An agro-forestry farming approach introduced in Vanuatu aims to help communities address agricultural risks worsened by extreme weather patterns.
With Tropical Cyclone Pam impacts still fresh in the minds of many, there is an increasing focus on food security as well as domestic food production to support the resilience of local communities.
Resilient crop varieties of sweet potato, island cabbage, wild yam, corn and taro have also been integrated into these agro-plots which ensure a steady supply of staple food for subsistence purposes even during prolonged dry periods.
“With the leadership of the Vanuatu Department of Agriculture Rural Development (DARD) and the Department of Forestry, this farming technique has been introduced across seven different communities in two of the six provinces in Vanuatu”, said Jessie Kampai, Programme Manager with the Vanuatu Live and Learn Environmental Education (LLEE).
“There are plans to then increase this number to cover other communities in these provinces as well”, said Ms. Kampai.
The combination of these two farming techniques provides arable, forestry and environmental benefits and takes into consideration growing population pressures in limited land spaces.
“The main benefit of agro-forestry or agrosilviculture (trees with crops) is its ability to be applied to all land types”, said Ms. Anne Marie Sarisets, Shefa Provincial Forest Officer at the Department of Forestry.
“The population of Vanuatu is increasing and the availability of land will be an issue if this trend continues.”
“The integrated approach of agro-forestry allows space for trees and staple root crops to be grown together, without having to be grown and managed in two separate plots”, said Ms. Sarisets
Certain farming plots have also allowed space for innovation. For example, the agro-forestry farming plot in Paunangisu in North Efate has integrated a resilient rice variety into the demonstration plot.
“Should the rice variety perform successfully, we should be able to introduce this in other plots around the country”, said Mr. Keith Amos, the North Efate Agriculture Assistant Officer.
“I would like to thank the facilitators from Live & Learn Environmental Education (LLEE), the Department of Forestry and the DARD for organising this training at Paunangisu”, said Ms. Juliet Naviti, a beneficiary of the agro-forestry training.
“I have learned a lot in this training, some of which was very technical, for example, grafting techniques”, she said.
Farming communities that have kick started this approach include; Tongoa, Emae, Paunangisu in the Shefa Province, Middlebush in Tanna, Ipota in Erromango as well as Port Patrick on Aneityum in Tafea Province.
“Agricultural crops planted alongside trees provide additional benefits such as; preventing soil erosion, wind breakers, ensuring proper drainage, sequestering carbon and also allows for more diverse crops to be grown in the same plot”, said Ms. Kampai.
The integration of the agro-forestry approach is being led by the Vanuatu Government’s DARD, Department of Forestry and supported by regional partners from the Pacific Communities (SPC) and the Australian Government-funded Pacific Risk Resilience Programme implemented in partnership between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and international environmental non-government organisation, LLEE.
UNDP PRRP Communications Associate, Jone Tuiipelehaki Raqauqau, tel: (679) 3227552, email: email@example.com