Training "Agents" in On-Farm Implementation of Sustainable Management Systems for Tropical Agriculture in Hawaii and the Pacific Region
1. To develop extension training curricula emphasizing the paradigm of sustainable agriculture under island ecosystems and to train extension agents and other field-level agriculture professionals to enable them to help farmers implement sustainable agriculture strategies at the field level in tropical areas of the Western Region.
In 1997, twenty-six Pacific Region Cooperative Extension agents and five Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) field staff from the islands of Hawaii, Guam, Majuro (Marshall Islands), Saipan (Northern Mariana Islands), Palau, Pohnpei and Kosrae (Federated States of Micronesia), and American Samoa received training in sustainable agriculture management systems in three training sessions in Hawaii, Guam and Pohnpei, Micronesia. This second year training was designed to develop training modules, emphasizing a more intensive, hands-on approach through on-site demonstration programs. A major focus of this year’s training was an emphasis on traditional Pacific Island agricultural systems and aquaculture operations, and the land-sea connections intrinsic in island cultures.
Demonstration sites were established on the islands of Guam, Pohnpei, and Kauai (Hawaii) prior to the training to provide farmers and agents valuable experience, tools, and skills to develop, evaluate, and more effectively deliver sustainable agriculture concepts and practices introduced in the first year training. Agents met for three intensive, week-long, immersion courses from March 10-April 4, 1997, to learn about Agroforestry, Composting, Farm Financial Management, Participatory Research and Extension Techniques, Nutrient Management, Cover Crops, Native and Useful Plants, Aquaculture, and Biologically-Based Pest Management. Agents will continue to hold sustainable agriculture workshops/demonstrations on their own islands following the training. Funding has been requested to develop video tapes of these topics to further increase the dissemination power of these trainings.
The first training session was held in Hawaii, from March 10-14, 1997, on the islands of Kauai and Molokai. Agents from ten islands in the Pacific met at a certified organic farm on Kauai to view the on-farm demonstration of botanical insecticides (neem, pyrethrum and rotenone) used against a new insect pest of vegetables and herbs in Hawaii. An instructor from the USDA emphasized the value of biologically-based fruit fly management, a major pest of most island fruits and vegetables. Visitation of an integrated aquaculture-agriculture operation exposed agents to the value of incorporating a normal pollutant, fish culture effluent, into a taro (Colocasia esculenta) operation. On the island of Molokai, where diversified agriculture is promoted as a replacement for the abandoned pineapple fields, the theme of the training was “Biologically-Based Fertilization and Nematode Management.”
The second training session was held at the University of Guam from March 23-27, 1997. The theme of “Participatory Research and Extension (P R & E) for Sustainable Agriculture” was developed to lead agents into a discussion on external forces affecting traditional agriculture in the region: land tenure issues (lack of access to permanent holdings), limited resources, and population increases due to immigration from outer islands. Strengths in these systems include strong family support, extensive local knowledge, and an environmental awareness that agricultural activities up-stream affect the productivity of the reef down-stream (a critical factor for island economies).
For the third session in the training, agents were transported to the even more isolated island of Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). Trainees participated in an on-farm planting of sakau which will rely on the inherent fertility of this site via N-fixing companion tree species and rotations of crops over time. A field visit to an upland agroforest-sakau planting brought about an appreciation for the evolution of traditional agroforestry systems on more sustainable (less erosive) lowland areas into native upland forests where the environment is more fragile. Participants from Hawaii, Guam and American Samoa also presented information on several livestock operations using sustainable practices, including the Deep Litter compost system in Hawaii; the pelletizing of kitchen wastes into pig feed in Guam, and the construction of septic tanks with effluent-use possibilities at a piggery in American Samoa.
The dissemination of findings from these trainings has been a continuum since the 1995 Hawaii trainings, in that seven agents have offered sustainable agriculture workshops or field days since that period, and all have incorporated sustainable agriculture information in their classes, according to a random survey of participants. The College of Northern Mariana Islands in Saipan has expanded a trial of multipurpose Leucaena trees for fertilizer, fodder, and fuel; Molokai Applied Research Farm now has permanent plots of cover crops for use in rotations with edible crops; and the University of Guam continues to hold trainings at its Aquaculture Demonstration site. Monthly telephone conference calls were scheduled by the training coordinator through PEACESAT, a satellite link-up through the University of Hawaii-Manoa, to provide progress reports and receive feedback from other agents.
The positive benefits of this program are enormous: we now have in the Region a close-knit group of agents dedicated to sustainable agriculture for the Pacific Islands. Three SARE proposals were written by the SA core group, including a research proposal on the use of rotations of cover crops in vegetable crop systems on the islands of Hawaii, Saipan, American Samoa and Guam, and a continuation of the PDP with a video component. In addition, several SARE Farmer-Rancher grant proposals were written with agents from the SA group, including a project using soap-based products as virus mitigants/insect-repellents in Hawaii and a medicinal herb project in American Samoa. Agents who had no previous experience with writing grant proposals are now interested in seeking extramural funding to support their SA efforts.
Impacts on Agricultural Professionals
Based on evaluations from the participants, the majority of trainees felt that the training offered valuable information and skills which would be used on their own islands. Trainees are now better equipped to respond to producers’ requests for sustainable agriculture information as a result of knowledge gained through these trainings. “We must keep the momentum going,” wrote one agent, “we have so much more to learn in the area of sustainable agriculture.” In addition to the on-farm/on-station SA projects, which will provide additional SA information for their clientele, agents are preparing additional field days and workshops on SA practices. The training manual which was produced for these sessions provides valuable resource material for dissemination.
Reactions from Farmers and Ranchers
The interest from the farmers and ranchers associated with the SARE Program has not waned, as nine farmers were involved as trainers and participants in this year’s training. Several SA farmers in Hawaii, however, felt that their continued involvement would be based on the University’s attitude towards organic farming methods (i.e., through their representation on the SA Task Force). “Organic” farmers in the traditionally farmed areas of the Pacific Islands represent the mainstream and do not feel animosity from University personnel. Feedback from the trainees regarding the integration of farmers/ranchers as resource personnel included a deep appreciation of their experience and local knowledge, and the desire to continue to involve them in future trainings.
This summary was prepared by the project coordinator for the 1999 reporting cycle.
Agriculture and Resource Economics, University of Hawaii at Manoa
3050 Maile Way, Gilmore 115
Honolulu, HI 96822
Office Phone: 8089567692