The scarcity of skilled manpower and the weakness in institutional capacities are common constraints shared by SIDS. Current agricultural and food security policies and strategies show that despite a great diversity in SIDS, agriculture, fisheries and forestry still play a major role through their contribution to GDP, as a source of employment, as generation of export earnings to the economy and as a safety net.
The situation of institutions and policy in support of agriculture, fisheries and forestry varies considerably. On one end, the sector is virtually non-existent, such as in Nauru (exporter of phosphate and once one of the richest countries of the world) or Bahamas where tourism (40 percent of GDP), financial and international services and e-commerce are the pillars of the economy. On the other end, the agriculture sector is predominant, such as in Jamaica where the agricultural sector is recognized as crucial for enhancing economic growth and food security, income and employment generation, poverty reduction and where a number of national agricultural policies are being implemented (the Agricultural Policy Framework 2001-2004, the Corporate Plan, the Operational Plan, the Medium Term Plan 2002-2004) or in Tonga where, over the past decade, agriculture and fisheries consistently accounted for over 70 percent of the total export earnings, over 50 percent of employment and about 30 percent of GDP.
The importance of the sectors varies from one SIDS to the other. For example fisheries dominate the agriculture sector in Maldives, a nation of 1 192 small coral islands. It used to be the dominant sector of the economy until 1985 when the tourism industry surpassed it in terms of contribution to GDP. In the case of Kiribati, marine resources provide the main source of revenue together with copra.
Labour force in Maldives' fisheries
Fisheries are the vital sector of the Maldivian economy, employing 25 percent of the work force and accounting for over 60 percent of exports. Over the past two decades, the Maldives have successfully developed the assets of its marine environment. As a result of its abundant aquatic resources, the Maldives' fishing industry has been transformed from a predominantly cottage industry to a modern industry able to compete effectively in the world markets through mechanization of traditional fishing boats and provision of fish processing infrastructure. Fish production, mostly tuna, more than tripled between the 1970s and the 1990s, to more than 105 000 tons a year. Fish exports account for more than two-thirds of total merchandise exports. Tuna production in the Maldives is not environmentally destructive, since the artisanal pole-and-line method of fishing is highly selective and "dolphin friendly". The Maldives' coastal and reef fisheries have been the population's principal source of livelihood, providing employment and much of the country's food through commercial, artisanal and subsistence fishing. Today, over one-quarter of the local labour force is involved in the fishing industry and more are employed in down-stream processing activities that prepare processed fish for the export market.
SIDS have developed policies and strategies to adjust to the new world environment and are in the process of strengthening national institutions to support their implementation. Some new concerns with critical human repercussions, are being reflected in the new policies.
One major concern is the growing incidence of poverty. In the case of the Federated State of Micronesia, poverty incidence is estimated to be approximately 40 percent of the population, with signs of increasing inequalities.
Another worrying concern in some SIDS is unemployment, which in the case of the Marshall Islands reaches 28 percent of the male population and 37 percent of the female population. Though pervasive poverty has not been a problem, considerable inequality exists between the urban and outer islands population.
SIDS are facing clear deterioration in the nutrition situation, with a growing tendency to poor quality imported food displacing nutritionally valuable local crops. Food vulnerability is increasing in outer islands where the situation is complicated by distances and changing consumption preference with vanishing taste for local foods and consumption of imported staples (rice and flour) and convenience food like canned and frozen meat. The increasing incidence of non-communicable diseases, along with prevalent child malnutrition, vitamin A deficiency and anaemia in women, are a testimony of growing nutritional unbalances.
Nutrition country profiles15
Papua New Guinea: according to a small scale survey, obesity is most prevalent in the urban coastal areas, and least prevalent in rural Highlands. This is partly attributable to the adoption of a modern life-style.
Vanuatu: adult malnutrition is in the form of over nutrition, with an increasing prevalence of overweight, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. In 1996, one-third of the urban and rural women (15 to 49 years) surveyed were either overweight or obese, and more than half of females in the 40 to 49 year age group were overweight or obese. Cardiovascular diseases have been the leading cause of mortality for the past decade.
Guyana: about 40 percent of adults are overweight, with the prevalence of obesity increasing with age. Significantly more women are obese compared to men.
