Regional collaboration, knowledge sharing and partnership are the cornerstones of the inaugural Pacific Week of Agriculture (PWA) being held in Vanuatu this week from the 16-20th October 2017. Regional and international agricultural leaders will explore innovations, discuss challenges and look for ways to protect and expand agriculture in the Pacific.
“The goal of the PWA 2017 is to elevate awareness of agriculture amongst global agricultural leaders and international and regional participants to its rightful place as a major driver of Pacific economies,” emphasises Matai Seremaia Nawalu, Vanuatu Minister for Agriculture whose country is hosting the 1-week event. “I believe that PWA 2017 can provide the appropriate platform for regional collaboration, knowledge sharing and partnership,” Minister Nawalu continues. “We certainly look forward to hearing from the experiences of other Pacific nations and from our Caribbean colleagues who face very similar challenges.”
With the overall theme of Pacific CROPs: Culture, Resilience, Opportunities, Products, Sustainability, the PWA will examine diverse approaches to sustainable development for the region, including strengthening agrifood and nutrition systems, promoting agritourism and other forms of agribusiness, encouraging climate-smart agriculture and stimulating finance for agriculture, ICT for agriculture and value chain development.
Promoting agritourism is a key objective for the Vanuatu Government, which declared 2017 as the ‘Year of Agritourism’. Ministries have been working together to develop an agritourism strategy and a dedicated agritourism and trade festival will precede the PWA. The Vanuatu Government is also working to promote the consumption of healthy, locally-grown food to try and decrease the incidence of diseases like diabetes, which is an increasing problem throughout the region.
PWA activities will conclude with two major regional agriculture forums. On 19 October, the Special Session of the Heads of Agriculture and Forestry will aim to: re-energise engagement and partnerships with stakeholders; share information on progress and results of recent and current action; and establish and highlight new initiatives and emerging partnerships.
On 20 October, the Ministers of Agriculture and Forestry are expected to endorse the new FAO five-year plan for its 14 Pacific Island member countries and territories. At the same meeting, a landmark initiative for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) known as the Global Action Programme on Food Security and Nutrition for SIDS, will be introduced.
“A strong agrifood sector is essential for job creation, economic growth and trade and for combatting non-communicable diseases and micronutrient deficiency in the Pacific,” says Michael Hailu, Director of CTA, which will be hosting three side events: a workshop on promoting nutritious food systems; a high-level panel discussion on youth agri-entrepreneurship and a discussion on new opportunities in the agritourism sector.
With support from CTA, participants from the Caribbean Islands, Africa and other Pacific Island countries are attending the event to exchange ideas on innovations and to share their knowledge of the similar challenges they face as small island states. “Knowledge sharing is important and learning from each other is of great value,” states Minister Nawalu.