqere has been sub-divided and graded and there is now very little land for them to plant on and through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) funding the project, we brought this programme to Kilikali to support them with their food security and to also help them to grow and eat local foods every day,” said Mr. Korovulavula.

“With no piece of land around them to plant and with climate change taking a toll on the quality of land available to them to plant on, through the intervention we brought them in the form of the wicking beds (food cubes) it will really support them to eat three nutritious meals per day and that is why we are conducting training together with the Ministry of Agriculture to improve their farming knowledge and we thank the Ministry for supporting us with the training and also supplying our communities with organic compost and bacterium culture and its applications to go organic,” added Mr. Korovulavula.

Meanwhile for 60-year-old Mr. Taitusi Mocevakaca, of Kilikali settlement the project has broadened his farming knowledge, which he said he would implement on his small farm on the periphery of their community and adjacent to Ratu Dovi Road.

“I want to thank the two organisations, the Ministry of Agriculture and Live & Learn for enlightening us with good agricultural practices regarding the planting of vegetables to meet our daily food requirements.

“From the Foodcubes that we were assisted with, we have started harvesting the cabbages and vegetables grown there and it is a joy for us to harvest these vegetables, we’re looking forward to the tomatoes ripening too so we can cook and eat them too,” said Mr. Mocevakaca.

He added that through the good agriculture practices training conducted by the two institutions, he had learnt a lot regarding methods of farming he had not previously known.

Waikerekere settlement was chosen to be part of the project due to the issue of salt water inundation which had strained their traditional food systems, for them, the AFF project is a most welcome initiative as it directly addresses the issue of a lack of nutritious foods available to their residents.

Waikerekere Community Chairperson, KumOn Tarawa said the AFF project had fostered a sense of ownership and togetherness amongst the members of the community.

“Our community has grown overnight and we are currently around 1,000 plus in terms of our population. The last project for this community that created a sense of ownership and allowed for positive collaboration between Government, NGOs and the community was the water and electricity project for our sub-sectors here in Waikerekere,” said Mr. Tarawa.

“People migrating from Kiribati, Rabi, Tuvalu and Kioa has really affected the dynamics within the community, people are not seeing themselves as a Waikerekere Community member/household and are loyal to their races and religion but with this Live and Learn Project, it has created bridges amongst our people, it has allowed for us to work together and provide the support that was required.

“It has also helped with food security, women are now more active in gardening seeing that they are receiving tools, seeds and technical support. The meals are getting healthier and families value the food cubes/green houses at their homes,” he said.

“As a minority group we feel that our voices are being heard and we matter as citizens,” Mr. Tarawa added. “The Community is now planning to establish a Farmers Group to support each other and get recognized by the Government.”

The AFF programme is an Australian Aid funded project implemented by Live and Learn Environmental Education with support from the Ministry of Agriculture.

This work also includes training with households, community members, and stakeholders on agricultural skills and nutrition.