Pacific atoll nations are undergoing a food system transformation exacerbated by the pressures of climate change. Challenges in local food production, including rising sea levels, poor soil quality, increasing salinity, little-to-no access to seeds and planting material and lack of land, have resulted in many nations relying on low-quality imported foods to meet basic nutritional requirements. This has led to a deterioration in diet quality and health, and increasing rates of malnutrition, overnutrition and non-communicable diseases.
The Atoll Food Futures initiative is a two-year AUD $2,745,000 program funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and is operating in Tuvalu, Kiribati and Fiji. The initiative aims to improve resilience and food security of vulnerable Pacific households through increased production and consumption of locally grown nutritious foods through a community-based approach using innovative ‘Foodcube’ technology (wicking garden systems ideal for growing fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables).
The pilot project aims to revive traditional integrated farming practices and consequently increase land productivity; as well as improving knowledge and awareness of the benefits of local food.
Foodcubes are being distributed to households and established at community garden sites. Each Foodcube has the potential to produce up to 25kg of fresh produce per annum and offers significant advantages where access to fresh water and topsoil is limited. Using Foodcubes, crops such as sweet potato, Chinese cabbage, spinach, tomato, taro and chilli can be grown effectively using less water and other inputs, less labour and more productively .
Strong ownership by local stakeholders such as island councils, respective departments of agriculture and communities, including women’s and youth groups, will ensure that the intervention is effective and sustainable. Intensive training in compost production and planting is also being conducted. The program is exploring increased use of animal waste streams to support improved compost production and plant health, training stakeholders on integrated pest and disease management, and assessing the marketing and promotion of diverse nutritious local crops.
Atoll Food Futures is supported by the Australian Government and implemented by Live and Learn Environmental Education, The Pacific Community (SPC), Biofilta Pty Ltd and DT Global.