Ensuring the people of Bougainville always have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to support active and healthy lifestyle is the key aim of a new food security policy that is being developed.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations in conjunction with the ABG’s Department of Primary Industries and Marine Resources conducted a stakeholder consultation workshop in Buka on 12 February.

The purpose of the workshop was to deliberate on the formulation of the Bougainville Food Security Policy, which is hoped to the finalised by 21 October.

The policy will focus on six strategic areas, including:

  1. Productivity and farm output growth of main food staples, horticulture, small livestock and fish farming and increasing value chain efficiencies.
  2. Building stability and resilience into food production and supply chains.
  3. Enhanced nutrient content and balance of food products consumed.
  4. Maximise participation and empowerment of women in agriculture.
  5. Sustainable use of natural resource management; and
  6. Strengthened governance, coordination, monitoring and communication.

Following on from the first stakeholder consultations, regional sessions will also be held in north, central and south Bougainville.

Earlier research has found that PNG and Bougainville have relatively high potential for enhancing food security through access to rural land and capacity to grow staple food crops.

Natural disasters such as flood, drought and cyclones present ongoing threats to food security and having plans in place to deal with temporary disruptions to the supply of fresh food can help reduce the impact on the community.

Other unforeseen events such as the COVID-19 pandemic also present challenges. Last year in particular the closure of markets and food stores in Buka and Arawa, as well as travel restrictions caused food supply shortages. Some of this was alleviated by an increase in the number of roadside markets which health authorities permitted outside town areas.

The development of Bougainville’s agricultural sector is a government priority, with new investment required to help it reach its potential. A strong agricultural sector will help enhance local food security, reduce reliance on imports while at the same time creating new export, income and job opportunities for Bougainville.