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III. Enhancing self-reliance

1. Diversification and intensification of primary production from renewable resources.
2. Tourism

Although small island developing States collectively have the highest level of per capita foreign aid in the world, trade imbalances have widened and their economies still depend on foreign capital, rendering self-sufficiency an ever more distant goal. The economies of most island nations depend primarily on one or two sectors, making them particularly vulnerable to international market fluctuations and encouraging over-exploitation of natural resources.

The need for "sustainable development", an all-embracing concept which calls for environmentally non-degrading, technically appropriate, economically viable and socially acceptable development, poses dramatic challenges to small island developing States in terms of diversifying their economies, providing income and employment opportunities for their citizens and intensifying production. Population pressure and inequitable distribution of resources undermine efforts by many such countries to feed their citizens from their own resources. Introducing sustainable agricultural practices in such circumstances is problematic.

Yet action is essential to improve the contribution of agriculture, small-scale manufacturing and tourism to income and food production. Support to ancillary activities in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors could increase incomes and employment opportunities for rural communities. Integrating crop and livestock production, energy conversion of agricultural residues, agroforestry, carefully managed mangrove fisheries and forestry, the use of multipurpose trees in farming systems, and small and sustainable processing activities are examples of such activities.

Policies aimed at improving agricultural productivity and intensifying production of agricultural commodities, diversification into new products (both primary and processed) as well as developing new end-uses, can help small island developing States improve food self reliance, diversify sources of income and compete on world markets. Appropriate farming systems within rational land use plans, reforestation programmes for commercial and noncommercial purposes, the consumption of traditional foods and adoption of safe and healthy diets, and improved post-harvest handling and agro-processing techniques should be promoted through such policies.

1. Diversification and intensification of primary production from renewable resources.

Promotion of the consumption of traditional foods and nutritional well-being
Diversification of agricultural commodities
Alternative use of crops
Integrated production systems
Forest products
Requirements for marketing and trade

Promotion of the consumption of traditional foods and nutritional well-being

Food habits in small island developing States worldwide have undergone dramatic changes in recent decades, particularly in the urban areas. Traditional food patterns have been abandoned, and the population has become highly depend on imported foods, often resulting in unbalanced diets. Many small island developing States have expressed serious concern over the declining contribution of domestic agriculture and traditional crops to food supplies; the increased incidence of under-nutrition, malnutrition, and diet-related disorders such as diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease; and lack of a coherent policy for food and nutrition in the future.

The abandonment of parts of the subsistence sector in favour of cash crops has in many cases narrowed the range of food crops, resulting in fewer "protective foods" being available for local consumption. Low intake of protective foods results in micro-nutrient deficiency, mostly affecting children. In the Solomon Islands for example, 23 percent of children under 4 years suffer from moderate malnutrition resulting in a stronger risk of illness and parasitic diseases. Among micro-nutrient deficiencies, vitamin A is emerging as a problem in some areas.

"International Conference on Nutrition"

Jointly organized by WHO and FAO, this Conference was held m Rome, in December 1992, with the participation of 163 representatives of governments, non-governmental and inter-governmental organizations, and UN agencies. Twenty small island developing States were among the participants and seven others, although they did not participate, submitted country papers assessing national nutrition situations and efforts to address food and nutrition problems. The Conference adopted the World Declaration and the Plan of Action for Nutrition which establish the basis for future guidance and formulation of national plans of action for the elimination of hunger and reducing all forms of malnutrition. Nine action-oriented themes were identified by the Conference to achieve the basic goat of protecting and promoting nutritional well-being for all: incorporating nutritional objectives, considerations and components into development polices and programmes; improving household food security; protecting consumers through improved food quality and safety; preventing and managing infectious diseases; promoting breast-feeding; caring for the socio-economically deprived and nutritionally vulnerable; preventing and controlling specific micro-nutrient deficiencies; promoting appropriate diets and healthy lifestyles and assessing, analysing and monitoring nutrition situations. FAO and WHO are actively cooperating to follow-up on requests received to assist countries in revising or developing national plans of action for nutrition. Assistance was provided in 1993 to Western Samoa in drawing up a National Food and Nutrition Policy, and discussions were held with the South Pacific Commission on how to collaborate in community nutrition, household food security and nutrition in the sub-region.

