The Inspirational Qualities of Sustainable Farming in Mangaia

Dec 2, 2016

There is something inspirational in watching people achieve their dreams. To watch people overcome the adversities that life throws at them, for life can at times be fickle, difficult and frustrating and it is within these instances that inspiration is of such importance. With this in mind it would seem that something very humbling for an individual is to be the source of inspiration themselves. To be the ones who bravely overcome adversity and through this break the ground, as such, over which others can follow. This does not need to be on the grand or global scales, it can also be an everyday occurrence and each action’s inspiration can be just as powerful as the other. 

For a number of young farmers on the island of Mangaia in the Cook Islands, they are hoping that their actions will become a source of inspiration that will positively affect other youth not only within their community, but also their country and world at large. 

Rourumaru Papatua, one of the young farmers, explained the situation clearly in highlighting the motivation behind the actions, “[to] [s]how them through example and tell and encourage the youth who are unemployed or school leavers.” 

Rourumaru is one of a number of youth who are currently partaking in the ‘Young Farmers Initiative’ which is one of the key outputs of the, “Strengthening the Resilience of our Islands and our Communities to Climate Change” (SRIC-CC) project. This is a five year project that will end in 2017, with the main funding coming from the Adaptation Fund. 

The implementing agency for the project is the, Government of Cook Islands: Climate Change Coordination Unit and Emergency Management Cook Islands in the Office of the Prime Minister. With the UNDP Multi-Country Office Samoa, offering project oversight and guidance. The main goals of the project are to; strengthen the ability of all Cook Island communities, and the public service, to make informed decisions and manage anticipated climate change driven pressures in a proactive, integrated and strategic manner. This in turn is realised through four main components, these being; Strengthening and implementing climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction at national level, strengthening capacities for climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction in the Pa Enua, implementing climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction measures in the Pa Enua, and climate change adaptation knowledge management.   

The young farmer’s initiative falls under the third component. Here young farmers, 60% of which are female, have been trained in the practices of climate resilient farming. One of the most inspiring aspects of this initiative is not only the resilience building, in terms of food security, that this initiative generates, but also the way in which it questions gender roles and dynamics. 

Formally the farming sector was dominated by males, however this project has proven that farming can be performed by anyone. 

As Faith Taoia, another participant, highlighted; her proudest moment thus far was “the ability to show others (boys and girls) that I can do agriculture in a man’s world”. 

Questioning these dominant ideologies and stereotypes is something that is of key importance to moving our world forwards. It is also a form of inspiration and leadership. There is much for the global community to learn from these actions and because of this it is important that these actions do not take place in isolation. If we are to generate change on the larger scale then these stories and these successes need to be seen, heard and celebrated. This is needed so as to allow others to find the inspiration they need to either make change or continue with the changes that they are already making. 

However, for the young farmers of Mangaia what is of most importance is providing for their families and their communities. While also inspiring other youth from within their region into sustainable farming practices so that they can support their communities as well. 

This inspiration, this want to help others change, is something that is difficult to measure quantitatively, yet it is of central importance to not only the Cook Islands but also the global community. It would be hoped that we can all find some form of inspiration from the actions of these young farmers so as to guide us through the difficulties that life throws at us. 


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