Tuvalu launches the project GEF-7 Integrated Agro-ecosystem Approach for Enhancing Livelihoods and Climate Resilience


The inception workshop was held in Funafuti on the 4th April 2024. This GEF-7 project is
implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in partnership
with the Government of Tuvalu, through the Department of Agriculture, within the Ministry of
Natural Resources.

The programme, funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), aims to reverse land degradation,
enhance local livelihoods and increase climate resilience through integrated agro-ecosystem
approach (IAE) in all the islands of Tuvalu. This initiative focuses on local food production and
consumption to decrease the reliance on imported foods and promote healthy eating. It aims at
reviving traditional farming practices and embracing new technologies to increase land productivity
and address the country’s land degradation challenges. The project aligns with the national efforts to
define and implement land degradation neutrality targets set under the United Nations Convention
to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

Tuvalu is the fourth smallest country with a population of around 11,000 people living on a total land
area of 26 km 2 and faces several land degradation challenges due to direct (unsustainable
agricultural and farming practices, climate change slow onset events and disasters) and indirect
drivers (land tenure, population pressure). The project will be implemented in all islands, comprising
of three reef islands (Nanumaga, Niutao, Niulakita), five atoll islands (Nanumea, Nui, Nukufetau,
Funafuti, Nukulaelae) and one composite island (coralline atoll/table reef) (Vaitupu).
The IAE approach aims to address these challenges, and it is underpinned by the recognition of the
biophysical constraints of low-lying atolls and coral islands, and social and economic limitations, that
affect negatively the livelihoods and significantly reduce the resilience of the communities. Thus,
the IAE approach, promoted by the project, applies a systems approach that seeks to optimize the
interactions between people and the land-base natural capital (plants, animals, water, soil), while
taking into consideration the sociocultural and economic aspects of the society that need to be
addressed for food security, sustainable livelihoods and for strengthening resilience to climate

The workshop provided a platform for participants to familiarize themselves with the project, the
concepts of IEA approach and LDN, validating the first year annual workplan, confirming institutional
roles and responsibilities. 

Furthermore, the gatherings fostered discussions on the role of the project in addressing the
national development objectives in the food security, agriculture and land use sectors. A diverse
range of stakeholders, including representatives from key departments from the Office of the Prime
Minister, the Ministry of Natural Resources Development, the Ministry of Home Affairs, Climate
Change and the Environment, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, CSOs and NGOs
participated in the workshops. The sessions included an interactive session to conduct a mapping of
the institutional capacities that are considered crucial for the execution of the project.
When welcoming participants, Mrs Manaema Saitala, the Acting Permanent Secretary of the
Ministry of Natural Resources Development, appreciated the support from FAO and the GEF,

emphasizing the importance of the project in managing very limited terrestrial natural resources
base, including poor soils and scarcity of water resources, which makes Tuvalu’s agricultural
ecosystem one of the most challenging for crop and livestock production with limited options to
increase production.

Likewise, Mr Raushan Kumar, FAO Lead Technical Officer at FAO SAP, stressed the fact that land
degradation and loss of agricultural ecosystems services are strongly interlinked in the fragile low-
lying atolls and are subject to a wide range of interrelated threats. As land degradation increases and
continues to be intensified by climate change, the provisional ecosystem services in the form of food
production capacity of the islands’ ecosystems decreases, with severe impacts on food and nutrition
security and loss of food sovereignty. For this reason, the IAE approach emphasizes a systems
approach to local food production to improve the health of agro-ecosystems while ensuring
socioeconomic benefits.

Furthermore, Mrs Moe Saitala, UNCCD and GEF Focal Point, highlighted that Tuvalu’s participation in
the UNCCD is rooted in the nation’s unwavering commitment to environmental conservation and
resilience-building. While the islands may not be directly affected by desertification in the
conventional sense, they face a myriad of environmental vulnerabilities, including rising sea levels,
coastal erosion, and freshwater scarcity. By aligning with the principles of the UNCCD, Tuvalu seeks
to leverage international support and expertise to address these challenges and safeguard the
natural resources for future generations.
Participants expressed gratitude toward the GEF and FAO, acknowledging the importance of the
traditional ecological knowledge and traditional farming skills as crucial aspects to revive and protect
the agri-food system. Participants also recognised the importance of achieving food security in
Tuvalu as Non-Communicable Diseases are a major cause of concern.
Likewise, Mr Matio Lonalona, Director of the Department of Agriculture (DoA), reiterated the
importance of implementing the GEF project in line with the Te Kete - Tuvalu National Strategy for
Sustainable Development (2021-2030), Tuvalu National Agriculture Sector Plan (2016-2023) and the
Tuvalu Sustainable Healthy Food Security Strategy to address the country agriculture and food
security challenges through the promotion of local food production and consumption, as well as the
reduction of the strong dependency on imported food. The DoA aims at achieving 60% of food
consumption from local produce by 2050, while maintaining the provision of the islands’ ecosystem

Mrs Elisa Distefano, FAO GEF Technical Adviser, concluded the event by recalling the importance of
ensuring a wide stakeholder participation for the successful project implementation, and the
expected roles of the central government (e.g. Agriculture Department, Climate Change
Department, Environment Department, Land and Survey Department, Public Health Department,
Gender Affairs Department, Tuvalu National Youth Council), the local government (Kaupule 1 ), NGOs
(Live and Learn Environmental Education), and CSOs (Ekalesia Kelisiano Tuvalu Women’s Centre and
the Fafine Nui I Funafuti Association).

1 The Falekaupule on each of the islands is the traditional assembly of elders or te sina o fenua (literal translation: "grey-
hairs of the land"). Under the Falekaupule Act (1997), the powers and functions of the Falekaupule are shared with the
Kaupule, which is the executive arm of the Falekaupule, whose members are elected.