New Business Opportunities in Micronesia
The Federated States of Micronesia is a 600-island nation in the Pacific Ocean where 40 percent of the population lived in poverty as of 2014 and 32 out of 1,000 children died before the age of 5 as of 2017. Micronesia is heavily reliant on U.S. aid since the nation’s independence in 1986, but many expect it to end by 2023 as the country struggles with unemployment, over-reliance on fishing and a stagnant local business sector with uncertainty looming. Micronesia’s private sector will need a significant boost when aid from the U.S. comes to an end. Opening new business opportunities in Micronesia, specifically at the local level, is a priority the Pacific island nation needs to capitalize on.

Connecting Micronesia

The rise of the internet has been an important business driver for the private sectors for many nations. Micronesia has been tackling a project to expand the country’s own servers both locally and globally. The Pacific Regional Connectivity Project by the World Bank is a long-term project that will not only connect Micronesia with its neighbors Palau, Nauru and Kiribati via a fiber network, but also allows Micronesia to open and regulate the market to allow the private to build and improve domestic businesses that the current satellite connections would not be able to bring. The building of the lines to improve networking and connections is a pivotal investment to increase the domestic business sector to boost the local economy. Exploiting the internet is an important objective for opening new business opportunities in Micronesia and evolve the local marketplace.

Tourism Sector in Micronesia

Improving the tourism sector is also a priority Micronesia should exploit to bolster its economy. Neighboring countries such as Palau, Nauru and the Northern Marina Islands, a U.S. territory, have strong connections to various Asian countries to allow easier access to their respective areas of interest, which Micronesia also currently relies on if falling short. States within Micronesia have taken steps to rectify the tourism concern, such as when Yap made a controversial deal with the Chinese development company Exhibition & Travel Group in 2011 to develop tourist destinations 1,000 acres across the state. Meanwhile, the Papua New Guinea-based airline Air Niugini established connections to Chuuk and Pohnpei, Micronesia in 2016 and increased flight capacity in 2017.

Fishing Sector in Micronesia

While Micronesia has been improving its tourism sector, it has also made deals with countries outside of the U.S. to bolster its fishing sector which has been in major need of development. Focusing on the regional neighbors has been a major step in that development. As an island nation, fishing is one of Micronesia’s main economic sources, however, there have been concerns about its long-term reliability, and thus, the country’s management of resources has become necessary. Chuuk has size-based policies to control and maintain fish populations during appropriate seasons, balancing the marketplace and keeping fish populations at sustainable levels. Micronesia also began a transparency program in its tuna fishing sector in 2018, a measure to monitor and sustain the tuna population for both local and international marketplaces. Fishing is an important asset for Micronesia; maintaining the population levels of various species including tuna is a priority the country be paying attention to for years to come.

Opening new business opportunities in Micronesia requires the country to branch out from the guiding hand of the U.S. and beseech nearby neighbors to bolster the local economy. Micronesia also expects to sustain its local fish populations to enhance the markets both locally and internationally. While the steps have been small, the Federated States of Micronesia has made the necessary moves in the event that the United States end its aid in 2023.

Henry Elliott
Photo: Flickr



Projects Reducing Poverty in Samoa

A little more than 18 percent of the Samoan population lives below the national poverty line. However, poverty in this nation is relative, with many suffering from the poverty of opportunity. Those living in rural areas are less likely to have access to education, clean water and health care. This lack of resources heavily contributes to poverty in Samoa. However, the country has made significant strides in the past decade. The poverty rate continues to fall from a high of 26.9 percent in 2008 with the help of projects that reduce poverty in Samoa.

