SIDS 99: Inf.4


Special Ministerial Conference on Agriculture in Small Island Developing States

Rome, 12 March 1999



Table of Contents


1. Small island developing States (SIDS)1 have limited resources and options for social and economic development. Consequently, careful attention should be paid to the manner in which resources are utilized so as to ensure that adverse cross-sectoral impacts are minimized and that inter-temporal benefits flowing from the exploitation of renewable resources are not jeopardized.

2. SIDS have in common a number of structural problems: their populations, and therefore their markets, are small; their resource base narrow, fragile and prone to disruption by natural disasters; they typically depend for foreign exchange on a small range of primary product exports; and they generally have limited local capital for productive investment. In short, their base for revenue generation is narrow. Agriculture has been the backbone of many SIDS economies, providing the main source of livelihood for population as well as being a major export earner.

3. In advocating policies and actions for island States, it should be recognized that while SIDS have a measures of commonality in terms of features and experiences, island States do not represent an homogenous group. This means that in terms of their individual situations and possibilities for social and economic development, not all island States, or groups of States, are equally advantaged or disadvantaged. Some SIDS, for example, have extensive marine fisheries resources2 on which to base national development planning while other States, which may be less well resource endowed can benefit from their proximity to markets in developped countries, not only as an avenue for some exports, but also as a source of tourism.

4. In general terms. the intensification and diversification of agriculture, forestry and fisheries production is constrained in island States by both natural and economic circumstances. 3 These circumstances include, inter alia, a shortage of land, poor soils, a limited capacity of land to support intensive crop and animal production, difficulties with storage of products after harvest in tropical environments, infrequent and restricted capacity for moving products by sea and air to markets, and distance from, and access to, markets outside the region.

5. There is now international recognition that island States face particular problems with respect to primary sector development and management. This recognition is increasingly reflected in recent international instruments of all types. Among instruments that have a direct bearing on food security4 and in which the situation of island States are noted specifically are the 1995 Kyoto Declaration and Plan of Action on the Sustainable Contribution of Fisheries to Food Security are the 1996 Rome Declaration on World Food Security, and the World Food Summit Plan of Action.5

6. Paragraph 28 of the Basis for Action of the World Food Summit Plan of Action notes that "Small Island Developing States face the threat of land loss and erosion due to climate change and sea level rise and have particular needs for their overall sustainable development. Improvements in transportation, communication, human resources, stabilization of income and higher export earnings will increase food security in these countries. ..." The situation of island States is therefore special in terms of broad initiatives to be adopted to promote long-term, sustainable food production in support of food security.

7. The following strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that confront SIDS have been identified:






8. SIDS are looking for opportunities to diversify their economies and especially the agricultural sector in order to move toward more marketable crops, to increase foreign exchange earnings, to maintain their significant agricultural basis, to increase their degree of food security and self-reliance by exploiting their resources more rationally and sustainably and to prevent unemployment from worsening. Diversification is one means of improving resource use, though implementing diversification policies which support return to home-produced foods to substitute some imports, cultivation of export crops for niche markets, changes in farming systems, alternative uses of forest products will be a slow process.

9. The small size of many SIDS makes competition for land severe. Table 1 indicates the major land use patterns of the SIDS. Large commercial plantations were established under the colonial system, and continue today in the more fertile plains, forcing many small farmers to cultivate the poorer soils in hilly regions. This, combined with poor land use practices, has resulted in deforestation and erosion. In low-lying coastal areas, land well suited for agriculture is under severe pressure from expanding housing, industry, and tourism. Undefined land tenure in a number of SIDS renders farmers unwilling to invest in agricultural development.

10. Generally, water resources are scarce, often limited to thin sheets of freshwater floating on seawater, recharged by rainfall. Poor management of watershed catchment areas and of water flowing through agro-ecosystems, particularly irrigation supplies, can lead to water scarcity and pollution of downstream supplies. Water resources for irrigation purposes have particularly been developed in the Caribbean (Table 1). Population pressure, expanding tourism, and reduced precipitation of recent decades, have resulted in the over-exploitation of aquifer resources leading to subsequent salt water intrusion in lands near the shore and salinisation of groundwater, as well as less land and water being available for agricultural purposes.

11. The most important food crops grown in SIDS are starchy staples such as cassava, sweet potato, yam, potato, cocoyam and taro and plantains and bananas which are mostly produced by small-holders (Table 2). Grain crops (e.g. maize, wheat, rice etc.), though consumed widely, are only grown on a limited scale. Due to the rapid rate of urbanization and the relatively low level of consumption of root crops and musa species in towns, these staple crops were increasingly substituted by imported cereals especially wheat and rice in the last decades. However, root and tuber crops remain the main source of nutrition in the rural areas of many SIDS.

12. The major export crops of SIDS include banana, sugar cane, cocoa, coffee and coconuts (Table 2). In many SIDS these crops are the most important net foreign exchange earners. Agricultural exports represent between 20 to 90% of the total trade exports (Table 3).

13. Livestock in SIDS (Table 4) is mainly based on poultry and pigs raised under traditional small-holder conditions, whereas commercial cattle production is a more recent development.


Macro-Economic Conditions and Sustainable Agriculture

14. SIDS are dependent to a great degree on the international trading system. Many of these countries receive some form of preferential access to developed-country markets. The EU and the US, for example, grant preferences to a number of SIDS under the Generalized System of Preferences. The EU provides additional preferences to 26 SIDS under the Lome convention for ACP countries. This dependence means that the achievement of sustainable agriculture is more complex than for countries which have to rely less on the world market. The integration of SIDS into the global economy is particularly difficult due to the following constraints:

Agricultural production systems

15. The sector in many SIDS generally comprises:


16. Farmers have traditionally used few purchased inputs for their low-input/low-output production system. The introduction of new commercial crops (cocoa, bananas etc.) and traditional mono-cropped root crops has increased the demand for fertilisers, insecticides, improved tools and credit, while the rising cost of labour has led to the use of herbicides for weed control. Often these inputs are costly and not readily available.

