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7. Summary and conclusions

7.1. FAO action in SIDS

The main achievements made under the different priority areas of the FAO Plan of Action on Agriculture in SIDS are summarized as follows:

Adjusting to changes in the global trading environment

SIDS economies rely heavily upon exports of agriculture, forestry and fisheries but they face challenges in the emerging global trade environment. Although the international trading system has not provided SIDS with any particular consideration as a group, they receive some form of preferential access to developed-country markets as beneficiaries of other agreements. In order to assist SIDS' adjustment to the new trade environment, FAO conducted a series of capacity-building activities in the areas of sanitary and phytosanitary measures, technical barriers to trade, property rights, and food control systems and safety, and Codex Alimentarius. FAO is also working on assessing the implications of WTO Multilateral Trading System in the Agriculture Sector in the Pacific countries. In addition, since 1994, FAO has provided assistance to SIDS in agricultural census and agricultural statistics.

Towards a more diversified and sustainable agriculture

Nutrition-related health problems and food-import dependency are a growing concern in many SIDS. In order to face the challenges of agriculture competitiveness and self-reliance, SIDS are seeking opportunities to diversify their agricultural systems. FAO is responding to the increased SIDS vulnerability of intensive agricultural systems by building on and enhancing traditional production systems, reviving interest in traditional food crops, and developing integrated approaches to pest and production management, as well as to land and water management. FAO is pursuing its work in the areas of plant protection as well as plant and animal genetic resources through the IPPC which is a multilateral treaty for plant protection. Through its normative work, FAO works also with SIDS in the preparation of the State of the World's Animal Genetic Resources with an assessment of national animal genetic resources, and encourages the ratification of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture to ensure sustainable conservation and use of biodiversity, basis for maintaining diversified production systems, improved nutrition and enhanced self-reliance for the islands. To date nine SIDS have signed this Treaty and one has ratified it. FAO encourages SIDS to ratify the International Treaty, expected to come into force in 2004, as a basis for the sustainable conservation and use of biodiversity.

Meeting fisheries needs

While SIDS terrestrial resources are small, SIDS govern large tracts of ocean. Production from capture fisheries have shown an upward trend for some species in SIDS but resource depletion of inshore stocks and stagnant prices for some important species (such as tuna) threatens the return for both food and national income. The concepts of long-term sustainability and responsible fisheries, which were well understood concepts in many traditional SIDS' societies, are increasingly underpinning commercial fisheries management in SIDS.

FAO has been actively involved in developing international and regional fisheries instruments and encourages SIDS to ratify the 1993 FAO Compliance Agreement, the 1995 UN Fish Stocks Agreement and to implement fully the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, all of which will have a critical impact on the future of SIDS' fisheries. In 2002, FAO initiated a project, Responsible Fisheries for Small Island Developing Countries, focusing on the implementation of the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries to strengthen the capacity of fisheries administrations in SIDS in order to promote responsible fisheries for social and economic development.

Ensuring sustainable management of forestry resources, environmental protection and mitigation of natural hazards

High and competing demands on forests, trees and other coastal resources are endangering the ecosystems of SIDS. FAO programmes are targeted at promoting sustainable management of forest resources through a holistic and integrated approach in the use of forest and tree resources to provide a wide range of wood and non-wood forest products, while simultaneously maintaining their environmental and socio-economic functions (such as rehabilitation of forestlands, coastal protection and ecotourism). In 2002, FAO published "Forests and Forestry in Small Island Developing States", which provides an overview of the many current and potential roles of forests and trees in SIDS, as well as the major constraints and opportunities for the sustainable management of these resources. FAO has provided assistance to forestry legislation and has participated in developing the Code of Practice for Forest Harvesting in Asia and the Pacific.

Regarding mitigation of natural hazards, FAO helps countries set up warning and information systems and advises on the use of hurricane-resistant crops and forestry methods, as well as helping agricultural systems and coastal fisheries get reactivated in the wake of the storm. The interventions include prevention, preparedness planning, monitoring and early warning, assessment of impact and needs, relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction, and sustainable recovery. FAO's Global Information and Early Warning System is of particular relevance to SIDS. It provides policy-makers and policy-analysts with the most up-to-date information available on all aspects of food supply and demand and warning of imminent food crises, so that timely interventions can be planned. FAO organizes regularly impact assessment missions on tropical cyclones to SIDS. In 2001, FAO published the "Analysis of the medium-term effects of Hurricane Mitch on food security in Central America". Through the FAO supported project, "Emergency Assistance for the Formulation of National Hurricane Disaster Preparedness" in 1998, the Governments of the Eastern Caribbean States have come together to formulate national and regional plans to improve hurricane readiness.

Capacity building, policies and institutional strengthening

In 2002, FAO launched the Initiative to Support the Review and Update of National Policies and Strategies for Food Security and Agricultural Development. Countries were also requested to fill in questionnaires on Agricultural/Rural Development and Food Security Strategies/Policies in order to better focus FAO's policy support to agriculture and food security in the immediate future. These Policy Profiles provide highly relevant up-dated information on SIDS situation, current agricultural and food security policies and strategies, institutional mechanisms and capacities, and needs for FAO's support for the next biennium. Current agricultural and food security policies and strategies show that despite a great diversity in SIDS, agriculture, fisheries and forestry still play a major role through their contribution to GDP, as a source of employment, as generation of export earnings to the economy and as a safety net.