3 Projects That Reduce Poverty In Samoa

  1. Catalyzing Women’s Entrepreneurship
    The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) helped launch a five-year effort to support the growth of women entrepreneurs. This strategy is set to aid poverty reduction, social well-being and sustainable economic growth. Currently, an estimated 24 percent of women in Samoa are involved in entrepreneurial activities.Yet, female entrepreneurs still face many obstacles to starting and operating their businesses. Access to finance is limited, and many women lack knowledge of the registration and tax procedures necessary to start or formalize their business. Identifying and overcoming these barriers will be vital to catalyzing women’s entrepreneurship in the country.
  2. Pacific Adaptation to Climate Change and Resilience Building (PACRES)
    Beyond the stunning natural beauty of the Pacific Islands, these countries are battling their fair share of economic and environmental issues, many of which are directly related to their status as Small Island Developing States (SIDS). SIDS are particularly vulnerable to natural disasters such as cyclones, floods and landslides. With most of the population and assets concentrated along the coastline, any one of those events can threaten both human lives and fragile economies.Climate change is exacerbating the situation, bringing more frequent and intense weather events, higher temperatures and rising sea levels. Pacific Island Forum Leaders have repeatedly identified climate change as the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and well-being of the peoples of the Pacific.Samoa is one of 15 pacific island countries that are a part of this project under the Intra-African Caribbean Pacific (ACP) Global Climate Change Alliance Plus (GCCA+) Program. The group aims to strengthen adaptation and mitigation measures at the national and regional level and support partner countries in climate negotiations.Additionally, the project efforts will improve information sharing and develop national capacity to address climate change and build disaster resilience through enhanced training, studies and research opportunities. Finally, PACRES will strengthen networks, share knowledge and engage the private sector to address climate change and build disaster resilience.
  3. Samoa Agriculture Competitiveness Enhancement Project
    Across the Pacific, people’s diets have changed dramatically over recent years. Fast food, flour and fizzy drinks are common on restaurant tables and supermarket shelves. Corned beef, imported cereals and fatty meat imports have become staple parts of the local diet.Aside from significant public health concerns, high dependence on food imports can come at a heavy expense, particularly given the distance of pacific island countries from larger markets. High dependence on global commodity markets to meet basic needs also leaves people vulnerable when global prices spike.But in Samoa, there are signs that things may slowly be changing. More restaurants in Apia—one of Samoa’s major cities—seem to be taking pride in selling traditional Samoan cuisine made from local produce. A recent recipe book, produced at the request of the Prime Minister, features an array of healthy Samoan dishes, while health promotion efforts look to inspire a growing interest in the origins of the food on people’s plates.Sponsored by the World Bank Group, the Samoa Agriculture Competitiveness Enhancement Project is working with farmers not only to increase their income but also to ensure that local produce captures a growing share of the domestic food market.It seems that the market is ripe for high-quality local food that is distinctly Samoan. With the right support, and with partners such as the Small Business Enterprise Centre and the Development Bank of Samoa, the project aims to ensure farmers can take advantage of open opportunities to connect with buyers, improve the value of their goods; and increase the market for fresh, healthy and ultimately local produce.

Together these projects that reduce poverty in Samoa are good for the economy and ultimately good for Samoa and could set an important precedent for greater self-sufficiency in Pacific island countries.

– GiGi Hogan
Photo: Pixabay

Hunger In The Cook Islands
A Brief History

The Cook Islands are made up of a combination of 15 different islands, reside in the South Pacific ocean and have a population of 15,000 people who practice their unique language and diverse culture — a habit that many tourists enjoy. The country has over 100,000 visitors each year which significantly contributes to the country’s economy. Tourism paired with the abundant natural resources in the region has led to the decrease in hunger in The Cook Islands.

Hunger In The Cook Islands

Although hunger in The Cook Islands is not as widespread as in other developing nations and many citizens have access to their daily caloric needs, malnutrition is still a huge issue for the citizens of this country. Financial hardship due to a lack of education for many people in The Cook Islands has led to residents making food choices which often leads to malnutrition.

The cheapest foods in The Cook Islands are often the foods which can get caught in the wild or bought at a local market using little income. Fish acts as a staple food product due to its abundance in the South Pacific oceans.

A 2007 United Nations study states that The Cook Islands possess 133 commercial fisheries, 3,939 offshore fisheries and 5 freshwater fisheries. These practices have led to an abundance of fish in the country.

The issue, though, is that since fish are often the only food residents of The Cook Islands can purchase, they suffer from malnutrition that stems from a lack of micronutrients. Although fish can act as an excellent source of protein and omega three fatty acids, the human diet requires numerous other micronutrients to function properly. These micronutrients include Vitamins A, B6, B12, C and many others.

