Thursday, September 04, 2008

Pacific Islanders Face 'Food Security' Threat

Secretariat Of The Pacific Community)

A key Pacific regional organization says Pacific people are facing serious challenges to their food security, and need to be more self-reliant.

Global fuel and food crises are affecting Pacific Island people, who are very susceptible to global economic downturns, said Aleki Sisifa, Director of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community’s Land Resources Division.

He was speaking at the opening today of the Third Heads of Agriculture and Forestry meeting in Apia, Samoa. The theme for the meeting is “Food security, nutritional balance and sustainable management of natural resources.”

‘The genetic resources for food and agriculture we have depended on for generations have been eroded over the years, a situation that may be made worse by climate change. We need to sign up to the International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, so that we can access a wider pool of diversity and share genetic resources.

“Having adequate and secure access to customary land for development, and ensuring sustainable land use, have become more urgent with the need for increased pace of economic growth,” Sisifa said. Land reform is among the subjects for discussion at the meeting.

He also said more attention had to be paid to the close relationship between the agriculture and forestry sectors and health. Non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, were afflicting Pacific people in epidemic proportions, partly because of a reliance on imported processed food rather than more nutritious local foods.

The demand to provide alternative fuels was competing with food production, including competition for productive land.

The outcomes of the Heads of Agriculture meeting, which is organized by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, will go before a meeting of Pacific Ministers of Agriculture and Forestry in Apia next week. The Ministers, who will meet on 8 and 9 September, will also consider a new integrated strategic plan for the 2009-2012 period for SPC’s Land Resources Division.

Food security has become a major concern in the Pacific region, says Samoa’s Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Taua Tavaga Kitiona Seuala.

“The cost of living is skyrocketing, triggered by the adverse impacts of climate change and a significant increase in the price of fossil fuels.”

“We should be prepared to meet the challenges so that we can continue to live in relative comfort, given such difficult circumstances.”

“In the practical field, the environmental stresses plaguing the farming community need to be managed,” he said, adding that farmers would need to adapt their farming practices to be more resilient.

Hon. Taua was speaking at the opening of the Third Heads of Agriculture and Forestry meeting attended by Pacific delegates in Apia.

The Pacific region needed to be proactive in developing strategies to ensure its self-sufficiency in future he said. The minister also supported efforts to strengthen sustainable resource use, protect and share genetic diversity and improve biosecurity and trade facilitation.

source: Pacific Islanders Face 'Food Security' Threat
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