17. The availability of farm labour is a persistent constraint. This is due to the emigration of a large part of the young male population in many SIDS and the alternative higher-income employment opportunities in commercial farming, urban areas and the tourist sector. As a consequence the percentage of female-headed households has increased. The cost of labour has increased and acts as a constraint on agricultural development. The high level of remittances from emigrants is a key factor in driving up local labour costs.

18. Planting material availability is generally inadequate to meet demand particularly if rapid expansion of production is to be undertaken. There is a strong dependence of SIDS on imported seeds for many crops. There is also a fundamental problem related to quality control due to the continuing and extensive use of planting material from preceding crops rather than certified and clean source of material.

19. With respect to plant protection SIDS have to cope with the stringent quality demands of agricultural produce by importers in industrialised countries or with the changing requirements of local food consumption especially in the tourist industry. This and the favourable climatic conditions for pest and diseases and the high cost of labour have led to the use of pesticides as a standard practice in the agricultural production systems. However, there is a lack of an efficient pest and pesticide control and monitoring program. Only few SIDS are participating in the Convention on the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure which contains provisions for the exchange of information between exporting and importing countries about potentially hazardous chemicals.

20. Improper selection of produce for harvest and improper post-harvest handling, packaging and storage techniques due to the lack of knowledge and appropriate technologies, contribute to the substantial post-harvest losses in many SIDS. Exports of smallholder-grown root crops, fruits and vegetables are constrained by frequent failure to meet the quality and quarantine standards of importing countries and the irregular supply.

21. SIDS present the livestock producer with a series of disadvantages but relatively few advantages. Apart from keeping a few household pigs and poultry, more commercially orientated livestock keeping is relatively new. Geographic isolation and associated high transportation costs seriously affect the financial viability of any livestock enterprise dependant on imported inputs e.g. broilers and intensive egg and milk production. Unless there is a niche market, such as tourism, willing to pay a premium for a fresh product these enterprises are unlikely to be financially viable.

22. Major constraints include poor genetic stock, inadequate or poor nutrition, poor animal health services, high costs of purchased feed, problems in procurement of commercial feed, inadequate management of breeders and hatcheries, and labour shortage. Due to these major constraints, the scope for developing livestock production appears to be limited. There are possibilities of intensification in poultry in some of the larger islands. Greater support is needed to develop the livestock feed industry and to identify and establish market structures, as well as support services for smallholders.


23. There are traditionally two principal markets:

24. The private enterprises and to a lesser extent, the semi-government organisations have developed relatively efficient marketing systems for the commercial crop sub-sector. The domestic marketing system which is usually based on non-institutional channels, mainly private intermediaries, is generally poorly developed. Due to the small and static population, remoteness of farms, poor infrastructure and high transport costs, low investment in market research, and poorly developed market information systems efficient marketing systems are difficult to establish.

25. There is a limited knowledge of the market place by producers and exporters. This includes the organisation and structure of the markets dealt with as well as the nature of the operations and the participants involved in the markets. Information on competitors (equipment they use, sales force, prices, products, terms they offer etc) is generally lacking and makes an assessment of the competition difficult. Marketing economies of scale or the gains made by larger entrepreneurs are not available to the small volume producers and exporters in the SIDS. In reviewing the current practices, the habit of scattered uneconomical small-scale production of a wide variety of crops is evident. The provision of better market information is needed for more viable long-term production decisions.

26. A key constraint to be addressed in promoting exports is the high cost and limited availability of air and sea transportation systems, the lack of or poor fresh produce handling facilities, and inadequate or inappropriate transportation services for non-traditional produce. Plant quarantine issues also need to be addressed as they restrict market-access for produce.


Extension and Research

27. The Ministries of Agriculture have the important role of implementing governments' agricultural policies and programs at the national level. The research and extension services are key to increase the productivity and output of agricultural enterprises.

28. Technological progress is markedly different among crops. Predominant traditional food crops such as cassava, taro and sweet potatoes, developed over the centuries, are relatively efficient in both production of calories and financial returns to labor input. Yields of coconuts and introduced crops such as cocoa, coffee and bananas have remained low despite the fact that most research and extension efforts in the past were directed at such introduced commodities. Part of the difficulty in successfully establishing introduced crops in the smallholder sector is because of lack of knowledge about how such exotic commodities fit into the traditional farming system.

29. In most SIDS agricultural research, mainly government-funded, is constrained by very limited human and financial resources. It is weakly linked to extension, the farmer, and other sectors such as agro-processing and tourism. Few SIDS have clearly identified research priorities, which are relevant to the smallholder sector. There is a considerable need to train local manpower in research and technology development at post-graduate level.

Marketing Boards

30. Many SIDS have marketing boards, which are statutory marketing authorities. They are geared primarily towards generating income from activities related to the export of traditional commercially-produced agricultural commodities and not generally available for use by the farmers and private exporters of these or other non-traditional agricultural products. They have not yet responded competitively to the growing and more efficient, private sector exporters of agricultural produce.

Farmers Organizations

31. The impact of farmers organizations has been limited because they generally suffer from weak management, low level and quality of services, low participation of members and inadequate financial resources. However, there are some farmers organizations (e.g. in the Caribbean) where private exporters are the backbone of the export trade in non-traditional crops. These small and medium size operators tend to avoid formal credit institutions because of fear of debt and the associated collateral requirements. They prefer to seek informal credit services. In order to further commercialise agricultural operations there is therefore a need to change negative attitude to credit and a need for the credit institutions to devise financing schemes for small/medium commercial operators.


32. The current agriculture in SIDS is characterised by a combination of large-scale commercial production of cash crops and an important smallholder sector which produces crops primarily for local consumption. Agriculture in SIDS is in transition, driven by changing world markets, trade imbalances, the quest for food security and growing human population. Given the potential changes in trade preferences for traditional export crop industries (e.g. banana) and the objective of food security, agricultural diversification and intensification can contribute strongly to broaden the potential source of income of 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. Several SIDS are well suited to fresh fruit and vegetable production and some of them are relatively close to markets in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, USA and Europe. There is also a potential for inter-country trade or import substitution. A more diversified production structure may provide greater stability in export earnings and promote import substitution. Provided a range of appropriate policies is implemented, diversification can contribute to sustainable agriculture, the sound utilisation of natural resources and the protection of the environment.