Although fish can provide the calories needed to sustain a human, it cannot provide the micronutrients required for optimal bodily conditions.

The Takeaway

Hunger in The Cook Islands does not appear to be an issue and for many living in this country, this perception is correct. The abundance of fish in The Cook Islands can provide the needed micronutrients required for humans daily caloric intake. The issue with relying solely on fish for one’s caloric needs is that fish cannot provide all the essential vitamins and minerals required for a human.

Hunger in The Cook Islands may not be as much of an issue, but malnutrition stemming from a lack of vitamins and minerals is. Organizations such as the United Nations conduct studies on what the people of The Cook Islands eat to allow people to understand that even though they are eating, they continue to suffer from preventable diseases caused by malnutrition. This information is imperative to solving the issue of malnutrition in The Cook Islands.

Nick Beauchamp

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in the Marshall IslandsThe Marshall Islands are a collection of islands located on the Pacific Ocean. Due to the reduced amount of rainfall in the region, hunger has become a growing problem for its citizens.

One of the primary sources of income for many on the island stems from their ability to grow food to sell at the numerous marketplaces in the country. About 5,000 people living in the Marshall Islands rely on agriculture as their primary form of income, and as sea levels continue to rise, these people have found it increasingly difficult to grow crops. The combination of drought and rising sea levels has thus increased hunger in the Marshall Islands

As water levels continue to rise in the region and food becomes a more scarce resource for many in the Marshall Islands, many citizens of the island nation have begun to consider moving to the United States. Under a 1986 compact, about 70,000 citizens of the island nation are free to immigrate to the United States. As sea levels continue to rise, and hunger in the Marshall Islands continues to increase, many citizens of the nation have begun to consider this option.

The Millennium Goals of the United Nations have started to make an effort in addressing the issue of hunger in the Marshall Islands. The government of the island, alongside the United Nations, has created three goals to help improve the conditions for people living on these islands. These goals include:

  1. Between 1990 to 2015, halve the proportion of people living on less than a dollar a day.
  2. Achieve equal opportunities for decent work for all citizens. This opportunity is mainly for women in the country, who are not allowed to work many jobs.
  3. Between 1990 and 2015, reduce the proportion of people who suffer from hunger by 50 percent.

These three goals should allow the Marshall Islands to begin reducing the amount of hunger in their country. This policy change, alongside new technologies allowing for excellent crop yields, could mark the beginning of a new era in the country. In time, hunger in the Marshall Islands should be a thing of the past.

Nick Beauchamp

Considering that it gained sovereignty 23 years ago, there is much work to be done regarding education in Palau. The Republic of Palau, which proclaimed independence from the United States in 1994 (after becoming a post-World War II trust territory), is comprised of 16 states. It lies 722 nautical miles east of Guam in the Pacific and consists of more than 200 islands spread out over 177 miles.

Teacher training greatly impacts education in Palau. In 2013, the Ministry of Education in Palau directed all teachers to take a practice teacher certification test from the Educational Testing Service called the Praxis I Pre-Professional Skills Test (PPST). The test contributes to one of the initiatives in the Master Plan for Educational Improvement for 2006–16 established by the Ministry.

The test measured skills in reading, writing and mathematics to determine whether the teachers were qualified to teach. The results were unsatisfactory. The average scores were 29 percent in math, 43 percent in reading and 35 percent in writing. Only 62 percent of the teachers reported having earned a postsecondary degree, and teachers with seven or more years of experience scored lower than their peers. Not only did teachers with less experience score better, but they also reported higher English proficiency, levels of education and tended to teach upper elementary or high school students.

In 2015, 60 percent of elementary teachers claimed high school as their highest level of education. Compare that with Palauan high school teachers: 36 percent earned an associate’s degree and 50 percent earned a bachelor’s degree. While these figures are low, the 2015 figures are higher than those from 2014.

Despite these shortcomings, Palauan census records reveal astonishing improvements in student retention and college education. In 2015, not quite 21 percent of those 25 or older went beyond a high school education. By the time of this report, the percentage of those who attended one to three years of college had also greatly increased, to nearly 64 percent for those 25 or older. This means that college education in Palauan teachers has risen by 45 percent since the year 2000.

