Vanuatu's food security fragility exposed by cyclone Pam
A Vanuatu agriculture expert says the country's fragile food security has been exposed by extensive damage to staple food crops from Cyclone Pam throughout much of the country.
A Vanuatu agriculture expert says the country's fragile food security has been exposed by extensive damage to staple food crops from Cyclone Pam.
Dr Vincent Lebot says Pam brought destruction to plantations across many Vanuatu islands where people live off root crops, fruit and nut trees.
He says two days after the cyclone left the country, it's becoming evident that there is little for people to eat because these trees and crops are not resistant to high winds.
VINCENT LEBOT: And consequently, the bananas are on the ground, and the root crops which are the staples are all gone. I mean, the cassava will go first of all. The yams are not ripped yet so there is nothing to harvest and sweet potatoes are not cultivated through the summer, only during the winter so basically there is not much to harvest there too. And only the taros are left. All the fruits and the nuts are on the ground and the breadfruit etc. So I think that the situation is very, very serious on each side of the path of Cyclone Pam.
JOHNNY BLADES: And the path of Pam really did scale down the spine of a lot of the islands in your country, the main islands in many cases, and then it almost weaved back round to go to Tanna.
VL: Yes, it went on the east side of the archipelago .It went east through the Torres and Banks islands, following Maewo, Pentecost through the Shepards, Efate, Erromango and Tanna. So basically, an important part of the population of Vanuatu is directly affected and most of these islands of course have plantations and food gardens and crops and they are of course very severely impacted.
JB: In so far as a country can be prepared for this kind of massive disaster, how prepared was Vanuatu in terms of looking after its crops, these food gardens?
VL: No, unfortunately, not much because since the latest agricultural census we know that most of the people in Vanuatu are focusing on cash crops, like copra or cocoa or kava, and are buying their food from the stores, the co-operatives in the villages. So food security depends a lot on the availability and supply of imported food such as imported white rice, imported tins of fish and meat, or wheat-flour for bread. And there is not much in the ground unfortunately, because of this agricultural system focussing on export cash crops and using the income generated from these cash crops to buy imported food, so since the latest agricultural census, we knew that the situation was fairly fragile and with such a cyclone of course the consequences are very severe.
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