Disaster and Agriculture in the Pacific Islands

The Pacific island region is highly prone to natural disasters,
especially cyclones, droughts and volcanic eruptions. These
impose a heavy economic toll, diverting resources away from
all forms of development. In a region so dependent on
agriculture as the Pacific Islands, reducing exposure to and
mitigating against the effects of natural disasters offers
immediate and substantial benefits to the sustainable
development of the region.
This report provides a detailed account of the interrelationships
between disasters and agricultural systems in
four Pacific island countries: Fiji, Samoa< Tuvalu and
Vanuatu. The authors note that traditional agricultural
systems provided a high degree of food security. Although
they have significantly changed over recent decades, many
components of these systems remain in place, to varying
degrees around the region. This continues to be an important
mitigating force against the impact of disasters, as recent
events in Samoa and Vanuatu have shown. The report argues
that the impact of natural disasters on agriculture can be
considerably reduced, first by better environmental
management and, second, by finding ways to use traditional
farming methods and adapt them to new uses, rather than the
whole scale change to farming methods that has often been
attempted in recent decades.
This report is one in the series of reports commissioned by
the South Pacific Disaster Reduction Programme. The
purpose behind these reports has been to increase awareness
of the importance of disaster reduction for sustainable
development in the Pacific region, and to demonstrate that
there are practical ways to reduce the exposure of island
economies and communities to natural hazards. The 1990s
were designated by the United Nations General Assembly to
be the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction.
Reduction of disaster risks remains a priority for the United
Nations system and for the South Pacific Applied Geoscience
Commission (SOPAC), the regional organization which is
now implementing the South Pacific Disaster Reduction
Programme.

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