A team from The University of the South Pacific (USP) and the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Global Health Research Group on Community Food for Human Nutrition and Planetary Health in Small Islands (GCFaH) recently visited Nacula Island in Yasawa to engage and talk with community members as well as present preliminary findings based on data collection that was carried out late last year through a related project, Intervention, Co-creation to Improve Community-based Food Production and Household Nutrition (ICoFaN).
Using a variety of methods, the ICoFaN project assessed the impact of food security interventions on household nutrition and expenditure.
Mr Manasa Naikasowalu, the Turaga Ni Mataqali of Yavusa Nacula in Yasawa, told the GCFaH team, “I’m glad this programme came to us. Particularly significant is the collaborations with USP and FRIEND regarding the planting of our root crops and food preservation.”
He added, “With today’s lifestyle, we’ve lost a lot of what we consider young people. Particularly young people aged 20-30 and 30-50. I consider myself fortunate to have reached the age of 62 and to be a part of this project about food security and making use of what is available to us.”
Mr Naikasowalu, who turned 62 last year, fell ill during the festive season and had only recently fully recovered, and said that this has reminded him of the importance of maintaining a healthy diet.
Dr Maddy Murphy, who is a senior lecturer in qualitative research at the University of the West Indies, was also part of the GCFaH team that visited Nacula in Yasawa.
Dr Murphy stressed the importance of talking with farmers and community members to understand what’s going on and what factors are influencing their ability to grow and produce food in a healthy, nutritious, and diverse manner.
“Trying to understand the different perspectives, but importantly having visited Nacula and also seeing what the community was doing was an eye opener for us,” Dr Murphy said.
“It’s one thing to be on Zoom calls halfway across the world and hear what’s happening, but it’s another thing to be on the ground and actually see for ourselves,” she added.
The team also visited Yasawa North Secondary School. “We were impressed by how large the school gardens were and the ability to also diversify produce but also seeing the diversified home gardens was impressive.”
The GCFaH project builds on the previous ICOFaN project and focuses on co-creating interventions in communities to improve household diet, nutrition, and food security in small island countries, as well as reduce the burden of nutrition-related diseases, by promoting increased community-based food production (CFP) based on agroecological principles.
The project’s research will be conducted in Fiji, the Philippines, St. Vincent, and St. Lucia. The University of Exeter and the University of the West Indies are the joint lead institutions with The University of the South Pacific and the Foundation for Rural Integrated Enterprises and Development (FRIEND) as partners in Fiji, alongside universities in the, Philippines, the United Kingdom (UK), and Canada.