33. SIDS have some opportunities for increasing agricultural production and growth, and farmer's income could be improved, provided policies support advantages and address constraints. A precondition for tackling the constraints is to ensure that land, labour and capital markets are operating efficiently. The key characteristics of successful activities which could be developed in the future are:

34. A successful strategy for agricultural diversification and intensification should comprise the following major activities:


35. Sustainable development in SIDS is directly dependent on or influenced by, the planning and utilisation of land resources. Mechanisms for an integrated planning and management of land resources including inland and coastal areas are of great urgency and importance for SIDS. FAO is promoting an improved approach to land resource management which emphasises the integration of physical, socio-economic and institutional aspects of land use, and stresses the need for active participation of all stakeholders in decision-making. It has also been involved in the development of national computerised land information systems including a comprehensive Geographic Information Systems database in the Caribbean. With this specific expertise, FAO could assist decision-makers and land users in increasing the effectiveness of land resource planning and management at the national and local level.


36. In order to protect the fragile ecosystem of SIDS sustainable production systems need to be developed. The following actions can be proposed:

The bottom line for adoption of improved technologies is income generation, the economic merit must guide choices.

Seeds and Plant Genetic Resources

37. Intensified and diversified crop production requires a strong seed program either at regional or sub-regional level. Elements of such strategy include:

38. FAO has implemented various interventions in the field of Germplasm Information Management and Seed Programmes in the past, and could assist in establishing appropriate seed programmes.


39. Exports of traditional crops have declined in recent years and productivity of non-traditional crops is low. In order to combat the serious decline in revenue, irrigation is an opportunity to reduce the unit cost of growing a crop by increasing yields and improving quality, and diversifying into other crops. In islands where water is scarce, integrated water management systems can be promoted. Localised irrigation systems, either high tech (drip, micro-aspersion) or low-tech (simple drip irrigation systems appropriate for gardening) can be introduced for high-value crops. In the highlands of arid or semi-arid islands, various types of water harvesting and runoff farming techniques can be introduced, mostly for human and animal consumption, and to a lesser extent for gardening.

Plant Protection

40. Current pest control strategies based mainly on the use of pesticides should be reviewed. The practice of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an alternative strategy for effective, efficient, balanced and environmentally safe pest control. SIDS are by definition relatively isolated areas of limited size were biological control can be effective, relatively easy to implement, because pests and diseases cannot spread easily to neighbouring territories, and their impacts on the natural ecosystem are often more predictable. Production could be undertaken in official Pest Free Areas (PFA) so as to meet special needs of niche export markets. Pest eradication programmes should be seriously considered when dealing with important crops and a small number of pests with a simple life cycle and infection/infestation process. Other areas of intervention are:

New Crops

41. SIDS in general have a strong comparative advantage in the production of some tropical fruits (e.g. papaya, plantain, mango, pineapple, watermelon, dasheen, tania etc.), tuber/root crops (e.g. taro, yams, sweet potato, cassava), nuts and spices (e.g. canarium nut, Brazil nut, terminalia nut, vanilla, black pepper) vegetables and cut flowers. The potential for diversification into and intensification of these new crops (possibly under organic farming which excludes the use of agro-chemicals) for niche markets should be explored. Increased production would be absorbed both in the domestic market (e.g. local tourist market) either to meet increased demand or substitute for imports, and in export markets. Both traditional and non-traditional (new) crops should be cultivated on the basis of Integrated Crop Management and Conservation Farming principles in order to achieve sustainable and environmentally friendly production.

Post-Harvest Handling and Agro-Processing

42. Since a large proportion of agricultural produce such as root and tuber crops, fruits, and vegetables is locally marketed fresh, 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-harvesting handling of fresh produce, proper packing, transportation and storage of the produce before sale. There is therefore a need to promote simple and low-cost technologies, preferably using local resources, for handling and packing fresh produce, to reduce damage during transportation and storage.

43. Considerable opportunities exist for expansion and diversification of agro-processing industries to produce added-value products to generate employment, which is much needed. Appropriate technology and expertise in agro-processing could be developed with a particular focus on developing small-scale, low-cost agro-processing ventures to increase the value and market potential of products (e. g. root crops, banana, breadfruit, tropical fruits, spices and coconut).

Animal Production and Health

44. Production and productivity of small-scale poultry and pig production can be increased using locally-available feeds. Development of feed mills, based on local ingredients could encourage semi-intensive indigenous livestock industry. Diversification, through the introduction of alternate livestock, such as ducks and pigeons, may be a possible option. The integration of livestock into mixed-farming and tree-crop systems has the potential to optimise use of crop residues and vegetation on uncultivated land, as well as to assist the recycling of soil fertility. Management skills, feeds and pastures in order to realise the full potential of improved breeds need to be upgraded. Niche markets for cheese and yoghurt as a more versatile product than fresh milk could be developed. Animal health services should be supported, local staff trained, and specific disease eradication programmes (e.g. Tropical Bont Tick in the Caribbean) be promoted.

Marketing and Credit

45. The marketing strategy for SIDS agricultural exports to hard currency areas will hinge on joint marketing, promotion of commodities being sold in niche markets, monitoring the need for change in operating strategy as commodities enter into mainstream markets and the building of strategic alliances with market participants (producer/exporter/ importer alliances). Joint marketing services with strong private sector participation, should be knowledgeable of the markets, set standards, provide information and co-ordinate decisions on buying raw materials, transportation, packaging, training, quality, etc. in order to be more competitive. Existing Marketing Boards and private exporters could be seen as the agencies best placed to provide:

46. The development and strengthening of FOs is an important aspect of ensuring the sustainability of the production of non-traditional agricultural commodities. Selected FOs should have commercial orientation, operate economic size units and secure land tenure. Exploiting organic agriculture markets may be possible in some cases.

47. Availability and accessibility of credit will be critical to achieving diversification and intensification of non-traditional commodities. Lending conditions should be sufficiently broad and flexible to allow for the kind of investments associated with on-farm development works envisaged including those for fruit tree crops with relatively long gestation periods.

