Beijing, China, 17 - 21 May 2004


Table of Contents


1. Achieving food security for all and reducing the number of undernourished people by half in 2015 is an essential part of the international development agenda, as stated in the Rome Declaration of the 1996 World Food Summit, and was re-affirmed by World Leaders in the 2002 World Food Summit: five years later (WFS: fyl). The Rome Declaration on world food security and the Plan of Action of the World Food Summit opened the way to a common aim: food security at the household, national, regional and global levels. Particular consideration was given to small-island developing states, which include most of the Pacific Island Countries.

2. The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) in 2002 formally endorsed the Regional Strategy for Agriculture Development and Food Security, and the Regional Programme for Food Security (RPFS) in the Forum Island Countries (FICs), which encompasses all FAO Member countries in the Pacific. These documents were prepared by the PIFS with support from the FAO Subregional Office for the Pacific Islands (SAPA) as part of its support to the World Food Summit follow-up through regional groupings. The Regional Strategy for Agriculture and Food Security in the Forum Island Countries drew attention to weaknesses in policy and programme formulation capacity with respect to addressing food security at both national and regional levels.

3. During its formulation, the RPFS had considered and incorporated the individual Country Strategies for National Agriculture Development and Food Security – Horizon 2010. These documents were prepared as background materials for the 1996 World Food Summit and were further reviewed by the members in the year 2000 with assistance from SAPA. In accordance with the individual member strategies, the RPFS Project will identify projects in each country that will result in improved nutrition and better accessibility to food (among other objectives outlined in Section III of this paper).

4. This paper commences with an assessment of the status of the agricultural and food security situation in the PICs that permits the overall discussion of the subject of food security. It presents the status on general resource, agriculture and food security, agriculture marketing situation, and important linkages between sustainable agriculture and rural development. Thereafter, it discusses the Regional Strategy for Food Security and its implementation through the Regional Programme for Food Security (RPFS).



5. The Pacific Island Countries (PICs)1 are characterized by an extraordinary variety of land and marine ecosystems. The land area, dispersed over several thousands of mostly small islands and atolls, is only about 500 000 km2. By contrast, the sea area, controlled through exclusive economic zones (EEZ) is estimated at 17 million km2. There is substantial diversity amongst the PICs in terms of physical size and endowment with respect to natural resources for agriculture, forestry and fisheries. Papua New Guinea represents close to 90 percent of the region’s land area. The Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji are large, rugged, mainly volcanic landmasses, which are generally rich in biological and physical natural resources. Mineral wealth is substantial in some, especially in Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Fiji. At the opposite end of the spectrum are the atoll nations whose resource endowments are very limited. They include the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, the Marshall Islands, Tuvalu and Palau. These nations are small and isolated and have very poor soils, although some have minerals. Between these two extremes are the Cook Islands, Tonga and Samoa, which are volcanic islands of intermediary size with rich soil but little or no mineral wealth.

6. In spite of their diversity, the PICs share common constraints that impede their efforts to achieve balanced economic growth and sustainable food security. Among these common constraints, which are characteristic of small island developing states (SIDS), are their smallness, remoteness, geographic dispersion, fragile ecosystems and vulnerability to natural hazards, as well as a heavy dependence on external economic factors such as changes in the global trading environment.

7. There is an increasing awareness that environmental precautions are essential to continued economic development. The fragile ecosystems of the Pacific islands are being threatened by various trends such as urbanization, over-exploitation of common land and lagoon resources, agricultural cultivation of marginal lands, deforestation and so forth. The challenge is to strike an appropriate balance between conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. Effective erosion control, conservation of water, and careful management of forests and fisheries resources are required. Production systems need to be diversified for maximum efficiency in the utilization of land resources while minimizing environmental and economic risks. The ocean and coastal environment is of strategic importance and constitutes a valuable yet vulnerable resource for food security.


8. Most people in PICs, in some cases more than 80 percent of a country’s population, live in rural areas and rely heavily on agriculture, forestry and fisheries as a source for their livelihood and food security. The contribution of the agricultural sector to the GDP of individual countries ranges from 3 percent (Federated States of Micronesia) to 40 percent (Solomon Islands). The agriculture sector (including fishery and forestry), along with tourism, remain the major sectors that provide the greatest potential for income generation and employment opportunities, as well as source of livelihoods in the PICs.

