This year's harvest is expected to bring in more than 200 pawpaw, as well as sweet potato and cassava.(Supplied: Milingimbi Art and Culture Centre)ShareFacebookTwitterArticle share optionsShare this onFacebookTwitterLinkedInSend this byEmailMessengerCopy linkWhatsAppPrint contentPrint with images and other mediaPrint text onlyPrintCancelThree years ago, in the remote community of Milingimbi in the Northern Territory residents struggled to find fresh fruit and vegetables.Key points:The Milingimbi community started the gardens three years agoIt started with pawpaw but has increased to cassava and sweet potato and there are plans to grow mangoes and coconutsA parliamentary inquiry is examining high food prices and access to fresh food in remote communities But now the community has come up with a way to supplement the supply, while also passing on traditional practices. The Milingimbi community has detailed its initiative in a submission to a parliamentary inquiry into the challenges faced in remote communities in accessing affordable and fresh food.The inquiry has so far been told of problems including rotten meat being sold in one remote NT store.Milingimbi, an island off the coast of Arnhem Land, gets most food and goods delivered by barge, which picks up food from Darwin on a Friday and delivers it on the following Wednesday."The delay means having fresh fruit is a big challenge for us," said Ruth Nalmakarra, the chair of the board of the Milingimbi Art and Culture Centre. Several years ago, organisers at the centre came up with the idea to develop a community garden."We ordered a few seeds for online. And then what started as a few pawpaw trees has gone a little bananas," Ms Nalmakarra said. Some of the fruit and vegetables the community has been growing are very large in size.(Supplied: Milingimbi Art and Cultre Centre)"Last year we got 100 pawpaws from our garden. This year we are expecting more than 200," she said.The garden has spread from growing pawpaws to sweet potato and cassava. "Our people are eating too much from the shop. We need fresh food from the saltwater and bush. Food that is harvested fresh and has taste. We Yolngu people grew up with that food when there was no shop. I grew up and learnt from my grandparents, mother and father to gather food. I still go out and gather wild food with my sisters," Ms Nalmakarra said.For local elder David Roy, the move has been one as much about learning as getting extra food."We need to go back to eating wild food and growing our own food and just having a bit from the shop," he said. "We need to pass on to the young people our knowledge on the different types of native food too, the berries, the yam, bush honey and food in the sea. And how they can get these," Mr Roy said. Leon Milmurru and David Roy with a sample of the foods harvested from the Art Centre's Djalkiri Garden.(Supplied: Milingimbi Art and Culture Centre)Inquiry hears of food shortages in remote areasThe parliamentary inquiry has sparked submissions from across the country, and comes after a number of remote communities also expressed concerns over food security amid the coronavirus lockdown as stores in major urban centres grappled with panic buying. Around 1,200 people live at Milingimbi, a small island off the Arnhem Land coast, 450 kilometres east of Darwin.(ABC News: Jano Gibson)Milingimbi community members say they provided their submission to the inquiry because they have been so pleased with the success of their program."We feel this is something many fellow Indigenous people can connect to. Instead of a store selling canned foods, wouldn't it be also good if they all could also sell gardening equipment, seeds," Ms Nalmakarra said. "Imagine if communities were empowered to grow their own fresh food. Wouldn't that be great? With support, we can get there," she said. Zelda Wurigir (R) has started her own private garden after being given seeds from the community garden.(Supplied: Milingimbi Art and Culture Centre)There are signs that the project is also taking on new life amid the private gardens across the small community of 1,200 people.The lure of fresh fruit has prompted Zelda Wurigir to start her own private garden project too, and she is not alone with other families also planting seeds this year."I work here on the community garden and they let me take some seeds back so I could also grow pawpaws for my family. It is so good," Mrs Wurigir said.She is part of a group of elders who are teaching the community's younger generations about hunting and gathering for native bush food, but the option of more fruit is welcome."I want to grow coconuts and mangoes next, all the foods that can grow in a hot place. That would be very delicious," she said.
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