Progress report for RGR20-003
The demand for locally grown agricultural products continues to rise and the need for food security is a given in the Micronesian region. Majority of agricultural producers in the region lack the knowledge of the development and management of sustainable agroforestry farming. Small-scale agroforestry systems were once dominant throughout the islands of the Western Pacific. This tradition is slowly declining. Along with traditional methods, modern innovative practices and a wider variety of fruits and vegetables can be revived. Isolated islands contain fragile and limited natural resources, particularly water and soil. These natural resources need to be protected, enhanced and sustained to ensure long-term viability for agroecosystems. It is important to understand the parameters of developing and sustaining such agroforestry systems. The expected outcome of this proposed project is to educate, increase skills and knowledge of agricultural professionals and producers on developing and managing sustainable agroforestry systems. This project aims to: (1) Enhance and maintain an existing model agroforest system at the University of Guam and develop new agroforestry systems or improve existing agroforestry system owned and operated by 1 or 2 local producers. (2) Conduct on-site workshops on each site focusing on the development and management of the integrated small-scale sustainable agroforest system at each respective site that have participated in the grant. The maintenance and improvement of the existing UOG demonstration model agroforest system, will expand to participating cooperator(s) emphasizing on practicality and feasibility, and focusing on ready-available resources of each island. Development of online ready-available outreach material and the conducting of workshops will further extend the knowledge and resources of sustainable agroforestry throughout the islands of the Western Pacific.
- The primary objective of this proposed project is to build agriculture professionals’, producers’, and the general public’s skills and knowledge of developing and managing a sustainable small-scale agroforestry system. Participants will understand the importance of growing food to enhance food security. They will learn traditional and modern agroforestry concepts and conservation practices that aim to optimize plant production in small, manageable areas while sustaining and enhancing natural resources, particularly soil and water.
- The second objective is to further educate agriculture professionals, producers, and the general public of the potential of the profitability of small-scale agroforest systems. A highly productive agroforest system can result in surplus food that can turn into monetary profits for growers thus improving livelihoods of producers and meet some of the demands of locally produced foods, leading to an increase in local economies.
- The third objective is to continue to promote and emphasize the importance of sustainable agriculture throughout the region and how consuming locally grown produce leads to healthier lifestyles, maintain traditional cultivation knowledge and adopt modern cultivation methods that sustain soil and water quality for current and future generations.
Micronesia’s tropical climate provides the possibility to cultivate crops year-round. Although traditional agroforestry still exists throughout Micronesia, it has decreased within the past several decades. Reasons for decline in the region are highly due to development, high dependency on imported foods, western methods of cultivation, lack of resources, and a reduction of recruitment of producers. At least 90% of food consumed on Guam is imported (Marutani et al, 1997), which is similar in many neighboring islands. Diet and workforce changes of the past 40 years have resulted in a high reliance on imports and decreasing number and output of farms. These islands are at risk of region-wide food insecurity especially if there is an interruption to imports. With a huge decrease in sustainable traditional agroforestry systems, a whole body of cultural knowledge, production, processing, preservation, and consumption is disappearing. On Guam, two generations of farmers were lost and while, not as advanced, these same trends are taking place throughout Micronesia impacting island food security, health, and economy. There is a need for a professional and producer workforce trained in sustainable modern and traditional holistic food production. Promoting economic viability, social welfare, providing food for human needs and enhancement of natural environment are the prime focuses of sustainable agriculture (Longpichai, 2012).
The recent completion of SARE Professional + Producer grant OW15-031, Seven Trees, Seven Practices: Demonstrating Agroforestry in the Western Pacific, resulted in the development of several agroforestry systems on Guam that focused on cultivating fruit trees integrated with short-term crops within a 400 square meter plot. The systems emphasized on utilization of renewable resources, technological devices (irrigation systems), and conservation practices that aim to sustain water quality and quality, and enhance soil quality and tilth. Plots consisted of traditional and newer varieties of truck crops, which is important to increase diversity for producers and choices for consumers. Many producers concentrate on production, thus resulting in a lack of a clear understanding of the ever-changing consumer wants and needs (ATTRA, 1999).
