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Saipan Tribune: Ensuring that there is enough food in CNMI (November 13, 2019)

With the rapidly growing global concern on food security in the midst of climate change, people all over the world are looking into the possibility of growing food in their own backyards.

Solving the problem of food, especially here in the CNMI, requires the fortification of the island's agricultural systems. Agroforestry is one way.

It may sound offputtingly scientific to most people but, as Solly Takai explains it, agroforestry is about building a food forest rather than just growing one crop in a monoculture system.

“It pretty much allows you to grow a diversity of crop species, where you are creating this environment where everything is working together to benefit each other, said Takai, who is an extension agent at the Agricultural Production program of the Northern Marianas College-Cooperative Research, Extension, & Education Services.

This means growing different kinds of fruit trees, root crops, vegetables, crops for lumber, native plants, medicinals, and other plant species all in one plot of land. In the CNMI, this could be breadfruit and banana trees, sweet potato, taro, tapioca, root crops, among others.

Which is why NMC-CREES is pushing for agroforestry on the islands. Not only does it enhance food production so that people on the island will have food to eat, but it also keeps the soil moist and help conserve the land's resources.

“We want to address food and nutritional security. We also want to build more resilient growing systems, and agroforestry is one of them. We are working with our Nutrition and Health program on this important multi-faceted endeavor,Takai said, adding that they are trying to promote a more restorative farming on the islands.

“Subsistence means you and I can grow it in our backyard, and we can take care of it. It really depends on how much time that we put into it. The factors that come to play is the management and the environment of the agroforest he added.

For people who want to grow an agroforest in their yards, Takai advises them to come to the upcoming workshop on agroforestry and to call CREES for assistance. Maintenance and management should also be put into consideration.

Proper planning is key, Takai said.

To help the community learn more about Agroforestry, NMC-CREES will be holding an Agroforestry Workshop, themed “Designing and Growing an Abundant Food Forest, this Nov. 15, Friday, 8am to 4:30pm at the Kanoa Resort Seaside Hall, and Nov. 16, Saturday, from 8am to 11:30am at the Center for Agriculture Developmental Research Farm in As Perdido.

Experts in agroforestry will be coming to the CNMI from the Big Island in Hawaii to conduct the workshop, which will be hosted by the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program. Also presenting at the workshop are faculty from the NMC-CREES.

Participants can also expect to do physical, hands-on work at the NMC-CREES farm in As Perdido.

“We are here to promote agriculture, Takai said. We've seen many, many storms come and go and what we hope to see is more people growing more food, whether it be at their farm, their homestead, or even in their backyard to address the food security issue that we have on the islands.”

To learn more about agroforestry and/or to register for the workshop, contact Takai at 234-3276.

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