Barbados: the micronutrient deficiency of importance in Barbados is iron.
Fiji: malnutrition in children resulting from insufficient dietary intake is a concern. The prevalence of iodine deficiency disorders (IDD) is high in Fiji. Almost half of the population had goiter detected by ultrasound in 1994.
Cuba: the prevalence of malnutrition among pre-school age children, was below 5 percent at national level. These remarkably low percentages of child malnutrition put Cuba at the forefront of developing countries. Neither iodine deficiency nor vitamin A deficiency are public health problems in Cuba. A national plan of action to control iron deficiency anemia is in place, covering iron supplementation, iron food fortification and complementary public health strategies.
Land fragmentation and land ownership remains a growing concern in SIDS where land was mostly communally owned. In the case of the Solomon Islands, land ownership is communally held and about 90 percent is customary. There is a demand for clear land tenure systems recognising traditional land systems, to become part of the national legal framework.
Agriculture pest and diseases is also a prevalent concern of SIDS. For example, in terms of market access for taro and limes, Niue has experienced market access difficulties due to the inability to demonstrate freedom from pests and disease and pest monitoring programmes.
SIDS have taken initiatives to diversifying their production as a reaction to declining revenues from traditional export crops. These innovative approaches provide new routes and ideas for adapting to niche markets and to the new trends in northern countries where consumers' demand are increasingly oriented towards certified products, with a growing demand to better understanding production systems, human and environmental repercussions and origins of produce.
Examples of agriculture policy priorities in SIDS
Main issues include: the development of the taro industry and meeting export market requirements, development of the vanilla and noni industry for exports, facilitating organic certification and organic farms, research on the potential of other crops such as passion fruit and vegetables, research on the control of fruit flies and other pests, drafting biosecurity legislation and policies, facilitating quality control of production for export markets to meet the requirements, implementation of national forestry policy and logging code, fisheries development, pilot project for the development of piggery farms and improving extension advisory services.
SIDS have also adapted to the new environment by developing more participatory processes in their policy design and implementation and increased decentralization, adapting traditional decision-making habits to modern institutional requirements. In the case of Tonga, there is an integrated network within each District. Traditionally, District and Town Officers carried out their functions through informal meetings. Now the formal occasion, the "fono" is normally held once a month, and allows taking all decisions in conjunction with the primary concerned. In some islands national development strategies and policies are the result of extensive consultation process involving civil society institutions and private sector representatives.
The scarcity of skilled manpower calls for a pooling of the limited human resources through regional cooperation and institutions. FAO has been closely involved in the continuous up-grading of skills (farmers, fishers, forest users, exporters, administrators, extension personnel, both men and women) through specialized training and capacity building.
The objectives and proposed actions of the FAO Plan of Action on Agriculture in SIDS in this field are the following:
In line with these objectives, FAO has undertaken a number of programmes and projects on food security and agricultural policy and strategy. A recent FAO activity involving most SIDS is the "Initiative to Review and Up-Date National Agricultural Development and Food Security Strategies and Policies" which involved Country Questionnaires providing valuable up-dated information on SIDS' present situation and needs. Twenty-six SIDS have also been providing highly relevant data in the Country Policy Profiles on state of agricultural policy, strategy and foreseen Support, which give a clear picture of present potentials and constraints.
The initial results show that the main constraint expressed in SIDS refers to remoteness and dependence on food imports, which generates market access difficulties and food supply vulnerability in 92 percent of SIDS. This food supply vulnerability is aggravated by the current competitiveness issued from cheap food imports affecting local food production initiatives. SIDS emphasize the following priority issues: to maintain local food supply promotion, expansion and diversification (96 percent of SIDS); to update land tenure policies (40 percent of SIDS); to develop irrigation infrastructure and water harvesting (32 percent of SIDS).
Agricultural export diversification for strengthening agricultural trade remains a challenge which led to coconut improvement (Kiribati), reorientation and restructuring of the sugar sector (Barbados), diversified exports in Niue (taro, vanilla, honey), enhancing market access to export fruit products (Samoa). Fishery production is considered as a main policy issue in 40 percent of SIDS countries and forestry and environment policy issues represent a priority in 28 percent of SIDS.
