We collected leaf samples of the same species from different locations and soils, as well as other species that were growing at the same place. The leaves were analyzed to determine the mineral nutrients, carotenoids (such as beta-carotene), and other compounds.
This type of research is called a GxE (environment x genetics) study. It separates the effects on mineral and carotenoid concentrations of the climate (mostly the soil type) and the genetics of the plant species.
In our current research, we found that almost all these leafy vegetables are already growing in gardens and hedges on the atolls Kiribati and Tuvalu. It was only necessary to add two more.
Chaya has anti-diabetic effects, is high in proteins, and grows well on coral atolls. Graham Lyons, provided by
The nutritional value of these plants is not well known in Pacific Island nations, or anywhere else for that matter. Drumstick is rich in selenium, sulfur, and beta-carotene, which is pro-vitamin A.
The Hedge Panx contains a high amount of zinc, which can help increase lactation. Ofenga is rich in magnesium, an anti-inflammatory. Beach cowpea, which is a legume capable of extracting nitrogen from the air to make it available to other plants, is also a legume. It is high in iron and protein.
The plants are easy-to-grow and to prepare. Chop, boil, or steam for 15 minutes. Add coconut cream and continue cooking for another 15 minutes. These also taste fantastic.
A local doctor spread misinformation that led many Kiribatians to believe that Chaya was a cause of hepatitis. The opposite is true. When steamed or cooked for a few moments, the plant protects livers from toxins. It also contains a high amount of quality protein.
Our project aims to increase awareness about the nutritional value of these green vegetables. The project is continuing with activities with schools, churches, and community groups, as well as the supply of seeds and planting materials.
Diabetes and food gardens
In keeping with our original goal of reducing non-communicable diseases, chaityas, drumsticks, oranges, and amaranths can reduce the risk of diabetes. A sustainable, improved food system, which provides more of these nutrients, could help to beat diabetes.
Hedge pans can tolerate salt, high pH, and drought. Graham Lyons is the author.
It is also important to reduce refined flour, sugar, rice polish, and animal fats. Importing foods from the Pacific can reduce trade deficits by increasing local food production.
In Kiribati and Tuvalu, about 65% of food is imported. In Tuvalu, imports of rice, frozen poultry, biscuits and bread, butter, corned beef, flour, and other food items account for 61%.
How about using the traditional giant swamp taro pits to grow them? Traditionally, these pits were dug manually down to the groundwater table. Many holes have been neglected despite the fact that they are a vital link to underground water and culture.
The project team suggested that kangkong should be grown in water along with swamp taro, while the other crops would be developed on terraces that form the pit walls. Drumstick, Ofenga, hedge panax, and beach cowpea will be planted at ground level around the pit.
You can include other crops such as sweet potatoes, bananas, pawpaws, and bananas. Once established, this “mini food system” can provide virtually all the nutrition a family needs.
This can be done in as little as 100m2 or 0.3 hectares. Families on the atolls are usually able to have this much space for gardening.
Atoll soils can be used to create productive soils.
Atoll soils consist almost exclusively of coral (calcium-carbonate and magnesium). The grounds are sand without any clay, so they are able to drain water through. Droughts are common in this area of the world.
Cassava is unable to grow in the high-pH and salty soil of an atoll, while yellow leaves indicate iron deficiency. Graham Lyons is the author.
Soils are often highly alkaline, salty, and lacking in essential nutrients such as iron, manganese, and potassium. Atoll crops must tolerate salt, alkalinity, and drought.
Some atolls ban chemical pesticides and inorganic fertilizers because they can pollute the underground water. Compost has traditionally been used to improve soil fertility, especially for crops like swamp taro. Compost is a great way to improve soil fertility. It not only provides the nutrients needed but also buffers against high pH, salinity, and drought.
We decided to use a scientific approach rather than making compost from whatever materials were available. To find the right mix, we’re evaluating nutrient levels in leaves of atoll plants and other materials such as ash and by-products from fisheries.
A soil test can determine nutrient deficiencies and, to correct them, leaves and other materials suitable for composting are added. Compost can be used to update low iron levels in the soil by adding ash, lagoon alga, and iron-accumulating plants such as chaya and beach cowpea.
Plants require large quantities of potassium. Ash, coconut shells, and husks are all rich in potassium. The seaweed Kappaphycus is another excellent source of potassium.
Improved diet, nutrition, and overall health will result from improved soil health on these atolls. Our approach will also improve rural employment, income, and resilience of the atoll food system to climate change. It can also help local households deal with price increases of imported foods. All of this will strengthen nutrition security in atolls.