Nadi, Fiji – In their first in-person meeting after the COVID-19 pandemic, Pacific Ministers of Agriculture and Forestry last week addressed some of the region’s most pressing challenges, including climate change, national food systems planning and strengthening coordination between Ministries from across the Pacific.
The 3rd Pacific Ministers of Agriculture and Forestry Meeting marked the close of the Pacific Week of Agriculture 2023, a five-day event held in Nadi, Fiji from 6 – 10 March that brought together governments, NGOs, community-based organizations and the private sector to help chart a future for agriculture and forestry in the region. The Government of Fiji hosted the gathering with co-support from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Pacific Community (SPC).
Fiji Minister of Forest and Fisheries, Hon Kavaleti Vodo Ravu, opened the meeting, stating, “The 2023 PWAF meeting has been a platform that provides the opportunity to discuss and explore how Pacific nations can leverage the agriculture and forestry sectors as part of our national and regional efforts to revitalize food systems that better support healthy diets and environmental sustainability in the Pacific.”
Delegates recognized the devastating impact of climate change on Pacific food systems, and the need for better climate information to support food system planning and decision-making, emphasizing the need for collaborative and coordinated data collection and sharing among countries to enable the development of sustainable and resilient food systems in the Pacific.
FAO keynote speaker Deputy Director-General Laurent Thomas stressed the need to support sustainable and resilient food systems that adapt to changing conditions. “The transformation of agrifood systems holds the key to maximizing opportunities and addressing the various threats and challenges that the region is facing. Pacific agrifood systems have the potential to become more resilient and deliver lower cost nutritious foods and affordable healthy diets for all, inclusively and sustainably.”
Strengthening coordination between agriculture and forestry in the Pacific was underlined, with delegates proposing the revision of the current architecture for coordination to enhance collaboration and improve the effectiveness of programs and policies, in turn recognizing the importance of community participation and stakeholder engagement in decision-making and implementation processes.
This greater cooperation and collaboration must be led by the Ministers and their Ministries said SPC Director General Dr Stuart Minchin. “You are the linchpin. We need the collective knowledge and expertise of you and your teams to chart our food and trade secure future,” stated Minchin. “We need your ambition, your aspiration, your capacity… and your collectiveness as well. And you can be assured that SPC will continue to take this journey with you as both a principal partner and an enterprising engine of ideas and initiative”.
The delegates highlighted the urgency of catalysing national food systems transformation in Pacific Island Countries by promoting sustainable agriculture practices and diversifying food systems to ensure food security and reduce dependence on imports. They noted the need for a comprehensive data-driven approach to food systems transformation that takes into account the social, economic, and environmental dimensions of sustainability.
As key technical and resource partners in the region, FAO and SPC reaffirmed their commitment to continue their engagement with Pacific Island Countries in their efforts to address climate change, food insecurity, and environmental degradation, and build a better future for all.
The Ministers adjourned with an endorsement on the presented concept note for developing a climate adaption tool to support Pacific food systems planning, in addition to creating a regional technical coordination committee or hub to inform and catalyse the food systems transformation agendas in Pacific Island countries and territories. Ministers additionally agreed to the architecture of the proposed initiative to strengthen the coordination of agriculture and forestry in the Pacific.
Tonga agreed to host the next Pacific Ministers of Agriculture and Forestry meeting in 2025, which will again occur during the Pacific Week of Agriculture and Forestry.