Can Organic Agriculture be implemented in Pohnpei?

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Can Organic Agriculture be implemented in Pohnpei? Powered By Docstoc
					Can Organic Agriculture be implemented in Pohnpei?

Abstract. Organic agricultural methods are becoming the desired form of agriculture
around the world due its sustainable techniques and health-safe products. The island of
Pohnpei, part of the Federated States of Micronesia, has not yet began to fully utilize
the availability of information and lessons of successful organic agriculture practice.
Depending heavily on imports for dietary needs, it would be beneficial for Pohnpei to
adopt methods of organic agriculture to develop a more self-sufficient form of food
production. Ideally, the implementation of organic agriculture will improve lands,
resources, and the health of the people.


       The island of Pohnpei lies in the North Pacific Ocean, about three quarters of the

way from Hawaii to Indonesia (The World Factbook, 2007). Pohnpei heavily depends

on food imports from the US, Japan, and Australia. Its main crops and exports are fish,

copra, banana, and black pepper (SIDSNET, 2000). Some biophysical vulnerabilities

include the fragile environments of the island nations, limited land resources, shortages

of basic resources, and risks associated with global warming (Cocklin et al., 2000). The

purpose of this paper is to explore Pohnpei‟s traditional methods of agriculture, organic

agricultural systems, and methods based in other countries, and possible

implementation of organic agriculture into Pohnpei systems.

       Cuba‟s methods of organic agriculture will be a major point of reference when

discussing systems and methods. Cuba, following 1990‟s embargo, emerged from a

crisis by developing a different system of agriculture. Prior to embargo, Cuba‟s sugar

production outweighed that of food. In addition, Cuba was heavily dependent on

imported pesticides and food (57% of diet relied on imports). With the majority of the

crops devoted to exported sugar and a loss of imported resources, Cuba was forced to

develop applicable methods of sustainable agriculture (C.I. Nicholls et al.).

Data Collection

       Resources from the Pohnpei State Department of Agriculture provided

information on Pohnpei‟s current and traditional methods of agriculture. Also provided

by them is data pertaining to land utilized by each crop, the efficiency of these methods,

and observed benefits and difficulties.

        An extensive array of available journal material pertaining to organic agriculture

was reviewed. Viable methods of other countries‟ successful organic agriculture

practices are presented in this paper as possible methods for implementation on the

island of Pohnpei.

Traditional Agricultural Practices of Pohnpei

(The Department of Agriculture has sent me some information via post, but I have not

received it. I will input data and collected information when it arrives. After our first

drafts are given back, I will revise quickly and add new information – and show it to you.)

Defining Organic Agriculture

       Organic (sustainable) agriculture systems are supposed to significantly reduce

energy and resource use, by reusing resources in the farming system. Major focus on

organic agriculture is to solve environmental, safety, and health problems faced by

modern conventional agriculture. Conventional agriculture depends on the use of

pesticides and machinery (Guthman, 2000; Xie Bao et. al, 2002). Organic agriculture

seeks to feed the plants indirectly by focusing on soil health. Organic agriculture‟s

impediment in the use of fertilizers is due to artificial fertilizers feeding the actual plant,
rather than the soil. Conventional agriculture is more forceful on plant life, pushing for

maximum production. Organic agriculture takes a gentler approach; more energy is

channeled into the structure and life of soil and plants (Haas et al., 2002; Lockeretz,

1982). The interactions of nutrient elements in the soil are very complex, and a

significant increase in any one frequently alters the availability of others, either positively

or negatively (Hodges, 1981). Application of one or more nutrients in large quantities to

obtain maximum productivity may result in crop nutrient imbalances or excessive uptake

of nutrients. Either situation may make the crop more susceptible to pests or diseases

(Lockeretz, 1982). Plants are also affected by fertilizers; when supplied in excess, they

can lead to consumption risks due to alterations in the plant‟s chemical content, or water

that has been polluted by runoff or leaching of the fertilizer (Schupan, 1974). The use of

conventional agriculture affects all levels of the environment – it affects soil and plant

life, consumption of plants by all levels of the biota, and water resources. Organic

agricultural practices are based on the use and renewal of resources derived from the

environment, with a focus on sustainability rather than maximum productivity.

       Different methods of organic agriculture are utilized in a variety of different areas

in which techniques are successful because of environment and systems compatibility.

For example, in Cuba alone, the alternative model of agriculture involves (1) the use of

organic fertilizers („biofertilizers); (2) biological control of pests; (3) adjusting crops and

animals to local ecological conditions; (4) animal traction and other forms of energy; (5)

crop diversification in the form of rotations and mixed cropping; (6) soil conservation,

reclamation of degraded lands and reforestation; (7) integrated crop-livestock systems;

and (8) urban agriculture (Funes et al., 2001). Concurrently, there was a promotion of
small and medium farms (Guthman, 2000). A reason for Cuba‟s success in the

conversion was due to government support, and above all, the community‟s

collaborative effort.

       For this paper, three techniques will be chosen as the essential techniques

needed to be implemented as a sustainable form of agriculture in Pohnpei. These three

will be a starting point for the development of organic agriculture, but over time, with

more practice, more techniques may be incorporated into the system.

