FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
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FAO improves the food security of South Pentecost communities in Vanuatu

21/04/2021 South Pentecost, Vanuatu

The community of Bunlap, which a Kustomary Area in South Pentecost, Vanuatu is building its capacity and diversity in agroforestry production thanks to the Integrated Sustainable land and Coastal Management (ISLCM)/FAO project.

In the second phase of the Tropical Cyclone (TC) Harold Livelihood Recovery Program for South Pentecost, the project team carried out a supervision mission to Ranwas, which is located in the Bunlap Zone.

A total of 516 people have benefited from the emergency Farm Field School program and through the establishment of two agroforestry nurseries, which have helped to improve and diversify the diets of the beneficiaries.

The project team analyzed 224 plots belonging to 30 farmers and identified 13 root crop species with the total number of cultivated varieties in communities ranging from 74 to 261.

Surprisingly, villages with high population density have shorter fallow periods but higher yields. In both zones, women possess greater traditional knowledge. In villages with high population density there are signs of soil fertility reduction and mineral depletion but no signs of significant decrease in soil fertility after the first year of cultivation, indicating that root crop species remove limited amounts of nitrogen and minerals per year.

ISLCM in action

In South Pentecost, as elsewhere in Vanuatu, food security includes adequate access to resources, food availability, good health care and stability by ensuring no risk of losing access to food due to economic or climatic shocks (TC Pam in 2015 and TC Harold in 2020).

In an archipelago such as Vanuatu, an accurate assessment of food security at the community level is vital and can be measured through various aspects of the traditional food production systems.  This means determining resilience and vulnerability, including access to land, levels of production of the cropping systems, nutritional value of crops available (locally produced and/or imported), and finally community exposure to unexpected economic and climatic events.

In Vanuatu, land and marine resources are managed at the community level. Throughout the archipelago, shifting cultivation results in agroforestry systems combining arboriculture with horticulture based on vegetatively propagated crops established after slash and burn in small garden plots. The main crop in the wet zones is taro and in the dry zones is the greater yam. The wet and the dry zones constitute a significant cultural differentiation between communities, which have developed different adaptation strategies, all extensively documented.

After TC Harold, ISLCM project began supporting the Food Security Cluster and the National Disaster Management Office in the emergency and later in the recovery. Implementing the Farm Field School approach Building Agroforestry Nurseries with the support of the beneficiaries, who contributed their traditional knowledge. The exchange of knowledge in this open learning system has made it possible to serve 90 percent of the households.

Another innovation that has been introduced together with the Community Agroforestry nurseries, has been training for the installation and maintenance of Bucket-micro irrigation systems for Backyard home gardens, 250 micro irrigation system have been installed by women’s groups.