The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) confirms closure by end of 2020.

Agriculture–Nutrition Situation in the Pacific Island States

In 2016, CTA embarked on a joint project with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) entitled ‘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, the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu)’. This four-year project aimed at strengthening the capacity of the Pacific island governments, farmer and private-sector organisations and subregional institutions to develop innovative strategies and programmes that can increase poor rural people’s access to nutritious and healthy food and to mobilise the funds needed to deliver these. It employed a three-pronged approach:
• Analyse – Build the evidence base• Act – Build capacity for change• Advocate – Share good practices and success stories and lobby for policy change and development impact at scale.Through the project and previous work, a series of rapid country scans were commissioned to collect detailed information on the agriculture, food and nutrition situation in the seven Pacific island nations to determine the entry points that provide the greatest opportunity for strengthening the agriculture–nutrition–income nexus. This document synthesises the key findings from across the countries, draws out lessons for policy and identifies opportunities for future investments to address the key food and nutrition security issues that the islands face.
Food systems in flux
Demand for food is increasing rapidly in the Pacific region, driven by a combination of rapidly growing population and increasing urbanisation.
Pacific people’s relationship with food is changing as their diets transition from foods they produced and harvested from land and sea to greater consumption of imported foods that are more readily available, easier to prepare and store and, in most cases, cheaper. Most are energy-dense, highly processed foods, some of questionable quality and nutritive value, and dietary diversity is poor. Fresh roots and tubers, fruit and vegetables and fish are being replaced by highly processed convenience foods that are high in calories but low in nutrients.
The Pacific island states have largely succeeded in reducing levels of undernutrition, although stunting and wasting are still widespread in several countries, indicating suboptimal mother and child feeding practices. This hampers the physical and cognitive development of children and puts women’s health at risk. Among adolescents and adults there are rapidly increasing levels of overweight and obesity coupled with micronutrient deficiencies and escalating levels of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory diseases and some cancers. These now account for some 75% of all deaths in the Pacific island states. The burden of these afflictions is swamping health services and budgets.
The transition from locally produced to imported foods is also unsustainable financially in the long term. The vast majority of food now consumed in the seven Pacific nations is imported – 90% in the case of the Marshall Islands. The value of food imports more than doubled between 1990 and 2004–06 and has more than doubled again since in several countries. This is putting a strain on the balance of payments and exposes the islands to the vagaries of the global markets.The studies identified the key drivers of changes in the island states’ food systems, including declines in the contribution of agriculture to the islands’ gross domestic product, weak and fragmented markets and infrastructure, shortages of arable land, the challenges facing farmers trying to move beyond subsistence agriculture, poor access to credit and lack of strong farmers’ and fishers’ organisations.
A need for greater coordination and integration
The review of the policies, actions and actors that address agriculture, food and nutrition in the island states showed that most of the seven states have a plethora of policies, programmes and organisations that address various aspects of the agriculture–nutrition nexus. In most instances, these operate independently of each other, with consequent overlaps, duplications and gaps arising as a result. There are numerous examples of efforts aimed at coordinating policies, programmes and projects, the most comprehensive of which is Samoa’s use of a sector committee that brings together all key players under the aegis of a parliamentary advocacy group. However, further efforts are needed to strengthen and enhance these efforts to ensure the coordinated action needed, which is widely recognised as a primary requirement in the regional food and nutrition security framework.
The reviews identified a number of gaps that need to be addressed. These include a paucity of up-to-date, accurate data about the agricultural, food, nutrition and health situations in several of the island states. Gender-disaggregated data are generally lacking. This, together with a lack of documented knowledge of the nutritional value of local foods, makes it impossible to make the best use of available resources to achieve food and nutrition security in the region.
Gaps and ways forward
The reviews also highlight a number of key areas where action is needed to improve and strengthen the agriculture–nutrition nexus in the Pacific island states. These include development of integrated agriculture, food and nutrition programmes and projects, greater investment in agricultural, health and nutrition education, strengthening research and extension efforts in all aspects of agriculture, food, nutrition and health, and supporting the development of farmers’, fishers’ and women’s organisations.
The report concludes with extensive lists of indicative actions that governments, public- and private-sector organisations, non-governmental organisations, donors and others can take to address the weaknesses in the agriculture, food, nutrition and health sectors in the Pacific island states.