In this proposal, we aim to improve the developed agroforest system (located at the University of Guam) derived from SARE Professional + Producer grant OW15-031 to provide as a long-term model. We look to expand the concepts of this model, and develop similar models in 1 or 2 local farms of Guam. Specific sites chosen for this projects will need to be assessed along with available resources as to what crops are important to the community and appropriate for planting in a given site’s micro-climate.
Development and maintenance of small-scale agroforestry systems can support families with local food, and possibly increase profits for current and future producers of the region. Integrating trees into the agricultural landscape has the potential to impact the local economy through increasing economic stability, diversification of local products and economies, diversification of rural skills, improved food security, improvements to the environment (both cultural and biological), and landscape diversification (Smith, 2010).
Education & Outreach Initiatives
Provide education and training on proper and appropriate propagation methods.
Through online and/or face-to-face workshops, participants will learn proper propagation methods of food crops appropriate to grow in the Western Pacific. Workshops/trainings will include presentations, demonstrations and hands-on activity (when permitted). Participants will learn sexual and asexual plant propagation methods.
Workshops/trainings will increase knowledge and skills of participants in plant propagation methods including proper plant care in the field and/or in a plant nursery setting. Participants will consists of local producers, students, agricultural professionals, and interest groups.
Develop online outreach material (fact sheets) consisting of agroforestry crops and conservation practices applicable to the region. Fact sheets will be also be available as handouts to the general public.
Staff funded by this WSARE grant and students will be tasked to develop educational fact sheets of food crops and conservation practices that are applicable to the region. Students of the Agriculture and Life Sciences (ALS) undergraduate program of the College of Natural and Applied Sciences (CNAS), University of Guam (UOG) will be able to gain up to 3 University of Guam credits in these processes as a special project course. Through researching information, site visits, hands-on activities, and interviews with and guidance from agricultural professionals, staff and students will draft fact sheets of assigned food crops and conservation practices. Drafts will be submitted to the Publications Review Committee of Cooperative Extension & Outreach, ALS, CNAS, UOG for official publication approval. Fully approved drafts will be published and made available online and as handouts to the general public.
Future producers/agricultural professionals consisting of UOG students and staff will learn to develop outreach materials focusing on Agroforestry sustainable conservation practices and crops appropriate to the region. Researching and citing appropriate resources, students and staff will learn about growing food crops and sustainable conservation practices, and will also improve writing skills. Fact sheets will be aimed to be understood by the general public.
Through these educational outreach materials, producers, agriculture students and professionals, and interested people in general, will have easy access to learn and adopt concepts provided in the fact sheets.
Install a permanent non-electric fence system and other conservation practices at 1 or 2 agroforestry plots of local producers (Grant Cooperators) to deter/exlclude entrance feral ungulate (swine/deer) into permanent agroforestry plots.
Through this grant, install 1 or 2 non-electric feral ungulate deterrent fence systems on 1 or 2 local private agroforestry systems. Feral pig populations are increasing and causing detrimental damage to agroforestry and crop farm systems in Guam. Although electric-fencing is less costly than a permanent non-electric fence system, a non-electric fence system works better long-term and maintenance is much less than electric fence systems. Feral ungulates, particularly wild pig and deer, are known to compromise integrity of electric fence systems much easier than permanent, sturdy non-electric fence barriers. Non-electric fence systems will be installed around fields of 1 or 2 identified cooperators who actively produce food crops in agroforestry settings. Site(s) will also be used as a WSARE demonstration plot. Cooperator(s) will conduct site visits from the general public upon appointment. WSARE grant investigators will participate as presenters when available for site visits. Investigators and cooperator(s) will also conduct workshops to the general public that will include the display/demonstration of sustainable agroforestry practices other than the exclusion fence. The fence will be highlighted as a costly practice that will benefit agroforestry systems long-term.
