Specials Environment

A Programme for Sustainable Development in the South Pacific

Posted June 1996

Sustainable Primary Production in the South Pacific - Part 1

Technical Consultation of South Pacific Small Island Developing States
on Sustainable Development in Agriculture, Forestry And Fisheries
Apia, Samoa, 6-9 May 1996

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
and South Pacific Regional Environment Programme


Prepared by the School of Agriculture, University of the South Pacific, Samoa


Table of contents

Executive summary

I. Introduction

II. Current status of primary production

  1. Farming systems
    1. Traditional farming systems
    2. Moderate input production systems
    3. High input production systems
  2. Fisheries
    1. Subsistence fisheries
    2. Commercial artisanal fisheries
    3. Industrial fisheries
    4. Aquaculture
  3. Forestry
  4. Post-harvest and processing technologies
  5. Marketing systems
  6. Tourism and primary production
    1. Tourism and agriculture
    2. Tourism and fisheries
    3. Tourism, forests and the environment
    4. Eco-tourism

Part Two
III. Opportunities to improve production, processing and marketing systems / IV. Conclusion / References


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The paper describes the crop and livestock production systems, the nature of fishery and forestry, and marketing systems for primary produce in South Pacific Islands Developing States. Suggestions are made for areas where opportunities exist for improved primary production, processing and marketing.

There is urgent need to improve the productivity and sustainability of farming systems, particularly to develop suitable agro-forestry systems on sloping lands to sustain production and minimize land and environmental degradation. On flat lands, there is scope to intensify agricultural production in order to face the growing need for food and cash.

In traditional crops (coconut, root crops, and bananas), opportunities exist to enhance production through introduction of improved genotypes and proper management of production systems.

With livestock, pigs, poultry and cattle, efficiency can be increased with better genetic constitution of the animals. Development of low-cost feed, and pasture improvement, are essential as nutrition is the major constraint to livestock production.

In fisheries, the major need appears to be to control exploitation of inshore fisheries which are under serious threat of over-fishing. Development of offshore fisheries for local consumption, and of aquaculture, would constitute a means of relieving the pressure on inshore fisheries and maintaining supplies of fish, which is the cheapest source of animal protein in the islands.

With forestry, deforestation caused by agriculture, expansion of export crops such as coconut, and forest over-harvesting, must be controlled to reverse the serious consequences on the environment due to loss of tree cover. The remaining forested area requires urgent management to ensure sustainability, along with a complete organization of the logging/industrial sector. Regulation of forest uses, reforestation and agro-forestry systems constitute the means to this end.

In the area of marketing of primary produce, inadequate infrastructures and market facilities are the main constraint. Remoteness of the islands, and high costs, often make efficient marketing both within and between the islands difficult.

Post-harvest handling of produce is poor due to lack of technology and knowledge, as for processing. Through introduction of simple processing technologies, both wastage levels, shelf life, economic returns and export earnings can be improved.

Research and technology transfer, and greater coordination of research and development among the various government institutions involved in primary production is essential. Since South Pacific Small Island Developing States are largely dependent on technology from outside, good linkages with relevant institutions within and outside the region should be developed.

I. INTRODUCTION

Economic development debates concerning South Pacific Small Island Developing States (SPSIDS) refer to export growth through specialization and diversification of primary products for niche markets overseas or increased food self-sufficiency and resilience through diversification of farming systems for domestic markets. But can farming systems settings of the South Pacific support the constraints associated with these strategies? What is their potential?

Although farming, forestry, fisheries, post-harvest and marketing systems may differ from country to country in the region, and from place to place within a country, they have enough in common for them to be treated and analyzed together. This document reviews the major issues involved in the primary sector and indicates areas where improvements are required to increase production efficiency (while protecting the natural resource base) and diversify agricultural commodities for both foreign and domestic markets.

II. CURRENT STATUS OF PRIMARY PRODUCTION

1. Farming Systems

Crop production systems practised in SPSIDS range from traditional to high input production systems. The majority of the farmers (e.g. Fiji, Tonga and Samoa) probably fall within these two extremes in what will be termed moderate input production systems. As for livestock production, the same pattern is found: traditional (or backyard), commercial semi-intensive, and commercial intensive systems. The traditional and semi-intensive livestock production systems are often an integral part of the low and moderate input farming systems.

