Our increasing population demands greater food production
Friday, 21 August 2009 00:00

The agriculture sector needs to increase food production to meet the demands of the growing population of the Pacific, a Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) workshop on climate change and food security heard in Port Vila, Vanuatu.

Speaking to participants, Secretariat of the Pacific Community Senior Fisheries Scientist Dr Johann Bell said that the work of SPC showed that agricultural production is not keeping pace with population growth and that this threatens food security.
Today, two thirds of Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs) are importers of food because of consumer demands.
‘Most of this food is of low nutritional value, which increases the prevalence of obesity, diabetes and heart diseases in the region,’ said Dr Bell.
Other threats to food security that have emerged in the region include the loss of traditional knowledge for producing food, and weaker family support systems and poverty resulting from urbanisation and unemployment.

According to Dr Bell, providing better access to fish will help ensure food security. Fish is high in protein and rich in essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and iodine.
SPC’s Public Health Division advises that up to 50 per cent of daily protein intake recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for good nutrition will need to come from fish for people in the Pacific.
‘This means that, on average, each person in the region should eat about 35 kilograms of fish per year,’ Dr Bell said. The good news is that fish consumption in many PICTs already exceeds this recommendation.

The challenge is to ensure that growing rural and urban populations continue to have access to fish for food. ‘Fish should be made available in ways that enable rural households to catch or produce it themselves, and in urban centres it should be supplied at affordable prices,’ Dr Bell said. He also emphasised that such plans need to be made in ways that will not be derailed by climate change.

The workshop was supported by GTZ (German Agency for Technical Cooperation) through the SPC/GTZ Adaptation to Climate Change in the Pacific Island Region programme.
Participants at the PINA–SPC/GTZ workshop discussed the need to increase capacity building programmes for journalists who will be reporting on climate change and food security.
Participants at the workshop also called on PINA to work in collaboration with regional organisations involved in these issues.