9. Tourism is a major foreign exchange earner in many of the PICs, including the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu. In Fiji, for example, a total of 426 000 tourists visited the country, generating foreign exchange earnings of FJ$464.9 million (Fiji Ministry of Information and Media Relations publication, 2003). Other countries like Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands also encourage tourism as a potential major foreign exchange earner. Most countries are also encouraging ecotourism to complement mainstream tourism. Ecotourism is considered to be the most viable means of spreading the tourist dollar beyond the industry’s major areas of concentration and increasing the involvement of local people. Because the resort areas are owned by local people, it increases their cash earnings and therefore improves their level of food security and livelihood. Government policy support to the tourism industry contributes to the increasing number of tourists and the potential for increased sale of agricultural food products (fruits, vegetables, fish and livestock) as demand for food increases. The future potential for increasing tourism in the PICs depends on the level of absorption capacity, including growth of the hotel industry as well as other accommodation facilities and restaurants.

10. Average data on per caput income seems to indicate that people of the region do not face particularly serious problems of poverty and access to food. However, the average national indicators – in terms of GDP per caput (2000), PICs range from low-income (Solomon Islands: US$880) to upper middle-income (Palau: over US$8 000) with most of the countries classified as lower middle-income with GDPs per caput ranging from US$1 070 (Samoa) to US$2 300 (Fiji) – mask strong territorial and social disparities within countries. Economic development seems to have taken place in the capital island to the detriment of small and remote islands. There are many reasons for this scenario including economic size, population size and migration, inadequate infrastructural development (including agricultural marketing infrastructure), inadequate availability of service facilities including health and education, and unavailability of land resources in the outer remote islands. Moreover, some PICs have a highly skewed distribution of income. In Papua New Guinea, for example, while the average GDP per caput is estimated at about US$1 100, some 80 percent of the population are believed to have an annual income of less than US$350.

11. The regional average dietary energy supply (DES) of 2 380 kcal, only slightly lower than the total developing country average (1994–96), obscures the existence of pockets of chronic undernourishment in most countries. Anaemia, iron and vitamin A deficiency are frequent. The national figures for energy supply range between 2 050 kcal/day in the Solomon Islands to more than 3 000 kcal/day in Fiji, indicating important disparities among countries.

12. Traditional farming is practiced by small farmers who often cultivate less than 2 ha of land using mostly family labour with very few external inputs. Women are responsible for most of the food production in Melanesian countries, while men play a much larger role in traditional Polynesian farming systems. The major proportion of the produce is consumed by the family but some may be sold. Root crops which are the main food crops in the region are generally grown in agroforestry systems with other food or cash crops such as coconut, breadfruit, bananas and plantains, various other fruits and nuts, spice plants, medicinal plants, and other plants that provide raw material for housing, handicraft, wood fuel, etc. In Fiji, agriculture is organized more along commercial lines, although the subsistence sector remains important. Large-scale agriculture comprises mainly of palm oil, coconut, sugarcane, cocoa and coffee plantations, and beef cattle. Typical constraints faced by producers include a shortage of labour, poor quality and availability of planting material, a lack of efficient pest control and monitoring programmes, high post-harvest losses, poor animal health and high cost of purchased feed, and weaknesses in both domestic and export marketing.

13. Towards the coastline, the root-tuber farming system often merges into coastal artisanal fishery. Subsistence fisheries provide an important source of protein in the PICs. Subsistence fishing results in a total catch that is often several times larger than from commercial fishing although available statistics are limited. In Fiji, for example, which has extensive commercial “tuna fisheries”, subsistence fishery is the largest sector of the fishing industry. Most of the inshore (coastal) resources in the PICs are small and therefore highly vulnerable. The start of commercial fishing, or the switch from subsistence fishing to commercial fishing, will often result in overexploitation in the coastal areas. Despite the comparatively minor impact of aquaculture on Pacific Island economies, the PICs now recognize that aquaculture including restocking and stock enhancement programmes provides one of many long-term sustainable methods of deriving benefits from inshore fisheries resources.


