|The community of Abaiang rallies around organic island declaration|
|Wednesday, 22 October 2014 15:10|
In 2013 the island of Abaiang in Kiribati declared itself fully organic and since that time has been working to meet all the requirements for organic certification and to raise awareness among the population of what this declaration means for their island.
The concept of organically certifying Abaiang arose through a project funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and implemented by the Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community (POETCom), the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Ministry of Environment, Land and Agricultural Development (MELAD). This project aims to develop exports of coconut sap sugar from the island through a method of organic certification known as a participatory guarantee system. When discussing the project, the island council and the communities recognised that organic agriculture fitted well with their lifestyle, would help protect their environment, built on many traditional farming practices and could provide opportunities for income generation – and so took the step to make the whole island organic.
This was the first step in a process of awareness raising and activities to ensure the island complies with organic regulations. These activities have taken place in the community with the assistance of MELAD and POETCom as well as other partners such as Live and Learn and the Youth and Christian Living performance group.
During May an island-wide programme was undertaken to consult and raise awareness on what it means to be an organic island. Activities included formal visits to each Maneaba on the island and discussions about the principles of organics and regulations of the Pacific Organic Standard. This was followed by a quiz to test what participants had been learned in the discussion, with packets of vegetable seeds offered as prizes. Two short DVDs of the Pacific Way programme were screened to highlight the project on Abaiang and another similar project on Cicia Island in Fiji.
After the discussions in each village, the Youth and Christian Living group performed a drama on the theme ‘Planting deep roots for community and environmental health of Abaiang now for the future’. The drama demonstrated the importance and benefits of organics to the villagers in terms of economic development and also health, as well as highlighting the Pacific organic principles: enhancing health, ecology, fairness, care, culture and traditions. The drama also served to remind viewers what is not allowed in an organic system, for instance, people are not allowed to use human waste on food crops, bush burning is discouraged and waste needs to be disposed of properly. One of the Unimane (eldest men) commented that the drama ‘was a wonderful way to give the message – it was entertaining and informative.’ He continued, ’It’s not often we have the chance to see performances like this in Abaiang; everyone enjoyed it from the children to the elders, and we all learned something too.’
Each community then participated in a village cleanup and demonstrations of organic practice such as composting, mulching with organic waste materials and propagation methods.
Waste management is a challenge on small islands such as Abaiang – it is important to ensure the island complies with organic regulations and protects its environment. There were practical discussions about how to reuse and recycle non-organic waste, and it was agreed that a whole island cleanup is to continue on a village and household level with an annual competition administered with the support of the Kamwengaraoi Association and Wardens to ensure that each village and household owner complies with good waste management approaches. The winners in the village and household categories will be chosen during October and receive cash prizes.
875 people participated in the awareness raising campaign and almost 400 households signed a pledge to keep Abaiang organic. The people of Abaiang are now establishing groups of producers in villages to produce coconut sap sugar, support the organic certification and keep their island clean and healthy.