Report Bares Climate Change Effects on Timor-Leste, PacificCatch of the Week
Climate change is adversely affecting food security in Timor-Leste and the Pacific region, according to a report by the Government of Australia’s Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.
The report said “traditional food systems, supported by controls and prohibitions associated with customary land tenure, have generally been environmentally sustainable,” but these systems “have been partly replaced by more modern food production processes which reduced crop, tree, and livestock diversity and led to the introduction of new species, some of which have dramatically changed the landscapes in many countries.”
Traditional practices in both land and aquatic ecosystems have also declined in recent decades, the report said.
Further, “environmental degradation and pollution resulting from these changes have undermined ecosystem health and therefore food production potential, and have increased vulnerability to events brought by climate changes,” the report added.
The report looked into the effects of climate change in terms of adequacy, availability, stability, utilization, and safety and nutrition of food in 15 Pacific countries, including Timor-Leste. The report discovered that climate change has been affecting these five important “food security pillars.”
“Undernutrition is common among urban infants and young children in the Pacific, with Timor-Leste having the highest proportion of underweight children (nearly 50%).”
In terms of adequacy, the report said that per capita food production has been falling in nearly all Pacific countries over the past decade, even in countries with little population growth.
An interesting finding is that fisheries production has increased across the region in recent years, but only in offshore fisheries mainly targeting tuna and dominated by foreign-owned fleets.
Production for local consumption from coastal or inshore fisheries has not increased in the past decade, the report said.
In terms of food availability, traditional foods (such as root crops) are being replaced by imported food, most notably in urban areas. In particular, these imported food items include white rice, refined flour, and processed (usually tinned) meat and fish.
In terms of health and nutrition, the report said “undernutrition” is common among urban infants and young children in some Pacific countries, with Timor-Leste having the highest proportion of underweight children (nearly 50%) in the region.
Poor living conditions, such as lack of water and sanitation, related to increasing urban poverty is also affecting this food security pillar.
The report emphasized that traditional food systems “supported by controls and prohibitions associated with customary land tenure, have generally been environmentally sustainable.
However, these traditional practices have declined in recent decades resulting in environmental degradation and pollution. These “threats” are now affecting food security in the Pacific.
The report projected that climate change will affect food production all along the food chain, from primary production source to end-point consumption and export.
One notable effect of climate change is the possibility that it will “alter agrobiodiversity across the Pacific and change pest and disease regimes, both of which will adversely impact on agricultural production.”
Aside from agriculture, coastal fisheries harvests could also be reduced by as much as 50% by 2100, leaving only a few countries able to obtain half their daily protein needs from this source.
The report further said Pacific countries can counter these alarming trends through climate-resilient and sustainable farming and fisheries practices and proper management of food supply across the region.
Story and report courtesy of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and the Government of Australia.