Pathways for Urban Food Security in the Pacific

Situating the Urban Informal Food Sector in the Context of Urbanisation and Globalisation


  • Lucas Watt
  • Roxane de Waegh
  • Greg Watt



Urbanisation, globalisation, Food Security, Formalisation, Resilience, Informal Food Security


The urban context is often sidelined in the academic discourse surrounding food security in the Pacific. Yet, for some Pacific nations, cities are the home for most of their citizens. In this thematic literature review, we direct our attention toward the increasingly important topic of food security in Pacific cities. We investigate how the urban informal food sector historically has provided a baseline of food security in Pacific cities. The production, livelihood, and exchange practices that define the urban informal food sector can be traced back to the forms of urbanisation and migration that occurred in the post-independence era in the Pacific. However, we also identify how urban formalisation and globalisation are undermining the key tenets of social relationality that the informal food sector relies upon. As such, the forms of food security provided by the urban informal food sector are being slowly eroded. By identifying these disruptions to the informal urban food sector, we identify pragmatic pathways to develop the basis of a conceptual framework for urban food security in the Pacific. These pathways revolve around invigorating the forms of social relationality within the informal food sector's production, livelihood, and exchange practices.


Adger, W. N. (2010). Social capital, collective action, and adaptation to climate change. In Der klimawandel (pp. 327-345): Springer.

Aldrich, D. P., Page-Tan, C. M., & Paul, C. J. (2016). Social capital and climate change adaptation. In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Climate Science.

Arrow, K. J. (2000). Observations on social capital. Social capital: A multifaceted perspective, 6, 3-5.

At the Root of the Exodus: Food Security, Conflict and International Migration. (2017). Retrieved from Rome, Italy:

Balachandran, A. (2018). Petition town: Law, custom, and urban space in early colonial South India in iterations of law. Legal Histories from India. Oxford University Press: New Delhi, 147-167.

Barber, K. (2003). The Bugiau community at Eight‐Mile: An urban settlement in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. Oceania, 73(4), 287-297.

Bebbington, A. (1999). Capitals and capabilities: a framework for analysing peasant viability, rural livelihoods and poverty. World Development, 27(12), 2021-2044.

Bec, A., Char-lee, J. M., & Moyle, B. D. (2019). Community resilience to change: Development of an index. Social Indicators Research, 142(3), 1103-1128.

Bedford, R. D. (2017). New Hebridean Mobility: a study of circular migration: Canberra, ACT: Dept. of Human Geography, Research School of Pacific Studies ….

Bell, J. D., Cisneros-Montemayor, A., Hanich, Q., Johnson, J. E., Lehodey, P., Moore, B. R., . . . Virdin, J. (2018). Adaptations to maintain the contributions of small-scale fisheries to food security in the Pacific Islands. Marine Policy, 88, 303-314.

Blythe, J. L. (2015). Resilience and social thresholds in small-scale fishing communities. Sustainability Science, 10(1), 157-165.

Bogard, J. R., Andrew, N. L., Farrell, P., Herrero, M., Sharp, M. K., & Tutuo, J. (2021). A Typology of Food Environments in the Pacific Region and Their Relationship to Diet Quality in Solomon Islands. Foods, 10(11), 2592.

Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia (2018, January 7). Tarawa. Encyclopedia Britannica.

Brueckner-Irwin, I., Armitage, D., & Courtenay, S. (2019). Applying a social-ecological wellbeing approach to enhance opportunities for marine protected area governance. Ecology and Society, 24(3).

Bryant-Tokalau, J. (2010). Living in the Qoliqoli: Urban squatting on the Fiji foreshore. Pacific Studies, 33(1), 1.

Busse, M., & Sharp, T. L. (2019). Marketplaces and morality in Papua New Guinea: Place, personhood and exchange. Oceania, 89(2), 126-153.

Campbell, J. (2009). Islandness: Vulnerability and resilience in Oceania [Journal Article]. Shima: The International Journal of Research into Island Cultures, 3, 85-97.

Campbell, J. R. (2015). Development, global change and traditional food security in Pacific Island countries. Regional Environmental Change, 15(7), 1313-1324.

Carpenter, S. R., Folke, C., Scheffer, M., & Westley, F. (2009). Resilience: accounting for the noncomputable. Ecology and Society, 14(1).

Chan, N. W., Roy, R., Lai, C. H., & Tan, M. L. (2018). Social capital as a vital resource in flood disaster recovery in Malaysia. International Journal of Water Resources Development.

