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Department of Pacific Affairs’ Visiting Fellow, Gonzaga (Zag) Puas, is leading a climate change adaptation project in collaboration with the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) Department of Health and Social Affairs (DHSA), the US Association of State and Territorial Officials (ASTHO), the University of the South Pacific, CRIOBE (Coral Reef Research Laboratory of Excellence LABEX on Moorea), and the Australian National University. The project began in December in 2017. The project links climate change mitigating food security and enhanced health through increasing the percentage of traditional foods in the diet in four low-lying island communities in the Mortlocks region of Chuuk state. Food production and water management were prioritized as the main foci of the project.
A series of well attended workshops about the rise in the sea level were conducted in the Mortlocks which attracted more than hundred people from four different islands. Sea level rise has caused many hardships in the low-lying islands because of sea water incursion on farm land. These sea intrusions have also affected ground wells used for drinking water. In order to address these twin issues, a model water tank was proposed, and salt water tolerant taro were identified and planted. This was done to ensure a healthier life-style for islanders by continuing to consume traditional food and conserve drinking water.
The project was extended to Pohnpei in January 2018 utilising lessons learned from the Mortlocks. A model taro farm has been established in the nation’s capital, Palikir. Four youth groups are involved in traditional food production and water conservation. The farm has attracted the attention of academics, community leaders, and health workers in the community. The project has also been integrated into a long-term research study for the purpose of educating the public about the link between climate change and public health. Pasifika students from ANU will soon be part of this ongoing project’s next stage which will blend traditional knowledge and low-cost technology from the outside world.