Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna has stated: “Somewhere in our makeup we are environmentally conscious people, because we have learned to live off the land and off the sea, that is our heritage, that is our tradition and we are just tapping into that again.”
Food security for the islands is critical. Many generations have survived relying solely on local inter-island trade, or in self-subsistence within their community. Yet, with an increasing reliance on imported food, islanders have become dependent on external food sources, paying high prices for mostly unhealthy and low quality food.
The result is that now, many islands have a higher ratio of imported goods to local…
Back to the future: Food security in the Pacific
One organisation that’s been making some interesting progress in food security is the media production company, Zoomslide. This New Zealand based company are behind a TV show called ‘Real Pasifik’. In this programme, chef Robert Oliver explores heirloom ingredients and recipes of the Pacific, and the communities who have been working with these ingredients for generations. He also brings resorts into the picture, by translating these recipes and ingredients into their menus. “In tourism and agriculture led economies resort menus are the business plans of the nation.”(Robert Oliver)
Real Pasifik addresses a critical but often hidden problem in the Pacific – food security. Decades of tourism development (often at the instruction of foreign aid providers) has resulted in the gradual erosion of local culinary culture. Travellers to the Pacific have not been encouraged to taste local cuisine. You only have to look to Asia, Europe or the Americas to see stark differences, and a crucially missing piece in the Pacific economic jigsaw. Pacific cuisine not only holds its own against the very best of France or Thailand, but is extraordinarily healthy and intrinsically sustainable.
Dieticians often refer to “the Pacific super diet.” And indeed, most Pacific islands produce a veritable cornucopia of vibrant produce. Meanwhile, many of the artisanal food producers and micro businesses only have to look at the practices of their parents and grandparents to see a tradition of sustainable production that has been around for centuries. In Samoa alone, the NGO Women in Business Development (WIBDI) has worked with almost a thousand such groups towards full organic certification.
In the Real Pasifik TV show, the food culture of centuries emerges as the driving force of innovation in food security.
Pacific Voyagers has helped develop and support initiatives that increase the level of food sovereignty in the Pacific Islands.
Pictures credit for pictures used on the Food Sovereignty site: Zoomslide