A multi-stakeholder communiqué calling for policy actions in nutrition, finance, ICT and weather risk insurance has been accepted for review by Pacific Ministers of Agriculture and Forestry who attended the 2nd Pacific Week of Agriculture (PWA), which was held from September 30 to October 4 in Apia, Samoa. Some 75 delegates representing officials from the Ministries of Agriculture, Fisheries and Health, as well as community-based and farmers’ organisations, agri-enterprises, academia, banks, development partners and technology service providers from several Pacific Island States participated in a series of workshops and PWA side events, which explored lessons learned from the multi-country four-year Innov4AgPacific project.
The Innov4AgPacific project is led by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and co-funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), with the Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation (PIPSO) as a partner.
Now in its final year, it has worked with Pacific stakeholders in Fiji, Kiribati, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu to develop inclusive agribusiness models and nutrition-sensitive value chains through a range of interwoven approaches, all designed to increase rural incomes and the availability of and access to affordable nutritious and healthy foods.
The Pacific Islands are grappling with one of the highest incidences of non-communicable diseases in the world, driven by a combination of declining agricultural production, the effects of climate change, and increased dependency on imported processed foods. Health challenges include obesity, hypertension and diabetes, which co-exist alongside poverty and undernutrition.
Based on a careful analysis of the national and regional context, the major project interventions have included an Innovation Grant Facility (IGF), which has awarded small grants to 23 agro-based small and medium enterprises (SMEs); a Community Seed Fund, which extended grants to 8 civil society organisations seeking to improve household nutrition at community level; the development of national and regional action and investment plans for local food crops and fisheries value chain development; and building capacity of producer groups, to make them more professional and business oriented.
The lessons from the Innov4AgPacific PWA workshops and side events organized in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF), Samoa and the Development Bank of Samoa (DBS) showed that integrated approaches can make a significant contribution to combatting the health, nutrition and agriculture challenges in the targeted countries.
“Innovative instruments are needed to enhance access to technical and financial services, especially in rural areas. Financial institutions, government ministries, development partners and the private sector must work more closely together to offer new and innovative products to support farming communities and agro-enterprises to prosper,” said Judith Francis, Senior Programme Coordinator of Science and Technology Policy at CTA and leader of the Innov4AgPacific project. “We have seen how Pacific SMEs and civil society organisations have used the grant funds to bring about changes and the direct links to agriculture.”
The theme throughout the week of activities was forging partnerships and sharing knowledge, both during the event itself and as a strategy for sustaining initiatives into the future. As a result of the PWA networking opportunities, and participation in the Innov4AgPacific writeshop – which showed agripreneurs, civil society organisations and public sector officials how to draw up convincing integrated business plans as well as pitch to investors – CTA-sponsored delegates from Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Tonga and the Solomon Islands have reported on the contacts made and future plans.
A participant from the Solomon Islands, Agnes Pilopaso, owner of Tupaghotua Cocoa Plantation, which exports cocoa to Asia, Australia, Canada, Fiji, New Zealand and the United States, met Samoan businessman Tagaloa Eddie Wilson, founder of Wilex Samoa, who shared his experiences penetrating export markets. Pilopaso, now 30 years-old, had left school aged 15 after her parents could no longer pay the fees to continue her education, and started work on the family’s cocoa farm. Her company had also won an Innov4AgPacific innovation grant, which has been used to train cocoa farmers to improve their production techniques.
In summing up her experience at the PWA, Pilopaso said: “I had wanted to add value to my cocoa beans by turning them into cocoa powder and cocoa butter, but I didn’t know how to go about it. I don’t have the money to build a factory, and I didn’t know how to make a business plan. Now I have been asked to send a sample of my product to the Samoan exporter, and it seems he is interested in taking my product and in us working together. For me, coming to the PWA has been so exciting and so valuable. If I had stayed at home, I would never have made this contact.”
Reporting similar benefits in making new business connections, Howard Politini, Immediate Past Chair, PIPSO, Fiji said: “My advocacy offerings in the region has been boosted astronomically and the future looks fertile”.
When reflecting on the development of the integrated business plans and lessons from the multi-donor round table, Lafaele Enoka, Consultant, Samoa said that his main take home message is that: “The will to win is not nearly so important as the will to prepare to win. People must be willing to put in the hard work over time and this is far more rare as said by Vince Lombardi.”
Among other proposals made in the communiqué submitted to Pacific Ministers, the partners called for; standardizing of registration procedures for agro-based SMEs to reduce costs for doing business, and more innovative funding mechanisms to scale up promising community agriculture and health initiatives, as well as support for SMEs and farmer organisations to improve value chain and agri-business performance.
They committed to continuing to work together and strengthening multi-stakeholder and cross-sectoral alliances at national and regional level, with a view to finalising the integrated investment plans to mobilise funding to implement national and regional priority actions for building resilience in Pacific agri-food systems and addressing the epidemic of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) facing Pacific Island States. The partners confirmed their intention to report on the progress made when they meet at the next Pacific Week of Agriculture, due to be held in 2021.
“We need to ensure that peoples diets are diversified, and access and availability is ensured – one aspect of it is going back to local crops” said Kundhavi Kadiresan, Assistant Director-General and FAO Regional Representative for Asia & the Pacific.
In terms of what was achieved from the PWA, Samoa Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries/Chairman of the PWA Organising Committee, Hon Lopaoó Natanielu Muá, said,“Our 2nd PWA held in Samoa reminds us of the work that we all need to do for the development of our Pacific agriculture and forestry systems and services for the desired benefits of our Pacific communities. With our theme “Enhanced Partnerships for Sustainable Agriculture and Forestry Systems in the Pacific”, it was indeed a privilege for me to be part of our PWA and all the constructive dialogue that took place, which is a testament that the only way we can progress with our development efforts is through partnerships. The discussions during our joint Ministers of Agriculture and Forestry (MOAF) meeting brought about the need for future collaboration in the areas of Nutrition-Sensitive Food Systems in the Pacific Islands, the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA) in the Pacific in addressing Climate Change, the Pacific Activities for the International Year of Plant and Health – 2020, and developing a Strategic and Coordinated Platform for future PWA Events. The outcomes from the Heads of Agriculture and Forestry Services (HOAFS) meeting further require partnerships from all counterparts, to support our collective efforts in ensuring that what we do today, will benefit our Pacific communities tomorrow. Individually, we go fast; together, we go far. I would also like to make special mention and acknowledge our Side Event organisers from our regional and international development partners, who invested a lot of resources to fund the participation of our regional and international experts and stakeholders, that shared their knowledge and experiences in relevant issues relating to the development and management of our agriculture and forestry systems and services. I encourage you all to share with our Pacific Ministers and Heads of Agriculture and Forestry Services, the outcome reports from your side events, given their relevance to the progression of our partnerships and collective efforts. I look forward to further strengthening our partnerships that we have established during the 3rd PWA in 2021 in Fiji.”
Download the communiqué here