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A newly published, seven-country study found that in rural Pacific Island communities that have maintained traditional practices around food production were better able to weather the initial impacts of COVID-19.

“From sago farming in Papua New Guinea to community gardening in Fiji to taro patching and traditional food preservation techniques in the Federated States of Micronesia, communities maintaining the old ways fared better,” said Teri Tuxson, of the Locally-Managed Marine Area Network, which coordinated the study published in the journal, Marine Policy.

Traditional food practices also included food sharing, which involves sharing food along kinship lines, but also with anyone in a community who lacks it, including the elderly, single mothers, widows, and recent arrivals from urban areas who have not had time to plant.

In areas where the traditional practice of sharing food was still practiced, reports of food insecurity were significantly lower, the study reported.

“It was inspiring to see Pacific Island communities, which are founded on solidarity, reciprocity and collective support, provided social safety nets in these hard times,” said lead author, Dr. Caroline Ferguson, of Stanford University.

The study authors said the findings suggest that policy in the Pacific should bolster sustainable local food production and practices to better position rural Pacific communities in the face of unprecedented change globally.


Traditional food production and food sharing practices help rural Pacific Island communities weather COVID-19 impacts, study finds