Regarding nutrition, SIDS are facing clear deterioration in the nutrition situation with a growing tendency to poor quality imported food displacing nutritionally valuable local crops. FAO developed country profiles for SIDS which offer a valuable tool for guiding and monitoring progress towards the achievement of food security and nutritional well being. The profiles show that adult malnutrition is in the form of over nutrition, with an increasing prevalence of overweight, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

As a response to the growing vulnerability of SIDS, FAO is also working on improving capabilities of national Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping Systems (FIVIMS). These tools aim at addressing the relative poverty and food insecurity which are emerging issues in SIDS. FIVIMS has been implemented in pilot SIDS as a means of reducing food insecurity and in order to allow donors and technical agencies to effectively respond to changing circumstances of individual countries.

7.2. Weaknesses and exogenous factors

The FAO field programme and normative activities developed with SIDS since the BPOA have made considerable progress in specific areas of agriculture, fisheries and forestry but have been constrained by recurrent impeding factors.

In the case of capacity building, the example of training in trade issues, where most of the trained officers have found alternative employment in the private sector and are no longer members of the negotiating machinery in the respective countries, has shown the need to develop in partnership with relevant agencies and SIDS, the necessary incentives for officers to remain in the public sector. The need to build coalitions amongst SIDS for a stronger negotiating capacity remains a high priority. In other areas such as integrated water management, which is a very high request from island States, the requirement for an integrated approach taking into account water use for tourism, industry, urban purposes, etc., for which FAO has no specific mandate calls for true coordination and practical collaboration with other agencies and public institutions.

In the agriculture sector, and as a response to a pressing demand from SIDS, FAO can offer its know-how in order to help revert the tendency to monoculture and high dependency to fertilizers and pesticides. Again a more integrated approach which takes into account the traditional production systems and builds on modern tools and technologies is required with the participation and full collaboration of both environment and agriculture line institutions. Integrated production systems, agroforestry, agricultural tourism, diversified and certified organic products for export markets, as well as increased horticultural production, are some of the emerging trends for agriculture. These require a better knowledge of past and present production systems adapted to local conditions and which will require coordination and concerted actions amongst all stakeholders.

In the area of land management, the 2003 interregional meetings in AIMS, Caribbean and Pacific SIDS have repeatedly stressed the tendency in recent years to an increased land fragmentation and conflicts on land issues. FAO's assistance in the field of land management needs to reconcile traditional systems and modern requirements.

An essential component of an island's well-being and long-term sustainability is the fisheries sector. FAO has been providing the legal instruments for fisheries and reinforcing the regional fisheries institutions but there is a need for the international community to provide financial assistance for the implementation of these instruments such as the implementation of surveillance of illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing and the monitoring and assessment of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks, and there is a need for SIDS to implement these instruments.

In the area of forestry, inherent weaknesses in sustainable forest management in SIDS remain the high population pressure, the vulnerability to disasters, high species endemism and high risk for loss of biological diversity.

7.3. New and emerging issues

Relative poverty and food insecurity is increasing. Abject poverty is increasing, especially in urban and squatter settlements. The role of FAO is more important than ever, in assessing the food and agricultural situation and informing the international community through the Global Information and Early Warning System and the Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping Systems, as well as the Anti-Poverty Programme. FAO's Special Programme on Food Security will continue helping low-income food deficit countries to raise incomes and enrich food sources of the weak segments of the population.

Food-import dependency is being exacerbated. Given the growing tendency of many SIDS as net food importers, FAO is trying to assist SIDS in creating an environment in which domestic producers can increase food production where economically justified and diversify their production systems into sustainable systems, with due recognition of traditional production systems.

Emerging nutrition-related health issues are on the increase. SIDS are facing clear deterioration in the nutrition situation with a growing tendency of poor quality imported food replacing nutritionally valuable local crops. FAO is responding to the demands of countries through both its nutrition programmes including Codex Alimentarius and its agriculture programmes to increase the availability and quality of food.

7.4. Looking forward

Regarding coalitions and trade, FAO will pursue its work with SIDS on trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights, bio-safety and health. FAO's contribution could be enhanced by greater collaboration with agencies to help creating a SIDS Trade Coalition, which will foster a greater recognition of SIDS singularities by the international community.

With respect to the multi-dimensional aspects of human security including food, land and water security in SIDS, FAO's world knowledge on land and water management can better benefit SIDS by developing a truly integrated approach tailored for SIDS and involving the agencies and institutions for concerted action. This implies bridging the actual work on strategies and policies being implemented by SIDS with the support of FAO, and a decentralized approach for implementation at grassroots level.

FAO can foster existing initiatives to diversifying SIDS production for local consumption as well as export markets for organic certified products and other export crops and encourage community based initiatives on sustainable tourism, with synergic linkages between the tourism and agriculture sectors.

With respect to mitigation of natural hazards, seas and forests, FAO is promoting the concept of long-term sustainable use and management practices of aquatic and forest resources to lessen the adverse impact of cyclones and enable faster recovery of affected areas. FAO mitigation projects allow to reduce considerably the impact of high risk tropical cyclones and minimizes impact on vulnerable groups. FAO will pursue its work in that field. A truly integrated approach to forestry and fisheries and the development, ratification and implementation of legal instruments by SIDS is vital to the region and requires collaboration with all agencies and institutions involved.

To conclude, in the words of the United Nations Secretary-General Mr. Kofi Annan, "What we do with respect to small islands has implications far beyond their troubled shores. By working with small islands on their problems, we can find solutions for ours. Brighter horizons for small islands can mean brighter horizons for the world, in general".

It is imperative that global society recognizes the importance of ensuring the existence of SIDS as a vital and integrated component in mankind's heritage. These priceless regions must be respected for their valuable contribution in keeping man's dreams of achieving utopian harmony and above all an unwavering desire to bring this to fruition.

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