14. While there may be significant differences in the pattern of agricultural production in the PICs, from a marketing standpoint the similarities are perhaps more important than the differences. Most PICs consist of many islands and have a relatively small population, which means that the difficulties associated with sea transport are compounded by the small quantities of produce which the islands have to sell and the small quantities of goods they can afford to buy. Some small outlying islands in the Solomon Islands and Cook Islands, for example, are serviced by boat on a monthly basis, or even less frequently. This obviously has implications for the types of crops which can be grown for sale. Even the larger and more populated islands experience communication difficulties. For example, most fresh produce grown in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea has to be shipped from Lae to Port Moresby. There is no road from the Highlands to the nation’s capital Port Moresby and airfreight is very expensive.

15. Since a large proportion of agricultural produce such as root crops, fruits, vegetables and fish are marketed fresh locally, development of appropriate post-harvest processing and storage technologies are extremely important. Farmers, extension staff, middlemen and retailers in the local markets generally lack information on post-harvest handling of fresh produce, proper packing, transportation and storage of the produce before sale. There is need to promote, also among traders, simple low-cost technologies, preferably using local resources, for handling and packing fresh produce to reduce damage during transportation and storage. For export produce, post-harvest handling in general is better organized as exporters tend to pack the produce themselves or provide packing material and supervise packing. For example, squash exporters in Tonga provide packing material, supervise packing and quality control and are responsible for transport from packing sheds to wharf. The major problem for export of fresh produce appears to be in meeting the quality and quarantine standards.

16. The export sector, which occupies a central place in income generation of most PICs, comprises a narrow range of primary agricultural commodities, which are exported mainly to niche markets overseas. Tree crops, sugar, fruits and vegetables, as well as timber and marine products, are the major exports from the region. Major trading partners include Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the United States of America and Europe. Intra-island trade is small, doubtless mainly due to similarity of commodities on offer and diseconomies of scale for strengthening trade links between small countries. Exports are therefore vulnerable to external disturbances, including a recession in trading partner countries, the effect of weather on export supplies, and strong competition from larger low-cost countries of the region which have greater comparative advantage.

17. Fiji, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands are World Trade Organization (WTO) members, while Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu have applied for accession. Rules already established under the WTO have an impact on agricultural trade and national policies.

18. In most PICs agricultural exports account for over 50 percent of total exports and, at the same time, significant quantities of major non-food items – machinery, capital goods and petroleum products – are imported and hence, with the exception of three countries (Nauru, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands), trade balances are highly negative. Agricultural trade occurs under a number of agreements in addition to the Uruguay Round Agreement on Agriculture (URA). At the regional level, countries have preferential access to Australian and New Zealand markets under the South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement (SPARTECA). Access to European markets occurs both under the Lomé Convention/Cotonou Agreement and the Generalised Systems of Preference (GSP). Agricultural commodities enter Japan and the United States under the GSP programmes of those countries. In all these markets, Pacific island products enter duty-free or under preferential tariffs and, as importers lower their most favoured nation (MFN) tariffs, the margins of preference erode. At the same time, domestic economies have been protected through tariffs and other measures.

19. The need to diversify the export base away from traditional commodities has been acknowledged by all Governments who are now committed to facilitate the upgrading of the production and the exploitation of niche markets. Potential export commodities might include horticultural crops, fresh and processed fruit, root crops, spices and herbs, indigenous nuts, floriculture, non-copra coconut products, certified organic products and fresh fish exports, among others.

20. Food quality and safety control remain crucial issues in the PICs for food security. The countries must be able to meet internationally accepted food quality and safety standards in order to gain from the liberalization of agricultural trade through strengthening their national food safety system; harmonizing food safety regulations; and participating effectively in the work of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, set up by FAO and the World Health Organization (WHO). Although national food laws are at various levels of development, food standards and regulations are generally inadequate in PICs.


21. Like many SIDS, the majority of the PICs population live in rural areas and rely heavily upon agriculture, forestry and fisheries as a source of livelihood and food security. PICs are increasingly faced with the challenges of the emerging global trading environment, rising nutrition-related health problems and food-import dependency. In response to these challenges, countries are seeking opportunities to diversify their agricultural systems. Efforts made, with support from the donor community and FAO, include building on and enhancing traditional production systems, reviving interest in traditional food crops, and developing integrated approaches to pest and production management, as well as to natural resource conservation and management.

