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Impacts of COVID-19 on agriculture and food systems in Pacific Island countries (PICs): Evidence from communities in Fiji and Solomon Islands

Iese, Viliamu and Wairiu, Morgan and Hickey, Gordon M. and Ugalde, David and Salili, Diana Hinge and Walenenea Jr, John and Tabe, Tammy and Keremama, Milton and Teva, Chris and Navunicagi, Otto and Fesaitu, Jioje and Tigona, Robson and Krishna, Deeksha and Sachan, Hirdesh and Unwin, Nigel and Guell, Cornelia and Haynes, Emily and Veisa, Filipe and Vaike, Linda and Bird, Zina and Ha'apio, Michael O. and Roko, Nasoni and Patolo, Soane and Dean, Annika Rose and Kiran, Sashi and Tikai, Pitakia and Tuiloma, Jowalesi and Halavatau, Siosiua and Francis, Judith and Ward, Alastair Christopher (2021) Impacts of COVID-19 on agriculture and food systems in Pacific Island countries (PICs): Evidence from communities in Fiji and Solomon Islands. Agricultural Systems, 190 . p. 103099. ISSN 0308-521X

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COVID-19 mitigation measures including border lockdowns, social distancing, de-urbanization and restricted movements have been enforced to reduce the risks of COVID-19 arriving and spreading across PICs. To reduce the negative impacts of COVID-19 mitigation measures, governments have put in place a number of interventions to sustain food and income security. Both mitigation measures and interventions have had a number of impacts on agricultural production, food systems and dietary diversity at the national and household levels. OBJECTIVE Our paper conducted an exploratory analysis of immediate impacts of both COVID-19 mitigation measures and interventions on households and communities in PICs. Our aim is to better understand the implications of COVID-19 for PICs and identify knowledge gaps requiring further research and policy attention. METHODS To understand the impacts of COVID-19 mitigation measures and interventions on food systems and diets in PICs, 13 communities were studied in Fiji and Solomon Islands in July-August 2020. In these communities, 46 focus group discussions were carried out and 425 households were interviewed. Insights were also derived from a series of online discussion sessions with local experts of Pacific Island food and agricultural systems in August and September 2020. To complement these discussions, an online search was conducted for available literature. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS Identified impacts include: 1) Reduced agricultural production, food availability and incomes due to a decline in local markets and loss of access to international markets; 2) Increased social conflict such as land disputes, theft of high-value crops and livestock, and environmental degradation resulting from urban-rural migration; 3) Reduced availability of seedlings, planting materials, equipment and labour in urban areas; 4) Reinvigoration of traditional food systems and local food production; and 5) Re-emergence of cultural safety networks and values, such as barter systems. Households in rural and urban communities appear to have responded positively to COVID-19 by increasing food production from home gardens, particularly root crops, vegetables and fruits. However, the limited diversity of agricultural production and decreased household incomes are reducing the already low dietary diversity score that existed pre-COVID-19 for households. SIGNIFICANCE These findings have a number of implications for future policy and practice. Future interventions would benefit from being more inclusive of diverse partners, focusing on strengthening cultural and communal values, and taking a systemic and long-term perspective. COVID-19 has provided an opportunity to strengthen traditional food systems and re-evaluate, re-imagine and re-localize agricultural production strategies and approaches in PICs.

Item Type: Journal Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: COVID-19 impacts, Household food production, Traditional food systems, Dietary diversity, Pacific Islands
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Divisions: Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development (PACE-SD)
Depositing User: Fulori Nainoca - Waqairagata
Date Deposited: 09 Mar 2021 00:51
Last Modified: 09 Mar 2021 00:51

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