While there is much progress left to be made in the arena of Palauan education, it appears to be on the right track, particularly as the country has made its development a priority. Its last plan was not incredibly successful, but it now has a place from which to build. If Palau continues to utilize the PPST, develops additional training for teachers and accepts some of the more highly-educated citizens into its ranks, it is possible for Palau to continue to drastically improve its educational system.

Emma Tennyson

Photo: Flickr

How does a small, remote island with no indigenous population have poverty? Well, it doesn’t. Poverty in Wake Island is nonexistent. It is a small, remote atoll that serves as a U.S. military base and scientific research center. This inaccessible island operates under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Air Force. Discovered by the Spanish in 1568, the island was eventually named after British Captain William Wake, who visited the island in 1796.

In 1898, the island was annexed by the U.S., who would utilize its strategic position as a commercial air station in route to Asia. Wake Island was later seized by the Japanese in 1941, leading U.S. forces to bomb the island until Japan’s surrender in 1945.

In later years, the island became a refueling site for military and commercial aircraft traveling through the Pacific. Since 1974, the island has been used by the U.S. military and serves fundamentally for emergency landings. The U.S. Air Force has fully renovated the island’s airfield and facilities, thus maintaining its strategic passageway in the Pacific region.

Approximately 150 military personnel and civilian contractors live on the island to maintain and operate the airfield and facilities, serving as the island’s only population. This tropical island extends 6.5 square kilometers, providing a strategic location in the North Pacific Ocean. As an unorganized, unincorporated territory of the U.S., all activities on the island are conducted by the U.S. Air Force.

Wake Island’s economic activity is regulated by the U.S., who provides the necessary services to military personnel and contractors living on the atoll. Importing food and manufactured goods eliminates the possibility of poverty in Wake Island.

Located about 2,000 miles west of Hawaii and 600 miles north of the Marshall Islands, Wake Island has served as an ideal location for this U.S. defensive base. With the financial and economic support from the U.S., it has guaranteed a lack of poverty in Wake Island. These attributes have demonstrated the island’s importance for the U.S. Air Force and Pacific travel for military personnel.

Brandon Johnson

Photo: Flickr

Vanuatu is an island nation located north of Australia in the South Pacific Ocean. It is made up of 83 separate islands and six distinct provinces. Because Vanuatu was occupied by several European nations during its colonial period, it has retained three national languages: English, French and Bislama. Bislama is described as a form of Pidgin English that formed naturally from contact with the French and English; it has become a native language to the islands and is still practiced widely. Even with all the culture from many nations still within the country, education in Vanuatu is unremarkable.

Education in Vanuatu is only compulsory for the first six years of primary education. While the Ministry of Education offers four years of junior secondary education and three years of senior secondary education, after the first six years many students leave their education behind without learning useful skills to benefit their future lives. Some remote tribal areas do not benefit from an education at all.

According to the Nations Encyclopedia, in 1999, 96 percent of primary school-age children were enrolled in school. Although a seemingly promising number, by the end of that same year, only 23 percent of those same students were eligible to attend a secondary school.

The citizens of Vanuatu could be capable of fluency in three languages within their homes and yet the literacy rate is very low, at 64 percent. In an effort to combat this, the Vanuatu Literacy Education Project (VANLEP) or also commonly known as the Book Flood Project, was formed.

The VANLEP program “endeavors to promote and enhance current efforts in upgrading education in [Vanuatu] and… in increasing literacy levels among children living in rural areas.” The program is making efforts to achieve these goals by stimulating learning environments by providing schools with books for children of all ages — known as a book flood. The program also helps to train parents and teachers to be the best they can be in order to help the children learn. The program aims to update the school curriculum and create partnerships with communities and schools to best benefit the children via a communal learning mentality.

Education in Vanuatu has its struggles, but it is making an effort to enlighten and encourage its students to reach their fullest potential. As the literacy rates increase, the entire country will benefit from a full and focused education.

Karyn Adams

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Marshall Islands
The Marshall Islands are an island country in the Pacific Ocean consisting of 29 atolls and five islands. The atolls and islands form two approximately parallel chains: the Ratak (sunrise) and the Ralik (sunset). Majuro, the capital of the Marshall Islands lies in the Ratak Chain in the East. The population of the Marshall Islands was 52,993 in 2015.