The main policy implementation gap is the limited human resources capacities which affects over 50 percent of SIDS. On the other hand, the decentralization mechanism in small territories is considered a success in countries such as Micronesia, Tonga, Marshall Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. Participatory process is quite efficient in Niue and Samoa. In terms of coordination, Nauru has developed an appropriate inter-ministerial coordinating tool through the National Environment Coordinating Committee (NECC) which manages all support activities concerned by environment, agriculture, fishery, livestock. Furthermore inter-ministerial consultation in Bahamas and Barbados is successfully undertaken. Bahamas is a success story in terms of links between agriculture, tourism and environment, which translates in sustainable use of natural resources. The poverty reduction target and link with agriculture is well underlined in Papua New Guinea and St Lucia.
Examples of recent FAO projects in policies, strategies and legal aspects include:
Vulnerability of SIDS is increasing. Vulnerability refers to "the full range of factors that place people at risk of becoming food-insecure. The degree of vulnerability of individuals, households or groups of people is determined by their exposure to the risk factors and their ability to cope with or withstand stressful situations"17.
FAO has been working on improving capabilities of national Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping Systems (FIVIMS) in four pilot SIDS (i.e. Barbados, Cape Verde , Comoros and Samoa ) as a means of reducing food insecurity and allowing donors and technical agencies to more effectively respond to changing circumstances of individual countries18. In addition, a Workshop on the Formulation of a National Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information Strategy for Fiji was held in Suva, in September 2003.
Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping Systems (FIVIMS)
FIVIMS are any systems that assemble, analyze and disseminate information on who the food insecure are, where they are located, and why they are food insecure, nutritionally vulnerable or at risk. The World Food Summit Plan of Action (Rome, November 1996) recommended that such systems be established at the global, national and sub-national levels in efforts to achieve Summit goals of reducing under-nutrition and achieving food security for all.
The idea behind FIVIMS is that improved information can be actively used to produce better results in efforts to reduce the number of undernourished and achieve food security for all. FIVIMS is a framework within which a wide range of activities may be carried out at both national and international levels in support of improved information to achieve World Food Summit goals.
At the national level, FIVIMS is implemented through a network of information systems that gather and analyze data relevant for measuring and monitoring food insecurity and vulnerability. This network is collectively referred to as a national FIVIMS.
At the international level, FIVIMS is implemented through a diverse programme of activities that aim to support national FIVIMS and establish a common database and information exchange network, referred to as global FIVIMS.
The Inter-Agency Working Group on Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Mapping Systems (IAWG-FIVIMS) was set up as the mechanism to oversee the development of FIVIMS. Participation in the IAWG has now increased to 28 organizational members, of which 14 belong to the UN System. IAWG-FIVIMS has its permanent Secretariat at FAO.
The review of past and present policies and human resources in SIDS shows that agriculture and fisheries play an important role in supporting the local economy of the islands, contributing to food security. While combined economic value might represent a small percentage of GDP in some SIDS, fishing and subsistence agriculture remain the major activity of most parts of the population.
Strengths in policies and institutions: the case of Vanuatu
Effective partnership between the private sector, government and development partners, through industry associations such as the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Syndicat Agricole et Pastoral, Kava Exporter Association and beef Advisory Board; technical support from Government and industry associations such as the Farm Support Association; promotion and marketing of certified of organically-produced foods, as well as natural pest and disease control techniques and improved organic fertilizers; development of alternative products from coconuts instead of copra (e.g. coir and coir dust, activated carbon, cold pressed oils, fuel substitutes).
Strengths and weaknesses in agriculture policies and strategies were analysed at country level and give the following outlook on which to build future strategies:
Further analysis of the Country Policy Profiles is being undertaken and will provide additional openings for up-grading the level of policies and strategies in SIDS for a more accurate planning for the future.
16 Including: Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Cape Verde, Cuba, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Maldives, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Kitts and Nevis, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and Vanuatu.
17 Inter-Agency Working Group Guidelines Series no. 1, Rome, 2000.
18 FAO, 2000. Supporting Pilot Applications of the FIVIMS Initiative in SIDS.