On Yap Island in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), four atoll communities—about 800 people from the outer islands who have migrated to the main island—have gained a reputation for growing good-quality vegetables. Restaurants on this island now buy greens regularly from the home gardeners in these communities, rather than rely on imported produce. More importantly, the atoll communities can now access nutritious and reliable food sources on Yap.
Through a grant from USAID’s Pacific-American Climate Fund, the College of Micronesia (COM)-FSM Yap Cooperative Research and Extension division trained 120 households in atoll communities in soil management, climate-smart gardening and water harvesting techniques to build their resilience to climate change impacts.
Whole communities have been leaving the outer islands of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) as these places become more and more inhospitable with a changing climate. The atolls are facing the impacts of climate variability and change such as: 1) more intense natural disasters; 2) more intense and longer droughts that make access to clean water more difficult; 3) saltwater intrusion that makes subsistence crop production more challenging; and 4) accelerated coastal erosion and more frequent inundation that makes coastal areas uninhabitable.
In response to the migration from the outer atolls, the Yap state government established settlements in the Gagil-Tomil plateau on the island. The degraded land in this area, however, was low in nutrients, highly acidic and not conducive to farming. Freshwater was also in short supply in some of the settlements. Each day, settlers, particularly women and children, fetched water from community rain catchments for household use.
The COM-FSM adopted a three-pronged adaptation model to boost the 800 migrants’ adaptive capacity and climate resilience, consisting of soil management, water conservation and management, and livelihood enhancement. The college started by teaching the communities to improve the soil through techniques such as composting, liming and mulching, among others. With support from the PACAM grant, COM-FSM also provided beneficiaries portable rainwater harvest bags, commercially known as bob® bags, developed by the U.S.-based non-profit organization Relief International. Equipped with faucets, the bags store 350 gallons of water, enough for people to take care of their daily domestic and gardening needs. The bags also allow people to access water in their backyards, relieving them of the daily drudgery of fetching water.
With improved access to land and water, the communities were trained in climate-smart agriculture techniques, including small-plot intensive farming, micro-gardening, container home-gardening, agroforestry and integrated farming. Through these alternative crop production methods, communities have been empowered to increase and sustain crop productivity.
Many of the home gardeners now sell their surplus in the markets and some of them even supply restaurants with fresh produce. Prior to this project, the only source of vegetables on Yap was the supermarket, which imports them.
The next step was training the atoll communities in value addition and marketing. The college’s nutri-tion team taught these communities to make value-added food products such as breadfruit pancakes and pumpkin jams to sell. The atoll communities had a good trial run in selling the products at the re-cent World Food Day and Yap Day celebrations. Also, the Yap Small Business Development Center recently conducted a well-attended entrepreneur marketing workshop for interested home gardeners from the communities so they can further boost their livelihoods.
The three-pronged adaptation model was designed to boost household and community resilience, even under harsh conditions on a degraded landscape. In the case of atoll communities on Yap, resilience is greater thanks to improved food security and livelihoods. Now that they are growing their own food and selling their surplus, atoll communities are more confident about their future.
Dr. Murukesan Krishnapillai
Dr. Murukesan Krishnapillai is a Researcher with Cooperative Research and Extension Program of the College of Micronesia-FSM. He is also the project manager of the Climate Adaptive Agriculture Resilience project supported by USAID’s Pacific-American Climate Fund.