Institutional Development

48. The diversification and intensification process requires modifications to the institutions (public and private) engaged in the process. The organisational structures have to ensure that there are formal linkages at all levels of the diversification effort in order to establish the framework for a high level of co-operation and co-ordination of the national (and possibly regional) diversification policies, plans and programmes, and that there is a strong commitment to the diversification thrust which will result in a focused, co-ordinated approach involving all the key individuals, institutions and agencies.

49. At the national level, the Ministry of Agriculture in particular has a critical role to play in creating the environment for and facilitating the production of the non-traditional crops which fall under the diversification plan. It is responsible for:

50. The current functional organisation of the ministries in many SIDS does not lend itself to providing the focused, crop-specific approach required to drive the agricultural diversification thrust. Agricultural diversification requires a pro-active, project-oriented and multi-disciplinary approach to develop the production/marketing systems required for the targeted non-traditional agricultural crops.

Human Resource Development

51. Skills of all actors (e.g. farmers, exporters, administrators and extension personnel) need to be permanently upgraded through specialised training and capacity building in the field of agronomic, financial management and marketing expertise. Particularly extension staff requires a reorientation to commercial farm management with attention to be paid both to productivity improvement and better business planning and to related training of farmers in improved organisational and managerial skills. Training and institution building will often be more effective if they are undertaken on a regional basis.

Technical Co-operation

52. Exchanging experience and information among developing countries and taking advantage of complementarities to upgrade skills through Technical Co-operation among Developing Countries (TCDC) is highly cost-effective. TCDC has great potential that developing countries have not yet fully exploited. Regional groupings and mechanisms could promote and implement TCDC. Inter-regional technical co-operation among SIDS focusing on e.g. training, technical exchange, and attendance at regional meetings could be strengthened and FAO could play a supporting role.

Information Systems

53. Data bases, essentially for planning purposes, are generally weak in SIDS. Although the methodology for collecting, processing and analysing data for food and agriculture is available in most SIDS they lack adequate statistical organisation and personnel, and understanding and co-ordination between statistical offices and economic analysis, planning and decision-making agencies. Particular attention should therefore be paid to establishing an institutional interdisciplinary framework. Additional data, new methods of data analysis, and appropriate tools to integrate environmental, social and economic considerations in decision-making are required.

54. FAO is developing an Internet-based Global Plant and Pest Information System (GPPIS) which is a global database for information on crops and pests. Once fully developed it will allow users to identify suitable crops for a specified environment and a defined use and retrieve crop husbandry descriptions at different levels (general, regional, country, and eco-zone). FAO has also developed databases and software such as FAO/ISCRC Soil Profile Database, Ecocrop-1, and AEZ for land use characterization/classification and Agro-Ecological Zoning. These information systems could assist in identifying new crops for specific SIDS environments.



Forest Cover and Recent Changes in Forest Cover

55. Table 5 shows the forest cover of SIDS in 1995 and the change in forest cover occurring from 1990 to 1995.

56. As a group, SIDS are well-endowed with forests. However, due to the considerable variation in land area,6 population density and climatic, geological and topgraphic conditions, the extent of forest cover varies greatly between individual states. In 1995, forests covered from 74 to 85 percent of the total land area in Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, under 10 percent in many of the smaller island states and less than 1 percent in Haiti.

57. Looking only at island states with a land area of less than 50 000 km2, the combined forest cover in 1995 was estimated at 35.4 percent of total land area, as compared to the world average of 26.5 percent. On the other hand, the annual deforestation rate from 1990 to 1995 in these island states (0.9 percent per annum) is three times the world average. The highest rates of annual deforestation, ranging from 2.6 to 7.2 percent, were found in Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Haiti, Bahamas and the Comoros. Cape Verde is the only small island developing state that registered a positive change in forest cover from 1990 to 1995.7

58. The main causes of deforestation include conversion of forested land for agricultural use and infrastructure development. The Solomon Islands, Samoa and Tonga are among countries with high rates of forest degradation due to heavy exploitation of timber resources. Forest degradation due to natural causes (e.g. cyclones and forest fire) is also common in some SIDS.

Trees outside forests

59. In SIDS with limited forest cover, trees outside forests (such as on agricultural land) often play a very important role for local livelihoods. It is an unquantified, undervalued resource, which, nevertheless, often is of very significant local value.

60. Many small island nations for instance have abundant coconut tree sources, which serve as sources of building materials, coconuts, copra and coconut oil for local populations.

Production, trade and consumption of forest products

61. Fifteen AOSIS members list timber or hardwood forests as one of their main natural resources.8 Of these, Fiji, Guyana, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Suriname and Vanuatu report wood processing as one of their main industries.

62. Table 6 lists the 1996 figures for production, trade and consumption of forest products for SIDS. With regard to industrial roundwood, Papua New Guinea is, by far, the largest SIDS producer and exporter and is the world's second largest exporter of tropical hardwood logs. The Solomon Islands is, in spite of its limited size, thus the world's sixth largest exporter of tropical hardwood logs and forestry contributed 64 percent of the total export value for 1996.9 Other major producers of industrial hardwood include Fiji and Samoa. There are, however, signs that the current level of wood production in Samoa, Solomon Islands and Tonga may not be sustainable.10

63. Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Solomon Islands, and Guyana are the main exporters of sawnwood. Many of the smaller States and territories in Oceania and all the States in North and Central America except Cuba are dependent on imports to meet their needs for sawnwood and wood-based panels and paper. Countries which rely on imports for a substantial part of their wood consumption for fuelwood and charcoal and/or industrial roundwood include Bahrain, Cyprus, Malta and Mauritius and some of the smaller States in the South Pacific region.

Plantation Establishment

64. Table 7 lists the area of forest plantations established in those SIDS for which information is available. As can be seen from the table, most plantations reported are established for the purpose of wood production for industry. However, notable exceptions are found in Cape Verde and Cuba, where a large portion of the plantations are established for other purposes (e.g. fuel wood production and/or protective purposes).

