‘Super’ farming project to help island communities become more disaster resilient

Communities in Santa Cruz Island, in the remote Solomon Islands province Temotu, are combining their farming resources to ensure they have enough food during a disaster time. Eight communities with already-established risk-resilient agricultural training and research plots – known as Knowledge Hubs – are joining forces to create a ‘Super’ Knowledge Hub, to better share risk-resilient food crops and information on climate and disaster resilient agriculture.

“The existing Knowledge Hubs have shown us how important this kind of initiative is, and now these eight Knowledge Hubs, together with the ‘super’ Knowledge Hub, will hopefully be able to supply Temotu with risk-resilient food crops before, during and after disaster times,” said Chief Agricultural Officer for Temotu Province, George Suhara.

One hectare of land in the Nea/Neboi community has been allocated to this project, with clearing of land commencing in April.

Knowledge Hubs involve community volunteers who use a demonstration plot to learn and share risk-sensitive farming information and technology, such as traditional disaster-safe methods, organic approaches, mixed cropping, and climate resilient crops. This information is also shared with government, enabling officials to better understand community-based agricultural needs.

Community and government stakeholders, in particular Temotu Agricultural Extension Division, are being supported to develop Knowledge Hubs through a partnership between the Pacific Risk Resilience Programme (PRRP) and Live & Learn Environmental Education (LLEE).

Knowledge Hubs were originally introduced to improve food security after the 2013 Tsunami that impacted many communities on Santa Cruz Island.

Already, the scope of the Knowledge Hubs project is growing wider. Demand for crops and other planting materials is coming not only from Santa Cruz Island, but also outer islands such as Ontong Java and Sikaiana, according to Mr Suhara.

“The existing sites could not provide enough supplies to keep up with the demands due to land size.”

“So I really appreciate the assistance of Live and Learn and PRRP for assisting us in this initiative to set up this large multi-crop site at Nea/Neboi,” Mr Suhara said.

The land for the ‘super’ Knowledge Hub is located near the existing Nea/Neboi Knowledge Hub, which original landowner and member of the Nea/Neboi Committee, Billy Palu has agreed to share with the community.

“I felt happy that the Nea/Neboi Committee women could make good use of the land I gave them to use for the Knowledge Hubs,” Mr Palu said.

“Not only am I learning new knowledge from their existing work, but I am also seeing them generate some income from selling any extra resilient root crops.”

The extra income has allowed the women to introduce additional livelihood initiatives to the community, such as poultry farming, Mr Palu said.

The new ‘Super’ Knowledge Hub will accommodate resilient crops on a much larger scale than the eight existing knowledge hubs, according to LLEE PRRP Programme Officer, Nixon Honi.

“We want to use this super hub to promote the types of risk-resilient crops and farming techniques to the other Knowledge Hubs, which are separate to existing family food gardens.”

“Our plan is for the site to be able to provide the other Knowledge Hubs with varieties of crops they may be lacking in, as seeds, seedlings, cuttings or suckers, for example,” he said, adding that it would also be used as a research site.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL) is currently looking at incorporating all Knowledge Hub activities into the divisional work plans and budgets for the MAL Extension Office in Temotu, according to Mr Honi.

It is hoped that similar Knowledge Hub projects will soon be implemented in Guadalcanal Province, based on the success of Temotu.

PRRP works with Pacific Island nations and their people to consider the risks they face from climate change and disasters and include those risks in their usual plans for development. Communities can become more resilient to climate change and disasters if routine government, community and other planning takes these risks into account.

This risk governance approach is delivered through a partnership between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and international non-government organization Live & Learn Environmental Education (LLEE), and supported by the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). PRRP is being delivered in four countries: Fiji, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.

Source.