1.1. Traditional Farming Systems

Traditional farming is practised by small scale 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. The main crops are root crops which are the main food crops in the region. These include taro species (Colocasia, Xanthosoma and Alocasia in the high islands and Cyrstosperma in atoll islands), cassava, yams and sweet potato. These root crops are generally grown in an agro-forestry system with other food 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, fuel wood etc. Over 400 plant species have been identified in the agro- forestry systems of SPSIDS. Of these, about 50 have major importance in agro-forestry.

The mixed cropping systems practised by these farmers include a fallow period. Where the fallow period is long and minimum tillage is practised, soil disturbance is minimal and organic matter and nutrients are restored. This system creates favourable conditions for soil, water and nutrient conservation and consequently excellent environment for plant growth. This system is also very good for environmental conservation and sustainability. Traditional systems are also the most prominent in pig and poultry production and play an important role in the region (supplying the rural domestic market), and account for over 90% of total production in some countries. The level of management and financial input are typically very low: supplementary feed, and sleeping or laying accommodation are rarely provided. The pigs and chickens, mostly indigenous breeds, are free ranging scavengers, fed irregularly with kitchen left-overs or farm wastes. Nutrition is poor, growth rate is slow and productivity is low. Animals are particularly susceptible to parasites and diseases, and are also carriers of diseases.

Traditional ruminant livestock (cattle, sheep and goats) raising is not as prominent as the monogastric livestock industry except in a few larger islands. Beef and/or dairy cattle production is common in Fiji, Vanuatu, Samoa, the Solomon Islands and Tonga, while goat production is common in Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu and Cooks Islands. Sheep production has only recently been introduced in Fiji. Except for a few countries such as Fiji, the ruminant livestock industry is generally rudimentary or poorly developed due to limited management skills. Cattle is the main ruminant, followed by goats in the traditional livestock farms. With a few exceptions such as in Fiji where cattle are also raised for milk production, in most countries cattle are primarily raised for beef. Most cattle are exotic pure breeds or crosses which are grazed on unimproved pastures under coconut plantations, tethered on fallow land or roadside and fenced in small blocks of land. The level of management is usually low with no supplementary feed provided; here again, nutrition is poor, growth rate slow, reproductive efficiency low, generation interval long, and productivity low.

1.2. Moderate Input Production Systems

This system is usually geared mainly to produce for sale locally or for export. A mixed cropping system is still generally used in crop farms with emphasis placed on one or more cash crops. Root crops generally also form the major component of this system, but in some situations cash crops such as squash in Tonga and ginger, rice or vegetables in Fiji have become the main component. As production of cash crops increases, the number of tree species, tends to decrease and consequently the benefits of agro-forestry is lost. The need to produce more food and cash crops is often associated with increased deforestation and a shortened fallow period and hence this system has considerable detrimental effects on the environment.

In this system, family labour is used, with additional labour being hired during peak periods. In Fiji and Tonga, mechanization is practised for clearing, land preparation and weeding. External inputs such as herbicide is often used, and fertilizer and pesticides are generally used on the cash crops. Traditional food crops generally follow the cash crop to make use of the residual fertilizer. From a production point of view, higher yields per unit of land are obtained through added inputs, but there are problems in preserving soil fertility and minimizing soil degradation. In some cases, almost continuous cropping (e.g. in Fiji and Tonga) is now being practised. Build-up of weeds, disease and pests are also favoured by this system, which is not sustainable without purchased inputs which are very costly in SPSIDS. This often leads farmers to abandon the previously cropped area and move on to new land. This system, which involves an important share of the farmers in Pacific islands, can be improved and become more sustainable while increasing its productivity.

In semi-intensive livestock farms, the livestock used for commercial purposes are mostly exotic breeds obtained usually from Australia or New Zealand. They are usually confined to appropriate buildings with cages or litter for chickens, individual or group pens according to ages and classes for pigs, or paddocks for cattle, goats and sheep. The feeding system for commercial chickens is usually based on compound feed. In all countries of the region, compound feeds or feed ingredients are usually imported from Australia or New Zealand. Feed cost, accounting for approximately 65 to 75% of total cost of production, is the main factor limiting cost-efficient poultry meat and egg production. The exception is egg production which appears to be more profitable than meat production due to the relatively high cost of imported eggs.

