Pacific Island economies are based primarily on agriculture and related activities. For many years, the traditional subsistence economy has coexisted with cash cropping of coconut and introduced crops. This ensured a continuation of self-sufficiency in food and traditional materials whilst at the same time providing cash for essential expenses. Until relatively recently, the agricultural sector received considerable public support and protectionist policies served to ensure food security.
The globalisation of world trade and, in particular, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) are however producing significant changes in world commodity markets with repercussions for agriculture in the Pacific. Under the Agreement on Agriculture of the Uruguay Round, policies must have minimal distortionary effects on trade or production. Pacific Island economies have had to adapt to this new environment. The response has generally been a greater emphasis on the expansion of the private sector with exports as the key to economic growth.
Under this new approach to economic development, food production and food security are in danger of receiving less attention than they deserve. Since women contribute considerably to food production, especially in Melanesia, women's roles are in similar danger. This only adds to the low status that women in general and women's role in agriculture already suffer. The issue of women's role in agriculture (and concomitant role in natural resource management) is thus closely linked to the issue of food security. Indeed, to some extent, it has been possible to de-emphasise the importance of food production and food security simply because these are women's concerns.
In order to address food security issues therefore, it is necessary to address and strengthen women's role in agriculture and natural resource management. This requires the availability of information. In this context, this report seeks to make relevant data available for three Pacific Island countries, namely Fiji, Vanuatu and Samoa1. An important part of the report focuses on data requirements to inform and strengthen policy and programme planning in agriculture and natural resource management with respect to women's roles in food production and food security. Additionally, the report includes a discussion of data needs to address policy in rural enterprise development given its close links to agriculture.
The improved availability of sex-disaggregated data on human resources in agriculture, natural resource management and rural enterprise development will also permit monitoring of the changes in women's and men's roles which will undoubtedly come about as a result of the policies being put in place.
A first requirement for determining data needs to address policy is to examine that policy. The report therefore examines current policies, including strategies and plans of action, in the areas of agriculture (including fishing and forestry) and natural resource management as well as rural enterprise development. The focus is on those areas that are relevant to women and on the impact of policies on food security and livelihood concerns. The report then identifies relevant sex-disaggregated data needs at the national and community level, as well as appropriate sources and data availability. Strategies for capacity building in the identification, collection and tabulation of sex-disaggregated data are then discussed as a means to enhance database development in human resources with regard to agriculture, natural resource management and rural enterprise development.
This report forms part of activities carried out under the global FAO Plan of Action for Women in Development 1996-2001. The purposes of this plan are threefold. Firstly, to ensure an evolving and dynamic understanding of the situation of rural women including their contributions to, and constraints in, agriculture, forestry, fisheries and rural development. Secondly, to establish strategies and instruments with reachable targets to address gender concerns in technical areas. Thirdly, to thereby enhance the benefits that rural women derive from their contributions to sustainable agriculture, forestry, fisheries and rural development, as well as strengthen their capacities to contribute to national development in each of these sectors.
1 Visits were made to these countries in April-May 1997.