Connell, J. (2015). Food security in the island Pacific: Is Micronesia as far away as ever? Regional Environmental Change, 15(7), 1299-1311.

Connell, J., & Lea, J. (1994). Cities of parts, cities apart? Changing places in modern Melanesia. The Contemporary Pacific, 267-309.

Cox, M., Alatoa, H., Kenni, L., Naupa, A., Rawlings, G., Soni, N., . . . Bulekone, V. (2007). Unfinished state: Drivers of change in Vanuatu: Australian Agency for International Development.

Crush, J. (2013). Linking food security, migration and development. International Migration, 51(5), 61-75.

Cumming, G. S., & Peterson, G. D. (2017). Unifying research on social–ecological resilience and collapse. Trends in ecology & evolution, 32(9), 695-713.

D'Arcy, P. (2006). The people of the sea: environment, identity, and history in Oceania: University of Hawaii Press.

Diedrich, A., Stoeckl, N., Gurney, G. G., Esparon, M., & Pollnac, R. (2017). Social capital as a key determinant of perceived benefits of community‐based marine protected areas. Conservation Biology, 31(2), 311-321.

Dornan, M. (2020). Economic (in) security in the Pacific. In Mapping Security in the Pacific (pp. 30-40): Routledge.

Duncan, R. (2008). Cultural and economic tensions in Pacific Islands' futures. International journal of social economics.

East, A. J., & Dawes, L. A. (2009). Homegardening as a panacea: A case study of South Tarawa. Asia Pacific Viewpoint, 50(3), 338-352.

Eriksson, H., & Clarke, S. (2015). Chinese market responses to overexploitation of sharks and sea cucumbers. Biological Conservation, 184, 163-173.

Farrell, P., Thow, A. M., Wate, J. T., Nonga, N., Vatucawaqa, P., Brewer, T., . . . Reeve, E. (2020). COVID-19 and Pacific food system resilience: Opportunities to build a robust response. Food Security, 12(4), 783-791.

Finney, B., Howe, K. R., Irwin, G., Low, S., Neich, R., Salmond, A., ... & Sale, O. (2007). Vaka Moana. Voyages of the ancestors: the discovery and the settlement of the Pacific. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.

Folke, C., Biggs, R., Norström, A. V., Reyers, B., & Rockström, J. (2016). Social-ecological resilience and biosphere-based sustainability science. Ecology and Society, 21(3).

Graves, N. B., & Graves, T. D. (1978). The impact of modernisation on the personality of a Polynesian people. Human Organization, 115-135.

Grove, K., & Chandler, D. (2017). Introduction: resilience and the Anthropocene: the stakes of 'renaturalising'politics. Resilience, 5(2), 79-91.

Guell, C., Brown, C. R., Iese, V., Navunicagi, O., Wairiu, M., & Unwin, N. (2021). "We used to get food from the garden." Understanding changing practices of local food production and consumption in small island states. Social Science & Medicine, 284, 114214.

Haberkorn, G. (1989). Port Vila: Transit Station Or Final Stop?: Recent Developments in Ni-Vanuatu Population Mobility.

Higgins-Desbiolles, F. (2020). Socialising tourism for social and ecological justice after COVID-19. Tourism Geographies, 22(3), 610-623.

Higgins-Desbiolles, F., Carnicelli, S., Krolikowski, C., Wijesinghe, G., & Boluk, K. (2019). Degrowing tourism: Rethinking tourism. Journal of Sustainable Tourism.

Hobbis, S. K., & Hobbis, G. (2021). Leadership in absentia: Negotiating distance in centralised Solomon Islands. Oceania, 91(1), 47-63.

Holling, C. S., & Gunderson, L. H. (2002). Resilience and adaptive cycles. In: Panarchy: Understanding Transformations in Human and Natural Systems, 25-62.

Hviding, E. (1996). Guardians of Marovo Lagoon: practice, place, and politics in maritime Melanesia (Vol. 14): University of Hawaii Press.

Jones, P. (2016). The emergence of Pacific urban villages: urbanisation trends in the Pacific islands.

Jupiter, S., Mangubhai, S., & Kingsford, R. T. (2014). Conservation of biodiversity in the Pacific Islands of Oceania: challenges and opportunities. Pacific Conservation Biology, 20(2), 206-220.

Kavaliku, L. (2005). Culture and sustainable development in the Pacific. Culture and sustainable development in the Pacific, 22.