Reducing or eliminating diet-related disease problems such as obesity, and promoting improved nutritional status calls for concerted and long-term nutrition education programmes at the elementary and secondary school levels, and mass media and extension programmes to provide children and adults with adequate knowledge about better dietary habits and more healthy lifestyles (regular exercise, elimination of smoking, moderation in alcohol consumption, etc.). Food habits should be reoriented towards diversified diets through increased consumption of fruits and vegetables and fibre-rich foods.

Transformation of crops (see alternative use of root crops below) is crucial to limit seasonality constraints, facilitate marketing and attract urban consumers. Developing appropriate technologies in this field will contribute to the promotion of household food security, both directly through actual consumption or indirectly through income-generation.

The cultivation of fruit trees offers considerable potential since it needs relatively little labour, is fully compatible with traditional food production systems in home gardens and villages, and increases land-use efficiency. An appropriate strategy is to encourage households and smallholders to engage in mixed fruit tree cultivation (i.e. energy food such as breadfruit, bananas and avocado; protective food rich in vitamins such as citrus, mango, carambola and papaya; protein-rich food such as nuts). In this way, nutritious foods for family consumption will be available throughout the year.

Research on local foods should be undertaken as a matter of urgency and cover all stages of the food chain. Investment and technical assistance should focus on developing a sound system for propagating and distributing germplasm, with an appropriate mechanism for technology transfer on tree and crop husbandry, post-harvest conservation and utilization. This will require the establishment of effective coordination and information.

"Development of National Food and Nutrition Planning and Programmes in the South Pacific"

Since 1980, a number of activities have taken place in the region to create greater awareness of the food and nutrition problems and to initiate action to remove some of the causes. These activities have stressed the need for a more comprehensive approach to food and nutrition planning and have helped to identify the means to achieve this aim. The project was implemented in the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Solomon Islands. Tonga and Vanuatu, and aimed at achieving a nutritionally sound and economically rational food supply for all segments of the population, while increasing awareness among, the population of desirable nutritional practices and the importance of local food production for sustained national development. At the end of the project, Vanuatu, Tonga, and Kiribati formulated a food and nutrition policy, and food and nutrition programmes were included in the five-year development plans of Tonga and Vanuatu. Food and nutrition committees which provide the structural mechanism for the assessment, policy formulation, coordination, and monitoring and evaluation for food and nutrition have been established in all countries. As yet, there is no mechanism through which the Pacific countries can communicate, on a regular basis on common problems relating to food production, supply and consumption, and nutritional well-being, although conferences are regularly held in the region on these issues. Since many aspects of food and nutrition planning are best addressed at a regional level, it would seem appropriate to strengthen the South Pacific Commission's capability to provide relevant support to Pacific countries. The lack of facilities for basic nutrition training in the region could be filled by the University of the South Pacific, which is well placed to assume responsibility for training in nutrition, and in food and nutrition planning at the regional level.

Diversification of agricultural commodities

Agriculture in many small island developing States is characterized by a combination of large-scale commercial production of cash crops and a relatively smaller sector which produces food crops primarily for local consumption. This structure is in transition, driven by changing world markets, trade imbalances, the quest for food security and growing human populations. Limited land area, the paucity of soils suitable for agriculture, the expansion of tourism and exposure to natural hazards have led to a significant dependence on expensive food imports, while the production of food crops expands on marginal land with a low production potential. Therefore, most present agricultural activities do not fulfil the requirement of meeting basic human needs without compromising those of future generations.

Crop diversification can contribute strongly to meeting the objectives of food security and self-reliance, and to broaden the potential sources of income for farmers. Exports of some basic raw food commodities, certain high-value fresh tropical fruits, niche-market fruits and vegetables during the northern winter season, and value-added processed foods are extremely important to small-, medium- and large-scale producers and processors and to the overall economy. Among the constraints on agriculture which must be addressed are: undefined land tenure, access to credit, access to foreign and even domestic markets, and scarcity of farm labour.

