Within the framework of the ongoing project, CTA and PIPSO in collaboration with IFAD, held a national workshop in Suva Fiji on 28-29 June on ‘Promoting Nutritious Food Systems in the Pacific Islands’. The workshop was the first in a series of national consultations and 63 participants (46% female) from public and private organisations; Government ministries (agriculture, trade and the economy, health), financial institutions (banks, microfinance), agribusinesses (SMEs) including producer organisations, academia and development agencies attended it. The workshop was officially opened by Mr Christoph Wagner, Head of Cooperation of the European Delegation for the Pacific, Mr Sakiusa Tubuna, Regional Coordinator of IFAD in the Pacific and Mr Howard Politini, Chair Board of Directors, PIPSO.
Dr. Jimaima Lako, a CTA consultant, led the technical sessions with her presentation of the research findings from the rapid country scan on the Agriculture Nutrition Nexus in Fiji. This formed the basis of the highly interactive 2-day workshop. Some key highlights include:
- High prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs; 35.8%) and micronutrient deficiencies especially iron deficiency anaemia (32.4%) and low consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.
- High dependence on imports (calorie intake from imported foods: fat (71%), carbohydrates (68%) and protein (60%)), reflective of a weak agricultural system and processed foods that are generally cheaper with negative impacts on health;
- Multiple policies and frameworks (16) covering agriculture, health, women etc. that do not specifically address the nutrition challenges and in some cases are contradictory.
“Policies on agriculture, health, nutrition etc. exist in Fiji but they are not aligned. Agriculture can change the nutrition paradigm of NCDs and anaemia.” – Dr Jimaima Lako, Consultant
Other critical presentations and interventions on current issues in agricultural development, food security, crops and fisheries value chains and women’s empowerment by the diverse multi-sectoral panellists provided additional critical insights and sparked fruitful discussions during the round table group discussions. For example, Joann Young, Assistant Representative FAO, triggered the reflections by questioning: “What is the cost of a nutritious diet? How do we achieve behavioural change? What actions are needed that foster demand for nutritious foods?” Dr. Isimeli Tukana, Director Wellness, in the Ministry of Health lobbied for agriculture to be endorsed as the solution to the nutrition challenges “Fiji is going through nutrition transitions, linked to the shift from agriculture. Unless the laws change, nothing will happen. The solution for NCD’s is in agriculture.”
Women play a critical role in Fiji’s agricultural sector
Cherie Moris, Fiji Women in Fisheries Network shared her knowledge and experience about the challenges and opportunities for women in the fisheries sector. “Women have a wealth of knowledge about fisheries. Business challenges include finding new markets and the cost and time for processing. To take advantage of opportunities women need access to expertise and to comply with food safety standards.” Sian Rolls, Femlink Pacific further explained that “The biggest gender gap is in decision-making. Women are being frustrated because despite the development changes they are not seeing improvements in their economic and nutrition status.”
SMEs to accelerate value chain development
Business in Fiji is not seen any more as just trading but is gaining more recognition as having an inclusive community engagement role. As the different economic sectors in Fiji work towards addressing national challenges, together the government and the private sector can contribute to sustainable economic development. Agribusinesses need to overcome financial and technical challenges – and reduce costs so that fresh local produce (crops and fish) and value added products can be affordable for local consumers. While subsistence farming is the main activity, there needs to be a shift to semi-commercial operations – this is one way to address supply issues to respond to market demand.
“SMEs create the most jobs in Fiji. They need support, capacity building. The legislation that works against small business should be revised.” – Ravi Chand, CEO, National Centre for Small and Micro Enterprise Development Save Waqainabete, Business Development Analyst at Joe’s Farm, added that “Agri-businesses can play a vital role in addressing agri-nutrition”.
Save Waqainabete, Business Development Analyst at Joe’s Farm, added that “Agri-businesses can play a vital role in addressing agri-nutrition”.
Workshop outcomes: Three strategies for national development consideration
- Creating an Enabling Environment for Agriculture Nutrition Nexus
Setting a high level political agenda and urgent multi-sectoral approach to addressing agri-nutrition and tackling NCDs in Fiji. This could for example, start with including this in the National Sustainable Development Plan, and developing a policy and regulatory framework across Ministries (especially Fisheries, Health, Agriculture, Trade and Education) that is consistent and supportive across the board. In line with the regulatory framework, to have a supporting platform for resources and technical expertise to support implementation and roll out.
- Evidence Based Policy and Strategic Planning
Establishing stronger collaboration and relationship with academia and private sector to conduct research and gather evidence-based information to make the business case on the challenges and opportunities in agri-nutrition and agribusiness.
- Leveraging on Partnerships & Shared Responsibilities for Increased Food and Nutrition Security
There are great projects and initiatives being implemented within Government Ministries, communities, private sector and academia but in some instances these are standalone and not much linkage or collaboration within the wider stakeholder community. There is so much opportunity and need to showcase benefits and share responsibilities and engagement through these projects and activities – and could include joint interventions such as media campaigns, agribusiness/farming communities’ initiatives with schools, promoting local produce and local cuisine (e.g local cooking shows, food festival etc), to name a few.
Achievements and the Way Forward
CTA and PIPSO in partnership with IFAD have been rolling out similar national policy roundtables in other target countries, as the concept has proven to provide valuable outcomes. On request by Fiji’s Ministry of Economy, PIPSO in consultation with and on behalf of the project partners, submitted policy statements from the workshop that were incorporated in the Fiji National Development Plan, which had been launched during COP23 in Bonn, Germany.