National Forest Planning

65. Table 8 lists the SIDS which recently have developed or updated national forest programmes.11 26 out of a total of 45 States and Dependent Territories have a national forest programme. Most of these were developed in the late 1980s or early 1990s. Seventeen of the 26 programmes were developed under the Tropical Forestry Action Programme.

Regional and International Forestry Related Organisations and Programmes

66. The most important regional organisation in the South Pacific is the South Pacific Forum, which represents Heads of Governments of all independent and self-governing Pacific Island countries, Australia and New Zealand. Forestry issues, especially the exploitation of tropical forests, have been highlighted at recent meetings. At the Twenty-fifth Session in 1994 an agreement to draft a Code of Conduct for logging in the South Pacific was reached. The Code sets minimum standards, which will allow selected forests to be harvested with the minimum of adverse impacts. The Code has been ratified by Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Fiji and Vanuatu.

67. Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Solomon Islands and Samoa are members of the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission.

68. Environmental issues in the South Pacific are generally handled under the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme established in 1982 as a result of an increasing number of environmental problems being raised at the South Pacific Forum. A major regional forestry programme is the Pacific Islands Forests and Trees Support Programme, which provides institutional, training, and network support to the countries of the South Pacific.

69. In the Caribbean, the most prominent regional organisation is CARICOM (the Caribbean Community and Common Market). The Agricultural Development Unit handles forestry issues of regional character. An FAO Technical Cooperation Network on Forestry and Related Environmental Matters also exists in the Caribbean.

70. In terms of international forestry organisations all but seven of the independent States covered in this paper are members of FAO.12 Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Guyana and Suriname are members of the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO).


71. Forests and trees contribute directly to food security through the provision of the following forest products:

72. In addition to such direct benefits, forests and trees have important social and environmental functions, which indirectly contribute to food security. These include:

73. These many and important roles of trees and forests in small islands call for a holistic and integrated approach to forest conservation and development taking into account not only the direct benefits obtainable from the forests but also the links with associated natural ecosystems and other economic sectors.


74. Small island countries vary enormously according to distinct geographic, biological, social, cultural, and economic characteristics but share many common disadvantages, which constrain their efforts to conserve and sustainably use their forest resources. These include:

Although much progress has been made since 1992, many of the above institutional constraints are still valid in some SIDS.


Production Intensification

75. The short term prospects for forest production intensification in terms of wood production in natural forests is limited in most SIDS. Although many of the larger SIDS are well endowed with forests, not all forest are accessible and harvesting of commercial species is, in many places, already undertaken at levels which are unsustainable. In many of the smaller SIDS no, or no significant, forest cover exists. In the medium to long term, increases in production from natural forests depend on the adoption of environmentally sound forest harvesting practices and the application of appropriate silvicultural practices - in many cases including enrichment planting of previously harvested areas.

76. An increase in wood production from plantations is possible in some of the larger SIDS. Fiji is an example of a country which already has a well developed plantation development programme. Plantation-based timber production is planned to become a major growth sector in the national economy by the year 2000, with more than 70,000 ha of mahogany plantations being harvested at a rotation age of 35 years. However, the competition for limited land area, at times combined with customary ownership (see above), limits the potential for large-scale plantation establishment in many States. Lack of good soils is also a limiting factor in some SIDS (particularly those which are coral-based).

77. Agroforestry systems with coconut as the main wood resource seem to hold the most promising prospect as a sustainable land use system for atoll States and territories with low soil fertility and for smaller states where availability of land is a limiting factor.

78. Where planting of trees is undertaken in area prone to cyclones, species which exhibit good resistance to wind damage should be promoted.23


79. Value-added wood processing, in particular of local hardwoods, offers good prospects for diversification in SIDS well endowed with forests. Good prospects also exist for diversification in terms of the provision of non-wood goods and services.

80. Non-wood forest products (plant products collected from the wild or cultivated in plantations or agroforestry systems, animals hunted in the wild or raised in captivity and animal products such as honey) should be promoted where a niche market exists or can be developed.

81. Tourism is one of the most important income earning industries in many SIDS and interest in eco- or nature-based tourism is increasing. Various islands have thus made special efforts to develop the tourist potential of their forest areas, among which are Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia, Dominica, Jamaica and St. Lucia.

Enhancement of the Indirect Support to Improved Food Security

82. Conservation, enhancement and sustainable use of the forest resources is not only important for the direct benefits to improved food security, but also for the indirect benefits in terms of support to other sectors and the protective functions of forests (see above).

83. Special efforts may be needed in terms of reforestation of degraded areas (e.g. watersheds) and in most islands, planting in coastal areas is necessary to protect against coastal erosion. Protection of mangrove areas, which are highly resistant to storm damage, is particularly important in this regard.

84. In addition to the maintenance and enhancement of forest cover, conservation of biological diversity is of economic importance both from productive (forestry and agriculture) point of view and in support of nature based tourism activities.

Medium Term Outlook for the Sub-Sector

85. The Melanesian SIDS (Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Fiji and Vanuatu) are all relatively well endowed with significant land area, fertile soils and natural resources. Their export bases are, however, narrow. The medium to long term forestry prospects will rely on the adoption of sustainable forest management practices in the natural forests; the establishment of plantations and the further development of appropriate wood processing industries.

86. The SIDS of Polynesia and Micronesia are generally less well endowed with resources. Those which are of volcanic origin, (e.g. Samoa and Tonga) have rich soils and agriculture or forestry provide development options. Samoa is presently the only Polynesian country with a timber export industry. However, most of the smaller islands are coral-based and have very poor soils, small land areas and few land-based natural resources. Tourism, fisheries, foreign aid and expatriate remittances are likely to be the main income earning possibilities in these islands. Agroforestry systems with coconut as the main wood resource seems to hold the most promising prospect as a sustainable land use system for atoll States and territories.

87. In the Caribbean SIDS, the main focus is expected to continue to be on tourism. Forest are mainly needed to safeguard freshwater supply and for conservation of biological diversity. Nevertheless, production of wood and non-wood forest products could play an increasingly important role in import substitution (e.g. lumber for artisanal furniture production or wood energy).

88. The lowland forests of Belize, Guyana and Suriname are of a great economic potential, but the timber and other forest resources are under-priced and an inadequate contribution is currently received from their utilization.