Preferential arrangements between small island countries and continental countries (especially the European Union) for bananas, pineapples, sugar, tuna, etc., have facilitated market access for agricultural products which are comparatively disadvantaged by their distance from markets and absence of product differentiation. However, commodity price fluctuations, such as those during the early 1970s, which sent the price of sugar from 52 to 652 pounds sterling over a two-year period before collapsing, reveal the perils of undiversified economies. Frequently, the collapse of commodity prices result in large budget deficits in small island developing States, as well as a contraction in the availability of credit and an overall reduction in investment in agriculture.

Small island developing States are well suited to fresh fruit and vegetable production and some of them are relatively close to markets in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and the USA. There is also potential for inter-country trade or import substitution. There is, however, an important obstacle to diversification and trading of local production: endemic fruit fly populations (e.g. in the South Pacific). Unless fruit fly control strategies are put in place and adequate preventive and disinfection measures are available (i.e. alternative treatments to ethylene dibromide fumigation), small islands will continue suffering from production loss and restricted access to potential markets.

A more diversified production structure may provide greater stability in export earnings and promote import substitution. This will bring macro-economic benefits to small islands and at the same time help smooth the income fluctuations of the local community. Provided a range of appropriate policies is implemented, diversification can contribute to sustainable agriculture, the sound utilization of natural resources and the protection of the environment.

"Development of Fruit Fly Control Strategies in the South Pacific"

Records show that the number of host pests in fruit species in the South Pacific is causing substantial losses in production and halting export of island commodities to some overseas markets. The aim of this regional project (1990-94) is to assist Pacific island governments (Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu, and Western Samoa) to develop their capacity to improve the production of fresh fruits and fleshy vegetables to overcome quarantine restrictions on exports. It assists in formulating control strategies for pest fruit fly species during production, based on environmentally acceptable techniques such as heat treatment as a substitute for ethylene dibromide fumigation to disinfect exportable fruits and fleshy vegetables. A plant protection database, and training for its users, are being established in order to improve the capacity of national agricultural trainers and members of newly-formed plant protection training groups. This will develop plant protection capabilities in Pacific island countries (i.e. for interpretation of plant protection information, analysis of pest risk when implementing plant quarantine regulations, improvement of on-farm pest control, and participation in a regional information management and exchange network). This project will consolidate the progress achieved in the understanding and management of fruit flies in Cook Islands. Fiji, Tonga, and Western Samoa during 1990-93.

Alternative use of crops

Coconut palm dominates agriculture in many small island development States. Low copra prices on the world market make copra production unattractive in many of these countries. Poor husbandry and ageing plantations are the main causes of low yields. At present prices, there is little incentive in most areas to invest in replanting or improved, high-input production techniques. Coconut oil production has been stagnant in recent years due the relatively high labour requirement (while the labour force is being reduced by migration) and marketing problems (aflotoxin contamination during storage which has made it unsuitable for use in cosmetics such as shaving cream and soaps). Coconut could become more profitable in association with so-called "compagnon" crops (e.g. vegetables, coffee), and improved grazing in coconut groves which increases cash-flow (through meat production) and controls weed. Development of value-added products such as coconut cream and shredded coconut can contribute to rehabilitating the industry. Research into alternative crops to replace old groves would be profitable if undertaken on a regional basis.

The coconut palm has always been considered as the "tree of life" by islanders thanks to the wide variety and versatility of its products. Trunks of coconut trees, for example - now widely available as groves are abandoned - are used as construction timber (for housing, scaffolding, piles of boat landings), for making boats and furniture, and for charcoal production.

