Apia – The Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), QU Dongyu and Hon Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa, the Prime Minister of Samoa, today called on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to leverage the power of innovation to regain their momentum toward achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Pacific SIDS Solutions Forum (28-30 November), convened in Samoa’s capital, Apia, has brought together ten Government Ministers, as well as Senior Officials from the Ministries of Agriculture, Fishery, Forestry, Natural Resources Management and Climate Change, ICT, and Health, and representatives from development partners, civil society, the private sector and other stakeholders, from 14 Pacific Small Island Developing States (SIDS). They are exploring the role innovative solutions can play in addressing the disproportionate aftershocks experienced in the Pacific Islands caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, climate change, and the 5F crisis (food, feed, fuel, fertilizer and finance).
“As a result of these converging crises and shocks, we have seen negative coping strategies emerging, including changes in consumer behaviour, with the price of healthy foods out of reach for some, forcing people to resort to cheaper, less healthy options,” Qu said in a video address to delegates.
“There is urgency for small island states to move forward with transformative food system approaches including government support towards building sustainable, resilient, and inclusive agrifood systems that fit our respective contexts,” noted Hon Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa, the Prime Minister of Samoa.
A disproportionate urgency for the Pacific Islands
Even before the global pandemic and the 5F crisis, many island nations in the South West Pacific were grappling with other issues. Over the course of many years, due to a dependence on imported, processed foods, high in salt and sugar content, the prevalence of non-communicable diseases had skyrocketed. Type-2 diabetes, coronary diseases, obesity and other health issues have placed a great strain on public health services. At the same time, stunting of children had continued to be a problem.
Governments, FAO, other UN Agencies and stakeholders have been working together to rebalance diets and improve nutrition, through re-focusing on home-grown, healthy foods and improved livelihood opportunities in the local food and agriculture sectors.
Urgency leads to innovation
“Notwithstanding these crises and challenges, there are also emerging opportunities for strengthening agrifood systems pathways, and to revive traditional agrifood systems to correct nutritional deficiencies and counteract the prevalence of non-communicable diseases in the Pacific Islands,” said Qu.
Indeed, this Forum has learned of a number of innovations that are responding to these issues – from the use of smart phone, digital technologies, in the agriculture sector and also to monitor dietary habits, to the implementation of low-cost, low-energy devices that can contribute to local food production.
The Pacific SIDS Solutions Forum aims to provide a platform for exchange of locally-grown knowledge and innovation related to building resilient, inclusive and sustainable agrifood systems in the Pacific SIDS.
“FAO continues to do our part in support of our Member Nations in the Pacific, as they move forward in their collective responses to these challenges and solutions,” said Jong-Jin Kim, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific during his opening remarks in Apia. “FAO stands ready in this region to provide the technical advice and support as we move forward, together, in regaining momentum toward achieving the 2030 SDG Agenda.”
A Pacific take on SIDS challenges
The Pacific SIDS Solutions Forum is building on the achievements and recommendations of the global SIDS Solutions Forum, co-hosted by FAO and the Government of Fiji in August 2021. Since then FAO has been working with Pacific SIDS countries to foster partnership building at community, national, regional and global levels to facilitate the implementation of the Forum’s recommendations.
The Pacific SIDS Solutions Forum will provide a platform to highlight, strengthen and expand these partnerships for the benefit of people in the Pacific.
Fourteen participating Member Nations have agreed that local innovation holds the potential to unlock social and economic development opportunities, bridge inequality gaps and empower all Pacific peoples, including youth and women, to help accelerate progress toward achieving the SDGs in Pacific SIDS.