Tuvalu is a low lying atoll nation located north of Fiji. Funafuti is the capital of Tuvalu and the most populated atoll. Biofilta is working on a DFAT funded project aimed at improving food security and nutrition outcomes on the island. We are in partnership with Growing Tall, an organisation based in Funafuti which is dedicated to empowering Tuvaluans to grow their own food.
Growing food in Funafuti is a challenge that’s only getting more difficult. The atoll has an average elevation above sea level of 1.8 metres. This means that king tides will often encroach on arable land, making it extremely difficult to grow food. Sea level rises are making these inundation events more frequent and more severe. Not only that, the atoll is made primarily from calcium carbonate which has a ph of around 9. In short, the soil is extremely alkaline and extremely salty. The only fresh water comes from the sky and the soil is very poor at holding moisture so in the absence of rain it becomes almost impossible to irrigate crops. These challenges are having knock on effects on food security, health and nutrition in Funafuti.
Interestingly, the challenges to food growing in Funafuti are similar to those faced in many urban environments: inadequate soil and water scarcity. This positions our innovative wicking garden systems as ideal for growing fresh, nutritious vegetables in Funafuti. Our systems are raised so there is no risk of salt water inundation and our wicking technology is extremely water efficient, using only a fraction of the water needed in conventional agriculture. We are working with the island’s green waste treatment facility to acquire composted material to use in a soil blend that has an appropriate ph.
How are we doing it?
We are currently trialling the systems in a number of sites around Funafuti. We have installed our systems at Fetuvalu High School so it can be used as an educational tool to teach high school students about food production. We also have an installation at Princess Margaret Hospital and the food grown is being used in hospital meals for patients. Another garden has been built at The Red Cross, the University of the South Pacific and a number of private residences.
At each site we are also trialling a variety of soil blends so we can figure out what soil inputs are most suited for the Biofilta system. We are currently completing a monitoring program.