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OP32 The impact of COVID-19 on local food production and food security in a small island developing state: a mixed method study
  1. Eden Augustus1,
  2. Madhuvanti Murphy2,
  3. Cornelia Guell3,
  4. Simon Anderson2,4,
  5. Nigel Unwin3,5
  1. 1The Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados
  2. 2The George Alleyne Chronic Disease Research Centre, University of the West Indies. Barbados
  3. 3European Centre for Environment and Human Health. University of Exeter, Truro. UK
  4. 4Glasgow Caribbean Centre for Development Research, University of the West Indies, Barbados
  5. 5MRC Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge, UK


Background Complex factors drive inconsistent access to safe and nutritious food among Small Island Developing States (SIDS), including geographic isolation, limited natural resources, urbanisation, and extreme weather events, leading to decreasing food production and increasing reliance on food imports. However, this may have been impacted by recent COVID-19 related restrictions. Our study aims to assess the impact of COVID-19 on food production and food security in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), a middle-income SIDS.

Methods We conducted a mixed-methods cross-sectional study between September 2021 and February 2022 with consenting adults (>=18) from 50 households within rural areas, participating in a backyard garden intervention. Survey tools were the adapted version of the Caribbean COVID-19 Food Security & Livelihoods Impact Survey and the COVID-19 version of the Food Insecurity Experience Scale Survey Module for individual respondents. The qualitative component aimed to gain in-depth and contextual insight on the impact of COVID-19 on own food production. Open-ended interviews were undertaken with one family member of 10 of the 50 intervention families, over a six-month period. Qualitative data were recorded, transcribed, and coded using ATLAS-ti to facilitate thematic analysis.

Results Ninety-three participants completed the survey. Most participants were 50–69 years old, female, completed a primary school level education, resided in a household of > four members, and were self-employed. Almost half of the participants were unable to secure their necessities during the pandemic with more than a third changing their main food source. Own food production as the main food source decreased from 46% to 37%. Engagement in farming and backyard gardening decreased by 8% from 93%. Using FAO standards, 66% of participants were classified as moderately or severely food insecure and more than half of the participants attributed these challenges to the pandemic. The qualitative data highlighted that while own food production was perceived as a means for household food security, lower importation and the consequent increased cost of food supplies impacted most. Social distancing and other restrictions hampered social networking and shared labour activities.

Conclusion At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, an assumption was that local food systems would be strengthened, through self-sufficiency farming. Here, in this small study, it appears that one impact of the pandemic is an increased burden to engage in local food production with findings that are similar to outcomes observed in Pacific SIDS and with FAO data.

  • Small Island Developing States
  • COVID-19
  • food security

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