Young Farmers: Strengthening the agricultural resilience of the Cook Islands to climate change
In Mangaia, the second largest of the Cook Islands, five young leaders are being trained in organic farming practices so that they can supply their local markets, as well as export their crops to the capital island of Rarotonga, alleviating the country’s heavy reliance on foreign imports. Three of the five participants are women, who were not traditionally farmers on Mangaia.
The SRIC-CC Programme is implemented by Climate Change Cook Islands, a division within the Office of the Prime Minister and supported by UNDP. With financial support from the Adaptation Fund (AF), the SRIC-CC Programme and communities in the Pa Enua are addressing environmental risks through community-based approaches and community-driven adaptation.
The Strengthening the Resilience of the Cook Islands to Climate Change Programme (SRIC-CC), is working with more than 150 individuals on community-based resilience initiatives to enhance water and food security across the 11 Pa Enua (outer islands) of the Cook Islands.
FARM TO TABLE, SEED TO MARKET
As part of the SRIC-CC programme managed by William Tuivaga, a Young Farmers' programme has been established. Under the watchful eyes of SRIC-CC agriculture Young Growers Project Manager Makiroa Beniamina, all five of the young farmers have covered the following in their training: best practices in germinating seeds, nursery management, pest management, fertiliser management, composting, farm management, quality control, marketing and packaging, managing loss and farm administration.
The Young Farmers' programme is working with Prime Foods Supermarket to sell the produce to their clients on the wholesale market, as well as to restaurants, hotels and retail shops throughout the Cook Islands. This project will provide a more consistent supply of vegetables and other crops, thereby promoting healthy eating and food security on Mangaia, along with an increased supply of locally grown produce in the capital, Rarotonga.
As climate change impacts growing food on Mangaia, the project is working to make sure that resilient agriculture serves as a positive force for food security.
As group member, Faith Taokia points out, "the biggest challenge is to have knowledge and the ability to adapt and how to make decisions". Faith is pleased that they are learning "how to deal with pest and disease using traditional farming methods and planting organically". For example, using coconut leaves/husk as mulch to keep the soil moist.
AGRICULTURE WORK IN A MAN’S WORLD
Through the project, stereotypes regarding female farmers are being broken down. Steaven, one of the young male farmers of the programme, when asked about his experience as a young man working with women in agriculture said, “Working with the three young women in our team I know that there is no difference between young men or women in agriculture. The young women work equally on the plantation and we all focus on getting the work done. Traditionally young women do not plant, but, I believe that young women should be given the opportunity to work in agriculture no matter what. If given the chance, knowledge, tools, training and mentorship they can achieve anything.”
THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE
After completing their first phase of training this year, programme participants were able to purchase motorbikes with their earnings, an eco-friendly way of commuting to their farm plots every morning.
The five youth leaders will now be trainers for other youths in Mangaia and the other Pa Enua, while continuing to redefine what climate resilient Pa Enua can look like in the Cook Islands.
For the broader SRIC-CC project the objective is to strengthen the ability of all Cook Islands communities, and public services, to make informed decisions and manage anticipated climate change-driven pressures (including extreme events) in a pro-active, integrated and strategic manner.
By strengthening and implementing climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction at the local and national level, as with the enhancement food security, the project is working to create a more climate-resilient nation.
For more information on the project, please visit the UNDP CCA project profile.