The GEF6 Project, launched by the Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment, and Tourism (MNRET) to protect biodiversity in Palau, is laying the groundwork for a three-acre agro-forest in Ngaraard.
The forest, which is being planted in an area called Ngulitel, is planned to eventually include over one-thousand fruit trees which are meant to supply a local source of food as well as building materials for the Ngaraard community.
According to MNRET, the project aims to “improve the livelihood” in Ngaraard State through “increased income opportunities, environmental care, and . . . development in the agricultural sector.”
Planting began in October by members of GEF6. Eventually, the three-acre forest is expected to consist of 1,200 fruit trees. One acre is planned to accommodate 500 lemon trees, with another acre holding 500 fruit trees of other types such as soursop and rambutan, and the last acre holding 200 mango and avocado trees.
MNRET has also said that the forest, as a conservation and rehabilitation initiative, could become part of Ngaraard’s eco-tour, which is being developed by the State.
This initiative follows the signing of a “Vision” for development by all ten States of Babeldaob last September, which highlighted goals such as conserving the environment, building local food security, and enhancing the ecotourism industry on the island. The Joint Coordination Body (JCB), which was responsible for drawing up the document and includes a government-appointed representative from every Babeldaob State and a representative from MNRET, has said that the agro-forest initiative is part of a Babeldaob-wide plan to develop infrastructure and conservation in the States.
GEF6 projects in other Babeldaob States include reforestation, improvement of water quality, and soil rehabilitation projects. The agro-forest project also coincides with the development of a housing project in Babeldaob which is being overseen by the JCB, with 440 lots already in the planning.
The call for increased food security in Palau has been a concern for many of the States in recent years, with improved agricultural initiatives a particular topic of interest for many of the incoming candidates. Earlier this year, a similar project in Kayangel financed home gardens for every household on the island, providing crops such as corn, bananas, and potatoes.