TIS has fruitful voyage north

Monday November 06, 2017 Written by Published in Local
School children carefully set up their new worm farms, which will help with composting as well as providing a natural fertilizer for vegetable crops. 17110260 School children carefully set up their new worm farms, which will help with composting as well as providing a natural fertilizer for vegetable crops. 17110260

In September, Mary McDonald from Te Ipukarea Society had the opportunity to travel to the Northern Cooks, in particular Penryhn (Tongareva) Island.

The aim of the trip was to deliver equipment and train the school children at Omoka and Tetautua schools on the use of weather station kits and worm farms as part of the Strengthening the Resilience of Islands to Climate Change (SRICC) project and GEF Small Grants Programme Waste Management Project. This is her story:


The day before we left on Taio Shipping vessel Lady Moana I went around Rarotonga in search of worms for the worm farm in case there were none on Penryhn.

I was after the wriggly, feisty ones found most often around under coconut husks in pig feeding areas. These are the best locally available for worm farms. Eventually I got about 50 worms in a couple of ice cream containers with lots of pawpaw and lettuce to feed them over the next week that it took to get to the northern islands.

I also bought two bags of locally-produced Bakers Compost to use as an initial start in the worm farm and two boxes of apples as a treat for the children.

The day we left Rarotonga was cold and rainy and we had a rough crossing through the night to Atiu where Lady Moana was to unload badly-needed fuel.

Then it was a long, exciting and calm, sail for four days to Manihiki.

A welcome sight was when the first motus of Manihiki appeared on the horizon. A couple of hours later it was nice to get on land that did not continually rock and roll.

 We spent two nights in Tauhunu where I stayed with Lawrencia William and family and Mama Sue. 

 I also met up with Anna Rauru, the principal of Ruamanu school in Tauhunu.  Our Te Ipukarea Society Miss World Contestant Alanna Smith had delivered a worm farm to them the previous month and it was great to see that the composting and worm tea production were going very well.

After unloading cargo it was then off to Penryhn, another 24 hours away. We arrived at night and had to stay offshore until the next morning, so that we could sail through the narrow reef passage into the lagoon and tie up at the Omoka wharf.

I was met by the principal of Omoka and Tetautua schools, Poti Maeva, and walked 200 metres from the wharf to the Omoka school. It was very hot, windy and dry as they had not had rain for several months, and there was very little drinking water.  A great opportunity to teach the students about climate change!

Poti introduced me to teacher Sonny Napa and her 12 students from year 5-8. There was also one student from Tetautua school, Tulia Mamia. Mamia was participating so she could  go back to her school on the far side of the atoll and teach her fellow students what she had learned.

We discussed the assembly of the weather station and how each instrument has functions measuring temperature and humidity, wind speed and direction, UV levels, barometric pressure, and rain measurement. Hopefully Penryhn has had some rain by now.

The students and I then went and picked up the “Hungry Bin” worm farm, the bags of Baker Compost and cartons of apples with a wheelbarrow, pushed by Taumaru Kirikava, from the boat. Tulia took a worm farm and a bag of compost and a carton of apples back to her school.

We set up the Omoka worm farm under the shade of a tree. The students gathered coconut fibre, bananas, pawpaws, leaves and the two big bags of Bakers compost I had bought from Rarotonga and began to establish the worm farm. My “Rarotongan” worms had endured their sea voyage very well and actually seemed to have multiplied in numbers during their time at sea!  Well, not much else for worms to do on the boat I guess.

 I had also taken some worm tea and compost from our worm farms at Te Ipukarea’s office to show the students what happens once the worms get established in their new home and how to use it on their plants and vegetables they are trying to grow.

We only stayed on Penryhn for a few hours as the captain expected worsening weather on our long trip back to Rarotonga and the ship needed to be back to transfer people to the Manea games in Mitiaro. We left Penryhn Tuesday afternoon and arrived at Avatiu wharf, Rarotonga on Sunday evening.

 A big meitaki maata to the captain and crew of “Lady Moana”,  theWilliam, Napara and Kaina families, Poti Maeva, Sonny Napa and Omoka school students.

 It was an amazing  trip, and it was well worth the effort to see the beautiful islands of Manihiki and Penrhyn.  


Leave a comment