Semi-intensive systems of pig production are common and appears to be more viable and profitable in many SPSIDS than poultry production. Depending on availability and locality, pigs are usually fed on farm local feed materials such as cassava, coconuts, copra meal, bananas, sago, taro, sweet potatoes and breadfruit, either processed or unprocessed, and may be supplemented with kitchen food scrap or abattoir animal waste. Most semi-intensive pig farmers operate on a small scale with 5 to 10 sows, which are usually kept in enclosed areas with supplementary feeding. In some of the smaller islands where imported feeds are commonly used, the cost of pig production is generally high.

1.3. High Input Production Systems

The drive to produce more export crops has led to the development of some high-input production systems in SPSIDS. Examples of such systems are squash production in Tonga, ginger in Fiji and taro in Samoa. Sugarcane in Fiji probably also falls in this category. The system is often operated on larger areas, usually over 2 ha, is highly productive, but is largely dependent on external inputs and hired labour. This system has contributed considerably to deforestation and related environmental problems, such as soil erosion and land degradation (ginger production on sloping lands in Fiji is a case in point). Better management would improve this system and increase productivity and sustainability while minimizing land degradation.

Plantations of coconuts, cocoa and coffee in many SPSIDS and oil palm in the Solomon Islands are more sustainable. Although in some instances, they may be high input systems, they have fewer detrimental effects on the environment, but to the detriment of traditional crops thus, leading to loss of biodiversity. In addition, growing land scarcity is fuelling increasing competition between cash export crops and food crops for subsistence and for local markets. Nevertheless, with a few exceptions, the plantation system has not been particularly successful in recent years for various reasons such as low yields due to poor planting material, lack of adequate extension services, low product prices, pests and diseases, and high labour costs.

Commercial livestock production largely concerns beef cattle which are grazed on natural pasture in coconut and oil palm plantations or on improved pastures using rotational grazing technique. In most cases growth rate is slow, stocking density is high, calving rate is low, there is no segregation of herds according to breed type, and usually there is little monitoring of herd performances. Dairying is not viable in most countries due to low milk production and poor feeding technique, except where supplementary feeding is practised.

2. Fisheries

The main species of fish and other marine resources harvested from the Pacific Ocean include tuna, eels, lobsters, crabs, prawns, shellfish, bêche-de-mer, turtles, and other finfish, crustaceans and mollusc. The tuna fishery industry is the most significant in the region and it is dominated by Japanese, Taiwanese and South Korean interests.

Three main systems of fish production in the South Pacific include subsistence fisheries, commercial artisanal fisheries, and industrial fisheries. Aquaculture is becoming important in some larger islands.

2.1. Subsistence Fisheries

Subsistence fishing is common in most SPSIDS, especially in remote communities. A high percentage of fish is caught by this sector. The technique may involve the use of small vessels, hand lines, spears and fish traps, which have replaced the old technique or traditional method of stone throwing or stacking up coral along fish drives to establish traps.

Fishing techniques vary between countries, within or between islands and according to the phases of the moon cycle, skills and knowledge of the fishermen. Subsistence fishing is done in coastal areas, but an important area is fishing in mangrove swamps and inshore waters, including rivers and streams. In most countries subsistence fish production could be intensified sustainably but where would remote communities market the surplus?

2.2 Commercial Artisanal Fisheries

This is the most common system in most SPSIDS. Techniques are relatively unsophisticated, involving the use of small vessels that may be motor powered, usually without processing facilities. All the fish obtained by this system is usually sold in domestic markets.

The important fishing zones of this sector are lagoons, shallow coastal waters and outer reef edges. Raising efficiency of this sector depends on better boats, equipment, modern techniques, improved processing, preservation and storage facilities, and improved marketing, as well as integration of women fishers in all aspects of in-shore fisheries development and management.

2.3. Industrial Fisheries

This type of fishing is usually capital and skill-intensive and export oriented, with little of the fish entering the local market. This sector is mainly involved in the production of frozen and canned fish for the export market. Fishing is usually carried out by joint ventures between local companies and foreign fishing nations in deep or off-shore waters and involves the use of large vessels, which are usually equipped with sophisticated equipment and processing facilities. Techniques involve relatively high technology.

