As people around the world learn to live with the COVID-19 crisis, women in a small atoll island in the Marshall Islands, are reaping the benefits of a three-year long, European Union (EU) funded project that was started in 2017 to help build their resilience to climate related droughts.
These efforts are part of the € 4.5 million EU – North Pacific – Readiness for El Niño (RENI) project, implemented by the Pacific Community (SPC). The project began implementing new food security measures in 2017 in the remote, drought-prone, atolls of northern RMI, namely in Ailuk, a rural environment, and Santo-Kwajalein, a semi-urban environment.
In Ailuk, the RENI project has worked with the residents to increase the availability of local food crops by establishing community nurseries, expanding the use of drought resistant crop varieties, improving soil management practices, and increasing water storage capacity.
“In these uncertain times, and as a farmer myself, I would like to express my deep appreciation for the on-going efforts by the RENI project in building on the existing policies of the RMI government to revive subsistence farming in our islands.
I would like to urge us all to start our own gardens, in anticipation of reaping the fruits of our labour in the very near future”, said the Minister of Natural Resources and Commerce, Hon. Sandy Alfred.
Women are playing a vital role in these initiatives, by establishing home gardens, and learning to preserve and cook local vegetables for their families. With the help of Canvasback Wellness Centre, basic health checks have been conducted and exercise groups have been established for the entire community, thereby helping islanders curb non-communicable diseases.
“We loved the cooking classes and even tried new food like mung bean sprouts and lentils. Being part of the exercise group has been very enjoyable, the women usually tell stories and jokes as we walk. The trainings provided has been very beneficial to me and my family, we are trying to be active and eat healthy so I want to thank the RENI project for finding us here in Ailuk,” said Hemly Anious, a resident of Ailuk Atoll.
SPC has partnered in these initiatives with several local organisations, including the Ministry of Natural Resources and Commerce, Canvasback Wellness Centre, Marshall Islands Organic Farmers Association, the Taiwan Technical Mission and Women United Together Marshall Islands.
“In line with the European Green Deal – promoting an integrated approach for climate resilience and sustainable development, we are committed to assisting Pacific Island Countries address agriculture, health and wellness together. In the Marshall Islands, this approach is expanded to Jaluit and Majuro Atolls, which is very welcome in light of the uncertain environment created by the COVID-19 crisis,” said the Ambassador of the EU for the Pacific, HE Sujiro Seam.
SPC’s Director-General Stuart Minchin emphasized the wide-ranging benefits of the RENI project saying, “This project is ultimately about enhancing the resilience of people and communities and achieving our common vision of a resilient Pacific in the face of climate change and variability.
Through the combined efforts of SPC, the RMI government and local organisations, we have been able to enhance the resilience of those living in selected outer islands of RMI not only for future droughts but also in our collective fight against COVID-19”.