Dr John Ingram interacting with the participants during the workshop and Prof. Bill Bellotti in the background.
The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Emalus Campus in Port Vila, Vanuatu recently hosted a Food Systems Training Workshop from 28 January-1 February 2020.
In his opening address Mr Mosses Amos, Director General (DG) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Biodiversity, stated that although the population of the 22 Island States is less than three million, the countries face challenges such as rapid population growth and urbanisation.
DG Amos said, “Many island countries depend heavily on imported foods that are energy-dense and nutritionally poor. As a result, the incidence of non-communicable diseases, such as obesity and diabetes, is among the highest in the world.”
According to the World Population Review, the top three most obese nations in the world are from the Pacific Region. Nauru tops the list, with Tonga and Samoa, in second and third, respectively.
“Increasing reliance on imported foods makes the Pacific nations particularly vulnerable to variation in supply and cost. As such, too many people in the Pacific region are being left behind from the benefits of improved nutrition.
“The challenges in proactively addressing our food systems are further enhanced by impacts of climate change”, the Director General stated.
The Pacific island countries are among the most vulnerable to climate change. The region includes some of the countries’ most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and natural disasters, like Kiribati with a population of around 100,000. It consists of 33 coral atolls only two meters above sea level, and spread over 3.5 million km2.
Dr Krishna Kotra, Science Programme Coordinator for USP’s Faculty of Science, Technology and Environment (FSTE) at Emalus Campus said, “The purpose for hosting this workshop is to make sure that the campus is known to our Pacific countries, and also to our students being part of this workshop to learn valuable lessons from the professors. And have interaction with stakeholders and participants from the Solomon Island. So this is the main reason we organise this workshop on the Campus rather than anywhere else in the city.”
“The participation and field visits by our students during these exposures would certainly make them market ready besides being given theoretical knowledge in the campus,” he added.
Dr Kotra also requested representatives from the government departments present to choose the USP Emalus Campus to host any such meetings or workshops in the future with student participation.
“USP has the necessary facilities and support available for use”, he said.
Professor Bill Bellotti from the University of Queensland, one of the two facilitators of Food Systems Training Course said, “Our Food Systems Training Course was delivered on Emalus Campus of USP and funded by the Asian-Pacific Network for Global Change Research”.
He noted that Vanuatu and other Pacific Island countries face many development challenges including food and nutrition security, the triple burden of malnutrition and vulnerability to climate change.
“What the food systems approach is doing is trying to look at these challenges in a more systemic way rather than look at separate disciplines on their own. We are facilitating people to work across disciplines and across sectors to promote healthy diets from sustainable food systems,” he said.
Dr John Ingram from the University of Oxford, one of the two facilitators stated, “the aim of the training is to bring together food system knowledge and ‘systems thinking’ with further development of skills in communicating complexity and presentation techniques.
“It will also give you important insights to help shape your future employment and career. This will help you develop your capacity to bring about positive change in the food system,” he said.
The workshop brought together participants from the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. A Vanuatu participant and a long-time businesswoman in Port Vila, Vatausi Mackenzie-Reur, said, “It is a very interesting course. It helped me understand the gaps in our food system better, and how to approach the system to ensure our food security, and also to help with the policies of the government”.
The training was jointly organised by the Innovative Food Systems Teaching and Learning (IFSTAL) programme, University of Queensland and the Pacific Community (SPC) in collaboration with USP’s Faculty of Sciences, Technology and Environment (FSTE).
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