As a region, the Pacific faces a number of pressing challenges, linked to a rapidly growing population, high youth unemployment, soaring food imports and alarming levels of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) fuelled by poor nutrition.
Seeking to address some of these issues, the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), with matching funding from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and in collaboration with the Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation (PIPSO), is implementing the project Leveraging the Development of Local Food Crops and Fisheries Value Chains for Improved Nutrition and Sustainable Food Systems in the Pacific Islands with a focus on Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu. Its goal is to strengthen the capacity of Pacific Island governments, farmer and private sector organisations and sub-regional institutions to develop strategies and programmes, as well as to mobilise financing, that can increase poor rural people’s access to nutritious and healthy food.
The project takes an innovative approach, supporting agribusiness and value chain development to improve food and nutrition outcomes for the poor and vulnerable, especially women and children. Identifying opportunities for young people is a special focus, given the region’s large and growing population of under 25-year-olds and its high rate of youth unemployment, which currently stands at 25%. Also known by its shorter version Promoting Nutritious Food Systems in the Pacific, the project has identified several areas for analysis and action. For the Pacific Week of Agriculture (PWA), these include: promoting youth agri-entrepreneurship, coordination platforms for innovation in priority value chains for a range of nutritious local agrifood products, opportunities for strengthening agri-tourism linkages, and the scope these offer for linking small-scale producers to markets and building the resilience of rural communities.
During the first Pacific Week of Agriculture, held in Port Vila, Vanuatu, from 16-20 October 2017, a series of side events was held on each of these issues, to analyse their potential and explore further opportunities and the support needed. In keeping with the project’s innovative approach, the events took the form of a Learning Journey, designed to share experiences and foster cross-learning between participants within and outside the region, including those from other small island developing states who have found practical solutions to similar problems.