Policies and Partnerships for Nutritious Food Systems in Fiji

A Multi-sectoral, Gender-sensitive Approach is the Way Forward

By Judith Francis and Jana Dietershagen
Garlanding chief guests of the workshop: From left to right, Mr. Christoph Wagner, Howard Politini  and Sakiusa Tubuna
The Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and the Pacific Islands Private Sector Organization (PIPSO), in collaboration with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) held a national workshop in Suva Fiji on 28-29 June on 'Promoting Nutritious Food Systems in the Pacific Islands' within the framework of the ongoing CTA/IFAD/PIPSO project.

The aim was to present different viewpoints, exchange knowledge, and spark discussions around the multifaceted and multidimensional aspects of the agri-nutrition challenges in Fiji, which led to key recommendations that inform national policy and programmes. The event was attended by 63 participants (46% female), comprising representatives from public and private organisations. The workshop was officially opened by Christoph Wagner, Head of Cooperation of the European Delegation for the Pacific, Sakiusa Tubuna, Sub-Regional Coordinator of IFAD in the Pacific, and Howard Politini, Chair Board of Directors, PIPSO.

“Addressing agricultural challenges in an innovative way is what this workshop is about” – stated Wagner, adding that “The European Commission has a strong focus on public-private-partnerships.”

IFAD views the CTA/IFAD/PIPSO collaborative project as an opportunity for developing and piloting innovative approaches that strengthen the agriculture-nutrition nexus and increase people’s access to nutritious and healthy foods.

"This project is an opportunity to mainstream nutrition in agriculture. Therefore we need to pull together all the expertise", said Tubuna.
From left to right: Fantasha Lockington (CEO Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association), Emil Jejov and Judith Francis (CTA)
Judith Ann Francis, CTA’s Senior Programme Coordinator S&T Policy and leader of the CTA/IFAD/PIPSO project, presented an overview of the innovative tools and approaches that will be used for achieving the project goal, such as seed-funding; value chain coordinating/agricultural innovation (VCC/AI) multi-stakeholder platforms; and an innovation credit facility for small and medium enterprises (SME) development.

According to Francis, “through these innovative tools, the project will support communities to find solutions that build on traditional knowledge, agri-businesses to harness the social and intellectual capital and producers to engage in inclusive value chain development.” 
Participants discussing and suggesting strategies during roundtable exercises 
Dr. Jimaima Lako, a CTA consultant, presented her research findings from a rapid country scan on the Agriculture Nutrition Nexus in Fiji, which formed the basis of the highly interactive 2-day workshop. Key highlights include:
  • High prevalence of non-communicable diseases – (NCDs) (35.8%) and micronutrient deficiencies especially iron deficiency anaemia (32.4%) 
  • High dependence on imports and calorie intake from imported foods and processed foods that are generally cheaper and less nutritious, with negative impacts on health; 
  • Multiple policies and frameworks covering agriculture, health, women etc. that do not specifically address the nutrition challenges and in some cases are contradictory. 
  • 16 national policies and frameworks are in place across various line Ministries (Agriculture, Fisheries, Health, Education etc.) but these are not specific enough on addressing nutritional challenges.
  • Need for more research (including on the relationship between agri-nutrition outcomes by academia) to support the Ministries in their work, as well as private sector/businesses.
  • Major gaps in Agri-Nutrition nexus identified include Weak or absence of nutrition link in the National Development Plan and Policies in use by the various line ministries, Lack of commitment and poor coordination of the Fiji Plan of Action on Nutrition( FPAN) with multi-stakeholders and partners and Limited awareness and availability of nutrient dense local foods.
  • “Policies on agriculture, health, nutrition exist in Fiji but they are not aligned. Agriculture can change the nutrition paradigm of NCDs and anaemia.” Dr. Lako, explained. 
Other 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 meaningful insights and sparked fruitful discussions during the round table group sessions. For example, Joann Young, Assistant Representative at FAO, triggered the reflections by questioning: “What is the cost of a nutritious diet?” Dr. Isimeli Tukana, Director Wellness in the Ministry of Health, advocated for agriculture as the solution to the nutrition challenges: “Fiji is going through nutrition transitions. 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 
Female participants discussing during the group exercises
Cherie Moris, from Fiji Women in Fisheries Network, emphasised on the importance of women as custodians of knowledge in sectors such as fisheries; finding new markets and the cost and time of processing are just a few barriers they have to overcome. Other obstacles can be lack of access to expertise and difficulties complying with food safety standards.

Sian Rolls, from Femlink Pacific, further explained, “the biggest gender gap is in decision-making. Women feel frustrated because, despite the development changes, they have not been seeing improvements in their economic and nutrition status.”
Cherie Moris Fiji, Women in Fisheries Network
SMEs to accelerate value chain development

“SMEs create the most jobs in Fiji. They need support and capacity building,” emphasized Ravi Chand, CEO, National Centre for Small and Micro Enterprise Development.

Business in Fiji is not just about trading any more, but is gaining an inclusive community engagement role. Together the government and the private sector can contribute to sustainable economic development. 
Products of participating producers were displayed during the workshop
Save Waqainabete, Business Development Analyst at Joe’s Farm, explained: “Agri-businesses can play a vital role in addressing agri-nutrition”. Agribusinesses need to overcome financial and technical challenges while reducing costs so that fresh local produce 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.

Workshop outcomes: Three strategies for national development consideration 
Participants presenting results from group discussion on women’s empowerment
An immediate reaction to the Fiji roundtable workshop was a request by a representative of the Ministry of Economy to submit three major strategies for their consideration in Fiji’s National Strategic Plan, which is currently being developed.
  1. Setting a high-level political agenda and urgent multi-sectoral approach to addressing agri-nutrition and tackling NCDs in Fiji. 
  2. Establishing stronger collaboration and relationship with academia and private sector for evidence based policy and strategic planning 
  3. Partnerships and collaboration between Government Ministries, communities, private sector, and academia, need to be strengthened and their ongoing activities aligned. Joint interventions could include media campaigns, agribusiness/farming communities’ initiatives with schools, promoting local produce and local cuisine, to name a few. 
Moving forward with the project

In the next few months, similar national policy roundtables are rolling out in the other project’s target countries: Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu. Priority value chains are analysed to launch the Value Chain Coordination/Agricultural Innovation platforms and to identify the challenges and opportunities for investing in weather risk insurance - another innovation that the project will explore in consultation with producer organisations and representatives of the public and private sector.

According to Emil Jejov from CTA: “Index based insurance is suitable where many smallholder farmers operate. Insured farmers are able to save more and invest more in inputs and other production assets. Multi-stakeholder consultations are crucial in developing successful insurance products.”

Comments