Aitutaki works to sustain itself in lockdown

Thursday 16 April 2020 | Written by Legacy Author | Published in Outer Islands


Aitutaki works to sustain itself in lockdown
Growers working together on a community taro plot in Aitutaki.

A root crop planting programme in Aitutaki is expected to provide staples for the island and the other outer islands that are in lockdown.

More than 50 households each have a quarter acre plot, and this week the Ministry of Agriculture is shipping them more seedlings.

And they have not stopped at community planting: they are also working together on group netting, and the catch is shared amongst village households.

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Amuri-Ureia MP Terepai Maoate said in a time of world uncertainty because of the economic impact of Covid-19, Aitutaki had to be self-sufficient.

Originally the planting was to produce enough root crops for the 2021 bicentennial celebrations of the arrival of Christianity to the island.

But with the island in indefinite lockdown and no tourism revenue for an unknown time, the plantations had proven a God-send for the island.

Maoate said the idea was that growers took ownership of the community planting programme, monitored by the Ministry of Agriculture to ensure the plots are managed properly and feed households on the island.

Aitutaki Agriculture division has a three-year standing agreement with each grower to make sure they each use land well; in exchange the growers get the assistance they need – seedlings, irrigation and advice.

Maote has been stranded in Rarotonga since the outer island border closure – but like his fellow islanders, he has been out at sea with nets, rods and spearguns catching fish.

Living at his family home in Ngatangiia, he has been distributing fish and fresh produce to vulnerable families.