89. Regional differences between SIDS, and even between SIDS of the same region, affect natural resource endowments for inshore, offshore and inland capture fisheries as well as the capacity of island States to promote the development of aquaculture. It is therefore difficult to make generalisations about fisheries and aquaculture in SIDS, and any such generalisations must be premised on caution.


90. Fish are a critical source of animal protein for populations in island States.24 Fish therefore figures heavily in the food security equation in these countries. Largely by necessity per caput fish consumption rates in SIDS are high by international standards. FAO fish consumption data are shown in Table 9. These data indicate that:

91. Contrary to generally held perceptions (i.e. the notion that `... small island States are surrounded by water and good quality fresh fish is plentiful and cheap ... '), fish is not a cheap commodity in SIDS. This is due to a number of reasons, including, inter alia, the over-exploited state of most of the accessible inshore fish stocks and competition by exporters and the local tourist industry. For these reasons, other types of imported animal products (e.g. lamb/mutton in the South Pacific and chicken in the Caribbean) compete with local fish supplies. Indeed, it is not uncommon for fish to be imported into SIDS, sometimes in large volumes, to meet the national demand from the population and the tourist industry. Table 9 shows that 29 SIDS are in fact net importers of fishery products.

92. In many island States women play a key role in promoting food security through their activities in the fisheries sector. While women do not normally engage in fishing per se, except from shore (i.e. they do not fish from water bound craft), their activities within the sector include the processing of part of the catch (though generally there are not strong processing traditions in SIDS), and marketing. This activity extends to the distribution and sale of both inshore catches from artisanal and small-scale fishermen, and the by-catch of industrial fleets (e.g. trawl `trash' fish and discardable species from tuna fleets). This industrial catch can be important for food security in urban areas in island States as the by-catch species are usually available to the most disadvantaged groups at an affordable price (e.g. Solomon Islands).

93. In artisanal and small-scale fisheries in SIDS the incidence of discarding of catch is low, with catch utilisation reaching virtually 100 percent. However, in industrial fisheries, and in particular in those fisheries that are not based in island States, the incidence of discarding of by-catch is, by necessity, higher than for the other locally-based fisheries.

94. The Kyoto Declaration and Plan of Action on the Sustainable Contribution of Fisheries to Food security makes specific reference to SIDS. In this regard the Declaration and Plan of Action note that many developing countries, in particular low-income food deficit countries and SIDS (i) face major challenges in ensuring the sustainable contribution of fisheries to food security; (ii) require technical and financial assistance in order to enable them to realize the sustainable contribution of fisheries to food security and social and economic development; and (iii) should cooperate among themselves in order to achieve the contribution of fisheries to food security.


95. In general, inshore capture fisheries adjacent to centres of urban population are heavily fished if not overfished, while inshore fisheries in outer islands tend to be only lightly exploited because of lower population densities and the paucity of market infrastructure to move product to urban markets. Species harvested in coastal areas are usually mixed, with some species (e.g. deepwater snappers) being of high quality and value. A range of traditional and introduced harvesting techniques are used in these fisheries, with motorised craft being common where there is access to fuel and basic engine maintenance. The use of destructive fishing practices (e.g. dynamite, cyanide and bleaching), although outlawed in most SIDS, continues to be common in some islands.

96. A range of environmental considerations including the effects of El Niño which can lead to abnormal fish stocks behaviour for offshore resources and coral reef bleaching and loss of habitat for reef associated species, adversely impacts the capacity of marine capture fisheries to support productive and sustainable fisheries. These considerations are exacerbated by overfishing and the need for realistic and socially acceptable conservation and management arrangements. It has been shown in many developing countries (including SIDS) with increasing regularity, that conventional approaches to fisheries management have not been effective in promoting sustainable resource utilisation. As a result, innovative approaches to management that build on traditional institutions and conservation and management knowledge and practice are now considered to be more appropriate. This recognition has given rise to the promotion of community-based fishery management, which has been successfully demonstrated to be implementable in those island States populated by indigenous communities where marine use tenure systems remain intact, or largely intact.

97. Offshore capture fisheries and associated processing provide major economic benefits for the island States of the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean, and to a lesser extent in the Caribbean, although there is increasing interest in such fisheries among several Caribbean States. Tuna and associated species are the main stocks targeted, usually by foreign fleets from Asia, Europe and the United States of America. In the South Pacific about 1 million tonnes of tuna is harvested annually. This catch has a `wet', on board value of around US $1.6 billion.25 In this region some 80 percent of the catch is taken within the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of SIDS. In the Indian Ocean the tuna and other pelagic catch is about 1.1 million tonnes per annum with a value of some US $ 2.3 billion. An estimated 50 percent of this catch is taken on the high seas in this region mostly by non-Indian Ocean States.26 In both, the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean only a small proportion of total tuna catches are taken by SIDS' fleets. In the Caribbean only a small proportion of pelagic resources are taken within the EEZs of island States.

98. An important policy consideration for all SIDS where there is significant offshore fishing, either within areas of national jurisdiction or on the high seas, is the need to secure additional benefits from the exploitation of regional fish stocks. Some island States (e.g. Seychelles, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau and Papua New Guinea) have taken progressive measures to increase their economic linkages with offshore fisheries by, inter alia, encouraging the development of national fleets, either through direct investment in vessels or through flag changes. In addition, steps have also been taken by some island States to facilitate the use of their ports, and where necessary, to make the generation of secondary economic benefits (e.g. the transhipment of fish in port rather than at sea) conditional on fishing access to their EEZs. These measures, in many instances, have turned out to be mutually beneficial for both the island States and the foreign fleets.

99. Both inshore and offshore marine capture fisheries are central to tourism development in SIDS. Inshore resources are important for water sports, while the sports fishing industry hinges on the availability of offshore resources. To retain their popularity as water sport/sport fishing destinations, SIDS must ensure that policies are in place to carefully and sustainably manage tourism: on the one hand there is a need to facilitate the maintenance of fish stock abundance, and on the other, a requirement to prevent tourists from engaging in such practices as habitat and environmental degradation (e.g. removing corals, shells and other animals from reefs).

