Supporting Small Island Developing States for a sustainable future
07 March 2022
- FAO Director-General starts two-day visit to Maldives, as innovation and digitalization in SIDS countries are a key focus of FAO’s work
07/03/2022 Male, Maldives/Rome - The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has placed Small Island Developing States (SIDS) at the centre of its work to transform agrifood systems, because of their vulnerability to the climate crisis and other shocks and their importance in the protection of marine biodiversity.
Scattered around the globe but with just some 65 million inhabitants, SIDS account for only 1 per cent of global CO2 emissions, but they bear the brunt of the effects of climate change on their fragile economies.
To underline FAO’s commitment to island nations which are both on the front line of the climate crisis and other shocks and at the same time play a vital role as guardians of our oceans’ biodiversity Director-General QU Dongyu is making a two-day visit to the Maldives.
While here, the FAO Director-General is signing a Country Programming Framework with the government. It’s aimed at supporting the country’s efforts to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and build back better, increasing resilience to further shocks and addressing development needs. Qu will also meet several ministers and members of civil society and visit a fisheries company and a hydroponic farm, which grows produce without using soil.
Innovation crucial to future
“Increased innovation and digitalization can help the SIDS, and the rest of the world, achieve the multiple and cross-cutting targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the SAMOA Pathway Framework for Action,” linking commitments on sustainability in all its dimensions and follow-up actions to last year’s UN Food Systems Summit, Qu said.
Despite its idyllic image, the Indian Ocean country, consisting of more than 1200 islands, in many ways typifies the challenges SIDS face. Maldivian officials say they are already feeling the effects of precipitation changes and rising temperatures on food production using its tiny total 65 square km of agricultural land.
Reliant, like most of the SIDS, on food imports, except for fisheries, the Maldives is suffering the effects of unhealthy diets, resulting in high rates of Non-Communicable Diseases. It is also acutely vulnerable to fluctuating commodity prices, exacerbated by COVID-19, which has battered its vital tourism industry.
These factors all contribute to a need for “technical expertise and support, as well as financial investments into sustainable, regenerative food production, distribution, and consumption patterns,” Thilmeeza Hussain, Permanent Representative of Maldives to the UN and Special Envoy of the President of the General Assembly said in a keynote address to the SIDS Solutions Dialogue convened by FAO last month. “We look forward to continuing to work with key partners, such as the FAO and others, to implement the necessary changes to ensure equitable and sustainable food systems,” she added.
The SIDS Solutions Dialogue was just the latest in a series of platforms which FAO has organized, addressing the challenges faced by SIDS. It followed a SIDS Solutions Forum, co-convened by FAO and the government of Fiji in August 2021, which showcased a raft of innovative ideas developed in SIDS, with potential to be scaled up and replicated.
These included smart phone apps to promote healthier eating, based on locally available foods, to providing farming information and collating data on available health resources. The forum was the first of an event which is to be held biennially.
Among other FAO initiatives targeted specifically at SIDS is the The Global Action Programme on Food Security and Nutrition in Small Island Developing States (SIDS). It addresses the need for a more integrated, multi-stakeholder approach to the particular challenges they face in trying to achieve food security and nutrition, and prioritizes stronger international and inter-regional partnerships.
The COVID-19 Response and Recovery Programme also addresses key needs in the SIDS, while FAO’s establishment of an Office of Small Island Developing States, Least Developed Countries and Landlocked Developing Countries helps to draw attention to the vulnerabilities of SIDS, as well as countries in the other two categories, and further a common approach to address the unique challenges faced by these countries.
FAO flagship initiatives benefit SIDS
In addition, a number of SIDS benefit significantly from FAO’s flagship initiatives being implemented globally. Among these are the Hand-in-Hand Initiative, accelerating rural investment and development, the 1,000 Digital Villages, helping communities take a giant leap forward in digitalization, the Technical Platform for Family Farming, supporting region-to-region cross-fertilization for policy innovation and the One Country One Priority Product, accelerating the development of new agricultural products.
All these initiatives add up to a strong commitment by FAO to ensure that SIDS are at the heart of efforts under its Strategic Framework to work towards better production, better nutrition, better environment, and a better life, leaving no-one behind - in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.
That vulnerability was further highlighted in the Pacific region by the aftermath of Tonga’s January 15 underwater volcanic eruption and tsunami, which left parts of the islands’ agricultural land covered in ashfall and caused extensive damage to fisheries. FAO and its UN partners are working with the Government of Tonga to implement plans for supporting the country’s farmers and fishers to rebuild their livelihoods after the disaster.