Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi is back in the country from Stockholm, Sweden.
He was there to attend the annual E.A.T Forum where he delivered Samoa’s perspective on the frontlines of climate change; facing the public health burden of Non-Communicable Diseases; and the changes instituted and strategies developed to reverse current trends.
“Food is the gateway into all cultures,” Tuilaepa said.
“For Samoa, our food expresses our intimate relationship with the land, the sea and our ancestors. We are blessed with an ocean so abundant in marine life that if we only take what we need, generations after us will also be fed from this blue food basket.
“We are also blessed with fertile, volcanic soil that is capable of recovering from the worst of natural disasters. In Samoa, most of our farmers are organic by default.
It has been our tradition to work with nature rather than to oppress it.
“I see organic farming as not just our past but our future.”
The Forum focused on shifting food systems towards greater sustainability, security and equity. It also covered consumption and production patterns, cities, accountability, technology and innovation across the food industry.
The Prime Minister reflected on food security; the effect of globalized agro-food systems on Samoa’s farming households; primary production and trade experience.
“Samoa is a possible example of an alternative agro-food system, where agriculture and food networks are local to regional in scale and embedded in communities. Samoan village agriculture has shown great resilience in the face of market forces and a recent series of disasters of successive cyclones, a tsunami and crop diseases such as the taro leaf blight and African snail infestation.
“International trade can serve as an adaptation measure to offset changing local food production capacities caused by climate change. While trade opportunities are clearly needed, these must be coupled with initiatives to promote and sustainably increase the productivity of subsistence systems in agricultural, forestry and fishery sectors. Such an approach will help build self-reliance, diversify food sources and reduce reliance on imported food products,” he said.
The Prime Minister also spoke about modern trends that have seen cheap meat imports being shipped to Samoa and the rest of the Pacific.“Food ‘colonialism’ began with cheap meat imports, all considered as ‘rejects’ in countries of origin, being shipped to Pacific countries. These gradually became integrated into the traditional Samoan diet with deep impact. The problems of health started to emerge and so were issues around fast and processed food. Worst still was a growing generation of Samoans raised on these easy to get and easy to prepare food.
“Developing and investing in sustainable farming methods is necessary, as is improving the ability of farmers to withstand and adapt to environmental, economic changes and impacts of climate change. Similarly, well managed, health-enhancing international trade, of both exports and imports, is important in maintaining food security. We have taken action to improve the nutritional quality of imports and to upgrade the food safety system so it provides effective protection.
“My government with the support of our development partners are collaborating to ensure that food security issues are adequately mainstreamed into national and regional climate change adaptation programs. As well all initiatives to improve food security and build a minimum measure of self-reliance are adequately ‘climate proofed’.”
Tuilaepa also met with Sweden’s Prime Minister, Stefan Lofven, to discuss ways the Government of Sweden could provide support to the Pacific region and its nations.
Locally, Sweden has provided community development assistance at the village level through activities such as the construction of a school at Tafua tai, in return for environmental conservation efforts by way of the village preserving its coastal forestry areas.
Sweden is one of the major Green Climate Fund contributors and is one of the co-financiers of the 2017 S.I.DS Oceans Conference in Fiji.