The success of this sector depends on capital investment, improved boats, better equipment, provision of on-shore freezer storage facilities and development of appropriate fish stock management skills. Several countries are planning to become more directly involved in industrial fishing.

2.4. Aquaculture

The aquaculture sector in the South Pacific has had many trials but few successes. SPSIDS do not have the necessary land to set up farms nor the technology to set up cage operations. However, seed/spawn production facilities do not take up much land but require considerable expertise. The Coastal Aquaculture Centre set up by the International Centre for Living Aquatic Resource Management at Honiara and the Nadruloulou Research Station in Fiji are classic examples of successful operations.

Tilapia farms are successful in inland Fiji. Tilapia introduced to Tuvalu is used for animal food. Peneaid prawn farms have been set up in Fiji and the Solomon Islands. These can be successful given the increased expertise for local management. Grass carp have been introduced to clear rivers of weeds and supplement the food of inland people of the higher islands. Inland rivers are generally fauna impoverished with some small fish, eels and bivalves. Aquaculture of tilapia would boost the aquaculture sector, if it can gain acceptability by consumers.

Giant clam hatcheries exist in Fiji, the Solomon Islands and a few Micronesian countries. These provide young clams for distribution onto reef areas. Giant clams are being reintroduced into areas where they have recently become extinct due to over-exploitation.

3. Forestry

Increasing population and increasing pressure on shrinking forests are of great concern in SPSIDS. Although the South Pacific is seen as an homogeneous region, it extends over a vast area with significant geographical and cultural differences. Countries of Melanesia such as Papua New Guinea (42.1 m ha), the Solomon Islands (2.5), Fiji (0.85) and Vanuatu (0.81) have much larger forest resources than countries in Polynesia such as Samoa (0.16) and Tonga (0.01), and Micronesia such as the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau.

In recent years, deforestation has been proceeding rapidly in most of SPSIDS, and both primary and secondary forests continue to be transformed into degraded savannas and fern-grasslands, mangroves into housing and industrial estates or other lifeless land-sea interfaces. All parts of the Pacific have ecologically and culturally important forest types or individual species that are in danger of depletion by human action. Forest areas are lost to make way for industrial, commercial and residential areas. Wood is used to fuel cooking fires or erect squatter housing for low-income families. In rural areas, trees are cleared for agriculture. The situation is particularly serious in smaller countries with little or no remaining forest (e.g. Cook Islands, Tonga, and other atoll countries). Indiscriminate deforestation has led to severe erosion in the Cook Islands where most of the indigenous forest has been removed, leaving degraded fern lands and grasslands no longer suitable for agriculture. Traditional agro-forestry systems, based on indigenous trees, familiar and useful to local people and well adapted to local climatic and soil conditions. These underpinned were the major system for food production in the past. However, as discussed earlier, this system is giving way to intensive monocrop agriculture in many SPSIDS.

The forestry sector of the region includes natural forests, management of natural forests on perpetual-yield basis and afforestation projects. None has progressed substantially in the region. The natural forests of SPSIDS fall into the general categories of lowland tropical rain forest, mountain forest, swamp forest, mangrove forest, or coastal-strand forest. With the exception of Fiji where a large area of exotic plantation is well established, plantation forestry is in the early stages of development. A few experimental plantations of potential timber (e.g. pine, teak, mahogany, cedar) have been established, and milling is in progress in several countries. Forest products play an important role in the economies of Papua New Guinea ($460 million/year), the Solomon Islands ($43 million/year) and Fiji ($41 million/year).

Trees that now provide food, timber, fibre, firewood, and medicines, or that serve other cultural and ecological functions in Pacific agro-ecosystems, were deliberately planted or protected in the past. Expansion of coconut plantations for export contributed greatly to the destruction of some natural forest vegetation. For example, in the Marshall Islands breadfruit trees were removed to expand copra production. Agathis macrophylla, formally abundant in Vanuatu, has been almost logged out. Selected unrestricted cutting, sometimes for shipping as saw logs, also threatens the Fijian form of this stately species, mature individuals of which may be centuries old. Women are currently losing access to forest products, including medicinal plants and raw materials for handicrafts. In Kiribati, the government-sponsored coconut replanting and rehabilitation eliminated wide range of ecologically and culturally important tree species.

