This blog post is the first part of a four-blog series that shares the UNDP Accelerator Lab- Pacific learning cycle journeys in the food security space.

In Pacific Small Island Developing States (SIDS) such as Fiji, food security in terms of accessibility and affordability to food is a key challenge. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in Fiji in early 2020, the UNDP Accelerator Lab Pacific had employed community immersion with individuals and households living in rural areas of Fiji, and  undertaken system mapping sessions with partners and experts to understand the impacts of COVID-19 on food security. The Fiji Governments’ plan in the food security space has been to “securing the country for its food and nutritional security requirements, progressively expanding agriculture to its full potential to raise the national income and become the leading export earner for the country”. As the second surge of the COVID-19 pandemic currently wrestles the country, the need for food security has never been more important.

Mapping the food security ecosystem of Fiji in early 2020. (Photo: UNDP/Mohseen Dean)


In mid-2020, the Accelerator Lab with its partners identified three initiatives to co-create experiments targeted at the challenges of food security. We designed a portfolio approach, which included experiments on hydroponics, institutional farms, and food supply chains. The hypothesis, target conditions, and the success criteria set out for each experiment is summarized in the table below.


Experiment on hydroponics

Communities participate in hydroponic farming training. (Photo: UNDP/Mohseen Dean)

With Smart Farms Fiji, the Accelerator Lab ventured into testing the adoption and uptake of Deep Water Culture (DWC) hydroponic kits for growing green leafy vegetables such as cabbage in informal settlements facing shortage of land such as that in Kulukulu, Sigatoka and Korociri in Nadi, and low-lying settlements such as Veidogo and Taiperia in Lautoka, and Wainivokai in Lami.

The methodology included selecting a total of 50 households in these five informal settlements using a stratified sampling method and providing them with DWC hydroponic Kits, 10 kits in each settlement.

We utilized (a) pre and post surveys, (b) intercept surveys, and (c) building user journey maps to ascertain the successes, challenges, and failures of the experiment.


Experiment on institutional farms

With the Pacific Blue Foundation (PBF), the Accelerator Lab tested a community garden model in partnership with Beqa-Yanuca Secondary School on the island of Beqa, an outlier to the main island of Viti Levu. In our first field mission to the island, we discovered that a property for the community garden had already been allocated on the school grounds. Together with the PBF, the Accelerator Lab explored options for testing and embedding new farming techniques that could increase the availability of affordable food. This would increase the learnings from the experiment, which could be ingrained into the school curriculum on agricultural studies. We also wanted to explore whether the farm model was viable at scale in Fiji in response to COVID-19 induced food security challenges. Apart from the field mission to the site, we utilized the socio-economic survey, pre and post survey, and remote ethnography to determine the successes, challenges, and failures of the experiment.

Walk through with the head teacher at the Beqa-Yanuca Secondary School. (Photo: UNDP/Evgeniya Klescheva)


Experiment on supply chain

In Port Vila, Vanuatu, the Accelerator Lab together with the Isi Kakai devised an experiment to determine if repurposing food supply chains could improve food supply in time of an emergency, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. This included choosing random individuals that would buy food packages from Isi Kakai containing both essential and non-essential items. The Accelerator Lab utilized a survey to document the individuals journey maps by focusing on the experiences of their interaction with the product and/or service, thus mapping steps that they took, and how they felt or experienced those steps as part of the engagement with Isi Kakai. To triangulate the learnings, the Accelerator Lab will be holding interviews with at least 10 percent of the total sample that took part in the experiment.

So, what next?

While our footprint in the food security space is minimal with just three experiments, that were successful, we hope that the learnings presented in the next series of blogs could address issues on self-reliance through the cultivation of traditional basic food items, promotion of backyard gardening and institutional farms, as well as value-adding. In our next blog, I will be dwelling on the insights generated from the experiment on institutional farm at the Beqa-Yanuca Secondary School. Keep a look out!

Acknowledgement

Rahul Ravneel Prasad, Emily Moli, Evgeniya Klescheva, and Setaita Tavanabola of UNDP Pacific Office

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