News Story

Achieving Food Self-sufficiency in Remote French Polynesian Islands

Helping island families to plant their own kitchen gardens is part of a cooperative program assisted by the Church

In the island culture of French Polynesia, staying connected while living at a distance from each other is part of life. The remote islands of Takaroa and Takapoto are located nearly 600 kilometers from the capital city of Pape’ete and depend on the flow of food and supplies between islands by boat. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many of these islands were cut off from each other as maritime transport was reduced, and in some cases created food shortages for islanders.


The leaders of these communities recently met with local leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to discuss the idea of expanding self-sufficiency in these islands.


In August, the leaders of the Faa’a Stake (group of congregations) met with the new Tavana (mayor) of Takaroa Island, Panaho Temahaga, who was accompanied by the deputy mayor of Takapoto Island, Mack Maheahea. 


“The pandemic and the lockdown have underlined the fragility of the economic balance of French Polynesia, which is very dependent on exports, and have highlighted more than ever the vulnerability of remote islands in the absence of maritime links,” said Ahuura Parker, Faa’a Stake communication director. 

“These difficulties were certainly on everyone's mind and largely explain how the discussions resulted in the definition of cooperation around food autonomy.”

The community leaders discussed their development plans and their visions and concerns with the Church officials. One of the principal ideas was to find ways to help families become more self-reliant for their food, so that when imported food is not available, families can use their own food. The Church has long taught their members about the importance of self-reliance and has encouraged families to store food for emergencies and has well developed agriculture assistance programs to assist farmers. 


These ideas are in line with the lessons learned during the lockdown, which prompted the French Polynesian government to make food self-sufficiency one of its priority projects. The government planned more than $950 million (US) to be invested in agriculture over the next ten years across all the archipelagos (extensive group of islands).

The Minister of Green Economy, Tearii Alpha, presented his 2021-2030 master plan during a recent meeting with all mayors. "We want family farming to be the first pillar where each family, as much as possible, can start planting what it knows how to plant and what it can grow. Secondly, we want them to start producing high quality agricultural products that can be exported.”


The community and the Church leaders outlined a plan of cooperation. The Church will provide a variety of seeds and the communities will provide heavy farming equipment through a government grant program. 


The stake's seed contribution will be divided into three areas:

a. Food autonomy for families: “one family, one vegetable garden” and subsistence crops

b. Food innovation: introduction of new agricultural technologies such as permaculture, hydroponics and aquaponics

c. Development of new economic activity: helping families to invest in products with high added value for export such as vanilla, ginger, pitaya and virgin coconut oil


“Takaroa has always been a blessed island,” said Tavana Temahaga. “It has experienced challenging times in recent years, and it needs to be blessed again. Returning to farming, getting involved in natural resource management, especially for the rising generation, is a priority. Lockdown has shown us the vital importance of food self-sufficiency. This is the path we want to embark on."


As taught by the Church, the very essence of this project is based on the responsibility of every family and individual as stewards, to wisely use the natural resources that God has provided for the needs of His children on earth.


Latter-day Saint scripture states: “I, the Lord, stretched out the heavens, and built the earth, my very handiwork; and all things therein are mine. For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.” (Doctrine & Covenants 104:14,17).


Harold Teivao, Faa’a Stake President, shared: “This project is an opportunity for stake members to use what they have learned about self-reliance and to help strengthen their communities and to build up the Kingdom of God on earth."

The communities of Takaroa, Takapoto and the Faa'a Stake are committed to working together towards food self-sufficiency for families.

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