36 Participants from Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji have gathered in Honiara this week to share their expertise and experiences in practical farming methods to give advice to rural people in Melanesia on how to prepare and their food security in preparation for the increasing effects of climate change. They were joined by five artists who have been busy documenting the farmers experiences. The results will be published as a manual for use by lead farmers, field workers, teachers and extension officers in Melanesia.
The workshop was supported by AusAID and is a joint activity of Live and Learn Environmental Education and Kastom Gaden Association. The workshop, or write shop, is part of the Live and Learn climate change adaptation project.
Climate change and agriculture in Melanesia
Climate change is a reality that unfortunately we have to prepare for. Carbon is increasing in the atmosphere due largely to burning of fossil fuels, increased methane from livestock and clearing and burning of the worlds forests and vegetation. As a result our climate is changing. In Melanesia we can expect:
- Rising sea temperatures, coral bleaching and ocean acidification are expected to reduce the availability of fish. Fish is an important source of protein for most coastal communities. Per capita consumption of fish is very high by global standards with an average of 70kg of fish consumed per person per year
- Severe weather, intense rainfall and flooding could damage crops
- Drought and higher temperatures can make it harder to produce certain crops. Some areas will experience too much rain.
- Rising sea levels could flood land and make it unavailable for growing food due to effect of salt and coastal erosion
- Changes are unpredictable and may vary from island to island and throughout the region
- Severe weather may damage infrastructure
(e.g. boats, docks, roads) and make it harder to access markets
Farmers sharing their technologies
This week farmers and NGO field workers have shared 43 promising technologies for improving food security to prepare for climate change. All these technologies can be applied by farmers on their own. All that is needed is the knowledge and the willingness to adapt to their own areas. The farmers were chosen due to their expertise and experience in improving their own agriculture in their different environments. They included farmers and organizations from mountain areas, weather coasts, small islands and atolls, artificial islands and urban gardening.
The technologies presented by the farmer experts are in the following groups:
Alternatives to shifting cultivation – due to land shortage and the increasing land degradation caused by too much forest clearing and too much burning of our lands we need ways to use our land more permanently
Forests and agro forests – trees are very important now and will be even more important in the future with changing climate. We need to look after our existing forests and also plant new ones – those new forests can help to provide our food and other needs as well as the environment.
Soil fertility – improving the soil is critical to food security. We keep plants healthy and there fore get good yields from a healthy soil. This is achieved by providing the soil with organic matter.
Emergency gardens and diversity: we know there will be more disasters and more stress on our gardens in future. We need reserve food when this happens.
Gardening for atolls, small islands: these places need special approaches ranging from how to use seaweed for fertilizer through to raised beds on sandy and salty soils.
Quotes from participants:
“This gathering is important because it allows a group of local technologists to come together and share their expertise on their respective technologies on food production. These technologies from the provinces of Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji are now documented in a book which would have been left out if their expertise was not bought together in this workshop.
This manual will be a wealth of information for those working on disaster preparedness and community based disaster risk reduction and can be used in many different areas from those effected by drought, low atolls, degraded soils, damaged environments etc. This manual will help to fill the gap that strategic planners often fail to find practical solution for climate change related challenges.”
(Jasper Bonie, Temotu Province)