Cook Islands Placeholder
Cook Islands

Turning organic waste into compost and fertilizer

About the Implementing organization

Name: Te Ipukarea Society

Country: Cook Islands

Year of establishment: 1996

Type of organization: Community-based association or organization / Legally recognized non-profit status


Business as usual in the Cook Islands is to rake up leaves and other organic waste and burn it to keep properties tidy. Often toxic materials such as plastic are also added to the burn pile. This initiative seeks to change this practice in the long term by educating our youth about the benefits of composting and worm farms, and the harmful impacts of burning both organic and plastic waste. It also aims to reduce the use of polystyrene foam through encouraging the use of biodegradable food packaging by food vendors. These foam containers often end up in the ocean and have a negative impact on our marine life. The previous sections contain additional detail. The newsletter we uploaded from July 2016 shows some of the progress to date. The work continues in 2017, particularly for the northern atolls.

Nature Element


Type of Action

Sustainable use / Pollution prevention, clean up / Awareness and education

Sustainable Development Element

Food security / Health / Climate action

Related Sustainable Development Goal(s)


Environmental Impacts

The action reduces greenhouse and other harmful emissions by encouraging less burning of organic waste. It also creates locally produced compost and organic fertilizer, thereby potentially reducing the imports of these from overseas. Overseas fertilizers are implicated in degradation of our lagoons, so any reduction in their use is positive.

Sustainable Development Impacts

The Cook Islands economy relies heavily on tourism. While this brings in obvious economic benefits, it also places extreme pressure on our fragile island ecosystems. Much of what tourists rely on is imported into the country, but there is also a considerable local agriculture sector producing fruits and vegetables for the local and tourist market. Most agriculturists do not use local compost and rely heavily on imported fertilizers. By teaching our youth about the benefits of going organic, and not burning the organic waste, we will be changing the mindset of future agriculturists.

In addition, though our greenhouse gas emissions are small, this project will reduce them even further.


The project has gone national already. We are still implementing the final stages to the outer islands' schools. Once this is completed, we will seek funds to take the project out to the wider community, such as organic farmers associations, through demonstrating larger pilots of composters and worm farms that can produce compost and fertilizer at a much larger scale. One small outer island, Palmerston, has already ordered 4 worm farms to upscale the project. The project was highlighted at the GEF Council Meeting in Washington last year and received very positive feedback, including from the CEO Naoko Ishii. This included interest in upscaling the project to more regions.


We presented the results to date of this project to the funders (GEF Small Grants) last year, and there was a lot of interest in scaling up the project. We have already generated interest from other sectors in the outer islands, for example, Palmerston Island Administration, an atoll with a community of just 60 people, has already purchased 4 worm farms. The Office of the Prime Minister Climate Change Division has also expressed interest in scaling up this project in other outer islands as a part of their Strengthening Resilience of islands to Climate Change (SRICC) project, which is receiving funding from UNDP.

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