Date released
14 April 2023

Collaboration for Pacific resilience and sustainability

The Pacific Week of Agriculture and Forestry (PWAF) was recently held in Nadi, Fiji from the 6 to the 10 of March. Several ACIAR staff attended. The PWAF is a valuable opportunity for ACIAR to discuss topics with Pacific partners on transforming Pacific agriculture and forestry sectors through research partnerships to achieve a more resilient and sustainable region. The PWAF event series provides an opportunity for Pacific member countries to drive the conversation and guide partners working with the region on their goals and work priorities for the following 2 years. 

Across the week, there were several events including symposiums, networking opportunities such as breakfasts and dinners and more detailed sessions on cocoa and coconuts. The Pacific Heads of Agriculture and Forestry also met. The third Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and The Pacific Community (SPC) Joint Agriculture and Forestry Ministerial Meeting was held towards the end of the week. The Fiji Government hosted these meeting with support from SPC and the FAO. 

In addition to these events and meetings was the side event, or talanoa, focusing on Pacific food systems pathways, from promise to practice.  SPC and the Australian Government, including ACIAR, CSIRO, DAFF and DFAT hosted this event. A talanoa is a particular method and style of communication where discussions are held in an inclusive, participatory and transparent way. It is common throughout Fiji and across the Pacific.  

The side event aimed to advance conversations on Pacific food systems. Pacific food systems, whilst traditionally and fundamentally hinged on production in agriculture and fisheries (coastal food systems), are all-encompassing and include aspects of processing, trade and business, and consumption. In doing so, the agricultural and forestry sectors have had a huge transformational role in the food systems for Pacific Island countries. 

Panel and attendees at Pacific Week of Agriculture and Forestry Side Event
Panel and attendees at Pacific Week of Agriculture and Forestry Side Event


The chair and moderator of the session, Alisi Tuqa, the Food Systems Lead at SPC, guided the discussion with the panel, which centred around food systems issues and opportunities with examples from each panellist’s experience or views. The panellists included senior officials from Pacific Island governments, researchers from Australian universities, along with representatives from the private sector and community fisheries networks.  

Pacific food systems pathways

Each panellist had a chance to speak, with questions guided by the moderator, on what we are learning about Pacific food systems. Several common themes became present throughout the discussion. The first and perhaps most prominent was the need for systems thinking, to think holistically regarding improving nutritional outcomes, looking at the bigger picture and ensuring links between the agricultural sector, health and education are present. To facilitate this is the need for useful, relevant and accessible data. This data can be used for decision-making and to assist in determining how to influence behavioural and community change regarding improved nutritional choices. Also raised was the need to include gender and social issues in data collection relating to food systems.  

Details of side event
Details of Pacific Week of Agriculture and Forestry Side Event

Discussions were then split into groups for the workshop part of the event. Group topics were drawn from Pacific Island national pathways and represented common goals and high-level actions articulated across multiple pathways.  

Across the groups, topics included: 

  • Nutrition: Improving the access, affordability and consumption of healthy local foods 
  • Blue-green sustainability: Increasing the sustainability of blue and green food production/harvesting and the links between them 
  • Value-adding: Encouraging value-adding to local products to reduce imports and grow exports 
  • Resilience: Using traditional knowledge and nature-positive production to improve resilience to shocks and stressors  
  • Governance: Aligning and coordinating across government entities to govern the links and relationships in food systems 

For part 1 of the discussion, participants identified the specifics of the linkages of the previous discussion, including whether they needed enhancing or changing. In part 2, participants wrote down an action to improve a chosen linkage and anything else that arose from discussions.  

One of the group discussions included conversations on the theme “value-adding: encouraging value-adding to local products to reduce inputs and grow exports”. During this discussion, the group raised points about what was working well, any important connections relating to this part of the network and proposed available solutions. Important connections relating to the network included processing, production and distribution, food policy and environment, technology and, similar to points raised in the panel session, how the food system is connected to other systems, including tourism, education, transport and research. Solutions, in this context, were looked at as a region and could include switching from mainly production to processing resulting in having the value-add in country, rather than exporting the raw materials and associated value add opportunities. To facilitate this, a link to policy could be made to accommodate this increase in processing and mitigate challenges, including logistics, labour, business environment and other socioeconomic factors.  

Overall, the event was a great success. It fostered relationships between countries and organisations, including between SPC and Australia. The event was also a fantastic way to facilitate thoughts and ideas about food systems between several nations. ACIAR is looking forward to the next PWAF!