FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
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Pacific countries receive support for national Food-Based Dietary Guidelines

Project inception workshop held in Apia, Samoa
30/09/2020 Apia, Samoa

FAO is collaborating with government Ministries for Health, Food and Agriculture from several Pacific countries to provide support to revise national Food-Based Dietary Guidelines (FBDG).

The partnership follows requests by the Governments of Fiji, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu to provide technical assistance in revising and implementing national Food-Based Dietary Guidelines. In response, FAO is designing and funding the regional project called - Technical support for national Food-Based Dietary Guidelines (FBDGs) in Fiji, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.  With a total budget of $338,000 USD the regional project runs until the end of 2021.

This project supports development and endorsement of national FBDGs. The Pacific Guidelines for Healthy Living (2018)[i] are a guiding document and will be adapted to suit local country nutrition, food system and food environment context. After government approval of the guidlines the project will establish a national FBDG Implementation Action Plan and will carry out a Knowledge, Attitude and Practices (KAP) evaluation survey in each of the six countries.

Several country specific implementation and awareness activities will take place including training on the FBDGs to improve food security, nutrition security and health. Training will be targeted with specific groups chosen by countries e.g. Ministry of Health officials and health professionals, Ministry of Education officials, principals and teachers, school food vendors and cooks, Ministry of Agriculture staff, community leaders and groups, church groups and food businesses including supermarkets, farmer’s markets, restaurants and food vendors.  Country specific information, education, and communication materials (IEC) will be prepared. In 2021 a workshop will be conducted in Samoa with the six participating countries to share country experiences and lessons learnt while developing, revising, adapting, and implementing national FBDGs.

Stakeholder participation and input is essential for success in developing and implementing national FBDGs. The responsible Ministry and National Project Coordinator in each country are establishing a Technical Taskforce Team in conjunction with the Project Steering Committee to oversee, review and make decisions on project outputs such as the country nutrition evidence review, proposed national FBDGs, guideline messaging, IEC material, the KAP survey and the FBDG Implementation Action Plan. Technical taskforce members are expected to include stakeholders from relevant Ministries including Health, Agriculture, Education, Women, Community Development and Commerce; community and church groups, health groups, NGOs, WHO and FAO and will be assisted by a FAO international consultant and in each country, and a FAO national consultant.

Operationalizing the project with COVID travel restrictions has presented new challenges. With Pacific country borders closed, Project Inception meeting workshops take on a new format, with stakeholders and government counterparts meeting locally in a conference room, and FAO participation by Zoom. At other times, group Zoom meetings with six National Project Coordinators and FAO provide a forum for management of the project and discussion of generic issues. Individual one on one Zoom meetings and emails between the country NPC and FAO discuss country specific issues. In the background, email assistance continues between NPCs and FAO. Although challenging, government counterparts in all six countries have risen to the new circumstances and modality with the extremely worthwhile objective of producing national FBDGs and making a significant start to implementing and disseminating them countrywide.