100. Inland capture fisheries are not of major importance for most island States. However, in some of the larger island countries (e.g. Fiji, Jamaica and Papua New Guinea) catches of finfish, freshwater prawns and shellfish contribute in a significant way to food security and provide economic opportunities for self-employment, often for women. However, the prospects for increasing production from inland fisheries is SIDS is not great, though like their marine counterparts, inland capture fisheries are in need of management.

101. Regional cooperation in marine capture fisheries among SIDS is well developed in all regions. Island countries recognize that given their limited national financial and human resources, cooperation is essential in fisheries given that many of the stocks utilised are shared and fisheries challenges are faced. Cooperation is pursued through regional organizations such as the Pacific Community and Forum Fisheries Agency in the South Pacific; the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Organization for Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission (WECAFC) in the Caribbean; and the Committee for the Development and Management of Fisheries in the Southwest Indian Ocean of the Indian Ocean Fishery Commission (SWIO/IOFC).

102. Regional fisheries cooperation ranges from the sharing of fisheries and related information, joint training and research programmes, to collaboration in monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS). Indeed, regional cooperation in the area of MCS, as a means of responsibly strengthening fisheries management, is being pursued as a matter of importance in both the Caribbean and South Pacific regions. Efforts to strengthen regional fisheries cooperation at all levels and in all areas should be actively encouraged among SIDS grouping given the benefits that such cooperation can bring.

103. Aquaculture is being promoted in SIDS to augment fish production (e.g. tilapia culture in Jamaica and Fiji for food and for export) together with other marine products such as pearls (e.g. Cook Islands), seaweed (e.g. Kiribati and Tonga) and aquarium fish. Reef enhancement is being tested with a variety of organisms in various states, but its viability is still to be demonstrated. The culture of these products provides national employment opportunities and revenue where exports are involved. However, the extent to which island States can participate in culture-based fisheries, and the nature of the products that are economically viable for culturing, is determined largely by their proximity to international markets and the availability of transport services. Caribbean States are generally better placed than SIDS in other regions to engage in culture-based activities for export in view of their adjacency to large North American markets.

104. In aquaculture a number of regional programmes and networks exist to facilitate information flows and dissemination of technical information. Notable among these regional aquaculture initiatives are the FAO South Pacific Aquaculture Development Programme, the International Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management (ICLARM), the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), the Japan Overseas Fisheries Foundation (OFCF) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in the South Pacific. In the Caribbean a number of institutions have been active in promoting regional activities in aquaculture, including CARICOM, the US National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and the US Agency for International Development (USAID).


105. A number of factors can be identified that constrain the development and manage of the fisheries sector in island States. These factors include, inter alia:


106. The prospects for increasing production from marine capture fisheries resources in island States vary regionally:

107. In all small island States, limited potential exists for increasing fisheries production from aquaculture and reef enhancement activities. In most countries, it is not envisaged that aquaculture will make major contribution to finfish production in support of national food security. Rather, the major benefits are likely to be realized from the production of high-valued, niché products for export or for the local tourist market.

108. The fisheries sector in many island States does not offer significant prospects for diversification in terms of production. However, an exception is the growth industry in the South Pacific whereby locally caught fish (e.g. snappers and tunas) are being air-freighted to markets both in and outside the region. Snappers, for example, are being shipped to markets in Australia, New Zealand and United States of America, while high-grade tuna is being airlifted to sashimi markets in Japan and the United States of America.

109. With respect to the diversification of value-added processing, some possibilities exist and new markets are opening up. A study on this subject recently commissioned in the South Pacific has identified a wide range of new products, largely based on tuna, appropriate for processing in island States. Likewise in the Caribbean, WECAFC is involved in promoting new fish products for human consumption, partly due to the rising demand for fish and fishery products in that region.


110. Considering the small geographical size of many SIDS, externalities of any economic activity will most likely be felt on the whole island, especially in coastal areas. Increasing levels of economic activities further exacerbate the already evident over-exploitation of coastal resources and environmental degradation of many coastal habitats. Different sectors often adversely impact each other through conflicting or competitive use of natural resources. Examples of such impacts are as follows:

111. Because various sectors interactions are often more intense in SIDS than in other countries, integrated planning and management would allow a better co-ordination between sectors so that environmental externalities could be minimized, conflicts between users reduced, and synergies enhanced. More specifically, integrated coastal area management would entail a participatory process of problem and solution identification that will benefit all sectors and users.

112. The process should result in the definition of an agreed strategy, including institutional arrangements that will allow each sector to address interactions and include the necessary measures to enhance production while conserving the resource base. Such a process however, needs to be undertaken gradually and phased as more experience and knowledge are acquired. It will also create more awareness as each sector will increase its capacity to identify the externalities it generates on the environment and quantify and qualify its contribution to the economy, social well-being, and environmental health, including the incurred losses due to environmental degradation.


113. Despite constraints stemming from their small size, geographic location, scope and scale of current activities and limited possibilities for expansion and diversification, agriculture, forestry and fisheries, and in some cases minerals, are critically important for SIDS. The importance of primary production, and the special situation of developing island States vis-à-vis other developing States, has been clearly recognized in international fora and reflected fully in international instruments arising from those fora.

114. The proposed Plan of Action for the intensification and diversification of agriculture, forestry and fisheries in SIDS recognizes the need to pursue an integrated approach to planning and management so as to minimise undesirable inter-sectoral impacts that could inhibit long-term sustainable production. The Plan also takes cognisance of the relative strengths and weaknesses that island States face and the strengths and opportunities at their disposal.

