Tonga is among 14 Small Island Developing States (SIDS) attending the Pacific SIDS Solutions Forum, in Apia, Samoa from 28-30 November, where they will address the disproportionate aftershocks experienced in the Pacific Islands, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and other global crises.
Qu Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and Hon Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa, PM of Samoa, called on the SIDS to leverage the power of innovation, to regain their momentum toward achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Tonga's delegation includes Hon Lord Fohe, Tonga’s Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forests (MAFF), and Dr. Siale ‘Akau’ola, Tonga’s CEO for Ministry of Health.
The small Pacific Island states are concerned about the sustainability of their agriculture and food systems, and the impact on health of imported foods. Non-communicable diseases are skyrocketing.
The forum aims to provide a platform to exchange of local knowledge and innovation, related to building resilient, inclusive and sustainable agrifood systems in the Pacific SIDS.
Director General Qu said, “As a result of these converging crises and shocks, we have seen negative coping strategies emerging”.
This included changes in consumer behaviour, with the price of healthy foods out of reach for some, forcing people to resort to cheaper, less healthy options”.
Hon Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa from Samoa, said: “There is urgency for small island states to move forward with transformative food system approaches”.
“This includes government support towards building sustainable, resilient, and inclusive agri-food systems that fit our respective frameworks.”
Participating Member Nations agreed that local innovation, holds the potential to unlock social and economic development opportunities, bridge inequality gaps and empower all Pacific peoples, including youth and women, to help accelerate progress toward achieving the SDGs in Pacific SIDS.
Urgency in the Pacific Islands
Non-communicable diseases are skyrocketing with type-2 diabetes, coronary diseases, obesity. Due to a dependence on imported, processed foods, high in salt and sugar content, and is having a strain on public health services.
Additionally, Governments, FAO, other UN Agencies and stakeholders have been working together to improve the livelihood opportunities in the local food and agriculture sectors, by rebalancing diets and improving nutrition, through re-focusing on home-grown, healthy foods.
A number of innovations that are responding to SIDS issues include; the use of smart phone, digital technologies, in the agriculture sector and also to monitor dietary habits, implementation of low-cost, and low-energy devices that can contribute to local food production.
Pacific takes on SIDS challenges
The FAO has been working with Pacific SIDS countries to foster partnership building at community, national, regional and global levels to facilitate the implementation of the Forum’s recommendations.
The Pacific SIDS Solutions Forum aims to provide a platform to highlight, strengthen and expand these partnerships for the benefit of people in the Pacific.
The last Pacific SIDS Solutions Forum was co-hosted by FAO and the Government of Fiji in August 2021.