Traditional farming to combat climate change

23 September 2020

Moafanua Tolusina Pouli

Traditional Samoan farming practices, such as planting resilient crops and improving the soil, are providing future solutions to climate change, officials say.

Moafanua Tolusina Pouli, Assistant Chief Executive Officer (A.C.E.O.) of the Forestry Division at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (M.N.R.E.) said traditional methods were increasingly seen as solutions.

After many years of working with the villages and modern technology in farming, Moafanua said a decision has been made instead to look back at traditional Samoan methods because farmers in the village are the backbone of farming.

“After so many years we have been working with the villages and modern technology for farming, we thought we have to go back and consider the past experiences of our forefathers and our parents, especially those who live in the village because they are the backbone and the main people behind-the-scenes who are doing the cultivation and farming, making sure that people have food on the table,” he told reporters.

“They [the village farmers] have to make sure that there is some sort of income generation to support churches, schools fees and other activities in the village. So considering climate change I think that our traditional farming is more adaptive to climate change.”

Moafanua said going back to traditional practices means looking at what crops Samoans used to grow in the past and also the kinds of farming systems used by Samoa’s forefathers.

The forestry division, he added, supports the inter-planting of trees with our crops and also planting trees to improve the soil.

“In Samoa we have a lot of this shifting cultivation, we work and work and we shift but in the end we have to come back to the same land where we started but if we plant the appropriate trees it will help to improve the soil,” said Moafanua.

“Also in this part of the program we are asking people to consider organic farming. It’s a bit difficult for people because there is more labour involved, you need more people to work on the garden but it’s safer for them. If there are no chemicals involved, it helps the environment and also to make sure the health of people is secure.”

The M.N.R.E. is involved in a three-day training for Savai’i farmers currently taking place at the University of South Pacific (U.S.P.).

The workshop is part of a pilot project called ‘Intensive Root Crop-based Cropping Systems for Food Security, Sustainability and Climate Resilience.’

The project is funded by the European Union.

“With regard to Pacific climate resilience […] our partnership is with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (S.P.R.E.P.), they are implementing agency,” Moafanua explained.

“We are very fortunate that we have a role to play in this project because of the climate change issue. The M.N.R.E.’s role is […] dealing with forests, tree planting and the environment so that’s where M.N.R.E. comes in.”

He said Samoa is “almost food secure” but people needed to work consciously to make their food supply sustainable.

“Considering climate change, some of our crops are very vulnerable to the rising temperatures and also the impact of disease and other things really impacted by the change of climate,” said Moafanua.

Twenty-three farmers from Faga to Matautu District Safa’I, Satoalepai, Fagamalo, Avao, Salei’a and Vaipouli in Savai’i we selected for the project.

All participants from Savai’i have been involved in past projects and they have been selected to help spread learning from the project.

“This is our pilot village so if under this project the people are trained and are successful they can put this into practice in their village and we can replicate it to neighbouring villages,” Moafanua said.

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