22. Despite this, there remains a tendency for development efforts to be made without proper assessment and appreciation of the intricate relationships and interlinkages between agriculture, rural development and the environment. Efforts towards environment (biodiversity) conservation, for example, tend to focus on establishing protected areas and reserves, which have been achieved mainly through the transfer of natural forests and shrubs, unspoilt reefs and coastal ecosystems into reserves rather than through restoration of degraded areas. These protected areas and reserves have provided for the sustenance (in terms of food, wood fuel, raw material, etc.) of the rural population for decades and their closures have in many cases contributed to declining food production and productivity and, consequently, increasing food insecurity in the rural areas.

23. The UN General Assembly under its Resolution A/57/262 approved the convening of an International Conference of SIDS in Mauritius from 30 August to 3 September 2004. This will provide an opportunity for a comprehensive review of the implementation of the 1994 Barbados Plan of Action on Sustainable Development for SIDS. In preparation for the Mauritius Conference in 2004, three subregional meetings were held in 2003, and an interregional meeting and a preparatory meeting will be held in early 2004 in the Bahamas and New York, respectively.

24. PIC delegates at the Regional Preparatory Meeting for the Mauritius Conference held in August 2003 agreed that the vision of the draft Pacific regional assessment and position should be similar to that presented in the regional submission for the World Summit for Sustainable Development, which was “Achieving measurable sustainable development in the Pacific region towards the quality of life for all”. This was to ensure a people, ocean and island focus for sustainable development in the Pacific region. However, it has been recognized that the agriculture sector is not adequately covered by the 1994 Barbados Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of SIDS. In addition, throughout these preparatory meetings, SIDS are being represented mainly by national agencies concerned with environment matters. It is therefore difficult to envisage that the Mauritius Conference will adequately address agriculture and its role in the sustainable development of PICs (and other SIDS), unless they are able to successfully integrate the agriculture sector within their respective sustainable development agenda.

25. The impact of agriculture on public goods is more often than not fully recognized or considered when designing development programmes aimed at enhancing sustainable rural development, or when assessing the benefits and costs of agriculture development programmes for the rural areas. While agriculture can make a significant contribution towards the production of public goods, such as agrobiodiversity, climate change mitigation, watershed and flood protection benefits and food security, it can also contribute to the generation of negative externalities such as nutrient depletion, increase in flood frequency downstream and loss of natural forests and wetlands. Unless development projects result in overall net positive externalities being generated, it is unlikely that such efforts will achieve long term sustainable development of agriculture.

26. Indicators for measuring the contributions of agriculture to the production of public goods are difficult to formulate. Nevertheless, actions such as rehabilitation of degraded lands, adoption of conservation agriculture (organic farming, use of organic manure and integrated pest and production management practices), and the expansion of the knowledge base of the farmers are considered to have positive contributions towards enhancing the production of public goods. These actions are essentially consistent with the regional strategies for agriculture development and food security for PICs.


27. The PICs regional strategy for food security sets out a number of principles for the programming process including the importance of national priorities, the derivation of regional priorities from the national priorities, donor recognition of these regional priorities, prioritization and ranking of regional requirements and the development of project/programme proposals based on profiles endorsed by the PICs. The major strategies are focused on a more intensified, diversified and sustainable agriculture; and agricultural policy advice and adjustments to changes in the global trading environment at the regional and national levels. These strategies are consistent with the overall FAO Corporate Strategies to address members’ needs in: reducing food insecurity and rural poverty; ensuring enabling and regulatory frameworks for food, agriculture, fisheries and forestry; creating sustainable increases in the supply and availability of agricultural, fishery and forest products; conserving and enhancing sustainable use of the natural resource base; and generating knowledge of food and agriculture, fisheries and forestry.

28. In the short to medium term, the PICs regional strategy for food security aims to accelerate on a sustainable basis the rate of growth of agricultural productivity and to improve the competitiveness of the food and agricultural sector, while preserving and improving the natural resource base. The attainment of this goal must result in a broad-based and gender-sensitive enhancement of food security and reduction of poverty.