Before its independence in 1986, the Marshall Islands had been under the governance by Spain, Germany, Japan and the United States. The agreement that granted the Republic of the Marshall Islands its sovereignty — the Compact of Free Association (COFA) — allows Marshallese individuals to easily relocate to the United States and obtain work there. About one-third of the population has relocated to the United States, and more than 120,000 Marshallese live in northwest Arkansas and nearby places.

Poverty in the Marshall Islands
Poverty in the Marshall Islands is an urgent concern because of scarce natural resources, high unemployment rates and wealth inequality.

In the Marshall Islands, only 39.3% of the population aged 15 years and above is employed. For every one thousand babies born, 30 die before their birthday – the fourth highest in the Pacific region.

Wealth inequality and poverty in the Marshall Islands are also significant. The Ebeye city, the second-largest city in the Marshall Islands, is also known as the “Slum of the Pacific.” With a land area of 0.14 square miles, it has a population of about 12,000. This city is extremely overpopulated – outranking New York in the number of people living per square mile.

Even though people in Ebeye are surrounded by nothing but water, one of their major daily tasks is to search for clean water. Ebeye is badly polluted, and family members take turns sleeping because of the lack of land and money for housing. Constant floods threaten people’s homes and their possessions. However, a mere 30-minute boat ride away lies the Kwajalein atoll, which the U.S. army rents for the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site. In this American middle-class neighborhood, scenes usually include people drinking cocktails and dancing in the warm Pacific breeze, while many of the neighboring islanders live on less than $1 a day.

Lack of Natural Resources
The Marshall Islands comprise about 750,000 square miles of ocean but only about 70 square miles of landmass.

Massive Nuclear Testing
The Marshall Islands were the testing site for the U.S. of their nuclear bombs during the Cold War. From 1946 to 1958, a series of 23 nuclear devices were tested in these islands. One of the bombs, Castle Bravo, which was a newly designed dry fuel thermonuclear hydrogen bomb, was denoted on an early morning in March 1954. It was a thousand times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima during World War II.

Two atolls were destroyed because of the series of nuclear testing. In 1956, the United States Atomic Energy Commission regarded the Marshall Islands as “by far the most contaminated place in the world.” Before the United States conducted its first test in the Marshall Islands in 1946, there were 167 people living on Bikini Atoll, and thousands living on nearby atolls. The Marshallese living on Bikini Atoll were displaced twice because of the testing, but the ongoing nuclear radiation has been causing long-lasting health problems for both the people and the environment – 40 years after the testing, studies still showed that “eating locally grown produce, such as fruit, could add significant radioactivity to the body.”

Climate Change
Floods and droughts are destroying the “islander lives” of the Marshallese. States of Emergency were declared when waves as high as three feet hit the cities and for droughts leaving six thousand people surviving on less than one liter of water per day in 2008 and 2013. If global temperatures rise by more than 1.5 °C, the Marshall Islands may disappear. The Marshall Islands are some of the most vulnerable islands to the effects of climate change.

US Foreign Aid & Military Agreement
Direct U.S. aid accounts for 61.3 percent of the Marshall Islands’ $137.4 million budget for the fiscal year 2010. Under terms of the Amended Compact of Free Association, the U.S. is committed to providing approximately $70 million through 2023, including contributions to a jointly managed trust fund by the U.S. and the Marshall Islands. The Marshall Islands are renting the Kwajalein Atoll to the US Army, and their national defense is largely dependent on the U.S. On the flip side, the U.S. is benefiting from its unique and strategically important position in the Pacific Ocean.

Reducing Poverty
40% of the total population in the Marshall Islands were under 15 years old in 2011 census, and 14% were under 5 years old. These young people can be great assets if provided good education and development, and they are the primary focus when fighting to reduce poverty in the Marshall Islands.

Helen Yu Tang

Photo: Flickr

Climate Resiliency
Amid the hottest year on record, pacific island states are preparing for the consequences of climate change.

Climate change bears a consequential effect on the entire international community, but the first countries to contend with its baleful side effects are the Pacific Island states.