"Coconut Palm Wood"

The coconut palm (cocos nucifera) was widely planted in the South Pacific during the 1900s for the production of copra. Most of these coconut palms are now more than 60 years old and unproductive; this coupled with the decline in the copra industry necessitate the disposal of millions of overmature stems. These stems provide a potentially significant timber resource often in areas without abundant natural forest resources. Coconut palm timber compared with conventional timber lacks heartwood, growth rings, rays and knots. A cross-section of a coconut stem shows scattered vascular strands or steles in a softer groundmass. The steles are concentrated towards the "bark" or cortex, producing an outer band of much harder, denser tissue about 100 mm wide. The steles give the longitudinal surface a quill-like appearance, most striking in material from the lower, outer portion of the stem. The texture of coconut wood is coarse, strongly influenced by the steles which run at varying angles to the stems axis. Density decreases with stem height and also decreases from bark to the centre of the stem- In the. bottom 10 meters of the stem, density can vary from 950 kg/m3 in the dense peripheral zone to 230 kg/m3 in low density core. Coconut is a difficult timber to process. The fine dust generated during cutting combined with a high silica content "uses rapid blunting of conventional steel saws and cutters. However, the substitution with stelite or tungsten carbide saws and cutters allows most conventional machining operations to be accomplished satisfactorily. The quality of finish obtainable on coconut timber is largely dependent on density, the quality of the final finish declining as density decreases. Variabiality in density within the stem could be described as the single most critical property of coconut wood. The first step in assigning coconut timber to suitable end-uses is to grade the sawn stem into density classes. These classes will reflect expected performance criteria for each density class in terms of strength, penetration of preservation, chemicals, etc. Density grading will ensure a guaranteed product performance, The technology and techniques for processing coconut timber are available, but special cutting material and techniques are expensive and require careful quality control to produce a consistent product. This expense can only be justified if coconut timber products can achieve an economically viable price level on world markets, and maintenance and skills are available. These problems, technical and economic, have so far limited the development of coconut timber in the Pacific in spite of its abundance and the attractive appearance of products manufactured from it.

Clearing old groves will facilitate simplified overcropping or intercropping the systematic layout of seedlings and management and harvesting in general. But farmers will make the effort of disposing of palm stems only if there is some profit motive. Appropriate tools to process coconut stems will allow farmers to recycle them profitably and this in turn will contribute to reducing imports of timber or steel. Clearing constitutes, moreover, a vital phytosanitary precaution by avoiding the build-up of rhinoceros beetles which attack healthy trees.

Sugarcane is another major crop in many small island developing States and FAO has led the way in developing technologies for its alternative use, particularly as animal feed and as an energy source, as noted above. I-eaves, bagasse and molasses are valuable ruminant feeds and sugarcane juice is being successfully developed as a pig feed.

"Alternative Uses for the Versatile Sugarcane"

Despite the changes in sugar prices on the world markets and decreased competitiveness of small islands' production, sugarcane, still has the largest potential for development if its uses are diversified. Present in almost all tropical islands, this perennial crop has several unique characteristics it is highly resistant to strong winds, pests and diseases; it tolerates extended dry seasons, its yield is two to three times higher than nearly any other crop, it is very efficient in transforming solar energy; it produces copious amounts of leaf litter which is host to micro-organisms that fix nitrogen and probably oxidise methane; its maximum feed and fuel value is in the dry season when feed and fuel shortages are most acute; the technologies for cultivating and processing sugarcane are known in almost all tropical countries; it provides human food (sugar and gur) and easily fractioned animal feed (sugar-rich juice, the leaves, growing point and bagasse) as well as fuel (the fibre) which can be converted into chemical feedstock by gasification- Because of these characteristics, sugarcane is almost certainly the only tropical crop which offers long-term potential as a sustainable energy-rich alternative to coarse grains (maize, sorghum and barley) which are the backbone of intensive livestock production, especially for pigs and poultry. It is also the best candidate for production of renewable biomass-based fuel and chemicals. In a project (1993-94) in tropical America and the Caribbean, FAO is establishing an information network on sugarcane and local resources as animal feed, involving 24 countries of which 10 are small island developing States. Sugarcane plays an essential role, in most of the countries but the world sugar market crisis has caused man), mills to close. Small-farmer traditional livestock raising systems are predominant in the region. A new method of using sugarcane as animal feed (mainly for pigs, ruminants and ducks) will help small farmers to maintain their sugarcane fields by using the, cane directly on their farm. The project will enable the countries, in a regional network, to increase the use of sugarcane, its by-products and other local resources as animal feed and to test appropriate production systems under local small-farmer conditions

