The populations of the remote and scattered islands in the Pacific traditionally depended on crop production and fishing to sustain themselves. Now, however, the old way of life – and the health of Pacific islanders – is threatened by declining agricultural production, overfishing, increasing dependence on imported processed foods and the effects of climate change. By 2050, the population of Pacific Islands is expected to double, putting further strain on food and health systems. Forty per cent of the 9.7 million Pacific Islanders have been diagnosed with a non-communicable disease, accounting for three-quarters of all deaths in the Pacific and absorbing 40-60% of health care expenditure..
A major four-year project – co-funded by CTA and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and implemented in partnership with the Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation (PIPSO) – is strengthening the capacity of governments, farmers and private sector organisations to develop new strategies to improve the health and nutrition of some 40,000 relatively poor farmers and fisherfolk.
“The ‘Promoting Nutritious Food Systems in the Pacific Islands’ project seeks to address nutrition, value chain and agribusiness development, and income generation, all at the same time,” says Judith Ann Francis, CTA’s Senior Programme Coordinator for Science and Technology Policy. The project also aims to influence government policy and attract more public and private investments.
A series of side events at the 1st Pacific Week of Agriculture, held in Vanuatu in October 2017, were designed to further the aims of the project. Some 33 people from the Pacific, the Caribbean and Africa took part in a learning journey, which comprised three workshops as well as a field trip and interactive discussions. “We planned the learning journey as a way of engaging our key target group – farmers, processors and other value chain actors – together with scientists and representatives of the public and private sectors,” explains Francis.
One of the side events was a half-day seminar on “Promoting Youth Agri-Entrepreneurship in the Pacific”. This was attended by over 64 participants, including representatives of IFAD, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the South Pacific Commission (SPC), the National Bank of Vanuatu, World Vision, youth groups and the private sector. During two panel discussions participants explored, and drew lessons from, various initiatives aimed at advancing youth entrepreneurship. Young entrepreneurs from as far afield as Kenya and Trinidad had the opportunity to share their own success stories.
The seminar discussions led to the Port Vila communiqué, which made five recommendations to policymakers. The recommendations called on government ministries to work together to create an enabling environment for entrepreneurs and stressed the importance of improving access to financial and business support services. The communiqué also stressed the need to invest in education and training, and strengthen partnerships between governments, development partners, financial agencies and young people.
The seminar was followed by a workshop on “Priority Value Chain Coordination/Agricultural Innovation Platforms”. Organised by CTA, IFAD and PIPSO, the workshop attracted 41 participants. Discussions were held on how to build the capacity of farmers; value chain analysis; and mechanisms for spurring innovation to improve efficiencies in priority value chains.
The workshop launched the online value chain coordinating/agricultural innovation platform. “We believe this will be a very useful mechanism for building relationships and improving trust among those involved in value chains,” says Francis. She adds that if the platform is to work effectively at a national level and build synergies among key stakeholders, the specific needs and capacities of each country must be addressed.
In 2017, the Promoting Nutritious Food Systems project also held three 2-day national workshops in Fiji, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. These interactive workshops were attended by 150 people, half of whom were women, from the public and private sector. Recommendations from the workshops were shared with relevant ministries and government agencies. To give one example, the Fiji workshop recommendations were submitted to the Ministry of the Economy and they have been incorporated in the Fiji National Development Plan 2017-2021, which was launched in October 2017 during COP23 in Bonn.