Small Island Developing States conference opens
Ministerial meeting seeks more integrated approach for island development
18 November 2005, Rome -– A major Ministerial Conference on the plight of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Low-Lying Coastal Countries opened today at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
The Conference brings together some 50 Ministers and high-level officials of Ministries of Agriculture from 34 countries, and representatives from almost 30 international governmental organizations, international non-governmental organizations and UN organizations. Conference participants will discuss how agriculture, forestry and fisheries can be better integrated into SIDS economies to improve the nutrition and food security needs of islanders and to provide better employment opportunities.
SIDS and low-lying coastal countries suffer more than most countries from environmental changes, hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons as seen when some of them were hit by the December 2004 tsunami, killing hundreds of thousands and destroying already fragile economies. In addition to natural disasters, these small islands face many other serious threats to the health and livelihood of their people and their economies.
Twelve proposals under consideration to boost integrated development
According to Nadia Scialabba, a senior officer at FAO and focal point for SIDS, “This Ministerial meeting will be looking into how we can increase the efficiency of agriculture, forestry and fisheries and make recommendations on integrated policy development. Concrete project proposals are on the table for the Ministers to consider. The projects focus on cross-sectorial linkages in areas such as tourism, environment and rural development and will help to build economic, social and environmental resilience in SIDS.”
A background document prepared for the Conference says that SIDS are characterized by very different economic structures and levels of development, with some depending on agriculture, forestry and fisheries and others relying primarily on sectors such as tourism for their economic development.
“Instability in agricultural production and exports and increasing dependence on costly food imports have exacerbated vulnerabilities that are often caused by events outside the control of SIDS, such as declining commodity prices and more demanding trading conditions,” says Deep Ford, a senior economist at FAO.
Agricultural diversity promotes food and environmental security
Agricultural diversity and better farming practices not only improve food security for islanders, but lead to these countries facing less damage when struck by natural disasters like hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons, according to the FAO paper. Diversified agricultural production systems, effective fisheries management and planting hurricane-tolerant crops, together with good forestry practices, would all combine to improve the lives of islanders.
Land resources on small islands are generally constrained, but islands often govern limited tracts of ocean, which provides additional resources and responsibilities. FAO’s assistance on responsible fisheries for SIDS helps strengthen the capacity of fisheries administrations in order to promote and facilitate responsible fisheries in support of social and economic development by assisting island countries with the implementation of the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.
According to FAO, to break out of the cycle of malnutrition and dependency on factors outside SIDS' power, it is essential that SIDS grow their economies through sustainable agriculture, fisheries and forestry development policies and programmes, while reducing their dependence on imported food products and preferential export markets and increasing their capacity to face environmental stress.
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