4. Post-Harvest and Processing Technologies

Since a large proportion of agricultural produce such as root crops, fruits, vegetables and also fish is locally marketed fresh, development of proper post-harvest processing and storage technologies are extremely important. Farmers, extension staff, middlemen and retailers in the local markets generally lack information on post-harvesting handling of fresh produce, proper packing, transportation and storage of the produce before sale. There is need to promote, also among traders, simple and low-cost technologies, preferably using local resources, for handling and packing fresh produce, to reduce damage during transportation and storage.

For exported produce, post-harvest handling in general is better organized as exporters generally pack the material themselves or provide packing material and supervise packing. Farmers generally do not use such materials for packing for sale in local markets as they are relatively expensive. The major problem for export of fresh produce appears to be in meeting the quality and quarantine standards. To obtain export quality produce, farmers need to follow proper production and plant protection procedures, in addition to proper handling procedures. Better technologies and facilities for post harvest-handling and inspection of produce could ensure that quality and quarantine standards are met. Such training usually by- passes women who are increasingly important producers of export crops.

A number of organizations, especially FAO, UNDP, Australian Agency for International Development, Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, United States Agency for International Development, New Zealand Government, South Pacific Commission and Institute for Research, Extension and Training in Agriculture, have since the early 90s been assisting SPSIDS to overcome the problem of fruit flies. Assistance includes identifying the species of pest present in each country, developing techniques to control the pest in the field, and developing post- harvest treatment to disinfest the produce to the satisfaction of the importing countries. Ethylene bromide, originally used for disinfecting is banned in the USA and Japan and there are very stringent restrictions on permissible levels of residues in produce in Australia and New Zealand. Use of the forced hot air technique for quarantine treatment developed by the United States Department of Agriculture is being tested and adapted for use in some countries such as Fiji, Tonga and the Cook Islands.

In recent years, there has been significant development of agro- processing industries especially in the larger SPSIDS, and considerable opportunities exist for further expansion and diversification in this area to produce added-value products to generate employment, which is much needed by men, women and youth in rural areas.

Due to its more diverse agriculture and larger population, post- harvest processing of agricultural produce is most advanced in Fiji, as compared to other island countries. Some of the major agro-processing industries in Fiji include sugar, industrial alcohol and spirits (from molasses - a by-product of sugar industry), processing of ginger, processing of fruits into juices, jams etc., rice and flour milling, and wood chipping for export. In Samoa, taro, banana and breadfruit is made into chips for sale in the local market and cocoa is also processed. In the other islands of the South Pacific, agro-processing industries are not well developed.

Coconut has been an important food and export crop in the region. The low price of copra in recent years has led to processing of copra into coconut oil in some countries such as Fiji and Samoa. Coconut cream and detergents and soaps from coconut oil are now also made in Fiji and Samoa. Coconut fibre is processed and high quality furniture is also made from coconut wood in Fiji. A number of countries now also have facilities to mill timber from coconut wood for housing. These technologies already exist in some islands of the region but need to be extended to others where appropriate.

Processing of livestock products remains rudimentary. However, Fiji has a milk processing and packing plant and a factory for making butter and powdered milk. Fiji also has a tanning industry. Meat is canned and processed into sausages in a few countries such as Fiji and Samoa.

SPSIDS do not have a strong tradition in even the most basic fish processing because it was not needed in view of the ready supply of fresh fish. With increasing demand, increasing population and the depletion of a once plentiful resource, basic food preservation techniques such as drying and smoking needs to be encouraged through training and community based programmes. The importance of value-added product is exemplified by two classic developments in the Pacific. The development of tuna jerky in Kiribati and the sashimi tuna market to Japan. The former product required some product development costs which were met by the South Pacific Commission (SPC).

Changing food habits, thus changing attitudes towards new products, is notoriously difficult. Consumer education programmes may be needed and could be undertaken through school meal programmes and public education programmes.

