Information, Communications & Extension

The ICE thematic group contributes to achieving LRD objectives of improving food security and well-being of member countries by promoting innovative extension approaches to communicate information and promote new technologies for the sustainable management of agricultural and forest resources.

Pacific Media workshop highlights climate change and food security
Wednesday, 19 May 2010 12:09

They heard that a fast-growing Pacific Island population is impacting on food production.  The situation is made worse by an aging farming community, with few young people being attracted to agriculture. The workshop was part of the biennial Pacific Islands Media Association (PINA) general meeting held in Port Vila, Vanuatu, 26 – 31 July, 2009. Journalists from Tonga, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Tuvalu and Samoa were joined by local journalists from radio and newspaper outlets for the two-day workshop which preceded the meeting.

Presenters included Dr Johann Bell from SPC Noumea, Dr Hermann Fickinger, team leader and chief adviser, SPC-GTZ Adaptation to Climate Change Project, and representatives from the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme  (SPREP).

Dr Bell said providing better access to fish will help ensure food and nutritional security for Pacific Islanders.  Fish is high in protein and rich in essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and iodine. To meet the World Health Organization’s recommendation that people in the Pacific get 50 per cent of their protein intake from fish, Dr Bell said on average every person should eat 35 kilograms of fish every year. In many Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs), fish consumption already exceeds this amount.

Worldwide, forest degradation and deforestation contribute 18 per cent to global greenhouse gas emissions – the third largest source  – with 13 million hectares of forests being lost globally every year. Forests provide a huge carbon reservoir, covering about 4 billion ha (30% of total land area) around the world. Some Pacific Island countries, including Vanuatu, Fiji, Solomon Islands and PNG, still have large areas covered with forests and there are in fact around 34 million hectares of forest in the Pacific region, excluding Australia and New Zealand. Among their many benefits, forests are a source of biodiversity and protect against soil erosion.

Dr Fickinger spoke on the role of forestry in climate change mitigation, through conserving and managing existing forests, reducing deforestation, planting new forests, and the use of wood for energy supply and construction. He stressed that management of existing forest areas must adapt to climate change, including through closely monitoring the relationship between climate parameters and forests and assessing the choice of tree species for forest plantations.

On Fiji’s main islands alone, around 200,000 ha of productive natural forests are considered degraded. These forests have lost part of their productivity and ability to provide forest products and services and need treatment to improve their resilience, functions and supply of resources.

Without intervention, the risk of deforestation is deemed high and subsequent reforestation will come at a high costs. Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) is an important contribution to mitigating climate change.  Reducing emissions by avoiding deforestation can generate carbon credits that can be offered to buyers or funding mechanisms.

SPC has already begun providing PICTs with the information they need on climate adaptation and is supporting the Pacific Islands Framework for Action on Climate Change (PIFACC), 2006– 2015. At their meeting in Niue last year, Forum Leaders endorsed PIFACC, which establishes priorities for action on climate change at local, national, regional and international levels. Adaptation is a major focus of this initiative.

Climate change will contribute to the erosion of biological diversity in the region and interactions within food and agriculture ecosystems. To make the most of existing biodiversity, SPC, through its Land Resources Division, is collecting ‘climate ready’ crops and varieties from around the region that can grow in marginal conditions. LRD is also collaborating with international agricultural research centres to assess new breeding lines from outside the region.
Local food production has to be strengthened to ensure food security. At the same time, local production provides an opportunity to reduce the incidence of lifestyle diseases throughout the Pacific. However, production has to be increased at a time when the climate in which local food is grown is changing, while the frequency and intensity of this change is unpredictable. Pacific Island communities need to be prepared to manage droughts, higher temperatures, water-logged land, and in the case of atolls and low-lying areas, salt intrusion. Pests and diseases will also change, both in their nature and intensity. Crop diversity is an important tool because different species and different varieties provide farmers with the means to be able to adapt to, and manage some of the impacts of climate change.

The Development of Sustainable Agriculture in the Pacific (DSAP) programme, which is part of LRD, is developing technologies to better manage climate change, such as the use of bucket irrigation to manage water resources more effectively, and promoting the use of leguminous cover crops to enhance soil organic carbon.

To support atoll residents in addressing their unique challenges, LRD has established the Centre of Excellence for Atoll Agriculture in Kiribati. The centre provides a focal point for the Pacific scientific community to develop technologies that will help atoll farmers improve their productivity and income, increase their market opportunities, and adapt to climate change.

The Pacific-German Regional Programme on Adaptation to Climate Change in the Pacific Island Region will directly strengthen the capacity of SPC to respond to the needs of PICTs facing climate change challenges.  The project will focus on practical, long-term adaptation strategies in land management, agriculture and forestry.  The Euro 4.2 million programme is being funded by the Federal Republic of Germany. German Technical Cooperation (GTZ), the implementing agency, is working in partnership with LRD, complementing the Pacific Island Framework for Action on Climate Change, 2006–2015.

Vanuatu and Tonga are being assisted to integrate climate change issues and adaptation strategies into land-use policies and planning. This is an important step in building the resilience of local farming communities to climate change, given that its impact will be intensified by poor land-use practices and limited options. SPC has already taken steps to identify resilient crops, trees, and livestock and will be introducing these climate-change-ready technologies to farming communities.

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change obliges industrialised countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 5.2% (based on their 1990 levels) by 2008–2012. The clean development mechanism (CDM) is one of three mechanisms that have been identified to help countries fulfill their obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. CDM, which includes reforestation and afforestation, involves joint action between industrialised and developing countries to ‘assist the industrialised countries achieve compliance with their greenhouse gas emissions reduction commitments, as well as assist developing countries achieve sustainable development’. It allows industrialised countries to invest in projects that reduce emissions in developing countries as an alternative to undertaking more expensive emission reduction measures in their own countries.

SPC is helping to raise awareness of CDM in PICTs and to build capacity in the associated  technology, starting with a regional workshop in 2008.

Outside of climate change and food security issues, the media can help promote and publicise many other policies and actions being implemented in PICTs. These include food production systems adapted to climate change, youth in agriculture, infrastructure for food distribution, backyard gardening to increase local food production and associated awareness of the nutritional value of local foods, local community responses to food security, revised curricula for agriculture and fisheries courses at tertiary institutes, traditional knowledge of food production systems, and promoting seed gardens for plant diversity.

Participants in the climate change and food security workshop presented a set of recommendations to PINA executives. They requested PINA to prioritise climate change and food security, and to note and support the work of regional organisations on climate change and food security initiatives.

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ICELRD’s core business is to improve the food and nutritional security of the Pacific Community through the sustainable management and development of land, agriculture and forestry resources. This is accomplished through the delivery of technical support, training and advice to our member country governments in the areas of plant protection, conservation and use of plant genetic resources, animal health and production, agroforestry, sustainable systems for agriculture, forestry and land management, and biosecurity and trade facilitation.

The Heads of Agriculture and Forestry Services (HOAFS) is the leading regional body providing guidance to LRD work plans. The biannual HOAFS Meeting endorses LRD work plans and budget. The office of the LRD Executive acts as the Secretariat for HOAFS.