Disaster and Agriculture in the Pacific Islands

The Pacific island region is highly prone to natural disasters,especially cyclones, droughts and volcanic eruptions. Theseimpose a heavy economic toll, diverting resources away fromall forms of development. In a region so dependent onagriculture as the Pacific Islands, reducing exposure to andmitigating against the effects of natural disasters offersimmediate and substantial benefits to the sustainabledevelopment of the region.This report provides a detailed account of the interrelationshipsbetween disasters and agricultural systems infour Pacific island countries: Fiji, Samoa< Tuvalu andVanuatu. The authors note that traditional agriculturalsystems provided a high degree of food security. Althoughthey have significantly changed over recent decades, manycomponents of these systems remain in place, to varyingdegrees around the region. This continues to be an importantmitigating force against the impact of disasters, as recentevents in Samoa and Vanuatu have shown. The report arguesthat the impact of natural disasters on agriculture can beconsiderably reduced, first by better environmentalmanagement and, second, by finding ways to use traditionalfarming methods and adapt them to new uses, rather than thewhole scale change to farming methods that has often beenattempted in recent decades.This report is one in the series of reports commissioned bythe South Pacific Disaster Reduction Programme. Thepurpose behind these reports has been to increase awarenessof the importance of disaster reduction for sustainabledevelopment in the Pacific region, and to demonstrate thatthere are practical ways to reduce the exposure of islandeconomies and communities to natural hazards. The 1990swere designated by the United Nations General Assembly tobe the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction.Reduction of disaster risks remains a priority for the UnitedNations system and for the South Pacific Applied GeoscienceCommission (SOPAC), the regional organization which isnow implementing the South Pacific Disaster ReductionProgramme.

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