Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna has stated: “Somewhere in our makeup we are environmentally conscious people, because we have learned to live off the land and off the sea, that is our heritage, that is our tradition and we are just tapping into that again.” Food security for the islands is critical. Many generations have survived on the islands relying solely on local inter-island trade, or even completely on their own. Yet, with an increasing reliance on imported food, islanders have come to depend on external food sources, paying high food costs for what’s often times less healthier foods.
Many islands and Island Nations have a higher ratio of imported goods to local. Hawai’i, for example, is 90% dependent on imported foods. With many of the native streams and habitats still desiccated, many residents are calling for native habitat restoration, including the old taro fields, which, at a community-led grassroots effort on Maui in particular are transforming the landscape back to local, traditional sustenance one patch at a time.
In Fiji, a government initiative has kicked off to turn all available arable, idle land into thriving, vibrant fields, and targeting specific crops as “import substitutions”. On a farm near Vanua Levu, 1,600 acres previously owned by the Native Lands District Commission sat idle for 20 years until recently when they started cultivating fruits and vegetables, particularly potatoes to achieve a target set by the government of locally producing 1.7 million potatoes as part of their import substitution policy with the objective of achieving a FJD $5.3 million (USD $2.9 million) in savings.