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Vanuatu grows healthy

Torba aims to be the first organic Pacific island province by 2020

February 9, 2017

One way to promote healthy eating habits within communities is to produce and consume local nutritious food. In the province of Torba, on the island of Vanuatu, Father Luc Dini, a community leader and head of the local tourism council, is envisioning a healthier future for his people. The aim is to permanently ban imported junk food and make Torba Vanuatu’s first organic province by 2020.

“At the moment we have an infiltration of junk food from overseas. We are Vanuatu’s most isolated province and so far our health has stayed pretty good because of that, but we want to continue to be healthy."
Luc Dini, Head of Torba’s tourism council [Source]

The first step has already been made, from now on tourism bungalows in Torba will only be provided with locally grown organic produce.

The link between sustainable tourism and local agricultural production is also high on this year’s international policy agenda, as the United Nations have declared 2017 to be the ‘Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development'.

In 2016, CTA worked with the Pacific regional governments of Vanuatu and Samoa to develop policies connecting local agricultural development to the booming tourism industry and value chain actors to tourism markets. These activities were carried out together with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Pacific Islands Private Sector Organization (PIPSO) and with the support from the Pacific Island Farmers Organisation Network (PIFON) and the Pacific Community (SPC).

Vanuatu's first Agritourism Festival

Following the policy setting workshop supported by CTA, the government of Vanuatu organised its first Agritourism Festival in November 2016, in Port Vila. During the festival, Matai Seremaiah, the Vanuatuan Minister of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Biosecurity (MALFFB) stated that the linkage between agriculture and tourism has not yet been sufficiently explored in Vanuatu and that festivals such as this will help getting locally grown food from farm to fork. 

Torba produces a rich variety of locally grown or sourced food to sustain its population including fish, crabs, shellfish, taro, yams, paw paw and pineapple. According to Seremaiah and Dini, there is a need to keep producing and consuming the local traditional food.

Shared opinions in the Pacific

In Samoa, Jesse Lee, a chef and owner of his family-run restaurant 'Palusami', serves locally sourced meat, vegetables and fruits. Most of the produce comes from an NGO called 'Women in Business Development Samoa'. They also support a farm-to-table approach:

"We want our local people to know that the little garden patch next to their house is good enough to be served at our restaurant. [...] Not only is it good enough, it is healthier for us because it is organic".
Ronna Lee Hadfield, Jesse's sister

Lee is part of the Chefs4Development project which is supporting the sourcing of local healthy food in hotels and restaurants. This CTA-coordinated project aims to promote the use of nutritious and locally sourced food by chefs in the Pacific, Caribbean and Indian Ocean while strengthening the linkages between value chain actors in the culinary and agricultural sectors.

But one of the key hurdles is yet to be solved. How to practically improve local production and bring a diverse diet to the market? During the 2nd Pacific Agribusiness Forum held in Samoa in 2016, the project "Grow Healthy Pacific" was launched. With IFAD as co-financer and PIPSO as co-implementer, CTA aims to leverage the development of local food crops and fisheries value chains on 7 Pacific islands: Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.

The project is based on four action lines:
1) Building a roadmap for the 7 target countries from quick scan studies and stakeholder consultations on the link between agriculture and nutrition
2) Establishing the constraints to local production and building capacity to overcome them
3) Supporting innovative ideas and showcasing them (particularly in ICTs)
4) Ensuring that the project favours particularly women and youth through targeted activities

Like in Dini's case in Vanuatu, several other countries in the Pacific region are facing highly critical nutritional problems. The highest incidence of non-communicable diseases (such as heart attacks and diabetes) in the world is found in 3 of the 7 Grow Healthy Pacific project target countries. In most of them the adult obesity rate is even estimated to be higher than 50%. It is urgent that measures are taken to improve local production and "Grow Healthy".

Blog post written Jana Dietershagen, Intern research & communication on the CTA/IFAD Pacific Islands project.
Photo credits Geof Wilson (banner) / Katia de la Luz (sidebar).

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