Keen, M., & Barbara, J. (2015). Pacific urbanisation: Changing times.

Kiddle, G. L. (2010). Contemporary urban squatting in Fiji: recent trends, intervention and a potential policy framework. Fijian Studies, 8(1), 83-97.

Kiddle, G. L. (2011). Informal Settlers, Perceived Security of Tenure and Housing Consolidation: Case Studies for Urban Fiji.

Kiddle, G. L., & Hay, I. (2017). Informal settlement upgrading: Lessons from Suva and Honiara. The development Bulletin(78).

Kiddle, G. L., McEvoy, D., Mitchell, D., Jones, P., & Mecartney, S. (2017). Unpacking the Pacific urban agenda: Resilience challenges and opportunities. Sustainability, 9(10), 1878.

Kirtsoglou, E., & Theodossopoulos, D. (2004). 'They are Taking Our Culture Away' Tourism and Culture Commodification in the Garifuna Community of Roatan. Critique of Anthropology, 24(2), 135-157.

Kittinger, J. N., Finkbeiner, E. M., Ban, N. C., Broad, K., Carr, M. H., Cinner, J. E., . . . Basurto, X. (2013). Emerging frontiers in social-ecological systems research for sustainability of small-scale fisheries. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 5(3-4), 352-357.

Komugabe-Dixson, A. F., de Ville, N. S., Trundle, A., & McEvoy, D. (2019). Environmental change, urbanisation, and socio-ecological resilience in the Pacific: Community narratives from Port Vila, Vanuatu. Ecosystem Services, 39, 100973.

Lasaqa, I. Q. (1983). The Fijian people before and after independence: Australian National University Press.

Leeuw, E. D., Stevenson, A., Jolley, G., McCarthy, S., & Martin, E. (2017). Healthy cities, urbanisation, and healthy islands: Oceania. In Healthy Cities (pp. 315-337). Springer, New York, NY.

Leweniqila, I., & Vunibola, S. (2020). Food security in COVID-19: Insights from indigenous Fijian communities. Oceania, 90(Suppl. 1), 81-88.

Linnekin, J. S (1983) 'Defining Tradition: Variations of the Hawaiian Identity', American

Ethnologist, v10 n2: 241-252

Lorbek, M., & Martinsen, M. (2015). Allotment garden dwellings: Exploring tradition and legal framework. Urbani izziv, 26, S98-S113.

Martin, K. (2013). The death of the big men and the rise of the big shots: Custom and conflict in East New Britain (Vol. 3): Berghahn Books.

McLennan, A. K. (2013). An ethnographic investigation of lifestyle change, living for the moment, and obesity emergence in Nauru. Oxford University, UK,

Meier, K. J., Favero, N., & Compton, M. (2016). Social Context, Management, and Organizational Performance: When human capital and social capital serve as substitutes. Public Management Review, 18(2), 258-277.

Meyer, M. A. (2018). Social capital in disaster research. Handbook of disaster research, 263-286.

Morales-Muñoz, H., Jha, S., Bonatti, M., Alff, H., Kurtenbach, S., & Sieber, S. (2020). Exploring connections—Environmental change, food security and violence as drivers of migration—A critical review of research. Sustainability, 12(14), 5702.

Naidu, V., & Matadradra, A. (2014). The Namara (Tiri) squatter settlement in Labasa: An in-depth study. SGDIA Working Series, Paper No, 1.

Nair, S. (1978). Population mobility from the rural areas of Fiji to the urban area of Suva.

Petrou, K., & Connell, J. (2017a). Food, morality and identity: Mobility, remittances and the translocal community in Paama, Vanuatu. Australian Geographer, 48(2), 219-234.

Petrou, K., & Connell, J. (2017b). Rural-urban migrants, translocal communities and the myth of return migration in Vanuatu: the case of Paama. Journal de la Société des Océanistes(144-145), 51-62.

Phillips, T., & Keen, M. (2016). Sharing the city: Urban growth and governance in Suva, Fiji.

Pollock, N. J. (2017). Diversification of foods and their values: Pacific foodscapes. Tides of innovation in Oceania: Value, materiality and place. Canberra Act: Australian Natl Univ, 261-293.

Reddy, M., Naidu, V., & Mohanty, M. (2003). The urban informal sector in Fiji results from a survey. Fijian Studies: A Journal of Contemporary Fiji, 1(1), 127-154.

