|Monday, 03 March 2014 09:38|
The SPC Land Resources Division (LRD) Strategic Plan 2013–2017 spells out the direction for the division’s work programme and budget over the next 4 to 5 years. it clearly articulates LRD’s focus areas and approach to supporting the priorities of Pacific Island countries and territories (PiCTs) for their land, agriculture and forestry sectors. The plan also provides a strategic framework for engagement with national governments, nongovernmental organisations, the private sector, other regional and international agencies, and partners active in the sectors. The strategy thus aims to ensure that LRD’s work is aligned to national priorities and complements the programmes and support of other development partners and agencies.
This is LRD’s third strategic plan and it builds on the experiences and lessons learnt in implementing our earlier plans. Feedback from our key stakeholders and partners, together with recommendations from the 2012 SPC independent external review and the meetings of Heads of agriculture and Forestry Services (HoaFS) and Ministers of agriculture and Forestry (MoaF), has validated the overall strategic thrust of LRD’s work. LRD’s goal is to assist the Pacific Community to improve food, nutritional and income security and sustainable management and development of land, agriculture and forestry resources.
This goal is directly linked to SPC’s vision for ‘a secure and prosperous Pacific Community whose people are educated and healthy and manage their resources in an economically, environmentally and socially sustainable way’. LRD is based at SPC’s Suva Regional Office, Fiji, and has approximately 74 staff and an annual budget of around 10 million CFP units (USD 9 million).. To facilitate delivery of services to all members, LRD also has staff located in other countries and territories, notably at SPC’s North Pacific Office in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia, and the Solomon Islands Country Office in Honiara.
Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs) are geographically, ecologically, sociologically and economically diverse. The region is home to an estimated 9.5 million people on islands with a land area of 550,000 km2 surrounded by the largest ocean in the world. Five of SPC’s 22 member PICTs (Fiji Islands, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu) account for 90 per cent of this total land area and more than 85 per cent of the population. The region is also home to some of the world’s smallest island states and territories, such as Nauru, Tuvalu and Tokelau. The importance of the agriculture and forestry sector in sustaining livelihoods varies greatly.
These sectors remain the mainstay of the economy and employment in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu and contribute significantly to household income and increasingly, export earnings. In contrast, in some of the smaller PICTs, agriculture is mainly based on subsistence farming and activities in the forest and trees sector involve management of watersheds and coastal forests, and agroforestry development. PICTs face numerous social and physical challenges in maintaining and improving the productivity of their agriculture and forestry sectors and protecting their biological diversity.
They are prone to natural disasters and their size and geographical isolation result in a narrow genetic and production base with limited opportunities to develop their economies by scaling-up production. In the forestrich countries, unsustainable logging in response to shortterm economic needs is destroying valuable forest resources with negative economic, social and environmental impacts on rural communities. Additionally, the drift of youth to urban centres in many PICTs has resulted in shortages of labour in rural areas and increased social problems in towns. Many PICTs also face significant challenges associated with rapidly growing populations. For example, in the smaller PICTs, growing numbers of humans and animals live in close proximity, increasing the risk of zoonotic diseases (diseases transmitted by animals) and pollution caused by agricultural activities (fertiliser run-off, animal waste).
Increased regional and global trade and travel and associated movement of people (tourists, travelling residents, fishers) have also heightened the risk of introducing unwanted plant and animal pests, weeds, diseases and other alien invasive species, threatening the fragile ecosystems and resource base of PICTs. More broadly, PICTs face a number of social challenges that also impact on the land resources sector. For example, rural to urban migration has the potential to reduce agricultural production and increase reliance on imports; and there are strong links between the rising incidence of ‘life-style’ diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, and increased consumption of processed foods rather than staple food crops. Climate change will exacerbate many of these challenges.
Related disasters such as tropical cyclones, flash floods and droughts impose serious constraints on development in the islands, so much so that some PICTs seem to be in constant ‘recovery-mode’. Food availability and people’s access to food are among the first essentials to be affected following such disasters. LRD faces the challenge of ensuring its activities support the needs of all of our member countries despite their diversity. The division is keenly aware of the need to address transboundary issues and commonalities and ensure that each member can benefit from lessons learnt in others. We also recognise the need to tailor our approach to the specific concerns of individual member countries and territories, especially when addressing the needs of small island states.