From garden to store: local perspectives of changing food and nutrition security in a Pacific Island country

Abstract

Pacific Island countries (PICs) have experienced changes to dietary patterns in recent decades, alongside rapid socio-economic and ecological changes. In this study, qualitative research methods were used to explore food and nutrition security (FNS) experiences in a peri-urban, and a remote village, in Vanuatu. The main findings were that there are a range of interrelated socio-economic and environmental influences on food and nutrition insecurity, and continued climate change is a potential contributor to growing food insecurity. Results suggest that FNS in these villages is experienced not as a lack of food availability, but as inadequate and unstable access to healthy, locally produced food leading to impaired diet quality and diversity. FNS was experienced differently in the two village contexts: the peri-urban village demonstrated an advancing nutrition transition with sufficient food availability, but an increasing dependence on imported foods and inadequate diet quality and diversity. The rural village showed adequate diet diversity and quality; however, the food supply was unstable and sensitive to disruptions caused by climate variability and change. The study indicates that the effects of climate change, changes to ways of life, and dietary changes are not only affecting FNS, but also disrupting social relationships, culture, and spirituality, and threatening the social fabric of these villages. There is an imperative to address FNS holistically, considering the contextual socio-economic and environmental influences, and to support the local food system to provide access to an optimal diet that promotes health and cultural preferences in the face of a changing climate.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank all the participants for generously providing their time and sharing their knowledge and expertise. We would like to express our sincere gratitude to Benua Jamu and Rexly Bune for their assistance with data collection and facilitation and for their critical insights into the local culture, practices and traditions. We would also like to thank Dr. Christopher Bartlett and Tasaruru Whitely for their support in obtaining access to village B. Finally, we would like to thank the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Biosecurity and Henline Mala at the Vanuatu Kaljoral Senta, for their support and assistance during this research project.

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Correspondence to Amy Savage.

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This paper was developed as part of the PhD dissertation of the principal author and she received a scholarship under the Australian Government Research Training Program scheme. No other funding was received. The authors declare they have no conflicts of interest.

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Savage, A., Bambrick, H. & Gallegos, D. From garden to store: local perspectives of changing food and nutrition security in a Pacific Island country. Food Sec. 12, 1331–1348 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12571-020-01053-8

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Keywords

  • Nutrition transition
  • Pacific Island
  • Food security
  • Climate change
  • Nutrition
  • Qualitative