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Organic farmers fear water tariffs could threaten food security

Friday 10 May 2024 | Written by Rashneel Kumar | Published in Environment, Local, National


Organic farmers fear water tariffs could threaten food security
Natura Kuki Airani chair Io Vakapora covers soil with organic mulch to lock-in moisture. SUPPLIED/24050921

The proposed water tariffs could cripple the Cook Islands’ agricultural supply, warns Natura Kuki Airani (NKA), the Cook Islands organic movement.

To Tatou Vai, the Rarotonga water authority that is responsible for the collection, treatment and distribution of water, is looking at implementing water tariffs for domestic and commercial users to cover its annual operating costs of $3.8 million.

During the stakeholder scoping exercise vaka meetings held last month, Texan consultant Dan V Jackson told the public that agricultural users in Rarotonga should expect higher water charges, and surcharges during drought.

In a statement, Natura Kuki Airani said the water charges would directly impact food security.

“Tomato, watermelon, leafy greens, these crops need water. When there is a water bill to pay, food will cost more. How much for a pawpaw – $4? Bananas – $8?” said the organisation’s chair Io Vakapora.

“Last season was tough. No rain, hot wind. Turn off the taps and what you get is a desert. Some growers will give up.”

Small scale farming sustains cultural practices, feeds the community, and supplements livelihood, the statement said, adding that crops, flowers and livestock rely on customary use of land. This means that a grower may have permission from the family, but no legal title.

“When a field gets a meter, who gets the bill?” asked Vakapora.

Natura Kuki Airani is calling upon the Ministry of Agriculture and the water authority to engage with the issue of water tariffs “but aren’t waiting for government support”.

“Our grower community cannot rely on the mains for irrigation. Organic growing is climate-proof,” said Vakapora. “Build soil health, mulch cover, and vetiver grass – for us the future is rainfed farming”.

Cook Islands News has reached out to Secretary for Agriculture Temarama Anguna-Kamana for comments.


John Tierney on 11/05/2024

Kia Orana Kai Natura Taokotai Ltd (KNT) interim CEO John Tierney notes the Coop is currently consulting all its members in an industry wide effort to adequately represent the primary industries' challenges, (& benefits). These negotiations are expected to achieve better cooperation & sustainable farmer operations. KNT is reaching out to both our members and Government agencies to extend effective support through consultations with all stakeholders. Contact any of our KNT Directors Sam Napa Snr, Annie Heather, Danny Mataroa, Tou Man Unuia, Terepai Maoate, Tauei Napa or John Email M 55 159

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