Building resilience to climate change for food security in the Pacific region
Monday 8 April 2013, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Samoa –
Maintaining long-term food security has emerged as a major issue in the Pacific region, and climate change, with its associated extreme weather events, is likely to adversely impact food production in the coming decades.
SPC and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), in collaboration with partner agencies, are supporting the governments of six Pacific countries – Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu – in their efforts to tackle the adverse effects of climate change on food production. The support includes updating vegetation and land cover maps at the national level, and working with local communities to implement appropriate adaptation measures to build their resilience to climate change.
The initiative, entitled Enhanced climate change resilience of food production systems in Pacific Island countries and territories, will evaluate and increase the resilience of land-based food production systems. The project harnesses an innovative partnership between two SPC divisions, the Applied Geoscience and Technology Division (SOPAC) and the Land Resources Division (LRD). SOPAC is providing geographic information system (GIS) data to LRD enabling more accurate and informed implementation of climate change resilience activities on the ground.
The project started in the latter part of 2012, and already activities for the Fiji site (Sabeto catchment area in Nadi) are under way.
The Sabeto area was chosen as project site for its best fit to the ‘ridge-to-reef’ approach and suitability for developing adaptation strategies. Activities so far include the completion of a vegetation mapping exercise; community consultations through participatory rural appraisal (PRA) to assess the vulnerability of food security to climate change; and the establishment of community nurseries of fruit trees, native timber species, vegetables and root crops. In its second year now, activities are under way to establish demonstration plots to trial adaptation practices at the community level. This activity necessitated the establishment of village project coordinating committees (there are four villages in the Sabeto area). This work is facilitated by LRD staff with the assistance of the Fiji Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
Two officers from LRD, Dean Solofa (Climate Change Officer), and Emil Adams (Information and Communications Manager), travelled to Samoa to meet stakeholders and introduce the USAID project to them. A thorough review of related national climate change projects was completed to identify close working partners for the sharing of resources and the sustainability of climate change interventions. Stakeholders wanted improved coordination of climate change initiatives and to provide institutional support for the mainstreaming of climate change into sector plans.
Solofa and Adams met stakeholders from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Ministry of Finance, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme and two non-governmental organisations: Women in Business and the Samoa Farmers’ Association. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment coordinates the Samoa National Adaptation Programme for Action framework, in which the Global Environment Facility-funded project, Integrating Climate Change Risks in the Agriculture and Health Sectors (ICCRAHS), has established three sites to represent three zones – a dry zone (Asau), a wet zone (Togitogiga) and a coastal zone (Salailua); a fourth site to act as control is at the government research station at Nuu.
ICCRAHS project coordinator, Jasmine Sila, pointed out the progress of Samoa’s climate change strategy under the project, which aims to assist Samoa’s agricultural sector to design policies that include adaptation to climate change and related extremes, and at the same time carry out short-term and long-term agricultural planning and crop management. Samoa’s agriculture sector plan states the need to accommodate climate change adaptation in its implementation. The ICCRAHS demonstration sites are trialling a climate-ready collection of food crops from the SPC-based Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees, particularly banana, yam, taro, cassave and sweet potato.
A team from the USP-EU Global Climate Change Alliance (GCCA) project was present at the consultation to link into the USAID project. The GCCA project covers 15 Pacific ACP countries and aims to develop and strengthen these countries’ capacity to adapt to the impacts of climate change. The project has also established sites, four on Savai’i and one on Upolu. Similarly, the SPREP-based German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) climate change project has a site on Savai’i with a focus on coastal ecosystems and fisheries.
The LRD country leads for Samoa are now reviewing proposed sites suggested by the stakeholders and will choose two that are best fitted to the ‘ridge-to-reef’ approach. This will be followed by preparation work on land use and soil mapping, vulnerability assessments through PRAs, and training and awareness on climate change knowledge. Subsequent development of adaptation strategies will be determined from the results of the PRAs and vulnerability assessments. The USAID project will link as much as possible with existing climate change efforts for resource and knowledge sharing. For example, the community forestry nurseries in the project sites will be strengthened with additional support; new ones need not be created.