Learning climate-resilient agriculture techniques - Solomon Islands

Photo caption: Clera took part in Kastom Gaden Association training. May 2017. Photo credit: © World Vision Australia.

Photo caption: Clera took part in Kastom Gaden Association training. May 2017. Photo credit: © World Vision Australia.

Makira-Ulawa is one of the Solomon Islands’ most disaster-prone provinces. An island province on an active cyclone path, it’s highly vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters. Rural Makira communities are vulnerable to natural and man-made hazards. They are isolated, with poor access to health and educational services, and have a high dependency on subsistence production. Settlements are clustered along the coastline, exacerbating their vulnerability to cyclones, storm surges and sea level rise.

World Vision's Humanitarian Partnership Agreement (the predecessor to the AHP) funded Makira Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction (CCA DRR) project ran from 2013 to 2015 in seven rural communities in the province’s remote east. The project reached 3,400 people in 574 households. It aimed to raise awareness about climate change and disaster risks and reduce community vulnerability. It did so by working with all community members – including men, women, youth and children – to help them plan and prepare for disasters, and adapt to climate change.

Through a partnership with Kastom Gaden Association, community members learned improved agricultural techniques. Kastom Gaden Association is a local non-government organisation combining customary food production with modern approaches to help communities improve their food security. Project activities also included distributing farming tools, supporting climate change adaptation committees and identifying evacuation routes. 

Photo caption: Jacob used to plant everything in his garden together, plants would get tangled and didn’t grow well. Date: May 2017. Photo credit: © World Vision Australia.

Photo caption: Jacob used to plant everything in his garden together, plants would get tangled and didn’t grow well. Date: May 2017. Photo credit: © World Vision Australia.

On a remote island in Makira, community members attended a three-day training session – facilitated by World Vision – with Kastom Gaden Association in 2015. They learnt about preparing seedlings, cultivating the soil and implementing climate-resilient techniques, such as crop rotation and mulching. The community garden started through the project is now thriving with beans, salad, slippery cabbage and cassava. Participants are also continuing to apply this knowledge in their own gardens.

Jacob used to plant everything in his garden together, but his plants would get tangled and didn’t grow well. Through the training, he learnt how to organise his crops. For example, he now plants all his root crops in the same plot, which has seen them grow bigger and healthier. Jacob also learnt how to make organic compost by mixing coconut husks with soil. He received pumpkin seeds through the training and now sells them on a small scale in the village. The project has made a big difference for Jacob’s wife Annie and their three children. “Before, I used to get hungry,” Annie says. “But now I never go hungry because I have these greens and vegetables to support the root crops that we have.”

Annie says it’s also helped her add variety to her children’s diets. She can feed their baby son pumpkin and cabbage, sometimes mixed with fish when Jacob goes fishing. As well as being more plentiful, nutritious food is available throughout the year due to different harvest times for each crop.

Through the Australian Government-funded project, community members also learnt about how to respond in disasters. “When there is a tsunami warning, we run up to the hill. We don’t come and look out to sea,” says Silas, a community leader. “We also learn when we evacuate, we shouldn’t be busy with other things; we should run fast for safety.” This knowledge was put to the test in the December 2016 Solomon Islands earthquake.

“During the recent disaster, the training from World Vision really helped us because everyone knew what to do,” Silas says. “Everyone just ran. All the children from the school were [up the hill] first, because we learn from the training and then we teach our children.” The community also knew not to come back down until everything had settled. Police called community leaders by radio and mobile and gave them the all-clear to return to the village.

Read more here. 

Date of article: November 2017