Fiame: Small Islands Developing States are on the frontline of the climate crisis


Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa said the complexity of the food challenges in SIDS is well known. 

With little arable land, climate change impacting smallholder agriculture farms, and a growing preference for imported foods compound NCDs and obesity rates. 

Food safety is also a growing concern, with fish and seafood; food-borne and water-borne diseases are expected to amplify with climate change impacts and as flooding and cyclones become more intense and destructive.

Fiame commented at the High-Level Plenary Session – Food Systems and Climate Action held in Rome. She said Small Islands Developing States are on the frontline of the climate crisis.

Its impacts bear down on our shores with little reprieve. Rising and warming seas. Changes in precipitation in temperature rates are unseen and never felt before.

Also, the more intense extreme weather events and more predictions are for greater intensity and a shrinking window of opportunity to act. Agriculture, our crops, livestock and fisheries remain the backbone of many SIDS economies and are one of the most vulnerable sectors to climate change. 

Therefore Food security in SIDS therefore necessitates a multi-layered and interconnected approach. Food systems are also major drivers of global forest and biodiversity loss, land and soil degradation, water pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. 

Pressure is also building on food production, processing, transportation, consumption, and waste as the world’s population teeters on 8 billion people and continues to overgrow.

To respond appropriately, SIDS will need to employ policy-based and technological methods across agri-food systems to build resilience to the impacts of climate change. Some of these actions include:

“Transforming the agriculture sector to boost local production, enhancing the viability of small industries and promoting the consumption and availability of local traditional foods, using sustainable and nature-positive practices. 

“Improving evidence-based knowledge and understanding of food systems and their components, such as climate-sensitive farming, as well as implementing climate risk monitoring and early warning systems. 

“Strengthening extension services for improved knowledge and collaboration amongst farmers, fishers, and other key food industry players. Women and youth have an integral role overall – Transforming, improving, and strengthening. 

“These are our urgent mandates. “These require the employment of integrative and holistic measures –reemphasizing the food, water, and climate nexus. “It will also require adequate and affordable finance and SIDS-specific technology.”

According to Fiame, in Samoa, they have planned our own Food Systems Pathway 2030, which seeks to strengthen the enabling environment and to build climate-resilient practices and resources for agriculture development, including the adoption of social protection measures in response to the impact of shocks, including climate change shocks in food supply and consumption. 

“But there is still work on food processing, value chain and value-adding. “SIDS, specifically those in the Pacific, cannot address their national food systems as climate change continues to undermine human, economic and food security. The dual tsunami disaster in Tonga of a massive earthquake followed by a tsunami is only but one example.

“This Pacific context of climate change disasters that destroys the fabric of agrifood systems reminds the international architecture for climate finance, such as GCF and GEF, that climate finance should not only focus on building complex infrastructure but also consider support for agrifood systems gender disparities, and non-communicable diseases because all of these are intertwined.

“For SIDS to transform their agri-food systems and build resilience and adapt to the impacts of climate change, partnership and joint efforts are needed at the national, regional and global level. There is much room to learn from each other, as there is to instil the support needed in vulnerable countries. Partnerships to address the impacts of droughts and enhanced access to renewables for the transformation of a few Pacific countries are accelerating towards reality. 

“As we approach next year’s fourth international conference on SIDS, we will continue to advocate for the finance and technology we need to offer our citizens healthy lives in livable territories. 

“We will continue seeking credible and integrated approaches to safeguard our food security,” said Fiame.