According to a report from the World Bank, pacific island states are highly susceptible to acts of “extreme weather and climate,” because of their reduced population, geographic location and restricted economies.

In 2012, the Pacific Island Regional Climate Assessment (PIRCA) conducted an assessment of climate change in the pacific region and discovered that the effects of climate change cannot always be observed by human senses. For instance, the balance of Pacific Island habitats is eroding – Hawaiian native forest birds are dying as a result of mosquito-borne disease, which stems from increasing global temperatures.

Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Tonga, however, have demonstrated their commitment to climate resiliency through programs to mollify the aftermath of natural disasters and climate change consequences.

Utilizing $75 million of U.S. federal grants, the aforementioned pacific states have financed the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR), which provides local, national and sectoral agencies with added capital to “mainstream climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction.”

Other pacific region climate resiliency plans include the 2016 Pacific Resiliency Program (PREP), which was the culmination of a three-day workshop where pacific region diplomats collaborated to abate the effect of climate change.

International institutions play an integral role in climate resiliency, which is demonstrated by their generous grants and credits for preventative programs. For instance, the International Development Association (IDA), the Global Environment Facility Special Climate Change Fund to Tonga, the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery to Tonga contributed $43.66 million to the PREP program.

The 2012 PIRCA also noted the potential for a climate change-induced human rights catastrophe. Pacific Island states are likely to have reduced freshwater supplies, increased coastal flooding and erosion, coastal economic decline, and human migration if climate change continues at its current pace.

In the coming years, the international community will be tested by the effects of climate change. It is incumbent for citizens across the world to ensure their political leaders are held to the principles of climate resiliency, as it is likely to be the most consequential threat of the 21st century.

Adam George

Photo: Flickr

Poor Health in the Pacific Has Hope
The World Health Organization has identified nine out of the top 10 most obese nations as being located in the Pacific. Within these nine nations, rates of obesity range from 35 percent all the way up to 50 percent.

Obesity measurements are calculated by looking at an individual’s BMI, or body mass index. Pacific islanders naturally have a larger build than people of other ethnicities. This is the case because, at one time, people from this region were forced to endure long and difficult journeys at sea. People able to store enough energy in the form of fat were more likely to survive, and evolution selected for these genes. However, this genetic component still does not explain all of the obesity rates.

What does help to explain this epidemic is the increasing number of foods that are being imported to the islands. Traditional tropical diets included an abundance of fresh produce and fish, but these foods are now replaced with more processed foods, which provide a cheaper alternative. One World Health Organization worker and Fijian native even noted that “it’s cheaper to buy a bottle of coke than a bottle of water.”

Additionally, urbanization and increasing numbers of office jobs contribute to poor health in the Pacific. Historically, many jobs such as fishing and farming included a great deal of physical activity. However, as more people begin to drive to work in offices, physical activity is greatly reduced.

This obesity academic is exhibited in children as well. Roughly one in five Pacific children are obese, and diabetes is a constant concern for children as well as health services who struggle to meet increasing demands.

Despite these unfortunate circumstances, there is still much hope for improving health in the Pacific. Members of the World Health Organization are confident that higher taxes on soft drinks, controlled marketing of products aimed at children and general promotions of a healthy lifestyle can help to turn things around.

Additionally, Australian researchers recently found an issue with the way that the rates of Type 2 diabetes were being measured in the Pacific. Essentially, blood glucose levels measured in the first phase of the survey were mistakenly compared to plasma levels in the follow-up portion of the survey. This caused rates to become inflated to nearly twice their actual value.

It was originally believed that Samoa experienced a 24.3 percent increase in diabetes from 2002 to 2013 when the actual increase was less than 3 percent. Tonga was thought to have experienced a 12 percent increase when diabetes rates actually decreased by three percent. Clearly, a recalculation may be required.

Although this inflation certainly does not mitigate the entire health crisis occurring in the Pacific islands, it does mean that at least rates of diabetes may be lower than was previously thought. Further steps to improve health in the Pacific will need to include conscious efforts on behalf of national governments, health organizations and citizens to strongly promote healthy living.

Nathaniel Siegel

Photo: Flickr