PORT VILA: Sweet potato is a stable food for over 70 percent of the Vanuatu population, most from rural areas – where they depend on traditional agriculture to provide for their dietary needs and income. According to the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, root crops such as yam, taro, manioc, sweet potato are fundamental to the diet of Ni-Vanuatu for over 2000 years.
Mr. Pakoa Leo, an agricultural expert and Coordinator of the Vanuatu Coastal Adaptation Project (VCAP) said that the crops are cultivated because of their ability to withstand weather extremes, diseases and pests.
“But there are new challenges as a result of climate change and as a result some of the crops of sweet potato are not as resistant.”
According to the Pacific Climate Change Science Program temperatures have increased for Vanuatu with annual maximum temperatures increased at a rate of 0.17°C per decade in Port Vila. The findings which were jointly researched by the Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-hazard Department, Australian Bureau of Meteorology and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) show a grim picture for Vanuatu. By 2030, under a high emissions scenario, this increase in temperature is projected to be in the range of 0.4–1.0°C. These will result in the rise of more hot days and warm nights and a decline in cooler weather.
“Vanuatu crops have been impacted by climate change, with some varieties of taro and sweet potato now challenging to grow in certain areas,” said Leo. Higher carbon dioxide levels can affect crop yields. Factors such as changing temperatures, ozone, and water and nutrient constraints, have a direct impact in crop yields according to scientific research.