Rising Prices Threatens Food Supply of Isolated Tropical Islands

Rising Prices Threatens Food Supply of Isolated Tropical Islands

Rising Prices Threatens Food Supply of Isolated Tropical Islands

Rice has become the mainstay of the communities living in the far northern, isolated tropical islands of Vanuatu. They have from generation to generation lived off the produce of the land. However, in recent years, their diet has been increasingly supplemented by imported rice.

Distribution to the remote islands is via the inter-island ships that arrive at random times. Rice supplies can get very low waiting for the ships to arrive. Provided they do not run aground on the coral reefs.

Now the price of rice is forcing these people to rethink their food supply. In Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu, the price of rice has gone from VT 3150 (US$ 34) per 25 kgs bag to Vt 4100 (US$ 44.3) in one week. For the remote islanders, the additional shipping cost is putting rice way beyond their meagre economic reach.

These are communities that have a 'no-cash economy'. They provide produce in exchange for services, and occasionally sell a few items to the infrequent tourists that come through.

Pentecost Island recently saw the closure of a secondary school with the students sent home, due to a lack of food. The school can no longer able feed the students from the school fees. The cost of rice - the staple food - has become prohibitive and the school gardens cannot keep up with demand.

Little is done to help the advancement of the youth of these remote islands when their stomachs are empty and the schools are closed. To gain the knowledge and skills required for the 21st century is a struggle for these disadvantaged children.

Their primary education in the villages is undertaken squatting on their haunches at solid wooden benches at the end of the village. They share pages from an exercise book to have something to write on. Pencils are broken into three to be able to write. Items such as blackboards and chalk and writing paper are treated as if they are pure gold.

At the end of primary schooling the students sit an entrance exam that allows them to go on to high school. That is if their parents can raise the school fees. Many of the students, in this no-cash economy, actually get to see the inside of a high school classroom.

Education in Vanuatu is not free. The dreadful consequences of this are:

o only 55.8% of Vanuatu kids will get to grade 6;
o of those only 18.2% will go to high school ;
o 26% will never go to school at all.

The Vanuatu government admitted in late 2007 that it did not have the resources or the finances to provide education beyond the main islands. Education was not seen as a priority.

Rick and Wendy Tendys, the founders of YouMe Support Foundation, are raffling Seachange Lodge (a private holiday home, plus 6 luxury holiday apartments) on the Internet, to raise funds for non-repayable high school education grants for the children of the outer islands of Vanuatu. This is a World First, Blue Moon Opportunity that will change someone's life, as well as the lives of these children.

The only salvation for these distant communities is for their children to become educated and gain jobs. Then the price of rice, even, though it is high, will not prove to be a problem to the community in general. You can help make a real difference in the lives of these people.