Demonstration of food crop varieties and conservation practices applicable to the region will increase regional knowledge of agroforestry, revive traditional agroforestry, introduce modern techniques and additional varieties of food crops with the intention to increase regional food security, promote healthy lifestyles, and maintain/enhance the quality of surrounding natural resources.
Make outreach material available through social media. Such material may include video clips of workshops conducted, and highlighting specific crops and conservation practices
Broaden online access to outreach materials, events, and activities produced from this grant.
Products of this grant will be made more available by increasing general public access through online channels such as common social media venues and websites.
Continue to maintain and improve UOG Agroforestry Demonstration plot to serve as a working display for educational tours, workhops, and hands-on horticultural, cultivation, field operation activities.
The WSARE-UOG forestry demonstration plot was developed through a previous WSARE grant. This current grant has been supporting the upkeeping and improvement of this plot since the commencement of grant activities. It continuously serves as a model agroforestry plot, UOG Agriculture course outdoor lab site, and educational site for the general public for site visits and workshops.
UOG Agriculture students will practice and learn agroforestry cultivation and conservation methods that promote sustainable agriculture, food security, healthy lifestyles, and environmental awareness. Tours of the plot will continue and workshops focused on crop development and conservation practices will continue to be conducted with participants with interest including students, staff, local producers, agricultural interest groups, and the general public.
Educational & Outreach Activities
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the original objectives of the grant could not be met. The objectives that could not be met included the participation of Agricultural professionals from the islands of Pohnpei and the Republic of the Marshall Islands in an initial workshop that was to be conducted at UOG's agroforestry demonstration plot, and for UOG Agricultural Professionals to travel down to the would have been developed agroforestry demonstration plots in Pohnpei and the Republic of the Marshall Islands for a follow-up on project progress including conducting workshops for the general public at the plots of the two islands groups. Alternative objectives were proposed and approve to include 1 to 2 local producers of Guam to establish or improve an existing agroforestry system. One local producer has been identified and has been practicing conservation practices in his agroforestry system. The other producer is yet to be identified.
The existing UOG agroforestry demonstration plot continues to be maintained and improved through this grant. Although numerous site visits occur, the most notable activity is the January 5, 2022 workshop. The workshop entailed a tour and presentation of the WSARE-UOG agroforestry demonstration plot at House 2, Dean’s Circle. Food crops appropriate to the Western Pacific were presented along with several agricultural conservation practices appropriate for small-scale agroforestry systems. The workshop also entailed basic plant propagation methods (seed propagation and propagation by cuttings of plant stems/branches. Principal and 1 Co-Investigator of this grant were the main presenters of the workshop. A UOG 4-H Extension Agent coordinated the participation of local (Pohnpei and Palau) 4-H community groups who are developing agroforestry systems on designated sites on Guam. Other participants included 2 local producers and UOG Agriculture students. Other than presentations, hands-on activities pertaining to plant propagation methods were demonstrated by WSARE grant PI and Co-PI and then performed by all participants. There have also been several tours with limited numbers people (due to COVID-19 UOG rules) that had occurred from November - December, 2021. Tours included typical presentations of existing crops and conservation practices onsite. Site tours and workshops increased awareness and understanding of starting up new agroforestry and/or maintaining and improving active existing agroforestry plots with proper propagation methods. Site presentations of food crops and conservation practice promote sustainable agroforestry with the objective of good crop production and maintaining and enhancing natural resource quality and quantity.
6 fact sheets were developed and published through this grant and are available online and as handouts.
For food security and soil quality enhancement, a project on farmers growing their own seed source for cover crops would be a good project. Recommended cover crop species are not readily available on Guam, and buying such seeds from off-island can be costly.