In the Pacific Island countries, FAO reports, the Food Price Index rose, on average, by 8% from January-June 2022 – more than the already-high 7% average the world has seen over the past three years.
The prices of fuel and fertilizer are also at unparalleled levels, threatening food security and livelihoods around the world, and disproportionately affecting Pacific SIDS.
The Pacific SIDS Solutions Forum will provide a platform for Pacific Governments and private stakeholders to bolster innovation in agrifood systems pathways to help diversify Pacific Island economies and speed up the achievement of the SAMOA Pathway and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
By Xiangjun Yao, FAO Subregional Coordinator for the Pacific
When the outbreak of COVID-19 three years ago caused much of the worldwide economy to come to a sudden halt, its impact on the Pacific was unique. To prevent community transmission of COVID-19, many Pacific Island Governments closed their borders to international travel, consequently interrupting the income stream that made up most of their economies. Now, despite reopened borders, more challenges have emerged, with the increase in prices of food, feed, fuel, and fertilizer and difficult access to finance – known collectively as the 5F crisis.
No sector in the Pacific Islands has been spared. The private and public, production and services sectors have all been affected. In the Pacific Island countries, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) reports, the Food Price Index rose, on average, by 8% from January-June 2022 – more than the already-high 7% average the world has seen over the past three years (2019-2022). The prices of fuel and fertilizer are also at unparalleled levels, threatening food security and livelihoods around the world, and disproportionately affecting Pacific small island developing States (SIDS). Rising prices impact not only the poorest, but also supply chains and the overall cost of living for the inhabitants of Pacific SIDS.
FAO has discovered that these converging crises have also negatively contributed to changes in consumers’ behavior, noting increased prices of healthy foods, which have the potential to force people to resort to cheaper, less healthy options, or to implement practices potentially detrimental to natural resources, for instance increase near-shore fishing or use of wood for energy.
To effectively address these challenges, SIDS and other countries require evidence-based policy and action support. Through better data collection, the training of government officials to develop an early warning system, and connecting government institutions with international financing mechanisms, FAO, in collaboration with other UN agencies, is supporting the Pacific Island countries to alleviate the negative impact of the 5F crisis on their respective populations’ food security and livelihoods.
Notwithstanding the challenges, there is also an emerging opportunity to truly strengthen food systems’ pathways and rejuvenate traditional agrifood systems to correct nutritional deficiencies and counteract the prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the Pacific Islands.
In the short term, Pacific SIDS should focus on mitigating food security shocks. This can be achieved through country-led programmes, production improvements, and market-oriented initiatives. However, both farmers and consumers must be among the beneficiaries to ensure they have equitable access to resources improving their food security and livelihoods, and that the increases in production and productivity will not be achieved at the expense of the environment.
To advance their national food systems pathways, Pacific Island Governments might also consider investing in:
- sustainable agricultural intensification, supporting farmers to produce healthier, more nutritious food while also preserving their livelihoods and natural resources;
- substitutions of imports the population relies on heavily, such as chicken and flour-based products;
- developing alternative sources of nutrients to improve productivity and reduce exposure to chemical and fertilizer supply shocks, as well as hardier crop varieties that can safeguard food production and security; and
- social protection measures that assure the most marginalized populations are properly supported.
In the medium to longer term, to support building sustainable, resilient, and inclusive agrifood systems, Governments will have to ensure agroecosystem diversity. They will also need to address gender disparities in agriculture and rural communities, ensure their agrifood systems transformations are sustainable, and strengthen food price monitoring tools that are critical for raising the alarm on future food shocks or crises. All of these can be combined with anticipatory actions and preventative measures that strengthen food systems in advance.
Noting their local contexts and the need to ensure longevity and ownership of actions, the Pacific nations are also turning to local innovators and solutions that have started to appear even before the pandemic and the Ukraine crisis.
Innovation and innovators can provide a pathway out of the 5F dilemma
Many such agrifood systems innovations were showcased on the SIDS Solutions Platform during a Global Forum in August 2021, co-hosted by FAO, the Government of Fiji, and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Following up and building on the successes of the 2021 Global Forum, old and new innovations will yet again take center stage later this month during the Pacific SIDS Solutions Forum in Apia, Samoa.
Co-hosted by FAO and the Government of Samoa from 28-30 November 2022, the Forum will provide a platform for Pacific Governments and private stakeholders to bolster innovation in agrifood systems pathways to help diversify Pacific Island economies and speed up the achievement of the SAMOA Pathway and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Their contribution towards sustainably improved food security, nutrition, health, and the environment is a clear indication of a cultural shift, where creativity, gender equality and inclusivity converge to help us all create a better world for the people of the Pacific Islands, leaving no one behind.