The Republic of Vanuatu, a nation mainly composed of 13 major islands in the Pacific Ocean between Australia and Fiji, was established in 1980 following a negotiated independence from joint British and French administrations. The management of and rights to use land — important considering that the archipelago’s economy traditionally includes subsistence farming and cash crop agricultural trades — was a defining element of Vanuatu’s early politics and pro-independence movement.
Noted for stability and relative success in addressing food security, the Republic of Vanuatu faced hurdles due to natural disasters, in particular an earthquake in 2002 and Cyclone Pam in 2005. These natural disasters have impacted efforts to increase food security and reduce the effects of poverty, such as inadequate infrastructure and access to essential resources. Though Vanuatu generally outperforms other nations with similar geography and wealth, poverty and food security remain ongoing policy challenges where an international presence remains prominent.
More than 20% of the population experienced food insecurity and 28.5% of children under 5 years old experienced stunting. Additionally, obesity from unhealthy foods and unvaried diets is more widespread, with more than 35% of men and 49% of women overweight.
Dietary nutrition and diversity hurdles were clear following Cyclone Pam due to the quality of emergency foods distributed; a majority of the aid was composed of packaged noodles, tinned meat and other packaged goods directly associated with hypertension and poor nutritional and health outcomes. Fortunately, there are efforts to improve agriculture in Vanuatu to address challenges regarding food security.
Programs Aid in Strengthening Essential Local Farming
With more than 75% of the population rural and employed in the agricultural field, efforts to improve the resilience of farmers and the local networks that trade crops have been integral to improving resilience and food security. These market vendors and traders are often key to the local economy, additionally providing economic stability to those in rural areas, where the ability to seek secure employment remains narrow.
Novel investment in programs intended to bolster both production in agriculture in Vanuatu and the economic infrastructure dependent upon farming has developed new means that have provided the basis for new ways of providing international assistance. These approaches, which the United Nations is currently spearheading, include programs intended to give farmers and market vendors access to funds and education programs to allow the expansion of the number and size of markets, especially rural cooperatives.
The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP)
This regionally tailored approach is also the source of experimentation to improve resilience in crop growth, with investments from regional development organizations, such as the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP). In 2022, SPREP announced participation in the establishment of the OSCAR system, a computerized system that compiles information related to climate and the effect of climate on crops, which allows for crop management techniques to be adjusted for conditions.
These programs allow farmers to maximize productivity and are widely accessible, with standardized bulletins issued via radio, television, print and over the Internet. These investments should improve resilience, food supply and diversity, including during natural disasters.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
Vanuatu is also pursuing additional international funding to provide direct financial support to informational-gathering initiatives with the Vanuatuan government. In 2022, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization announced a $300,000 partnership with various multinational organizations, including the European Union and the Vanuatu Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Bio-Security to fund and develop a comprehensive census on the socioeconomic demographics of those in the agricultural industries and the state of agriculture.
This and other resources are for use in developing policies and reforms that improve output, food security, the ability to grow farming output and the economic potential of those living outside urban centers.
Global Implications for Vanuatuan Developments
These innovations and novel approaches to development, which both permit local participation and diverse environments influence the role of aid to reflect the needs and assets, such as Vanuatu’s substantial trading networks of markets, to strengthen the impact of global efforts to enhance food security and reduce economic insecurity. Additionally, methods seeking to improve agricultural yields and novel information-gathering systems have the potential to be utilized elsewhere, including in developed nations, where lessons learned in countries pursuing experimental approaches can be expanded upon.
– Cormac Sullivan