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2501 Program Funding Supports Aquaculture and Resilience in Hawaii and Micronesia

Posted by MD Sharman, Public Affairs Specialist, USDA Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement in Equity Initiatives
May 14, 2024
Morralace Falcam, farmer working in the water

“Aquaculture is agriculture,” said Simon Ellis, executive director of The Marine and Environmental Research Institute of Pohnpei (MERIP) based in Kolonia, a city on the island of Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia. For the last 20 years, this humanitarian, not-for-profit organization has provided less advantaged Micronesian communities with environmentally sustainable and economically viable skills to produce agricultural products for international markets. The underlying objective of teaching Micronesian and Hawaiian farmers effective techniques and business practices is to allow for self-sustenance as a primary goal, with aspirations of economic advancement as a small business. MERIP also helps farmers in securing start-up financing, small business development, marketing training, and access to international buyers.

This type of “water farming” is the focus of the 2501 Program grant awarded to MERIP to help increase agricultural participation in USDA programs in Hawaii and the Federated States of Micronesia. The 2501 Program helps underserved and veteran agricultural producers successfully own and operate farms in various ways. Aquaculture, the fastest-growing facet of agriculture, is defined as growing any animal or plant in water. Although aquaculture may not be as well-known as traditional agriculture, its harvests are in every grocery store’s seafood department. Aquaculture also has strong ties in the supplement and beauty sectors, with over an $80 million industry in Hawaii alone, promising a brighter economic future for local water-farming communities.

2501 funding has played a crucial role in advancing MERIP’s mission and empowered the organization to engage at all stages of the process and development cycle for underserved farmers. For instance, some of the funding has been used to hire legal assistance for the complicated permitting process for aquaculture farms, identified as a significant obstacle to beginning aquaculture producers.

Morralace Falcam is a farmer in Pohnpei and a testament to the transformative power of MERIP’s work powered by USDA funding. “Fish have become harder to catch, and food at the store is more expensive than before,” he said. “Growing clams will help to feed my family, and I hope I can grow enough to sell in the local market.” A staggering statistic is that many rural Micronesians have an annual per capita income of only around $1,000. MERIP aims to help local farmers participating in their programs make an additional one thousand dollars annually for four hours of aquaculture a week, a significant step towards a better future.

Category/Topic: Equity Initiatives