Tuvalu’s Atoll Nation adopts ‘Cube’ to produce nutritious food – global problem

Farmers in Tuvalu have seen their crops destroyed in extreme tropical weather. They are now using Fanfala ‘food cubes’ to have more control over their crops.
  • By Katherine Wilson (Canberra, Australia)
  • Inter Press Service

In the low-lying island country, people are trying to grow food with “lack of access to land for cultivation, lack of compost for food and more, high tides and cyclone seawater,” Tewalala Manuela-Morris The manager, Live & Learn, told IPS.

Over the years, islanders have seen their food gardens destroyed by extreme tropical weather and disasters such as cyclones and tidal waves. These factors have contributed to the increasing use of their imported food. But now, the future looks more secure with the introduction of an innovative farming method in Funafala, an island near the main Funafuti Island.

The new farming method is based on a modular structure of specially designed boxes, known as ‘food cubes’, which gives local food producers more control over their crops.

“Tuvalu, as an atolls nation, has a range of agricultural production challenges and also relies on imported food. The epidemic has also affected food supply chains. So, considering such challenges, policy changes have taken place in an effort to strengthen food security programs. I was running a food cube system in Tuvalu, which is in line with the country’s policy approach to food security.

Decades of declining agricultural production and persistent malnutrition have existed in the Pacific islands. Before the epidemic in 2019, an estimated 11.9 million people in Oceania’s population suffered from moderate to severe food insecurity, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Although stunting affects 10 percent of children under the age of five in Tuvalu, much lower than the regional average, the country carries a heavy burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). According to the World Health Organization, citing the Global Nutrition Report, in 2016, 70% of men and 3.8% of women in Tuvalu were classified as overweight.

In Funafala, a huge interlocking array of boxes raised above the ground, creates a patchwork field of green abundance. The ‘field’ has 80-100 cubes across an area of ​​1.2 acres where fruits and vegetables are being grown for more than 16 local families. Each ‘food cube’, which is one meter square and centimeters deep, is made from percent0 percent recyclable food-grade plastic and is designed with features that reflect the plant that emerges between oxygen and controlled irrigation.

“The Funafala garden has shown the growth of local food such as pulak (giant swamp taro), taro, local figs, cassava, dwarf banana and dwarf paupa … It not only provides more food for the community but also proves that the soil for planting more Food cubes are another way to increase food in areas flooded by seawater while maintaining fertility. At the same time, it saves water, ”Manuela-Morris told IPS.

The ‘Food Cube’ was designed and manufactured six years ago by Biofilta, an Australian company developing modular urban farming systems. In 2017, the business won a global competition called Launch Food, which was awarded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for a new solution to the global problem of poor nutrition.

“To put it in the context of food security, I think those food cubes will be able to produce up to 150 kilograms of vegetables and herbs for a year and that’s enough to meet the need for green vegetables for family members,” Susumu said. .

Biofilta claims that the system “has been raised, so there is no risk of saltwater flooding and our water technology is highly water-efficient using a fraction of the water required in conventional agriculture.” These are important features, since Tuvalu has no renewable water resources and its maximum altitude is only 5 meters above sea level. In addition, the farm uses compost, especially to meet the country’s soil demand, according to the Australian Center for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), which also collects material from the island’s green waste treatment plant.

Another key partner, Live & Learn, has expanded testing of farming methods to other islands in Tuvalu. The long-term goal is good health outcomes and long productive lives for islanders. “Because of the agricultural challenge, food diversity is very low … So, with the diversity of production systems, it means that families have more access to healthy diets, and if the surplus can be marketed, it also supports the income side of the family,” Susumu explained.

The Pacific community, in consultation with the government, local communities and farmers, plans to set a fair price for the commercial sale of surplus fresh produce from farms so that healthy food is affordable for all.

More broadly, the initiative is responding to calls from organizations such as the FAO to revise the global food system to increase the supply of smart food quality food, reduce pressure on limited natural resources, such as land and water, and reduce the impact of agricultural practices on global warming.

The success of the ‘Food Cube’ in Tuvalu has sparked enthusiasm in other Pacific island countries, such as the Cook Islands and Fiji, where it is also being tested.

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© Inter Press Service (2021) – All rights reservedOriginal Source: Inter Press Service

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