5. Marketing Systems

With the exception of a few commercial crops such as sugarcane and ginger in Fiji, cocoa and coffee in Papua New Guinea, squash in Tonga and possibly coconuts in a few countries where private enterprises or semi-government organizations have developed good marketing systems, the current marketing systems for most agricultural produce in the region are generally poorly developed. In most of the islands, marketing boards, commodity boards and cooperatives handle marketing of agricultural produce both in the local markets and abroad, with varying degrees of success. When they operate independently or are run by private enterprises they have had a greater measure of success. Due to remoteness of farms, poor infrastructure and high transport costs, efficient marketing systems are difficult to develop. Exporters of fruits and vegetables often lack resources and market intelligence to organize and supply the right product at the right time and thus, are sometimes unable to exploit market opportunities. Many of SPSIDS rely for food and cash earnings on fish, coconut, root crops, and a few vegetables and fruits such as bananas and plantains, breadfruit, mango and pawpaw. Barter is still common in some countries, especially for women who trade food for other produce. Much food is also given as a gift to fulfill cultural obligations.

Root crops, fruits and vegetables are often sold in urban market centres or road-side stalls directly by farmers when they are close to urban centres, otherwise through middlemen. Some government- established marketing agencies also buy from the farmers and sell in the local markets. Many small producers sell surpluses in local markets, and it is common to see Pacific island women carrying small quantities to sell for very low returns on their marketing time. The post-harvest handling and transportation of produce are often poor, the produce often being carried in bags or baskets on back of open trucks resulting in poor quality produce with a very short shelf life.

Partly due to the migration of Pacific islanders to New Zealand, Australia and the West coast of North America, and a growing Asian population in these areas, there is market for tropical root crops, fruits and vegetables, which most of SPSIDS have been competing to supply. The actual amount of root crops or other perishable produce exported from SPSIDS is difficult to assess. However, New Zealand import figures show that it imported over NZ$ 5 million worth of root crops from the Pacific islands in 1992. More recent export figures show that Fiji alone exported over F$ 5 million of root crops in 1994. Taro and ginger (mainly from Fiji) have been the main root crops exported. Yams and cassava are also exported in smaller quantities. Fruits, particularly, pawpaw, mango, watermelon and bananas and plantains, and some tropical vegetables are also exported in small quantities. In recent years there has been particular interest in some countries, especially Fiji and Tonga, in growing fruits such as pawpaw and mango commercially for export to Japan. There is also some development of organically grown fruits, vegetables and vanilla for niche or specialized overseas markets. The development of tourist industry in some Pacific islands, especially Fiji, the Cook Islands and Tonga, have also provided opportunity to expand production, especially of fruits and vegetables.

Most of the export trade in root crops, fruits and vegetables has been developed by semi-government or small private enterprises. Although a few exporters grow the produce themselves, most buy from farmers. Often, problems are encountered in meeting the quality and quarantine standards of importing countries and irregular supply are the major problems faced by the exporters. Generally, where the exporters contract the farmers to grow the produce, they have had better success in meeting the required quality standards. However, due to presence of fruit fly in the region, export of fruits and vegetables has been particularly difficult. In all countries, governments have, or are expected to develop, facilities for post-harvest treatment, quarantine and certification to promote exports.

Livestock and livestock products marketing systems for most countries in the region are geared to the domestic market and almost all countries are net importers of meat and other livestock products. Factors that influence marketing systems in most SPSIDS include scale of production which is usually small, level of commercialization, marketing skills, market structure and demand for goods and services. Generally, small scale farmers, including women producers of eggs and poultry, sell their produce directly in local markets, and to dealers or contractors at the farm gate. Larger farmers generally sell their animals directly to abattoirs or through contract arrangements made between farmers, wholesalers and retailers. Commercial egg and poultry meat producers generally sell through retail outlets.

An efficient marketing system for livestock and livestock products, supported by appropriate pricing policies, would stimulate production and generate more income for the livestock farmers, since in all countries there is high domestic demand for meat and meat products.

The basic fisheries trade pattern for many islands is to export high value fish, mainly tuna, to earn foreign exchange and import low cost tinned fish. In many countries there is high importation of fresh and tinned fish which is often the cheapest animal protein available. Improved and better organized catching and marketing would result in increased stability, efficiency and higher levels of output of fish for local markets.

