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. Isolated islands of the Western Pacific including Guam, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), 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 model agroforest systems in three neighboring Micronesian islands. (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 island site. The model of the existing agroforest system, along with the sustainable agricultural concepts/practices, will expand to the other participating islands emphasizing on practicality and feasibility, and focusing on ready-available resources of each island.
- 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 the neighboring Micronesian islands of Majuro (RMI), and Pohnpei (FSM). Specific sites chosen for this project on respective neighboring islands will need to be assessed along with available resources as to what crops are important to a specific 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).
- - Producer
- - Producer
Education on seed propagation and asexual propagation (cuttings) applicable methods was provided to the participants with open discussion. Propagation media focused on native and commercial media that can be used, considering advantages and disadvantages of both. Trainings focused on seeds and vegetative materials for cuttings of desired, region-appropriate, crops. A second training was provided on basic plant nursery set-up using available materials (housing structure, nursery benches, and irrigation systems, including renewable resources for infrastructure. Trainings were conducted online due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Guam in a condition where face-to-face interaction is prohibited on-campus. Trainees/participants were students and the director of the dormitory.
Education & Outreach Initiatives
Provide education and training on proper and appropriate propagation of crops through seeds and cuttings. Provide technical and educational assistance on developing a plant nursery
Online virtual trainings/workshops were provided to participants on plant propagation and plant nursery development. Several seed sowing methods were featured and discussed including seed material, media, temperature, and moisture needed for successful seed germination. Types of cutting methods were featured and discussed along with proper micro-climate (media, moisture control, sunlight and temperature) and overall plant care from initial propagating to outplanting into the field.
Although face-to-face in an appropriate field and plant nursery setting would be more effective in these type of trainings, online virtual training still increased the knowledge of the participants on the subject matters. The participants have initiated the plant propagation methods and are currently obtaining materials to develop a plant nursery. The participants have established a small agroforestry plot within the dormitory that will serve as a community-like agroforest plot as a food source promoting food security, food diversity, healthier food choices, project management, and collaboration.
Educational & Outreach Activities
Increased awareness and understanding of starting up agroforestry plots with proper propagation methods including the development of a plant nursery (when resources exist). These trainings provide increased knowledge of sustainable agroforestry while maintaining and enhancing natural resource quality and quantity.