The majestic ruins of Nan Madol, an ancient city built on a coral reef, can be found off the eastern shore of Pohnpei. UNESCO describes it as a “globally significant masterpiece of creative genius”. Present-day underwa-ter achievements can now also be found in the vicinity of Nan Madol; farms of corals, sponges, and giant clams flourish, helping Pohnpeians become more resili-ent. [restrict]
Through a grant from USAID’s Pacific-American Cli-mate Fund (PACAM), the Marine and Environmental Research Institute of Pohnpei (MERIP) is promoting sustainable small-scale aquaculture ventures among fishing communities whose livelihoods are projected to suffer as climate change impacts and overfishing deci-mate global fish stocks.
Special Feature / Aquafarming in Pohnpei
Pohnpeians Turn to Farming Corals/Continued from page 1…
“We primarily get fishers to engage in aquaculture in the hope that they will be able to replace or supple-ment their income from fishing,” said Simon Ellis, Director of MERIP.
The PACAM grant has enabled MERIP to expand its operations and multiply the number of farmers in-volved in aquaculture. Its stock list of coral species has grown from one to 30 species. MERIP also intro-duced community-based clam farm-ing and tested rabbitfish farming. Lastly, the number of aquafarmers the organization works with has risen from 10 to 45.
MERIP trains and helps the farmers establish and maintain the underwa-ter farms. There is no capital invest-ment needed on the part of the farmers, only time and labor.
The Alexander family is one family that now aquafarms together. Mari-uch Alexander farms corals, his wife Wanihda maintains cages of rabbit-fish daily, and their 24-year old son Withmark farms sponges.
They make at least $120 a month in addition to their regular livelihoods of fish-ing and sewing.
In the Alexanders’ case, it is aquaculture that now brings food to the table for their extended family, including the families of their married children who live with them. “Aquaculture provides money for our food and day to day needs, and it also pays our electric bill,” said Wanihda.
MERIP’s prospects are good. Its cor-al export, in particular, has grown significantly since the PACAM grant started, with a 20-25 percent rise in 2015 (albeit with a slight decline in 2016 due to a coral bleaching event caused by El Niño). More recently, MERIP has also started exporting colorful giant clams to the interna-tional marine aquarium market.
These underwater farms may be the future for Pohnpeians, giving them a fighting chance to weather the chal-lenge of climate change.w
Community Projects Take Off
USAID’s Pacific-American Climate Fund also supports the Marine and Environment Research Institute of Pohnpei (MERIP) to conduct climate literacy outreach to fishing commu-nities. Following these community outreach activities. MERIP recently helped four villages carry out adap-tation projects of their own design. The projects, which are already be-ing implemented, will establish a mangrove reserve, restore coral around marine protected areas, strengthen solid waste management, and improve water resource man-agement. These community-level measures contribute to the area’s overall stability.w (PACAM Newsletter) [/restrict]