Agriculture is the cornerstone of nutrition and food security as it is the essential ingredient in ensuring people’s access to healthy, nutritious foods to benefit health and development. Nutrition and Agriculture are so intrinsically linked that the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations has stated that an underinvestment in agriculture has threatened the achievement of the nutrition- related Millennium Development Goals. Not only are Pacific Islanders dependant on agriculture for food and nutrition but also their income and livelihoods. Nutrition sensitive agriculture describes agricultural practises that promote food security in the prevention of malnutrition in all its forms (under and over nutrition). The Pacific Islands currently face many threats to food security and sustainable agriculture including the geographical isolation of the Pacific’s 20,000 to 30,000 islands, extreme weather conditions and rising sea levels from climate change, low soil fertility and increased consumer preferences for imported food.
Improving food and nutritional security in the Pacific relies on strengthening domestic food production and marketing systems, increasing the diversity and nutritional value of locally grown foods, addressing the threats to food security through improved land management of plant and animal pests and disease. In doing so we can improve income generation and incentives for local farmers through by improving the value of their crops and boosting local and international sales.
Throughout the islands many nutrition sensitive agricultural projects are already in action thanks to local and regional incentives. For example:
- School garden projects run throughout the Islands to teach children how to grow and prepare locally produced nutritious crops
- The Go Local campaign is increasing consumption of local banana varieties to overcome Vitamin A deficiency in Pohnpei.
- Civil Society Organisations such as TeiTei Taveuni (Fiji) , Wan Smolbag Theatre (Vanuatu), FRIEND (Fiji), Island Food Community Pohnpei (FSM) , and Kastom Garden Association (Solomon Islands) are working to engage community members in agriculture efforts and improved nutrition
- FAOs Pacific branch has been working since 1996 to to help member countries halve the number of undernourished people in the region by 2015 by raising agricultural productivity and alleviating poverty while protecting the region’s natural resources base. Click here for more information.
- SPCs Land and Resources division is assisting governments to develop Food Security policies and approaches for the production, marketing and increased consumption of locally grown foods. They are also working to help reduce community’s vulnerability to the consequences of climate change and preserve traditional Pacific crop varieties and diversity
Work is underway to strengthen these programs through collaboration and multi-sectorial action. An example of this was the Pacific Regional Workshop on the Promotion of Fruits and Vegetables for Health which brought together policymakers, program managers, scientist, development practitioners representing, health, nutrition, horticulture, agriculture and education. The workshop found that while many countries national NCD strategies include advocacy clauses for promoting fruit and vegetable consumption better collaboration is needed to improve production, availability and utilization of fruits and vegetables to achieve this.
What can we do?
Agricultural policies influence quantity and quality of the foods farmers produce as well as the diversity of crops. They therefore determine the health and nutrition of populations by determining the availability and accessibility of fresh produce. The double burden of disease now faced by many Pacific countries is broadening policy focus to ensure the quality of calories produced. This can be achieved through greater production of fruits, vegetables and legumes as well as minimal processing of grain products.
For more information:
Benefits of Organic Agriculture Policy Brief
Organic production is both old and new in the Pacific. Many rural producers use traditional farming methods that are generally in harmony with the environment and with modern organic principles. But Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs) are only starting to recognise the benefits of obtaining organic certification, which will give them access to external markets and higher returns for their products.
Aquaculture and Climate Change Policy Brief
As traditional fishing and agriculture practises come under threat many people are seeking sustainable alternatives with exciting results. Click to read more about Aquaponics and Aquaculture.
SPC's Land and Resources Divisions Work
Read more on SPC’s Land and Resources Division work in Food and Nutritional Security. Including updates about how the Pacific are conserving their plant genetic resources, land management strategies, crop production and climate change vulnerability assessments and prevention strategies as well as links to useful networks and newsletter:
Pacific Island Farmers Organisation Network
This is an umbrella organisation for national farmers organisations. It helps coordinate capacity building, share success stories and lessons while exchanging regional expertise. They have a range of fantastic publications available on their website including community seed saving manual, planting guides, pacific case studies and value chain guide for the Pacific Islands.
Pacific Organic & Ethical Trade Community (POETCom)
Organic agriculture is about sustainability- ecosystem integrity, social well-being, economic resilience, and good governance. Organic agriculture has a significant contribution to make towards sustainable development due to its environment and climate friendly production systems, its suitability for small holders and its adaptation to local conditions. It safeguards diversity of food cultures, traditional knowledge and nutritional security and the entire organic system is based on participation and necessary public-private partnerships, integrating smallholders into markets. POETCom is the peak body for organic agriculture in the Pacific region, it is a not for profit membership organisation with active members (farmers associations, farmer support organisations, NGOs, private sector, research institutions and working with governments across the Pacific Island region.
Download their fact sheets here:
- Organic Agriculture: Promoting and Sustaining Biodiversity
- Organic Agriculture: Meeting the Challenges of Climate Change
- Organic Agriculture : Enhancing Food Security – Sustainably