The 2nd Pacific Agribusiness Forum begins with a focus on women as active agents and key implementers in all stages of the agri-chain. It was a full Samoan day well spent at the 2nd Pacific Agribusiness Forum. The Forum opened this morning with the launch of the Pacific Women in Agribusiness project, followed by sessions focusing on key areas of importance, challenges and opportunities for women in agribusiness across the Pacific.
The day concluded with a tour of an organic farm in Malua and a live cooking class by celebrity chef Robert Oliver at the Australia-Pacific Technical College (APTC) kitchen.
After CTA's Manager and Project Leader on Regional Trade, Isolina Boto, and PIPSO'S CEO, Mereia Volavola, formally welcomed the nearly 100 participants, Gillian Stewart from Women in Business Development (WIBDI) opened the floor talking about the core of WIBDI's work, and what support is needed in moving Samoan women in agribusiness forward. Carolyn Ernst, Chair of Vanuatu's Livestock Working Group and member of the Vanuatu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, addressed the forum next. She highlighted the challenges associated with employing mostly women in any business, and how the strong support from families, villages, husbands and friends are key to a woman in business' success. Janet Sape, Executive Director of Papua New Guinea's Women in Business, gave everyone an insight to how PNG's first Women's Bank finally received a licence two years ago amid multiple roadblocks faced in a country riddled with land issues, domestic problems and other difficulties.
The forum continued with a panel discussion on linking agribusiness to tourism markets. Sonja Hunter, CEO of the Samoa Tourism Authority (STA), took to the stage to give Samoa's perspective on how linking agriculture to tourism benefits women in business. She emphasised that women are active agents and are the main implementors in all areas. Ena Harvey, an agritourism expert from Barbados representing the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), gave an inspiring presentation on the experience of Caribbean women in agritourism. From cassava bread bakers in St Lucia to a field-to-fork business in the Bahamas to the traditional dancers of cocoa in Grenada, we heard the stories of women involved in all stages of the agri-chain who add value to indigenous products and shine in their communities as champions of women in agribusiness everywhere.
The last sit-in sessions were led by Dr Asif Chida, an inclusive-growth specialist from the United Nations Development Programme Pacific Centre, who said "The informal economy makes about 50% of the GDP [in the Pacific] yet this is often not acknowledged nor recognised. Our local governments and town councils are still gender-blind and this needs to be addressed to make women truly economically empowered." Sakiusa Tubuna, the Sub-Regional Coordinator for the Pacific Asia and the Pacific Division for the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), followed, outlining IFAD's current portfolio which includes support for all countries in the Pacific. The final session was wrapped up first by Isolina Boto of CTA, who discussed the significance of policy setting and CTA's main approach of always strengthening local communities with projects that benefit them, and then by Mereia Volavola of PIPSO with details on setting up a platform for women in agribusiness and ensuring that we take real action for all forum outcomes.
It was an exciting afternoon for all participants who visited WIBDI's organic farm in Malua where cacao roasting was demonstrated, desiccated coconut was processed and soap-making was presented. To end the day, the two full buses departed from the farm to the APTC kitchen to check out Robert Oliver's live cooking class which was part of the forum's Chef's training programme that ran parallel with the Women in Agribusiness sessions. And what a sneak peek it was to the sumptuous world-class contemporary island cuisine that is to be expected at the Chefs for Development dinner taking place tomorrow night.
Until then, Fa'afetai!