Building the evidence base on the agricultural nutrition nexus: Samoa

Area:
Nutrition
Published:

Food and nutrition security (FNS) is high on the global policy agenda and is of special significance for the African, Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) region. Several pathways have been identified for achieving the desired FNS outcomes.

The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) has prioritised strengthening the linkages between nutrition and agriculture as one of the three key areas for 2015 and beyond in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. It has also committed, with other leading international agencies, to a joint framework of action on “Agriculture and nutrition: a common future” which includes improving “the knowledge and evidence base to maximise the impact of food and agricultural systems on nutrition” as one of the three strategic priorities.

At the regional level, Pacific leaders have prioritised the Food Secure Pacific programme which was endorsed at the 39th Pacific Islands Forum, Niue, 19-20 August 2008. In November 2008, organisations convened the Food Secure Pacific Working Group to progress the food security agenda in the Pacific. 

A Samoa rapid country scan was undertaken between July and October 2015 using a thematic framework which was built around four areas: (i) Political and Economic context, (ii) Policy and Governance, (iii) Climate and Environment and (iv) Culture, Gender and Equity. It provided an excellent opportunity for the stakeholders to agree on the identified policies and programmes currently addressing food and nutrition security. It also focussed on identifying potential gaps in terms of implementing these programmes and potential entry points where CTA could assist with strengthening the agriculture nutrition nexus in Samoa.

Emphasis was placed on identifying existing nutrition capacity in Samoa as well as the main nutritional challenges faced. The rapid scan also looked at initiatives that have been tried

(and the organisations involved) to improve the nutrient intake of at-risk populations. Significant development funding has been put into food and nutrition programmes by development partners including the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The overarching policy document guiding food and nutrition development in Samoa is the National Food and Nutrition Policy (FNP) 2013–2018. The main objectives of this plan are to improve food availability, access and utilisation and stability of food systems. The main institutions in the public sector involved in nutrition are the MOH, the National Health Services (NHS), the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) and the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development (MWCSD). The Nutrition Section of the Ministry of Health (MOH) is leading the implementation of the FNP Action Plan and the MOH has the capacity to run media campaigns on health and nutrition. Non-Governmental organisations (NGOs) include Faalapotopotoga Atinae o Komiti Tumama o Samoa (FAKTS), the Samoa Farmers Association (SFA), Women in Business Development Incorporated (WIBDI), the Matuaileoo Environment Trust Incorporated, the Samoa Red Cross (SRC) and the newly established Samoa National Youth Council (SNYC). Their diverse programmes include nutrition promotion in schools and pre-schools, educating farmers about fruit and vegetables, and helping farmers gain fair trade and organic certification and build supply chains to the local hospitality industry. Many of the organisations are also involved in community garden initiatives.

With respect to the Political and Economic Context, the stagnant performance of the agricultural sector (below 10% GDP), the declining inshore fisheries, the lack of appropriate metrics to gauge sector performance, as well as the very high and increasing level of overweight Samoans and the general lack of awareness and utilisation of locally available green leafy vegetables, provide a potential entry point for CTA’s assistance. The use of sector is also an issue. These include:

  • Strengthening the WIBDI Farm to Table Programme which is supplying organic fruit and vegetable baskets to restaurants and hotels, and encouraging chefs and families to utilise more home-grown ingredients. This could be done through the National University of Samoa (NUS) and the Australia Pacific Technical College (APTC) hospitality programmes.
  • Facilitating capacity building exercises and exchange programmes for nutritionists and farmers to share ideas and findings on best tools and practices with ACP colleagues.
  • Assisting with the production of booklets in Samoan to promote vegetable use and consumption. Fiji has developed excellent resource materials in English that could be translated into Samoan. Nutritious green leafy vegetables, rich in vitamins and minerals such as Kangkong, taro leaves, radishes, bok choy and okra, and which grow well in Samoa, could be added.

Severe wasting among children 0-59 months (4%), moderate to severe stunting (5%) in the same age group, high incidence of anaemia in children under 2 and pregnant women, inaccurate detection of the number of people being underweight and the severity of malnutrition represent a good entry point for CTA’s assistance under Policy and Governance. CTA could:

  • Build on successful programmes such as those implemented by FAKTS, the biggest and longest serving women’s organisation in Samoa.
  • Promote the expansion of the School Nutrition programme to include the whole family, as children imitate what their parents do. Specific target groups would be Early Childhood Education (ECE) Centres which are currently not covered. Encourage ECE organisations, through the National Council of Early Childhood Education (NCECE), to consider including nutrition education in their training for pre-school teachers.
  • Strengthen the capacity of METI, WIBDI, SFA, SRC, Samoa Association of Manufacturers and Exporters (SAME), Chamber of Commerce (CoC) and university research programmes to scale-up farmer training programmes.
  • Assist with promoting an integrated approach within NUS through demonstrated linkages between theory (research via the Food Security Postgraduate course at the Faculty of Science or the Horticulture programme at the Faculty of Applied Sciences on the varieties of fruits and vegetables available locally that have high nutritional value) and practice – including the adaptation of irrigation systems and tunnel houses via the engineering/plumbing programme (at the Faculty of Applied Sciences), and promotion of sound postharvest measures through accredited Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) trainers and improved nutrition and food handling via the Hospitality, Food and Beverage programme (at the Faculty of Business and Entrepreneurship) or the Food Technology programme (at the Faculty of Education).
  • Support postharvest initiatives or research to extend the shelf-life of local fruits and vegetables, reduce their price and expand access to markets all year round.

With respect to Climate and Environment, a potential entry point for CTA is to provide technical assistance that builds on the findings of Integrating Climate Change Risks into Agriculture and Health Sectors of Samoa (ICCRAHSS) by combining geographical, biological and medical data on the incidence of climate-related diseases to upgrade existing nutrition surveillance systems and provide more timely and accurate data for informing health and nutrition interventions. Climate risk maps could be produced as well as distribution maps of districts with cases of communicable diseases such as diarrhoea, typhoid, influenza and dengue fever. There is also an ongoing need for developing applications and conducting training for health and agriculture professionals in data collection and analysis as well as the use of Geographic Information System (GIS).

A potential entry point in the area of Culture, Gender and Equity could be to adapt the successful “Go Local” approach used in the Federated States of Micronesia for Samoa. A potential partner could be FAKTS which has representatives in all Samoan villages and has a strong working relationship with MWCSD. The Talomua and Taiala programme also offers good examples that can be up-scaled. CTA can also assist with improving agricultural-nutrition awareness through the proposed National Nutrition Programme aimed at the re-establishment of district nurses with emphasis on early non-communicable disease (NCD) prevention and nutrition programmes in communities. A regular food festival could also create a platform to link agriculture, health and nutrition and encourage people to eat healthy locally grown foods prepared in new ways. Such an initiative could potentially be co-funded by the French Fonds de cooperation économique, sociale et culturelle pour le Pacifique

(Pacific Fund) and be used to promote exchanges and integration of culinary habits of other Polynesian nations.

The findings and potential entry points identified in the report were officially endorsed by stakeholders at a National Validation Workshop held on 23 October 2015 and the 2nd Pacific Agribusiness Forum, Apia, Samoa which was held from 29 August – 1 September 2016 and at which the CTA/IFAD/PIPSO project “Promoting Nutritious Food Systems in the Pacific was launched”.