Fresh food security with a Tokelau taste

16 October 2015

Today is World Food Day with the theme “Social protection and Agriculture”. What does this mean for Tokelau, where you can’t just go into a shop and buy fresh food and vegetables? You’ll either have to bring them in via boat or grow them. As shipping takes several days between purchase and arrival, the “grow it yourself” option is definitely the healthier. And it can be fun, too!
Saia Mikaele Maiava has been showing this in a demonstration project in his home garden in Nukunonu, the middle one of the three Tokelau atolls. Using the “keyhole technique” that’s been developed in Africa, he’s achieving amazing results in his garden, which has effectively a substrate of coral rock only.

“All it takes is a few hours to set it up and plant your seeds and seedlings in carefully prepared layers of water retaining material (such as cardboard) topped up with soil and compost. After that it’s just a matter of adding daily organic waste to a bin in the centre of each mini-garden; and then watering the centre also. Nutrients will seep from there and nourish the plants. It only takes a few weeks before you can start harvesting,” he says.

Mika has been sharing his knowledge and experience with members of the Tokelau Youth Forum that recently visited Samoa’s capital Apia. In a public garden in Aleisa they developed a prototype keyhole mini-garden using surrounds of concrete blocks, a mesh centre for composting and watering, and some bags of potting mix and seeds to get things started. All it cost was a few hundred tala using bought materials, and then it’s all go. But you can use cheaper or free materials also, such as rocks instead of bricks…
Saia Mikaele Maiava in his home garden comprising several keyhole minigardens, in Nukunonu, Tokelau. All organic waste and water just goes into the bin.
Most of the youth participating have now returned to their home atoll – Atafu, Nukunonu or Fakaofo – and intend to get such projects started in each village. This will provide Tokelauans with the opportunity to grow, collect and eat healthier fresh food. Not only good fun, but fighting non-communicable diseases such as obesity in the process. And growing your own fruit and vegetables is a good form of food security as well, in case the regular boat service is disrupted.

Not to mention that communal gardens are an excellent way of combining social activities and agriculture – just what World Food Day wants to encourage!

Tokelau youth at a new keyhole garden demonstation project in Aliesa, Apia, Samoa last month.

For further information contact:

Mikaele Maiava mikaele.maiava@gmail.com
Jewel Toloa jewel.luti.toloa@gmail.com, or 
Whelma Villar-Kennedy whelma.villar-kennedy@undp.org
Office of the Council for the Ongoing Government of Tokelau, Apia, Samoa. Ph. +685 20822​