A future in the past: urban agroforestry systems in future planned urban settlements in Kiribati, a Pacific case study

Type Thesis or Dissertation - Doctor of Philosophy
Title A future in the past: urban agroforestry systems in future planned urban settlements in Kiribati, a Pacific case study
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2008
URL http://eprints.qut.edu.au/19333/3/Andrew_East_Thesis.pdf
In the last 50 years, Pacific Island Countries (PICs) have experienced unprecedented levels of urban development. During this time, the general failure of traditional industrialised planning models to be successfully adapted in PICs has resulted in the need to explore alternative models for urban settlement in the Pacific. In this way, the incorporation of tree based agricultural systems (agroforestry) into urban settlements has considerable potential to address many of the problems associated with rapid urbanisation such as food security, waste management, environmental degradation and unemployment. Research in the Pacific has already shown how urban agroforestry systems can improve food security, increase access to nutritional foods, recycle organic waste, create employment and protect fragile ecological systems. However, in Pacific towns and cities urban agroforestry systems are rarely developed beyond a homegarden setting. The growth of urban centres in the Republic of Kiribati is an example of the challenges confronting many rapidly urbanising PICs. With infertile soils, severely restricted land and water resources and an emerging economy, Kiribati is a developing nation where sustainable development faces some of its greatest challenges. Due to rapidly expanding urban populations, the Kiribati Government is currently investigating the development of future planned urban settlements. In such a scenario, potential exists to extend urban agroforestry systems beyond a homegarden setting and explore alternative models for sustainable urbanisation in the Pacific. This research uses a mixed methods case study approach to investigate the potential role of food producing urban agroforestry systems in future planned urban settlements in Kiribati. More specifically, qualitative procedures are used to explore issues surrounding the promotion and development of urban agroforestry systems in future planned urban settlements while quantitative procedures are used to analyse the nutritional contribution of these systems. Findings from this study show that although urban agroforestry is a highly sustainable land use it faces two main challenges in Kiribati: (i) people’s perception that urban agroforestry systems are a relatively low value land use and (ii) the general inability of the Kiribati Government to effectively regulate urban land uses. However, in the event that urban agroforestry systems were deliberately included at a settlement wide scale beyond a homegarden setting, this study highlights the initial importance of equally allocating productive lands to individual households. Furthermore, the results emphasise the value of simple on-site composting technologies as components of the broader urban agroforestry system. Finally, the marginal nature of the atoll environment is evident in findings on the nutritional contribution of urban agroforestry species in future planned urban settlements. In summary, while considerable constraints must be overcome to ensure the long term viability of planned urban agroforestry systems at a whole of settlement scale, it is argued that such an approach is one of the most cost effective, culturally acceptable and environmentally responsible methods for addressing a range of urban issues in the Pacific and is therefore an essential component to the design of future planned urban settlements in Kiribati.

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