29. The overall objective of the RPFS is that of strengthening of food security both at the regional and national levels as well as at the community and household levels. The programme will help improve, on a sustainable basis, access by all the people in the region at all times to adequate food required for a healthy and active life through increases in productivity, production and trade of food crops. Thus the focus is quite broad, encompassing issues related to a more intensified, diversified and sustainable agriculture; and agricultural policy support and investment assistance and changes in the global trading environment.

30. To achieve the overall objective, the programme is organized around two main interrelated components that are based on a regional strategic development framework and regional agricultural priorities as set out by the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF). The two main components are:

Component 1: Enhancing food production and security. This component focuses investments on specific production related activities (supply side). It will fund pilot community based activities in each participating country in line with key subsector priorities in agriculture, forestry and fisheries, giving consideration to applied research and development of appropriate technologies for smallholder agriculture and developing participatory approaches to address specific production problems.

In addition, at the individual country level, subprojects linked to the FAO-supported Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS) would promote small-scale irrigation where feasible; and promote improved cultivation practices and diversification of farming systems, including small animal production. Emphasis would also be placed on improving the marketing infrastructure, including the strengthening of quarantine, quality control and inspection systems.

Component 2: Strengthening agricultural trade and policy. This component aims to help create an open and competitive domestic policy framework in the PICs and thereby promote efficient production systems in line with comparative advantage. The strategic activity under this component is to build institutional capacity in trade facilitation related to establishment of sanitary and phytosanitary standards for agricultural exports. It will address such areas as (i) food quality and safety standards; (ii) promoting intraregional trade in agriculture; (iii) commodity development programmes; (iv) transitory measures in response to the on-going trade liberalization; and (v) assisting countries to enhance their capacity to participate effectively in multilateral trade negotiations on agriculture.


31. The PICs regional strategy for food security recognizes the intricate relationships between agriculture and the environment, and the link between food insecurity and rural poverty. It aims to accelerate on a sustainable basis the rate of growth of agricultural productivity and to increase the competitiveness of the food and agriculture sector while preserving and improving the environment and the natural resource base. The Special Regional Programme for Food Security for the Pacific Island Countries, with the overall objective of strengthening food security both at the regional and the national levels as well as at the community and household levels, is expected to help improve access to adequate food required for a healthy and active life through increases in productivity, production and trade of food crops.

32. The integration of agriculture within the PICs’ sustainable development agenda is necessary in promoting sustainable rural development and enhancing food security both at the regional and national levels. In addition, emphasis should be focused on efforts to raise awareness about the broader role of agriculture in terms of the production of public goods, which should provide a useful framework for addressing rural development and environment concerns, and increasing political will and financing.

33. FAO, through SAPA, should be able to provide strategic support in the implementation of PICs strategies for food security in the following areas:

34. In summary, the Conference may wish to recommend the following:

  1. Agriculture and Food Security and RPFS – To support member countries and the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat in strengthening sustainable agriculture, livestock, forestry, fisheries and rural development sector policies and in developing national food security strategies and investment programmes, the Conference may wish to recommend that donor communities enhance their financial support for agricultural development in the region and that FAO further promote South–South Cooperation in regional programmes for food security.
  2. Agriculture Marketing and Trade – The Conference may wish to consider recommending that FAO and other donor communities increase technical assistance for the development of agricultural marketing and information systems, and mobilization of financing for longer term infrastructure investment; support the strengthening of marketing information and database systems; and provide capacity building on removal of obstacles to market access, including issues in relation to the WTO, Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreements.
  3. Agriculture and Sustainable Rural Development – The Conference may also wish to recommend that international organizations like FAO and donor communities provide technical support to environmentally sustainable agricultural development through development of national policies and action plans using integrated approaches for environmental protection, resource conservation and biodiversity protection based on community participation; promote policies to create greater environmental awareness; support the conservation, management and development of fisheries and aquaculture resources; and promote agroforestry development strategies.

1 Pacific Island Countries, which are members of the Pacific Islands Forum and classified as developing countries, include the Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.