With a GDP of nearly $5.2 million and a population of 72,680 people, the Commonwealth of Dominica is considered an upper-middle income country, according to the World Bank.
While the average citizen does not regularly face hunger in Dominica, many still face malnutrition through the introduction of the Western diet. Approximately 55 percent of all foods consumed in Dominica are imported, which contributes to a calorically dense, yet nutritionally weak diet and increases in diet-related non-communicable diseases like obesity.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and local clinicians alike have identified obesity to be a persistent issue for the island country, with clinical data estimating 24.8 percent of adolescents to be overweight and 9.1 percent obese in 2016. The WHO has enlisted a series of nutritional initiatives and campaigns to reduce obesity through nutrition counseling and promotion of unprocessed foods. Domestic agriculture and fisheries production contribute significant food culture and nutrition value for the population.
Dominica is also especially susceptible to natural disasters due to its location in the Caribbean. Hurricanes and tropical storms can severely stunt the island nation’s food production, as seen in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Erika in 2015. The Agriculture Minister at the time, Johnson Drigo, reported over $200 million in damages to Dominica’s agricultural sector months after the tropical storm had passed.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has contributed much to the literature surrounding nutrition security in Dominica, as well as measures to improve it. The FAO and the government of Dominica have agreed to collaborate over the 2016 to 2019 timeframe in three primary categories: food and nutrition security, agricultural health and food safety; risk management, building resilience to climate change; and sustainable rural agricultural development.
For instance, the FAO aids Dominica’s National School Feeding Program in connecting school lunch programs to local farms and in improving nutrition education among students. The FAO also recognizes that domestic agriculture and fisheries production contributes significant food culture and nutrition value for the population.
When it comes to natural disaster relief, the FAO invests in the short-term, emergency recovery efforts of small farmers and supports long-term, emergency relief planning and agriculture disaster risk management.
While hunger in Dominica may not be the most pertinent issue in the country’s food security, the key to minimizing hunger, obesity and malnutrition alike may lie in improving sustainable nutrition development and in preserving and protecting local agriculture in light of natural disasters.
– Casie Wilson