Root crops (e.g. yam, taro, cassava, sweet potato) were the main staple food for home consumption in many small island developing States. People consume root crops boiled or freshly baked, with very little processing. The encroachment of cash crops for export onto land traditionally used for local food production, together with increasing urbanization and availability of convenience foods (e.g. rice, wheat, snackfoods), have adversely affected the production of and demand for nutritious traditional foods. The perishability of root crops, transportation constraints, and under-developed marketing systems add to the difficulties of maintaining the market share of local foods which, it should be recalled, are normally consumed directly in the villages. Training in suitable technologies is needed for processing local root crops into preserved or added-value or more convenient products such as dried chips, flour, starch, gari, fried chips, biscuits, bread, jams/sauces, and frozen products.

"Increased Utilization of Local Root Crops in Tonga, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu"

In the three countries, 70 to 90 percent of the population live in rural areas and were traditionally self sufficient in their food supply, root crops being the main staple food. Nowadays, less than 10 percent of the national root crop production is marketed, and dependency on imported foods is increasing. Increased processing of food crops could provide one solution and have a direct impact on preservation and storage, household income generation, industrial activities, import substitution and export. This project (1992-93) investigated appropriate technologies for processing root crops into preserved products by establishing a reasonably well equipped and staffed demonstration unit for root crop processing in each country; testing technologies, describing uses, investigating markets, and producing processed root crop products on a pilot scale; it also organized workshops for extension and training of officers, women's groups, NGOs, cooperatives and private entrepreneurs.

Integrated production systems

Sustainable or stable farming systems (in terms of physical and biological resources) will not suffice to meet food security goals, help alleviate poverty, assure adequate nutritional status and fuel rural economic development. Adjusting to growing demands upon the land and increasing economic returns to farmers can be best attained by more efficient nutrient flow and energy use, together with appropriate institutional and policy reforms.

As agricultural development encroaches on natural ecosystems, local landraces are replaced by single, modem cultivars, intensive livestock production systems develop, and plant and genetic resources are lost. Research should focus on tree crops, mixed perennial cropping systems, the smaller multi-crop farms that utilize agroforestry systems, and livestock raising which optimizes production and maintains soil productivity.

Agroforestry provides a means to confer ecological and economic benefits on a farming system. Where soils are poor or slopes are steep (common conditions on small islands), incorporating trees and shrubs into the agricultural system helps maintain or improve soil fertility and decrease soil loss from erosion. Planting nitrogen-fixing trees, use of contour hedgerows, establishing windbreaks, and developing multi-storied cropping systems will provide for soil improvement and conservation. Trees planted on farmers' land provide fuelwood, poles, timber, fodder and fruit.

Livestock plays an important role in many small island developing States, making a valuable contribution to the diet, and providing an important source of income. Many small island developing States, however, are net importers of milk and meat products. A major issue for many such countries in pursuing self-sufficiency in meat and livestock products is the control of dumping of subsidized, out-of-date, or sub-standard products since this undermines local markets. Production and productivity of small-scale (back-yard) poultry and pig production can be increased using locally-available feeds, contrary to industrial units based on imported concentrates. The integration of livestock into mixed-farming and tree-crop systems to optimize use of crop residues and vegetation on uncultivated land, as well as assist the recycling of soil fertility, is an area of considerable potential. Examples include (i) raising ruminants under tree crops; (ii) using Prosopis plantations in semi-arid areas to provide pods for animal feed and hillside protection.

