Dossier

Climate-smart agriculture

As the impacts of climate change increasingly threaten global food security, initiatives aiming to scale out the adoption of climate-adapted agricultural practices are beginning to gain ground. 

Women in Navotua have learnt how to preserve food in storage pits covered with sand to keep them cool ©WWF-Pacific/Ravai Vafo'o
Women in Navotua have learnt how to preserve food in storage pits covered with sand to keep them cool ©WWF-Pacific/Ravai Vafo'o

Tuesday, 08 August 2017

To help communities cope with rising instances of natural disasters and enhance food security in the Pacific, the World Wide Fund for Nature’s Pacific branch is supporting several initiatives encouraging the adoption of climate-smart agriculture (CSA).

Prolonged droughts, the increasing intensity of cyclones and coastal flooding are just some of the effects of climate change that Pacific Island countries are faced with. To mitigate these impacts and improve food security in Pacific nations, organisations and governments are devising climate smart initiatives that focus on agriculture. With a key objective to improve food security, two projects – ‘Building the resilience of the Pacific through disaster preparedness’ and ‘Strengthening governance and building resiliency of communities’ – led by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in the Pacific, are promoting CSA techniques in the Yasawa islands of Fiji.  

The projects’ core activities, funded by the government of Australia and USAID, involve helping villagers create their own vegetable gardens, teaching them better food storage and preservation techniques and building reserves in seed banks to increase resilience to natural disasters. Together the projects have set up 10 seed banks within the community of Navotua, in the district of Nacula in the Yasawas, which hold different varieties of vegetables and root crops, including long beans, aubergine, chillies, tomatoes, pumpkin and sweet potato. In the event of a disaster that wipes out the entire harvest for one or more crops, farmers will be able to continue preparing for the following season with the reserves saved in the seed banks, enabling them to recover more quickly and reduce the economic impact, as well as risks to food security.  

Around 50 participants (mainly women) in Navotua recently underwent a week of training in food preservation techniques and better storage methods to help them cope in the event of a disaster. The training, which was the first of its kind for the community, was met with appreciation by the women involved. “We are grateful to learn the techniques of food preservation, especially for green vegetables such as cabbages and taro leaves, which usually wilt and are no longer useable after 2 days or so,” explained Seruwaia Bua, one of the participants. 

The training included the adoption of traditional methods to keep food cool and fresh, for example, through storing crops, such as breadfruit and bananas, in a hole dug into the ground and covered with banana leaves and soil. When produce is stored using this method for up to 6 months, fermentation takes place. The fermented breadfruit and bananas can then be used to make flour for baking and cooking. Another technique which the women were taught was the use of assimilation chillers; for instance, using a pot filled with sand and dampened potato sacks to keep root crops and vegetables – such as breadfruits, bananas, pumpkins and papaya – cool and ensure that they can be kept for at least a week. With Navotua village having to rely on a generator for electricity that runs intermittently when fuel is available, this method is a great adaptation measure, especially during times of natural disasters when the community often finds itself dependent on local natural resources. 

WWF-Pacific is also working with sugarcane farmers in Fiji to encourage the adoption and application of best management practices to optimise productivity, whilst minimising adverse environmental impacts. Research has shown that current sugarcane farming practices have led to sediment and chemical runoffs into Fiji’s river systems, which have affected the Great Sea Reef – the third largest reef system in the Southern Hemisphere. A grant from the USAID-funded Pacific-American Climate Fund (PACAM) has made it possible for WWF-Pacific to establish two model sugarcane farms in the district of Nailaga, Ba. These farms are used to showcase better sugarcane management practices to help farmers move towards climate resilient farming.  

Vinesh Kumar, project manager of PACAM, is positive about the project’s impact, stating that communities are already showing encouraging changes in their lifestyles. “Impact is seen as communities have built resilience and reduced vulnerabilities, and are better equipped to reduce the risks from climate change induced disasters,” he states. The project is also helping to ensure that sugarcane farmers are adhering to buffer zones and avoiding soil erosion, as well as using recommended fertilisers for cane farming to reduce the negative environmental effects.

For more information on how rural communities and farmers are benefitting from innovative CSA practices read our field report from Benin

Avneel Abhishay

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The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) is a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU). CTA operates under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement and is funded by the EU.