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Commonwealth Pathways for Tackling Climate Change- the Fiji Story

Innovation to Tackle Food Insecurity

The Commonwealth Chamber of Commerce invites you to join our webinar with Smart Farms Fiji to discuss the importance of sustainable farming models to tackle the global crisis of food insecurity.

This online event will take place on Zoom on 13 February at 4 pm HKT / 8 pm FJT.

About the Event

As of 2022, 349 million citizens spanning 80 countries are facing extreme food insecurity and are living in famine-like conditions, while 2.3 billion people, comprising approximately 30% of the world population, are currently grappling with moderate to acute food insecurity. Compared to 2021, that roughly translates to a 10% increase in global vulnerability to food insecurity. This has resulted in critical undernourishment, particularly in the youth as studies showcase that nearly 22% of children below the age of five are struggling with stunted growth and low weight due to chronic lack of nutrition. Causes for such alarming rates of malnourishment can be attributed to several factors including the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the rising use and price of harmful artificial fertilisers, as well as international conflicts and the consequent disruptions in the global food supply chains.

Fiji, though abundant in staple crops including cassava, yams, breadfruit and other root vegetables as well as seasonal fruits such as mangoes, pineapples and papayas, the predominant crop that is processed and manufactured is sugarcane and other varieties of fruits and vegetables have to be imported with some trade estimates suggesting Fiji spends approximately US$8 million annually to import fresh fruits and vegetables not found locally. While quantity of food may not be an issue for the island nation considering its low score of 9.2 on the 2022 Global Hunger Index, the real challenge they face is that of nutrition and quality of food. According to the World Bank and Global Nutrition Report, almost 10% of the Fijian population is undernourished and 40% of children under the age of 15 suffer from malnourishment. At the same time, another challenge is the fact that 67% of the population is obese due to overconsumption of foods high in sugar and fats and underutilisation of fresh fruits and produce. With a staggeringly high poverty rate of 49.4%, the citizens cite steep food prices and unemployment as the main reasons for their lack of access to nutritious food; conditions have undoubtedly worsened due to the economic impact of COVID-19 and global supply chain disruptions.

This online event is a special edition programme. As the first event of the year 2023, this webinar will reflect what has been proclaimed by the Commonwealth nations as the “Year of Youth” and a dedication to youth-led action for sustainable and inclusive post-COVID economic development. Join us for this special occasion as we sit in conversation with Rinesh Sharma, Founder of the Smart Farms Fiji initiative and the youngest member of the Fiji Parliament, to discuss how hydroponic farming, also known as vertical farming, may be the solution needed to provide steady, sustainable and affordable nutritious produce to Fijian families. We will discuss how, by providing portable in-home hydroponic farming kits and providing educational classes on the importance of food security and nutrition, Smart Farms Fiji is paving a new path for food security and access to healthy agricultural products that will benefit Fiji as well as the Commonwealth, as a replicable model that can be implemented in other member states.


Rinesh Sharma

Rinesh Sharma

Founder of Smart Farms Fiji and Member of Parliament (Fiji)

Upon graduating from the Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University with a Bachelor’s in Computer Science and Engineering in 2018, Rinesh began to develop Smart Farms Fiji in November of the same year. Having experienced the lack of access to nutritious produce during his childhood and subsequently the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on prices and availability of food, Rinesh conceptualized a large-scale system of hydroponic farming as a means to grow reliable and quick harvests of quality produce for localised access. More recently, he and his team have curated an “at-home hydroponic kit” containing tools to set up the farm and 15 seedlings of vegetables and fruits along with a step-by-step guide that will allow anyone to successfully manage the home farm.

The Smart Farms Fiji initiative has won numerous awards and secured substantial funding since inception; in 2018, a $15,000 grant from the local Fiji government was granted to the entrepreneur to invest and incorporate hydroponic systems into larger commercial farms across Fiji. The project also won the Youth COLAB challenge organised by UNDP Asia in 2018 and also received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and One Young World in 2020 largely for the project’s significance in alleviating the impact of COVID-19 on the nation.

Additionally, he has won the Prime Minister’s International Business Award for Young Entreprepreneur 2018 and the Commonwealth Youth Award for Excellence in Development in 2020. Not only was he recognised under the Fiji’s 20 under 30 Changemakers initiative in 2020, he was also the nation’s official representative during the Young Pacific Summit 2020. In 2021, he was nominated for the Forbes 30 under 30 Asia list.


Julia Charlton; Chairman, Commonwealth Chamber of Commerce

Julia is the Chairman of the Commonwealth Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong. She is the founding and managing partner of Charltons, an award-winning Hong Kong corporate finance law firm. Julia is admitted as a solicitor in Hong Kong, England, Wales and the BVI. She practises in the field of corporate finance, including M&A, private equity, securities, virtual assets and funds.

Julia has extensive experience in venture capital as well as blockchain, fintech and cryptocurrency. Her capital markets fund raising experience extends from startups to major IPOs on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.