"Agroforestry Activities in Yam Growing Areas in Jamaica"

In central Jamaica, demand for local wood products is mainly for hardwood sticks to support yam plants. The decreasing supplies and increasing costs in procuring yam ticks is resulting in environmental degradation and threatening the long-term sustainability of vain cultivation. This project (1991-94) is introducing agroforestry systems among farming communities in critical hillside areas. The strategy is to interface forestry within the farming systems to increase overall productivity on a sustainable basis while addressing local needs for forest products. The project established numerous: demonstration trials and. his planted more than 25 different tree species which will be monitored and evaluated by local authorities over the next few years. Emphasis is placed on: live tree support systems (using Gliricidia sepium and Erythrina corallodendron) to reduce demand for yamsticks; high density planting (of Eucalyptus robusta) to increase supply by producing large amounts of yamsticks on short, coppice rotations; and direct seeding trials on field boundaries mixed with other species, and/or on pure plantations on marginal lands and steep slopes to promote soil conservation and enhance soil fertility. This should reduce demand for yamsticks in the growing areas while increasing supply on the farm, thereby reducing unauthorized cutting. As the trees grow, singling, pruning, lopping, pollarding, and coppice management will be introduced

Forest products

Because of the small areas involved, concern for over-utilization of forest resources has not attracted much attention in small island developing States. Yet, in proportional terms and in terms of domestic conservation needs, greater destruction is taking place there. It has never been more urgent to realise the full potential of forestry for sustainable development, both in terms of meeting immediate and future needs of increasing populations, and of the continuity of the natural resource base itself. Achievement of this goal requires a comprehensive approach in which the contributions of forest resources to society is fully appreciated.

Non-timber products tend to be neglected or overlooked by planners, partly because their value is greatest within relatively restricted local economies, and partly because they are often outside established marketing channels. These products rarely feature in statistics and are hardly ever studied. Consequently, knowledge of their productivity, development potential or management regimes for sustainability is limited. Forests which yield little timber are often considered worthless and are soon converted to alternative land uses. Yet it has become apparent that, with responsible use and proper husbandry, non-timber forest products, hitherto largely confined to subsistence use, can also support remunerative enterprises which increase the contribution of forestry to development. Non-timber forest products should be brought into the mainstream of modern economies while retaining their accessibility to traditional societies.

Non-timber forest products refer to subsistence goods and services for human or industrial consumption derived from renewable forest resources and biomass, bearing promise for augmenting rural household incomes and employment. The products include food, spices, resins, gums, latexes, forage, fuel, medicine, fibre, biochemicals, fur and feathers. Wood used for handicrafts is included, as are services derived from the forest that generate such benefits as tourism revenue and preservation of biodiversity.

The major factors encouraging the development of non-timber forest products are: deteriorating internal and external economic factors restricting imports and placing increasing reliance on indigenous natural resources; increasing publicity regarding the benefits to be derived from non-timber forest products for national and community economies and environmental conservation; new market opportunities created by the "green movement" in western countries and new ethnic markets created by the migration of peoples; and the ever increasing search for new biochemicals for the pharmaceutical industry.

Marketing new non-timber forest products requires that there be a niche in the market waiting to be filled by either replacing an existing product with a superior and/or cheaper product, or to supply a demand that has not been met. Price information and market infrastructure are necessary to ensure adequate returns to the producer. There may be financial problems for the individual supplier when increasing production to meet the demands of new markets. Institutional changes in property rights arrangements may be necessary to avoid over exploitation and resource exhaustion.

Steps to promote the development of non-timber forest products include:

* increasing knowledge among policy-makers of the potential of these products;
* encouraging the application of greater technical and marketing assistance programmes; and,
* disseminating information on opportunities with a view to capturing entrepreneurial interest.

Success will, therefore, require effective partnerships between local people, governments, NGOs and the private sector.

"Community Tree Planting in the Maldives"

Scattered in several low-lying atolls, the Maldives would be the worst affected islands if global warming resulted in rising sea levels. Well-managed vegetative cover, appropriate to the ecological conditions, can contribute to limiting the damage done by abnormal weather caused by climate change. This project (1992-94) is developing a programme of community tree planting to increase wood supply for rural and tourist use (trees would provide the tourist sector with scenic beauty, shade, charcoal for barbecues, etc.);mangrove development for shoreline protection, conservation of native vegetation, and development of wood resources: and bamboo development for small-scale rural income-earning enterprises, could be of special interest to women. Training is also provided to government officers: there is, as yet, no forestry service or its equivalent. investment This demonstration project is expected to be followed up by a larger-scale investment project, including institutional support.


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