The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) has signed agreements with five communities in Luganville — Solway, Pepsi, Saint Michelle school, Santo East and Lycee de Luganville – to tackle food security.

Under the agreements signed in August this year, the communities will work with DARD to address the importance of food security through a project call ‘Urban Backyard Garden’ supported by the 11th European Development Fund (EDF11) project.

The objective of the project is to address the issue of food insecurity in urban areas by supporting the establishment of community gardens within Port Vila and Luganville, providing training on ways to make better use of available space such as backyards to produce food crops and to promote ecologically sustainable intensification of production in local food gardens.

Such project is important in improving the availability and access to fresh fruits and vegetables as it is a critical issue for Vanuatu’s growing urban population for population health as well as resilience to natural disasters and climate change.

The DARD’s Vegetable Specialist and same time project coordinator, Heggar Molisa, stated, “This project of backyard garden is an innovative approach whereby the DARD works collaboratively with the communities to ensure food security in urban areas like Luganville.

“One important aspect of this project is to ensure Vanuatu has a healthy population in this challenging time we are encountering in regards to COVID-19.

“Luganville town has been identified as one of the vulnerable cities to natural disasters highlighting the need to increase resilience of its food and increasing own food production is an important step in increasing the resilience of the urban food system and improving access for lower groups in particular.”

A team consisting of DARD’s Technical Officers are currently in Luganville, delivering a packaged training on the five identified project sites.

“The training targets the importance of backyard gardening, raising vegetable seedlings in a nursery, nutrition, soil improvement techniques, pest and disease affecting vegetables and fruit trees, simple gross margin and practical session on seed sowing, soil preparation and planting.

“These sites have been selected based on an assessment criteria centers on food security needs, vulnerable groups affected by natural disasters and COVID 19 pandemic, good community cohesion, access to reliable water source, record data on NCDs within communities and access to secure land.

“There are three selected schools amongst the two community sites as these schools want to promote local food and are already implementing backyard garden activities.

“I believe this project will also educate the students in regards to the agriculture lessons they are learning inside the classroom.”

Urban sites were selected to allow comparison from different sites.

After the signing of agreements with the five communities in Luganville in August 2021, the DARD handed over farming tools such as wheelbarrows, mesh chicken wire, shade cloth, chainsaw, seed trays, organic fertilizer, forks, knives, hand gloves, tape measures, nails, hammers, hand saw, plastic film, pot plants and packets of vegetable seeds to the representatives of the project sites to assist with the implementation of the project.

“The project site communities in Luganville are already implementing activities of backyard garden by growing vegetables that they should be harvesting in November to December 2021.

“After the first training, a follow up visit will be conducted to observe the progress of each project sites.”

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