Video courtesy of Hungry Beast, Zapruder's Other Films and ABC

Why Tuvalu?

We believe the Atoll Fresh concept is valid right across the Pacific where climate change is having a massive impact on food security across the region, but we had to start somewhere so, we chose Tuvalu in particular for a few reasons. Tuvalu is small nation and we think we can have have the biggest impact on a broader section of society because of this.

The eastern shoreline of Funafuti Lagoon was modified during World War II when the airfield (what is now Funafuti International Airport) was constructed. Several piers were also constructed, beach areas were filled and deep water access channels were excavated. These alterations to the reef and shoreline resulted in changes to wave patterns with less sand accumulating to form the beaches as compared to former times and the shoreline now exposed to wave action. Several attempts to stabilize the shoreline have not achieved the desired effect. The reefs at Funafuti have suffered damage, with 80 per cent of the coral becoming bleached as a consequence of the increase in ocean temperatures and acidification from increased levels of carbon dioxide.

Tuvalu, due to its isolation, is almost completely dependent on imported foods, which are often of a very low nutritional value and quality. Also the effect of climate change related sea-level rise is slowly eroding what little arable land there is available for agriculture and it is becoming more and more difficult for families in Tuvalu to produce enough fresh vegetables for themselves let alone to go around! Water scarcity is another big problem as they are dependant on rainwater for their needs and, in times of drought, water for agriculture is hard to find. Hydroponics is the most water efficient way to grow food and desalinated sea water is perfectly suitable for the job. Autopot systems that we will use are more water efficient than most other standard hydroponics technology.

The lack of fresh nutritious food has a massive impact on the health of the people of Tuvalu. Non-communicable diseases are the leading cause of death with a large proportion of those being diet related. Good nutrition is extremely important for mothers and babies in particular, in fact a study showed that lack of vegetables and resulting poor diet is the main cause for lack of micro nutrients in mothers and their children. Research done in 2011 found that 61% of Tuvaluan kids under five were anaemic due to a lack of iron in their food but, try finding some fresh grown spinach, parsley or fresh tomatoes (all high in iron) available for sale in Tuvalu - it’s practically impossible!

Climate Change In Tuvalu

The nine islands of Tuvalu are located in the middle of the Pacific. Funafuti, the main island and capital, is at 1000 km North of Fiji. Tuvalu became, notably thanks to the climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009, the international symbol of the consequences of climate change. Sea-level rise and salt water inundation, one of the most known consequences, is a major threat for Tuvalu, considering that this country's highest point is 4,5 meters over sea-level (whereas most of the land is way below that point). The consequences of climate change will have and already have had considerable impacts on these islands.

Due to sea-level rise, the ground of Tuvalu is prone to increasing salinization, threatening the habitats of some plants, such as pulaka (swamp taro) and coconut trees. The salinization of what little arable land is available is dramatically affecting Tuvaluans ability to cultivate food locally.

The islands of Tuvalu have progressively lost their fresh groundwater resources, not only due to sea-level rise, but also because of human pollution. In consequence, Tuvaluans only rely on rainwater storage to meet their needs. However, the seasons on Tuvalu are getting irregular and difficult to forecast, leading to droughts and water shortage. In order to alleviate this situation Atoll Fresh will be utilising desalinated sea-water as our primary source of water for agriculture.