October 14, 2020, by Susan Lim

Food Security in Small Island Developing States – a conference report

In the first week of September, the Future Food Beacons at the University of Nottingham’s UK and Malaysia campuses jointly ran an international workshop Food Security in Small Island Developing States (FSSIDS 2020). The workshop brought together more than 30 participants from 10 countries in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, in addition to the UK. The workshop was an opportunity for researchers, community workers, food producers, policymakers and others to discuss, study, and identify research gaps in issues related to food security in island nations.

Islands generally, and especially those in the Asia-Pacific region, have diverse environments, cultures, economies, and food systems but islands also share many features. They are at the front line of economic, political, cultural, and environmental change. Nearly all depend upon tourism or global trade, whilst also managing 30% of the world’s largest exclusive economic zones, and housing some of the world’s critical biodiversity hotspots. Many island nations in the region have or continue to experience, legacies of colonialism, issues of displacement, and territorial tensions with larger political entities.

In this context, the main themes identified for food security in small island developing states were:

  1. Nutrition and public health
  2. Sustainable food production and supply, and local agriculture
  3. Food-related waste and food processing
  4. Trade, policy and governance
  5. Climate change and environment
  6. Culture, heritage and food sovereignty

The workshop was expertly co-hosted by Dr Chiew Foan Chin (Malaysia) and Dr Andrew Clarke (UK) with the help of three committee members, Dr Christina Supramaniam, Professor Pau Loke Show and Dr Chung Hong Tan, all from Malaysia. The director of the Future Food Beacon UK, Professor David Salt, gave a keynote address regarding the establishment, purpose and aims of the Future Food Beacon UK. This was followed by an introduction to the Future Food Beacon Malaysia by Dr Chin. There was a total of nine presentations across the first two days of the workshop covering several interesting topics, some highlights being:

  1. sustainability of monocrop plantations
  2. culture of macroalgae (for example sea grapes (Caulerpa) and seaweed), microalgae (for example Spirulina) and probiotics for food, supplement and aquafeed
  3. challenges faced by island nations in providing sufficient food products that can compete with inexpensive nutritionally-lacking imports
  4. selection of emergency food for infants by mothers in disaster prone areas
  5. postharvest solutions for different fruits and vegetables
  6. palaeo benchmarking future food systems in Oceania using crop and food histories

The final day of the workshop allowed time for discussions of potential research collaborations and suitable grant applications. All network members continue to keep in touch via email and social media platforms and are working together to build trust and relationships, share ideas and eventually secure funding for collaborative, interdisciplinary research into food security in small island developing states.

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