Crop Rotation

       Cuba scientists have found it important in developing less favorable conditions

for the development of harmful organisms while encouraging diversity and abundance

of natural enemies (Vazquez & Almaguel,1997). Formerly focused on monoculture,

farmers are now adopting crop rotation. Crop rotation has been known to be widely

effective against weeds. Scientists have found ways to combine both the use of crop

rotation for effective weed and pest management (C.I. Nicholls et al.). In most

polycultures, the regulation of insect pest densities has been attributed to enhance

abundance and activity of predator and parasitoids (Perez et al., 1998). In Cuba, these

crop rotations were mainly between maize, potatoes, and beans (a nitrogen-fixing

vegetable). As a result of the suppressing effect, polycultures have produced higher

yields than monocultures (Quintero, 1999). Crop rotation increases amounts of organic

residue that support root biomass (Magdoff et al., 2004). For the island of Pohnpei,

studies need to be designed to determine which crop associations are best to produce

desired effects.

Organic Matter Ammendments
       As researcher Matsuzaki says, “All organic wastes generated on the earth should

be fully utilized as compost so that they are turned back to farmland soil (International

Conference on Nature Farming, 1989).As with the continuing theme of organic

agriculture in “feeding the soil”, the usage of organic matter has great effect on all soil

properties (chemical, biological, and physical), and therefore places it at the center of

soil health and quality (author).   In this way, the use of organic management practices

that enhance the soil also increase the addition of organic materials to the soil, use a

variety of different types of organic materials, and decrease the rate of loss of organic

matter (Lockeretz, 1982). Compost is a very valuable and useful resource, but also a

very laboring task to produce (Sunag, 2005). In areas like Pohnpei, where land is

abundant, it would be effective to implement a method resembling the alive ecosystems

of forests: in which organic substances are allowed to decompose where the soil

remains in contact with plants, without composting, and returning it into the soil. Also,

the use of well-ripened compost as fertilizer and organic substances which have been

subject to mulching as compost are thought to be an effective and labor saving way for

utilizing more effective tools of composting (Sunag, 2005).

Biological Agents

       Two methods of biological agents is the use of insecticidal plants and

microorganisms. Part of the biological control of pests is the cultivation and production

of species of plants with insecticidal qualities. In Cuba, these plants are Neem

(Azadirachta indica) and Paradise (Melia azedarach). The advantages of the use of

these plant extracts is that small scale-production is viable and it can be used directly by

farmers since no complex extractions are needed (Estrada & Lopez 1998). The use of
microorganisms are in the form of bacteria, fungi, and protozoans. Microorganisms are

specific to certain pests, and if not controlled can contribute to unwanted disturbances

to other members of the biota. However, a healthy population (determined through

testing) of microorganisms has shown to decrease pest populations and increase the

overall health of the soil by increasing organic residue(Lockeretz, 1982; C.I. Nicholls et

al.). This method was included because it is becoming universally used in the organic

agriculture. Though far from it, with studies, Pohnpei can determine cultivate

insecticidal plants and use them to plant between to plant niches in order to suppress

pests populations. In the case of microorganismal biological control, it is possible. With

more studies with the use of microorganismal control on local agriculture can verify

which forms are successful. Once this is done at the research level and made more

abundant, this resource will be more available to the community.


       It is essential that the implementation of organic agriculture becomes a combined

effort between the local system of hierarchy and the community (Thiers, 2005).

Conversion may be successful if traditional agriculture and organic agriculture are

formed into one system based on successful practices in Pohnpei. The local system of

hierarchy, composing of chiefs, may have more influence in the overall acceptance of

implementation by the people. In order to first influence the chiefs, it is vital to perform a

case study reflective of old and new techniques combined and current techniques in

operation, to show a comparison of benefits and disadvantages. Also, once there is

acceptance among the chiefs, it is important to educate the people on environmental

problems with the current methods of food production.
       Once an island that depended on mainly local food grown in the area (i.e.

breadfruit, taro, yam, banana, etc.), Pohnpeians have now grown dependent on

processed, imported foods for a heavy percentage of their diet. This has contributed to

a rapid increase in diabetes and heart disease.

       The cultivation of local food was once very prevalent on the island of Pohnpei.

Elders still hold a lot of the traditional agriculture that was used in the past. However,

the youth are not actively participating in the preservation of traditional knowledge and

the elders view it as a change in times – in that a new age presents a new way. Around

the world, people are going back to their roots and are reapplying old, environmentally

sound techniques in replacement of conventional ones. It‟s important that Pohnpei

takes this path as well.

       More availability of fruits and vegetables and increased local food production

may reduce the high sodium and fat diets that Pohnpeians currently have. Also, having

a local operation of sustainable agriculture will minimize the need of imported food.

Locally produced food will be cheaper, fresher, and more available to all of the public.

Equally important, getting the community more connected to the protection and proper

utilization of their environment will promote more unity between the older and younger

generations of Pohnpei.


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Description: Organic agricultural methods are becoming the desired form of agriculture around the world due its sustainable techniques and health-safe products. The island of Pohnpei, part of the Federated States of Micronesia, has not yet began to fully utilize the availability of information and lessons of successful organic agriculture practice.