New report on tackling climate threats to Pacific Island food security

Climate impacts in the Pacific Islands, a region dependent on fishing and small-scale farming for sustenance, are set to intensify pressure on food security, according to a new report published today on World Oceans Day.

But innovative, participatory approaches may help policy makers navigate possible future scenarios in order to develop the right policy responses.

The report, Climate change and Pacific Island Food Systems, outlines the most pressing issues facing this region, using vivid infographics and photos to illustrate temperature and rainfall extremes; sea level rise; impacts on food crops, fisheries and aquaculture, and food and nutrition.

It is a joint publication by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), the Pacific Community (SPC), WorldFish and The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA), based on an ongoing research initiative in the region.

This work was funded by the New Zealand Aid Programme and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

The report sheds light on the major threats facing the region’s food security, but also highlights potential opportunities to be gained under climate change.

Based on widespread consultation and research, the report finds that governments, development agencies, communities and farmers will need to work together to develop alternatives to threatened livelihoods, such as fishing and farming.

Similarly, stakeholders must be ready to take advantage of any favourable impacts of climate change.

“Profound changes are needed to Pacific Island food systems to deal with the threat of climate change and more resilient food systems will have to be created, but more research is needed before these adaptations can be applied effectively,” according to one of the report authors, the Director of SPC’s Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems Division, Moses Amos.

The report indicates the actual impact will depend on the plants and animals involved, and other factors affecting production, such as geographic location, farming practices and dependence on agriculture.

To tackle uncertain futures, innovative approaches are needed to envision how different changes may play out on the ground.

The report illustrates four contrasting scenarios – Tug of war, Living on the edge, Cash now, pay later and Crisis in paradise – that tell the story of different development pathways, which will ultimately prove useful for developing and testing plans and strategies.

“The scenarios offer essential information for policy-makers, to test and guide efforts to develop policies that enhance resilience and strengthen adaptation to climate change among fishers and farmers in the Pacific region,” CCAFS Director, Bruce Campbell, said.

The scenarios were developed by policy makers, researchers, civil society and businesspeople from the region, working together through a process facilitated by a team from Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute which included consultations in Fiji last year.

They provide important insights into the different dimensions of the food system, including fisheries and forests, trade, affordability and consumption, and public health.

The report’s three main recommendations for action to respond to climate change in the Pacific are:

Conduct national assessments of the vulnerability of agriculture in Pacific Island countries and territories to climate change and identify, for example, the implications for food security and livelihoods from projected changes in production, population and urbanisation.

Identify research to be done in each country to implement priority adaptations based on, for example, projected food needs of rural and urban populations and existing production methods and capacity, including traditional knowledge.

Strengthen food systems research for the region, for example, by creating effective partnerships between national research and extension agencies, farmers’ networks, ngos and scientific institutions to improve national capacity to carry out research, and by providing farmers and fishing communities with climate services to guide their investments and activities.


Photo: Climate change threatens people like Fololina Avia, who runs a small scale fishing company in Samoa and stall at the Apia fish market in Samoa. Asian Development Bank.