Reed, J., Barlow, J., Carmenta, R., van Vianen, J., & Sunderland, T. (2019). Engaging multiple stakeholders to reconcile climate, conservation and development objectives in tropical landscapes. Biological Conservation, 238, 108229.

Regenvanu, R., & Geismar, H. (2011). Re-Imagining the Economy in Vanuatu: An Interview with Ralph Regenvanu. Made in Oceania: Social Movements, Cultural Heritage and the State in the Pacific, 31-50.

Rooney, M. N. (2019). Sharing what can be sold: Women Haus Maket vendors in Port Moresby's settlements. Oceania, 89(2), 154-167.

Rooney, M. N. (2021). " We Want Development": Land and Water (Dis) connections in Port Moresby, Urban Papua New Guinea. The Contemporary Pacific, 33(1), 1-30.

Rousseau, B., & Taylor, J. P. (2012). Kastom Ekonomi and the Subject of Self-Reliance. Differentiating Development: Beyond an Anthropology of Critique, 169.

Shedrawi, G., Harvey, E., McLean, D., Prince, J., Bellchambers, L., & Newman, S. (2014). Evaluation of the effect of closed areas on a unique and shallow water coral reef fish assemblage reveals complex responses. Coral Reefs, 33(3), 579-591.

Shuster, D. R. (1979). Urbanisation in the Pacific: A Tentative Study.

Sofer, M. (1988). Core–periphery structure in Fiji. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 6(1), 55-74.

Sofer, M. (1993). Uneven regional development and internal labor migration in Fiji. World Development, 21(2), 301-310.

Sterling, E., Ticktin, T., Morgan, T. K. K., Cullman, G., Alvira, D., Andrade, P., . . . Caillon, S. (2017). Culturally grounded indicators of resilience in social-ecological systems. Environment and Society, 8(1), 63-95.

Stone-Jovicich, S., Goldstein, B. E., Brown, K., Plummer, R., & Olsson, P. (2018). Expanding the contribution of the social sciences to social-ecological resilience research. Ecology and Society, 23(1).

Stronge, D., Scheyvens, R., & Banks, G. (2020). Donor approaches to food security in the Pacific: Sustainable development goal 2 and the need for more inclusive agricultural development. Asia Pacific Viewpoint, 61(1), 102-117.

Thaman, R. R. (1995). Urban food gardening in the Pacific Islands: A basis for food security in rapidly urbanising small-island states. Habitat International, 19(2), 209-224.

Thaman, R. R., Elevitch, C., & Kennedy, J. (2006). Urban and homegarden agroforestry in the Pacific Islands: current status and future prospects. In Tropical homegardens (pp. 25-41): Springer.

Tuler, S. P., Webler, T., & Polsky, C. (2013). A rapid impact and vulnerability assessment approach for commercial fisheries management. Ocean & Coastal Management, 71, 131-140.

Utuk, I. O., & Daniel, E. E. (2015). Land degradation: a threat to food security: a global assessment. J Environ Earth Sci, 5(8), 13-21.

Vargas-Lundius, R., Lanly, G., Villarreal, M., & Osorio, M. (2008). International migration, remittances and rural development.

Vasey, D. E. (1985). Household gardens and their niche in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. Food and Nutrition Bulletin, 7(3), 1-7.

Walsh, A. C. (1978). The urban squatter question: squatting, housing and urbanisation in Suva, Fiji: a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Geography at Massey University. Massey University,

Watt, L. (2020). Fijian infrastructural citizenship: spaces of electricity sharing and informal power grids in an informal settlement. Cogent Social Sciences, 6(1), 1719568.

Westoby, P., & Brown, M. A. (2007). Peaceful community development in Vanuatu: a reflection on the Vanuatu kastom governance partnership. Journal of Peacebuilding & Development, 3(3), 77-81.

Wiseman, C. V., Sunday, S. R., & Becker, A. E. (2005). Impact of the media on adolescent body image. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics, 14(3), 453-471.

Yamaguchi, A. (2013). Influences of social capital on health and wellbeing from qualitative approach. Global journal of health science, 5(5), 153.

Zezza, A., Carletto, C., Davis, B., & Winters, P. (2011). Assessing the impact of migration on food and nutrition security. Food Policy, 36(1), 1-6.




How to Cite

Watt, L., de Waegh, R., & Watt, G. (2022). Pathways for Urban Food Security in the Pacific: Situating the Urban Informal Food Sector in the Context of Urbanisation and Globalisation. Journal of Resilient Economies (ISSN: 2653-1917), 2(1).