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A call for integrated action to bring about healthy food systems in Fiji



At the International Symposium on Understanding the Double Burden of Malnutrition for Effective Interventions, held in Vienna in December 2018, a multi-sectorial approach was called for to improve nutritional outcomes for Fiji, and the wider Pacific.

Malnutrition in all its forms affects all countries of the world, and Fiji is no exception – with 98% of the population at a moderate-high risk of developing non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as heart attacks, strokes, cancer, asthma and diabetes. And whilst traditionally, Pacific islanders depended on the local production of nutritious crops and fishing to sustain their diets and livelihoods, food and nutrition security are now being threatened by a decline in agricultural production, changing dietary habits and an increased dependence on imported processed foods.

The International Symposium, which was organised by the International Atomic Energy Agency in cooperation with WHO and UNICEF, was attended by more than 450 professionals representing governments, international organisations, NGOs and civil society. The aim of the conference was to identify and share considerations for policies and action plans to support member states in achieving their nutrition commitments as defined within the Nutrition Decade.

During a session on ‘Intervention and Policy’, Dr Jimaima Lako, a lecturer at the Fiji National University, presented findings from a CTA-IFAD project entitled 'Promoting Nutritious Food Systems in the Pacific Islands'. Recommendations from the project, which is working to improve local food supplies, income and nutritional outcomes across the Pacific, have already been incorporated within Fiji’s 5-Year National Development Plan 2017- 2021, and include:

Policy and governance:

  • Improve policy coherence and coordination among government agencies and implementing partners, including NGOs and the private sector;
  • Promote and support bottom-up approaches with active community participation and ownership;
  • Mainstream nutrition-sensitive agriculture into national development policies and plans; improve monitoring and evaluation systems to track impact of policies and programmes on food and nutrition outcomes;
  • Provide incentives/dedicated budget to improve agricultural performance and local food crops and fisheries value chain development.

Research and product development:

Education and outreach:

  • Design communication campaigns and marketing strategies to aggressively promote that NCDs are preventable and reversible; use local champions;
  • Promote a seamless link between primary, secondary and tertiary agriculture, food and nutrition curriculum;
  • Develop food technology/science and engineering capacity;
  • Target women in community food and health projects;
  • Promote success stories.

In the long term, the project also aims to enhance strategic partnerships with governments, private sector actors, universities, international organisations and farming communities, to ensure best practices in addressing food and nutrition challenges are effectively scaled. This is in line with one of the key takeaway messages of the symposium – the need for a multi-sectorial approach and inter-disciplinary engagement for enhanced income and nutritional outcomes.

A collaborative approach could be undertaken, it was suggested, by the Pacific islands’ Ministries of Agriculture and Health, as well as between the colleges of agriculture, medicine and engineering, science and technology within universities, to assess interventions working to reduce the double burden of malnutrition. This would help to build the evidence base on the impact and lessons learned by innovation projects, like 'Promoting Nutritious Food Systems in the Pacific Islands', working to strengthen the agriculture-nutrition-income linkages.


Turning value chain challenges into business opportunities


Jana Dietershagen, CTA Technical officer for the project ‘Promoting Nutritious Food Systems in the Pacific Islands’, explains the importance of stakeholder and value chain mapping and how targeted capacity building approaches create ownership.

Alliances for action: resilience and sustainability


Building consensus among a wide range of players will play a critical role in shaping sustainable solutions for Pacific problems, and ensuring a sense of ownership for new policies and strategies. That is the message from a side event to the Pacific Week of Agriculture (PWA), "Building resilience in Pacific agri-food/nutritious systems: Towards regional alliances for action".

Partnerships for sustainable development


The second Pacific Week of Agriculture (PWA) explorse how dynamic partnerships can help to address some of the major challenges facing the agri-food sector in small island states in the region. Being held in Apia, Samoa from 30 September to 4 October 2019, the theme of PWA 2019 is "Enhanced partnerships for sustainable agriculture and forestry systems in the Pacific". The event follows the inaugural Pacific Week of Agriculture held in Vanuatu in October 2017.

Mapping value chains for healthier diets and higher revenues

A strategy to build efficient value chains in the Pacific region is expected to play a critical role in improving diets and revenues for island communities.

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