A struggle to achieve food sufficiency through home gardening

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Kiribati; a tiny nation with the population of 113,000 people (2015 census) living on lands inherited from their forefathers. Unlike other soil nutrient-rich countries, Kiribati struggles to achieve food sufficiency at the national level due to the complexity of the growing factors that together make household gardening activities a daunting task.

People in this context do not plan food production with time. The sea provides an abundant protein source with full access by people whereas carbohydrates on the other hand are sourced from land available resourcesdeliberately planted and managed in a very challenging growing environment. Because of all these constraints, there is always a gap in the food production cycle – that is filled by purchased or imported goods. This convenient food supply has a place during the times of hardships, however, it is now replacing traditional food production system and becoming the main stream, thus heightening the dependency on imported food.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) supported Outer Island Food and Water project came in to support people in their endeavour to improve their health through the consumption of healthy food and drinking clean water.

 

This project is working to tackle this food production issue through changing peoples’ mindset by creating awareness of the detrimental effects of these diet choices present, sensitizing and mobilising them to actively participate in the village household gardening program.The main outcomes of this component is to enhance household production of local fruits, vegetables, root crops and improving dietary habits of communities through consumption of a higher proportion of calories and nutrients from traditional food crops.

 

Nutrition Awareness Campaign has taken place where home gardens are being established by communities in all villages. Local fruits, seedlings of leafy green vegetables transplanted to other communal plots, root crops and other species of bananas, sweet potatoes and cassavas are being trialled on all project islands.

 

The Nutrition Campaign Activity was launched late in 2016 with the aim that when the project comes to an end, communities on the project islands will continue to be healthy by consuming fresh produce readily available from their home gardens.

 

Members of communities targeted range from the unborn foetus in a pregnant mother and anyone living in that island or community, from children to old people.  Handicapped and mentally-challenged people and other disadvantaged people are all part of the community.
It’s also envisaged by the donor that the targeted number of households will consume healthy diets produced locally from their gardens. Added to that is the consumption of clean water from water structures that the project is also constructing in the villages.


Numerous cultural factors constrain household gardening efforts. This brings to the surface a clear and visual understanding that Home gardening is not just for growing crops in the local context in Kiribati.It is more than that. People do not see agriculture (home gardening) as a possible solution to their problems. Consequently, food security is becoming a major challenge that builds on the four pillars of food availability, accessibility, nutrition and variability. Household gardening contributes substantially to the four pillars by providing available food source, physical access and the nutrition-rich food source from the garden.

Traditionally, the culture of building ones’ self-pride and position in the community through the acquired skills in maintaining food sufficiency at a subsistence level has shifted to a cash economybehaviour which describes the paradigm shift from eating locally grown food to imported food. The convenience of imported food over locally grown food has influenced our choice and disregarded the significant values traditional food has in the traditional cultural environment as well as in the local economic context.

To reverse the trend, one has to realise the complexities of dealing with human behaviour which controls the consumerism behaviour and the choices we make. In order to improve household food production, there has to be an element of economy attached while the overarching benefit an individual will gain from the consumption of healthy diets is always undermined. The interaction of these factors; humans x plant genetic make-up x environment is only one side of the coin in the food production system whilst, there are also other contributing factors that are specific to the local context.

Numerous cultural factors constrain household gardening efforts. This brings to the surface a clear and visual understanding that Home gardening is not just for growing crops in the local context in Kiribati.It is more than that. People do not see agriculture (home gardening) as a possible solution to their problems. Consequently, food security is becoming a major challenge that builds on the four pillars of food availability, accessibility, nutrition and variability. Household gardening contributes substantially to the four pillars by providing available food source, physical access and the nutrition-rich food source from the garden.

Traditionally, the culture of building ones’ self-pride and position in the community through the acquired skills in maintaining food sufficiency at a subsistence level has shifted to a cash economybehaviour which describes the paradigm shift from eating locally grown food to imported food. The convenience of imported food over locally grown food has influenced our choice and disregarded the significant values traditional food has in the traditional cultural environment as well as in the local economic context.

To reverse the trend, one has to realise the complexities of dealing with human behaviour which controls the consumerism behaviour and the choices we make. In order to improve household food production, there has to be an element of economy attached while the overarching benefit an individual will gain from the consumption of healthy diets is always undermined. The interaction of these factors; humans x plant genetic make-up x environment is only one side of the coin in the food production system whilst, there are also other contributing factors that are specific to the local context.


These kind of friendly-user cooking recipes are expected by the project to be sustainable and have a healthy impact on more than 11,000 people living in the 4 project islands.