The Center’s base for Oceania operations is in Fiji, under the auspices of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) with the support of the Ministry of Primary Industries, Department of Agriculture.
The rate of type 2 diabetes in Oceania is very high by global standards. Nauru has the highest proportion of diabetic people of any country in the world (33%) and Tonga is in the top ten of severely affected nations. The role of vegetables in improving diets and the health of the populations in the region is critical. Anemia, riboflavin deficiency, and calcium deficiency are common nutritional problems in rural and urban areas of many islands, while heart disease, hypertension and other chronic diseases are on the rise. This is due primarily to diets based on carbohydrate-rich staple crops, imported and highly refined foods that are low in fiber and high in fat and sugars, and cheap canned meat.
Although traditional diets frequently include local vegetables (e.g. greens of taro, yam, and slippery cabbage) and tomatoes, cucumbers and green beans, vegetable production has been insignificant and of low priority in the Pacific nations. The dietary transition to more processed, refined food makes vegetables even scarcer. This has been exacerbated by population growth, urbanization, exporting produce, and selling produce to hotels.
In Fiji, Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Mariana Islands and Papua New Guinea there are some efforts to diversify food production through vegetable cultivation. However, most vegetable production is carried out on a subsistence basis, with a few vegetable species of poor quality. Production is wholly dependent on imported seeds of varieties that often are not adapted to local harsh environmental conditions.
Ellen Iramu, Project Coordinator – Pacific Islands
ellen.iramu (at) worldveg.org
Aloesi Dakuidreketi-Hickes, Plant Health Field Technician
Pitakai Tikai, Liaison Officer