The agricultural sector in Vanuatu has deep significance for the country, with 80 per cent of the population relying on agriculture for food and income security (for farmers engaged in commercial and semi-commercial agriculture). The majority of agricultural production is subsistence based, which has helped many Vanuatuans avoid serious malnutrition, especially in rural areas, where the consumption of locally-grown food is higher than that of unhealthy foreign imports. The dependence on agriculture has grown increasingly risky because of added factors such as climate change. Vanuatu is already highly prone to natural disasters, especially earthquakes and cyclones, which disrupt food production. Climate change is likely to intensify many of the climate-related hazards that Vanuatu faces and temperatures may reach the maximum heat threshold of many native crops.
While rural food supplies are generally secure outside of periods of disaster, in urban centres Vanuatu faces many of the same food and nutrition challenges as other Pacific island countries. Port Vila, the country’s capital, has the highest rates of overweight and obesity, which contrasts strongly with the incidence of stunted growth (low height for age) among children in rural areas. This is partly due to a lack of land to grow crops or raise livestock, which limits healthy food options, and also due to the higher costs of living, which further limits access to healthy options.
Vanuatu’s water resources are often contaminated and groundwater in cities is increasingly coming under pressure. There is little provision for the treatment and disposal of sewage and wastewater, which allows waste to leach into other water systems.
- A significant portion of Vanuatu’s population is heavily engaged in subsistence agriculture.
- Agriculture has allowed Vanuatu to maintain relatively good access to food, although nutrition-related problems persist.
- Much of Vanuatu’s food production is threatened by its exposure to natural disasters. Climate change is likely to intensify these threats.
- Water management is poor. Many water sources are contaminated and sanitation is largely unregulated.