Fiji Highlights Agriculture Vulnerability to Climate at FAO Conference

The delegation from Fiji led by the Assistant Minister for Agriculture Hon. Viam Pillay with H.E. Mr. Peter Thomson, President of the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly. Photo: DEPTFO.

The vulnerability of the agriculture sector from the effects of climate change in Pacific Small Island developing states was highlighted by Fiji’s Assistant Minister for Agriculture Hon. Viam Pillay at the recent 40th Session of Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) conference in Rome, Italy.

Minister Pillay led Fiji’s delegation to the meeting where he was also invited by the FAO to speak at one of the Conference side event on “Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS) facing the dual challenge of climate change and unhealthy diets – what can be done”.

The objective of this side event was to bring attention to the convergence between actions to address climate change and malnutrition and present options for response through a food systems approach, by drawing on country experiences.

While speaking at the event, Hon. Pillay said climate change represents the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security, social development and wellbeing of the world including Fiji and Pacific Small Island developing states.

“Climate change is real and whether we come from the small islands in the Pacific or developed nations, ultimately we cannot escape the impact of climate change. Fiji and other Small Island Developing States are amongst the highest at risk of experiencing the impacts of natural disasters,” added Hon. Pillay.

Hon. Pillay told delegates and participants that Fiji’s food and agricultural security came under threat as a direct result of climate change.

“For Fiji, natural disasters such as droughts, floods and storms triggered by climate change have risen in frequency and severity in the recent past causing damages to Fiji’s agricultural sector and its development,” said Hon. Pillay.

He said the 2014 United Nations World Risk Report ranks Fiji as one of the world’s 15 most exposed countries to natural hazards.

“Tropical Cyclone Winston which hit Fiji in 2016 resulted in a total damage of US$1.2 billion to Fiji’s economy with FJ$208.3million attributed to the agriculture sector alone. Destruction to houses, infrastructure and loss of vegetation, land erosion, coastal inundation, destruction of coral reefs and sea grass beds and pollution of water supplies are all effects of these cyclones,” said Hon. Pillay.

He said the situation is likely to worsen unless measures are taken to strengthen the resilience of the agriculture sector and increase investment to boost food security and productivity to curb the effects of climate change.

“Fiji is developing its national strategies for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation that support resilience to address these types of disasters. These strategies are being aligned to the 2030 Strategic Development Goals (SDGs) and incorporated in our National Development Plan, the Green Growth Framework and the 2020 Fiji Agriculture Sector Policy Agenda,” said Hon. Pillay.

“We are improving research on crops and livestock that are climate resilient and the Government has increased its investment to modernise the agriculture sector,” said Hon. Pillay.

He said the strategic priority is to provide advisory services to ensure that agriculture further enhances farming as a viable and efficient profession, which endeavors to contribute significantly to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in a sustainable way, concurrently ensuring food and income security to the people of Fiji.

The 40th session of FAO conference was held from 3-8 July, 2017.