SEATTLE — As a country comprised of over 600 small islands, the Federated States of Micronesia provides an incredibly unique landscape and represents a diverse population. Around 105,000 people inhabit these islands, and about 77 percent live rurally. Micronesian communities have a heavy reliance on fishing and agricultural endeavors to sustain their economy and deal with the ever-present danger of natural disasters which could threaten their entire economic structure. Thus, there is a constant need for development projects in Micronesia that will stabilize the climate and increase economic profits.
Among many groups invested in development projects in Micronesia are the Marine and Environmental Institute of Pohnpei, The World Bank Group’s Adaptation Fund, The Micronesia Conservation Trust, the United States Department of Agriculture and the Peace Corps. Each of these organizations focuses on a different area of Micronesian agricultural, social and economic struggles, and each has had major success implementing their ideas in Micronesia.
The Marine and Environmental Institute of Pohnpei (MERIP) is one of the leading marine conservation programs in Micronesia. They have a laboratory which consists of 30 lab spaces and classrooms, boats and other diving equipment needed to conduct marine research and an on-campus dormitory for students and staff who are doing intensive research. The MERIP program aims to “develop low-impact aquaculture as a means of income generation for communities who sponsor and support marine protected areas,” according to their website. With their extensive research in sponge, clam and marine-invertebrate farming, MERIP’s goal of creating a sustainable living culture for marine farmers while still protecting rare and endangered marine species has helped encourage a more healthy and sustainable living environment for Micronesians.
Another development project in Micronesia is through the World Bank Group’s Adaptation Fund. According to their website, the fund is an accessible grant of $9 million in support of environmental research and the implementation of climate-change-resilient infrastructure and agriculture in Micronesia. With a largely rural community, access to clean drinking water is one of the main concerns of the Adaptation Fund, and with water levels changing and the ever-fluid solubility of ocean water, water shortages are a serious concern for many communities spread across the 600 islands. The Adaptation Fund also aims to build hurricane and natural disaster-resistant infrastructure. Not only do they help through funding for labor and resources, but they also work to produce sound economic policies that favor climate resilience.
The Micronesia Conservation Trust is another development project in Micronesia that is making significant headway in the area. The Micronesia Conservation Trust stands out among other development movements because not only is it based on Micronesian policy and not an outside organization, but it also focuses on 1strengthening a community of NGOs as opposed to working independently. Currently, the Micronesia Conservation Trust is working to expand the current fishery economy in Micronesia and to collaborate with other local farmers to prevent over-farming in the region. The Micronesia Conservation Trust is one development project in Micronesia that is not only reaching out to the government and large companies, but also to tribal, traditional and local leaders to strengthen a community.
As one of the largest benefactors of overseas agricultural projects, the United States Department of Agriculture ranks high on the list of development and outreach programs focused on Micronesia. However, while other programs focus on agricultural or environmental issues, the Department of Agriculture works through the U.S. embassy in Micronesia to implement the Single Family Housing Program and business programs, among others. The Single Family Housing Program is an incredibly vital development project in Micronesia, because many households lack the resources and funds to renovate their homes and make them safer to live in. Similarly, the business programs in Micronesia offer funding for small-business owners to preserve the quality of jobs and implement cleaner working environments. While these are not the only USDA-funded projects in the area, they stand out from others because of their community-minded focuses.
The fifth major development project in Micronesia is the Peace Corps’ efforts in the region, specifically in the category of education. While there are many Peace Corps projects in the region, the Let Girls Learn program is one of the most influential education and women’s rights development projects in Micronesia. The Let Girls Learn program gives Micronesian girls the opportunity to attend summer camps where they learn about health education, STIs, HIV/AIDS and other gender-related issues. This is just one step of many in making Micronesia a more gender-inclusive and safer environment.
These development projects in Micronesia are not only high-grossing and well-funded, but they are also versatile. Focusing on everything from climate change to women’s issues, these projects help Micronesians in almost every facet of daily life.
– Molly Atchison