Promotion of Fruit and Vegetables for Health: Pacific Island Countries and Territories


There is growing awareness of the fundamental and vital role fruit and vegetable consumption plays in human health and nutrition in both developing and developed countries. This increased global awareness has been primarily led by the combined efforts of FAO and WHO of the United Nations.

A Pacific Regional Workshop on the Promotion of Fruit and Vegetables for Health was held in Nadi, Fiji from 20 to 23 October 2014. It is the first workshop under this Initiative to focus on the Pacific region. It brought together experts including policymakers, programme managers, scientists and development practitioners, representing the health, nutrition, horticulture, agriculture and education sectors from nine Island countries of the Pacific region (Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Republic of Marshall Islands, Niue, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu). Representatives from the organizing, supporting and technical partners were also present, including FAO, WHO, SPC, ACIAR and the University of Tasmania, Australia. The meeting was opened by the Permanent Secretary of the ministry of Agriculture of Fiji.

Fruit and vegetable intake in Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) is well below the recommended level of five servings per person per day, or 400g per day. This, among other risk factors, contributes largely to the high prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCD), principally diabetes and cardiovascular disease. A major risk factor for NCDs is obesity, a key concern in this region since over half the people in all of the PICTs are overweight. Paradoxically, excess consumption of calories co-exists with under nutrition, constituting the so-called ‘double burden’ of malnutrition.

The geographical isolation of communities in the Pacific region is a factor that greatly impedes access to fruit and vegetables. The region comprises 20,000 to 30,000 islands spread over the Pacific Ocean that belong to 22 countries and territories. Low soil fertility is another key concern, particularly in atoll nations. The Pacific Island region experiences unique environmental challenges, such as extreme weather conditions and rising sea levels that reduce productivity and availability of fruit and vegetables.

Among the recommendations made during the Regional Workshop, it is eminent to strengthen communication among sectors, establish a networking mechanism, facilitate joint planning and follow-up on implementation of activities and progress-monitoring mechanisms, and facilitate assessment and analysis.

It emerged that national institutions in most countries of the region have established strategies for NCD prevention, and have been implementing programmes to advocate for healthy diets and lifestyles with increased consumption of fruit and vegetables (F&V) within these strategies. However, there is the need for strengthened joint efforts between the public and private sectors towards improving production, availability and utilisation of nutritious F&V.

The workshop reiterated the importance of building and strengthening institutional capacities, and educating the population –especially children – on the importance of F&V