|Community garden makes a difference for Petani women in ‘Eua|
|Friday, 22 March 2013 20:10|
Friday 15 March 2013, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) – Suva
When the Petani Village Women’s Group of ‘Eua Island, Tonga approached the SPC (Secretariat of the Pacific Community)/GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) Coping with Climate Change in the Pacific Island Region (CCCPIR) programme with a proposal for turning idle town land allotments to productive community gardens, the SPC/GIZ programme saw this as an opportunity to work with a committed group of women to strengthen the food security status of their community through sustainable agriculture and land management technologies.
On ‘Eua a great number of town land allotments are abandoned as the allotment-owning families set up homes overseas. Most of these land allotments are left idle and degraded, covered with weeds and hardy grass. The women of Petani recognised the potential of turning these idle allotments into productive land to feed their families.
In July 2012, with the assistance of SPC/GIZ CCCPIR and the Tonga Forestry Division, the women developed a four-acre piece of idle land provided by one of the Petani families for the community garden. The community women put in the hard work to establish a multi-cropping garden, collecting planting material (like banana suckers, yam and sweet potato cuttings) from other gardens to plant in the new garden. The Forestry Division provided a range of tree crops and indigenous tree wildings from the forest. The women said that when they had made their request to SPC/GIZ CCCPIR, their focus was on vegetables only. But after receiving support from the programme on farming practices (like agroforestry), they now recognise the value of having longer-term crops (like breadfruit) and timber trees (like sandalwood) in the garden. Louna Hamani, of the Petani Women’s Group, said that the community garden project has also spurred them to plant more trees in their own home yards.
Only six months after the partners had their first meeting, the community garden is providing food for around 30 households of Petani Village, regardless of whether they were involved in the planting or not. The women praise the garden, saying that it has significantly assisted with putting food on their table. A number of households have gardens that are some distance away from their homes. Collecting food from their gardens necessitates spending at least one night in the plantation to collect and transport food crops back home. With a garden in the village, these families now only have to walk a few minutes to collect vegetables and staples for their family meal. Tevita Faka’osi, Deputy Director of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forests and Food (MAFFF) commended the Petani Women’s Group for their commitment and motivation, saying that their personal contributions reflected real partnership and true ownership.
For the moment the garden is only catering for the household needs of the families. This year another idle land allotment will be turned into a productive garden, and women are already planning for a small community market to sell any surplus produce.
SPC/GIZ CCCPIR, MAFFF and the Ministry of Lands, Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources are also supporting the Island of ‘Eua in the rehabilitation and reforestation of the ‘Eua Island watershed area and degraded areas inside the country’s only national forest park. The programme’s activities on ‘Eua aim to increase the adaptive capacity of the island communities to cope with the impacts of climate change through the sustainable management of their land and forest resources and the development of an island land use plan.