Enhanced Food Security for Disaster Prone Communities in Vanuatu

Partnerships to enhance community resilience through enhanced food security in Vanuatu

Vanuatu is an agriculture-based economy, with 80% of the population depending entirely on subsistence agriculture for both their daily sustenance and well-being, and collectively the sector accounting for at least 20% of GDP (MALFFB, 2014). A number of partners, led by the Vanuatu Ministry of Agriculture’s Risk Resilient Unit, worked together with communities to deliver a Resilient Agriculture initiative. The initiative involved a combination of training, demonstration plots, Knowledge Hubs, material distribution and establishment (or strengthening) of community led committees to oversee activities. This approach was adopted by communities in Efate, Tafea, Sanma and Shefa Provinces with support from a network of Agriculture Extension Officers who have been trained in climate change and disaster risk management (CCDRM).

The following flow chart highlights the activities from national to community level undertaken to deliver the Resilient Agriculture initiatives. This diagram highlights the change that the enabling environment has undergone to facilitate the initiatives. Importantly strengthening the enabling environment, rather than just delivering to the projects, will ensure climate change and disaster risks are integral considerations in all projects in the sector in the future.

The impact of the Resilient Agriculture Project has included:

  • A contribution to increased food availability, diversity and quality in the markets, particularly
    vegetables (lettuce, tomato, greens) and onions as a result of improved risk management.
  • Women are playing a key role in implementation of food security priorities of communities, including observations that the knowledge hubs with active participation of women that are the strongest. For example the women’s group in the Paunigisu Knowledge Hub are now germinating vegetable seeds all year round to generate income for use post disaster.
  • An improvement in nutritional food sources available in these communities as reliance on imported food has decreased and diet has become more balanced as crop diversity has increased. In partnership with health advocates such as CARE International work to reduce malnutrition has included backyard gardening and use of homemade compost in Tanna, with Aid Post Nurses reporting a reduction in diseases showing in the clinic.

As a result, there has been a transformation in resilience in communities, and in the way crops are shared between communities on neighbouring islands:

  • Resilience in relation to food security has increased, particularly as a result of increased crop diversity and a shift back to more traditional crops.
  • Inter-island crop and seedling sharing has been enhanced. Linked to the improvement in resilience, through the Agriculture Extension Officers and the Knowledge Hubs, distribution of materials between neighbouring communities has increased, particularly in response to disaster events.
  • Replication. The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, through the Agriculture Extension Officers, are replicating the Resilient Agriculture initiatives, for instance in Tanna. Utilising this model as an example for future Extension Officer activities will allow demonstration of more resilient cropping, improved nutrition and improved coordination.

Lessons learnt

  • Strong partner coordination has resulted in pooling of resources, less duplication and better outcomes for communities.
  • Ensuring that gender and social issues were central to the planning and implementation of each resilient agriculture initiative, which resulted in greater representation of women and youths in knowledge hub committees. The knowledge hubs with more balanced representation were observed to be the strongest.
  • Examples are extremely powerful. Farmers and community members who were skeptical of new techniques were often convinced upon seeing the success of the demonstration plots.
  • Strengthening the enabling environment for delivery of more resilient agriculture projects ensured the approach was more systematic and sustainable. This included the establishment of the RRU within MALFFB, the establishment of dedicated CCDRM capacity, capacity strengthening for the Agriculture Extension Officers, and the endorsement of the risk informed Sub-national Planning Guidelines.