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Opportunities for Pacific agri-tourism

©Alison and Don

Monday, 19 March 2018 Updated on Friday, 11 May 2018

If you heard the word ‘agritourism’ five years ago, you would probably have wondered what it was. Now, agritourism – linking food production with the tourist industry – is firmly on the policymaking agenda in the Pacific and Caribbean. This owes much to the pioneering work of CTA and its regional partners.

Agritourism was the key theme at the inaugural Pacific Week of Agriculture (PWA), an event which CTA had championed for several years to replicate the success of the Caribbean Week of Agriculture. The PWA took place in Vanuatu in October 2017, attracting ministers of agriculture, senior government officials, farmers, fisherfolk and private sector organisations, as well as regional and international development agencies. It was organised by the government of Vanuatu in collaboration with the South Pacific Commission (SPC) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

“We are very happy with our engagement on agritourism policy setting in the Pacific and it has led to significant changes in promoting local products and supporting businesses along the value chain,” says Isolina Boto, who leads CTA’s work on agritourism. Agritourism offers small island states an opportunity to reduce food imports, increase domestic production and promote food that is more nutritious.

The PWA concluded with a regional meeting of Pacific agricultural ministers. For the first time, they adopted a set of recommendations on agritourism development. Among other things, these called for greater policy, market and technical support to strengthen links between agriculture, tourism and other sectors. The recommendations also highlighted the important opportunities in the Pacific for adding value, creating jobs and generating wealth. Shortly after the PWA, the 27th South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) Council of Tourism Ministers adopted its own recommendations on agritourism. This represented a significant breakthrough, as tourist ministers had never placed agriculture on their agenda before.

CTA and its partners organised three events during the PWA. The first focused on “New opportunities in the agritourism sector in the Pacific”. This provided an opportunity for Vanuatu and Samoa – two of the trailblazers in the field – to share their experiences of agritourism. Participants also heard from representatives of a wide range of organisations. “The linkage between agriculture and tourism can open up new market opportunities, and serve as a chance for farmers and fishers to showcase their culture,” said Ron Hartman, International Fund for Agricultural Development’s (IFAD) country director for Indonesia and the Pacific.

Chris Cocker, the chief executive of SPTO, which organised the event in partnership with CTA, IFAD and the Pacific Islands Private Sector Organization (PIPSO), called for greater innovation in the use of local products in the tourism sector, as well as less reliance on imported goods. “A lot of tourists are looking for an authentic experience that teaches them about the culture they are visiting,” he said. That means local dishes made by local chefs from local produce.

Creating the right enabling environment has been at the heart of the Agritourism Policy Setting Workshops supported by CTA and its partners. The first was held in Vanuatu in October 2016, the second in Samoa in December 2016 and the third in the Solomon Islands during 2017. These workshops led to concrete policy measures and major fundraising projects. Fiji and Tonga are planning to hold their own policy setting workshops in early 2018.

The workshops are helping to develop a framework which ensures that key ministries – including those for agriculture, tourism, trade and health – work closely with the private sector to promote agritourism. In Samoa, for example, policymakers will promote greater use of not just local food products, but also handicrafts and services. Other initiatives include setting up organic markets, training chefs to use local foods and providing awards to hotels and restaurants which source their raw materials from local farmers.

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