In the forestry sector commercial timber operations meet some of the local construction needs throughout the Pacific. Some countries such as Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Fiji generate a significant amount of foreign exchange through exports. Trees are important in the informal sector of most countries for house construction, fencing, boat building, tool making, furniture, weaponry, making containers, fishing gear, etc. However, many SPSIDS are heavily dependent for domestic purposes on imported timber. The replacement of indigenous forest with plantations of a single species such as radiata pine or eucalyptus deprives families, especially women, of non-wood forest products.

6. Tourism and Primary Production

Where tourism is an important sector of the economy in SPSIDS, it is closely linked to agriculture, fisheries and forestry. While these linkages do provide required inputs into sustaining the viability and attractiveness of tourism, there are some areas of concern regarding its effects on sustainable development in the South Pacific.

6.1. Tourism and Agriculture

There can be a positive link between tourism and agriculture. The hotels, resorts and restaurants provide a ready market for fruits, vegetables and root crops and can provide much needed income to the rural community. For instance the farmers on the coral coast and the Sigatoka Valley derive considerable income from fresh food supplies to tourism. Available figures indicate that about 20-25% of the farm production are for hotels and resorts.

However, there are indications that some countries are unable to obtain maximum benefit from the tourist market and the quality of produce is often not up to standard. Also, lack of off-season production of fruits and vegetables leads to imports by hotels and these are a drain on the foreign currency derived from tourism.

There is also a downturn in production in some countries. The effect of tourism on traditional food production is variable. Labour for fruit and vegetable production for the tourist trade definitely competes with labour required for production of traditional foods such as root crops. Labour requirements for tourism also competes with farm labour, which is much less well-paid. In certain areas of the Coral Coast in Fiji, agriculture is being ignored in favour of wage employment in hotels.

Existing opportunities for increased agricultural production for the tourist sector are constrained by other factors such as inadequate infrastructure, lack of access for credit by small farmers, post- harvest problems and meeting the quality required by the industry. These are discussed elsewhere in the paper and need to be addressed.

6.2. Tourism and Fisheries

Fisheries and other marine resources are important to the tourist industry and remain one of the attractions (diving and under-water sports in the Solomon Islands for example) of SPSIDS. However there are concerns about sustainability of some marine resources and needs for conservation. In Vanuatu, there is concern for over- harvesting of coconut crabs and its potential demise. Game fishing prevails but is carefully controlled in countries such as Fiji.

Fisheries linkages with the tourist industry are often not well established or formalized. While some hotels have arranged supplies of fish and other marine products, others buy these on an ad hoc basis. More regular supply arrangements, through contracts for instance, would considerably improve the situation in this area.

6.3. Tourism, Forests and the Environment

With large-scale clearing of mangroves, forests and water fronts to build hotels, issues of tourism and environment are now emerging. Use of heavy equipment destroys the land surface rendering it infertile.

Tourism's contribution to sewerage (often untreated) and other effluent in the Ocean. This is of particular concern where there is a string of hotels along the coast line such as in the Coral Coast in Fiji. Additionally, in Fiji and the Solomon Islands, water problems leading to intermittent shortages have been linked to development of tourism. Measures have to be taken to deal with these problems to protect in-shore fisheries, which are especially important for women and subsistence food security.

Another area of concern is extensive construction of resorts on outer islands, some of which are sand cays: this involves clearing land of vegetation which exposes the cay islands to erosion by storm seas.

The regional Tourism Council of the South Pacific has been aware of the potential effect of tourism on the environment and in its tourism development plans for SPSIDS includes issues on the impact of tourism on the environment. The Council has produced a document which details the environmental characteristics of the region, and of each country, with suggestions on how these can be successfully integrated into any hotel or resort development.

6.4. Eco-tourism

Interest in the environment has now established a niche in the tourism industry called "eco-tourism". Its emphasis is on recognition of the fragility of the environment and the need for care in order to sustain it.

Eco-tourism has not yet developed into a popular product in the South Pacific. Mainstream tourism still dominates the industry. Fiji, however has taken the lead with policies, plans and strategies to develop eco-tourism. Other SPSIDS need to follow soon.

Continues: Sustainable Primary Production in the South Pacific - Part 2


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