115. For agriculture, the proposed Plan of Action would focus on the following priorities:

116. In forestry, the priorities for the Plan of Action are to reduce the deforestation rate and increase forest coverage; maintain and develop the multiple direct and indirect contributions of forests, trees and forestry to food security; to the conservation and sustainable use of land and water resources, including the protection of watershed; and as reservoirs of biological diversity through:

117. With respect to fisheries and aquaculture, the proposed Plan of Action should focus on the six areas of the FAO Programme of Fisheries Assistance to Small Island Developing States. This Programme has been developed in close consultation with SIDS and approved by the FAO Governing Bodies. These areas of assistance/action are:


1 There is no internationally-accepted definition of a small island developing State. However, for the purposes of this paper SIDS are taken to be the 42 members and observers of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) - four of which are low-lying coastal States (Guinea-Bissau, Belize, Guyana and Suriname). Three additional small island developing States, which are Members of FAO, but not of AOSIS (Bahrain, Dominican Republic and Haiti), have been included. Ten of these States have `least developed country' status within the United Nations System. It should be noted that SIDS are not a homogenous group in that they tend to have their own economic, social and natural environments, even though most SIDS are located geographically within the tropics in a band between 20 degrees North and South of the Equator.


2 There is more tuna landed in the exclusive economic zones of Papua New Guinea and the Federated States of Micronesia, respectively, than any other country. Total catches in each of these zones are about 250-300 000 tonnes annually.


3 Intensification and diversification of primary sector production is highlighted in Objective 3.1 of the World Food Summit Plan of Action. This objective seeks: "To pursue, through participatory means, sustainable intensified and diversified food production, increasing productivity, efficiency, safety gains, pest control and reduced wastes and losses, taking into account the need to sustain natural resources."


4 In the context of this paper, the concept of food security also incorporates considerations relating to nutrition.


5 The Rome Declaration on World Food Security states in Commitment Three that: "We will pursue participatory and sustainable food, agriculture, fisheries, forestry and rural development policies and practices in high and low potential areas, which are essential to adequate and reliable food supplies at the household, national, regional, and global levels, and combat pests, drought and desertification, considering the multifunctional character of agriculture." Of significance to island States is the commitment to pursue "... policies and practices in high and low potential areas ...".


6 Ranging from 20 km2 (Nauru) to more than 450 000 km2 (Papua New Guinea).


7 As a result of afforestation efforts, the total forest area in Cape Verde is reported to have almost trebled in size from 16 000 ha to 47 000 ha, equivalent to an annual increase of 24 percent. Recent figures put the total area planted even higher (see Table 4).


8 Bahamas, Belize, Cuba, Cyprus, Dominica, Fiji, Grenada, Guinea Bissau, Guyana, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, St. Lucia, Suriname and Vanuatu. Source: AOSIS.


9 FAO (1998) FAO Trade Yearbook Vol. 50. 1996. FAO Statistics Series No. 138.


10 Most projections agree that the Solomon Islands merchantable forest will be largely exhausted by 2010. Samoa logged 50 percent of its merchantable forest between 1974 and 1987. Tongan forests have been cleared to similar extent. (FAO 1997. Regional Study - The South Pacific. Asia-Pacific Forestry Sector Outlook Study. Working Paper No. APFSOS/WP/01).


11 The significance of a comprehensive national forest sector planning process to sustainable forest management and an enabling policy environment is widely recognised. "National forest programme" is a generic term for a wide range of approaches used by countries in planning, programming and implementing forest activities.


12 Non FAO members are Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Tuvalu and Singapore.


13 FAO (1995) Samoa, Tonga, Kiribati and Tuvalu: A Review of Uses and Status of Trees and Forests in Land Use Systems With Recommendations for Future Actions, based on the work of R. R. Thaman and W.A. Whistler. TSS-1 Technical Support Services at Programme Level ,UNDP/FAO/ RAS/92/T04.


14 Increased organic matter provided by trees improves soil fertility by increasing the water retention capacity, reducing soil pH, providing nutrients, reducing leaching effects of wind and rains and reducing run-off and evaporation.


15 Examples of States with high percentage of endemic species of mammals include Mauritius (50percent), Solomon Islands (36 percent) and Fiji (25percent). With regard to birds, the percentage of endemic species is 20 percent for Solomon Islands and 24 percent for Fiji. Small Islands States with a high percent of endemic plant species include Mauritius, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica and Fiji, in which more than 30 percent of the higher plant species are endemic (WRI/UNEP/UNDP/World Bank 1996: World Resources 1996-1997 Table 61.2). Many of the above plant and animal species are found in forests.


16 Papua New Guinea, Suriname and Guyana are notable exceptions.


17 "In January 1990 Western Samoa's plantation estate stood at 4 392 hectares. Cyclones Ofa and Val (along with stands which were written of due to poor establishment) destroyed 92 percent of this area. At September 1995 only 350 hectares of the original plantings remained." (FAO 1997. Regional Study - The South Pacific. Asia-Pacific Forestry Sector Outlook Study. Working Paper 01.)


18 AUSAID (1997) Project Implementation Document, South Pacific Regional Initiative on Forest Genetic Resources (SPRIG)


19 Forest resources management in Small Island Countries. Report presented at the Inter-regional Conference of Small Island Countries on Sustainable Development and Environment in Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbados 7-10 April 1992.


20 Coxcomb R. (Ed) (1987) Land Tenure in the Pacific. University of the South Pacific.


21 One solution to the tenure problem in the South Pacific has been the development of Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) in Papua New Guinea. These are established, at the request of local land owners to regulate hunting and protect the habitat of e.g. Birds of Paradise. The Government provides legal recognition to WMA, but land ownership remains in the hand of local people. The WMA concept accommodates the particular conditions that prevail in many Pacific nations, and could perhaps be applied in neighbouring island states.


22 AUSAID (1997) Project Implementation Document, South Pacific Regional Initiative on Forest Genetic Resources (SPRIG).


23 Areas of Intsia bijuga and Pometia pinnata in Samoa suffered only minor damage from cyclone Ofa in 1991. Whitewood (Endospermum medullosum), kauri pine (Agathis spp.), Terminalias richii and are other examples of indigenous species in the South pacific which are well-adapted to withstand cyclone-force winds. Research is being carried out on the crossing of Pinus Caribea var. hondurensis with P. caribea var. caribea in an attempt to improve resistance to stem snap in high winds.


24 This consideration has been recognized explicitly by international instruments including the 1995 Kyoto Declaration and Plan of Action and the 1996 World Food Summit Plan of Action.


25 Data provided by the Forum Fisheries Agency, Honiara, Solomon Islands.


26 Estimated information provided by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission, Mahe, Seychelles.