Vanuatu leads Knowledge Hub exchange between Pacific countries

Vanuatu Tanoliu women and menTanoliu community in the North West Area Council of Shefa Province is attracting Pacific-wide interest in its new Knowledge Hub demonstration crop for farmers to share skills and ideas. Knowledge Hubs are already being developed in Vanuatu’s Tafea Province, and in other Pacific Island countries including Fiji, Solomon Islands and Tonga – these three countries had community and government representatives visit Tanoliu’s new demonstration plot to learn and exchange ideas.

“We are very proud to have you here in Tanoliu,” said the representative for the Department of Local Authorities (DLA) and Shefa Provincial Government Area Council Development Officer, Ian Kalsuak, during the recent visit by Fiji, Solomon Islands and Tonga representatives.

“We want to learn new methods and styles of planting in order that we could adapt to the changes we are facing,” said Mr Kalsuak.

“There are numerous effects that people observe in our communities from climate change, in terms of the cash crops which are affected, trees flowering in different times of the year and our gardens not giving us the best produce we have received in the past.

“We see this idea of setting up this new Knowledge Hub as an opportunity where the people can build up their skills and knowledge, in how we could have answers to our queries concerning the changes we see happening.”

Knowledge Hubs link with existing networks of community farmers who focus on three activities, to: share farming information such as mixed cropping, to share planting materials, and to work together as a group to establish their demonstration plot to trial sustainable or climate resilient farming systems.

Across the Pacific, agriculture departments are connecting with these farmer groups to better coordinate and strengthen the networks by building capacity through training, and by guiding them to better plan for resilient farming practices and interventions – in this way they evolve from ad-hoc farmer groups to coordinated and supported networks known as Knowledge Hubs.

Charity Alick, Provincial Agriculture Officer for Malampa, Department of Agriculture, told the visitors from the three countries that “all the surrounding communities” already know about the demonstration plot and can come and see it, especially the resilient crop varieties being grown.

“People learn more with hands-on, than if we just tell them. Here they have to touch it and feel it and see it,” Mrs Alick said.

In Vanuatu’s Tafea Province, last year four Knowledge Hubs were established across three islands: two in Tanna, one in Aniwa and one in Futuna. Lessons learned from these are being used in the new Shefa Knowledge Hubs and farm demonstration plots.

Agriculture Extension officers for the Tafea Provincial Agriculture Department took the lead in establishing the Knowledge Hubs, introducing climate-resilient crops, and providing training for hub members. They are being supported by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Vanuatu Research and Technical Centre, and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through its Pacific Risk Resilience Programme (PRRP).

The Tanoliu field visit followed a recent workshop about soil fertility, resilient crops and Knowledge Hubs held in the village, attended by residents from six local communities, and hosted by Department of Agriculture with PRRP support. Part of the practical teaching at the two-day workshop involved the hands-on creation of the Knowledge Hub demonstration plot in Tanoliu.

Guests on the field visit were organized by PRRP as part of its Regional Board Meeting event hosted end of May by the Government of Vanuatu, and held at the Melanesian Hotel.

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 routine plans for development. Communities can become more resilient to climate change and disasters if the usual routine of government, community and other planning takes these risks into account. This risk governance approach is delivered through a partnership between the UNDP and international non-government organisation Live & Learn Environmental Education (LLEE), and supported by the Australian Government. PRRP is being delivered in four countries: Fiji, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.