Fiji: Petani women transform degraded land into productive food gardens

Women’s land rights in the Kingdom of Tonga are recognised to be very restrictive and land ownership is denied to all women. Tongan men enjoy proprietorial rights to a town allotment (for residence) and a tax or bush allotment (for food gardens). Women usually use land – remote bush allotments – which is owned by male family members, such as husbands, sons, or brothers. The heavy reliance on the remote gardens for daily sustenance prompted the women of Petani Village in ‘Eua Island of turning idle town allotments that have been left unutilised and degraded by families who migrated overseas into productive food gardens. The SPC/GIZ Programme Coping with Climate Change in the Pacific Island Region (CCCPIR) supported the women to rehabilitate the plots and develop their capacities to establish agroforestry and intercropping systems as a resilient agriculture system. All labour was provided by the women and their families. By the end of 2015, seven 4-acre idle and degraded town allotments were transformed into productive food gardens. With so much idle land made productive, there was a surplus of crops. CCCPIR helped construct a small market for the women to sell the surplus produce and other knick knacks.

The example from Tonga demonstrates a commitment to promoting gender equality, women-led initiatives and gender mainstreaming that the SPC/ GIZ project ‘Coping with Climate Change in the Pacific Island Region’ (CCCPIR) is known for. As part of its support to institutional mainstreaming within partner organisations the Pacific Gender and Climate Change Toolkit and associated training course was developed as a collaboration between the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environmental Programme, UN Women, UNDP, DFAT, Gender CC and GIZ/CCCPIR. It is a meant to support practitioners design and implement gender-responsive adaptation measures. On-going feedback is sought to ensure the Toolkit remains a living document.

Whilst land ownership for women may be restrictive in Tonga, the innovative approach adopted by the women of Petani allowed for women to access land. During the recent El Nino drought the garden provided a good supply of food to the households in Petani. In addition, the land management technologies on the once degraded allotments will reduce soil erosion and land degradation brought about by current and projected extreme and intense weather events and crop diversification contributes towards food availability as experienced in the 2015 El Nino drought event. These technologies and skills strengthen the role of women in ensuring food security for their families and local community. Seeing the success of the garden many other villages and women’s groups are also interested in this initiative and as such this approach will be replicated in 7 other villages.


Christine Fung
SPC/GIZ Coping with Climate Change in the Pacific Island Region Programme

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