Food Security in the Pacific Islands

Guest writers: Penelope Ward, Project Survival Pacific and Oday Kamal, Australian Youth Delegation.


The issue of food security is of utmost importance in the climate change debate concerning Pacific Islanders.

Food security is defined by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO) as “when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary requirements and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”

At the UN General Assembly 2008, President Emmanuel Mori of the Federated States of Micronesia highlighted the fundamental connection between food security and climate change: “The nexus between food security and climate change cannot be overlooked.

Indeed, in Micronesia, as with many other SIDS (Small Island Developing States) farmlands and local inhabitants occupy low-lying fringes and islands only a few meters above sea level. In Micronesia, taro patches, which have provided the main food staple, are now under threat by sea-level rise. This phenomenon is already resulting in coastal erosion and saline intrusion into freshwater lenses and ground water sources, as well as into tuberous staple crops such a swamp taro.

In addition to the above, food security will have several repercussions in the region over the next twenty years, which would include:

–       Reduced capacity of households to purchase food

–       A decrease in the area’s GDP

–       Increased dependence of household income from fisheries

As an example of the disruption of climate change to food production, cleaning the soil through rainfall may take up to two years, and the taro itself takes two to three years before it is ready to harvest.

Significantly, this is the situation before factoring in major climate effects, and it gives cause for concern about the impact of future climate change on child nutrition.

One of the best references for the issue of food security is the report  “Children and Climate Change in the Pacific Islands” (April 2010), commissioned UNICEF Pacific and completed by the Nossal Institute for Global Health at Melbourne University. This report can be found on the UNICEF website.

Penelope is from Project Survival Pacific, and is facilitating the Pacific Youth Delegation to COP16 this year.

Oday Kamal is the founder of the Youth Food Movement in Australia, and is in COP16 as a delegate to the Australian Youth Delegation.

More information can be found on their website:

More information about the AYCC:


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