The agriculture sector in the Caribbean and the Pacific have many similarities which has been a recurring theme during the Caribbean Week of Agriculture (CWA).
However, it appears that the Caribbean’s agriculture sector has advanced more over the years in comparison to the Pacific. A number of the comments provided by delegates from Samoa, Vanuatu, and Fiji indicated that the Pacific can learn a lot of positive lessons from the Caribbean.
Dr. Malcolm Hazelman (Seumanufata) and Dr. Faletoi Tuilaepa Suavi of Samoa expressed keen interest in the Caribbean’s agritourism and agribusiness initiatives.
This was highlighted during the Market Place & Trade Show evening at Camana Bay. Instead of going to purchase produce direct from the farm, the Market Place provided a one-stop shop and platform where a variety of value-added products were showcased.
This included the use of Cassava, Sweet Potato, and Breadfruit to produce flour, bread, and confectionery goods.
Seumanufata & Dr. Faletoi both stated that the innovative processes and “the amazing packaging” used to provide such products were very impressive.
In addition, Dr. Faletoi stressed the importance of value chain approaches starting from pre-production up to the final product on shelves and tables. He believes that the agriculture sector will not be sustainable without the manufacturing sector.
This was evident at CWA and was not only discussed at sessions but observed during the farm day tours around Grand Cayman Island. Seumanufata who is also the Chairman for the Pacific Island Rural Advisory Service PIRAS) adds on that the high use of organic fertilisers such as seaweed in the Caribbean is very interesting and could be a cost effective measure for the Pacific to consider.
As a whole, both agreed that the underlying key points for them were significant need for partnerships, collaboration, consistency, and execution.
She does acknowledge the work that PIFON is already doing and more recently through the Pacific Breadfruit Roundtable where they discussed the significant contribution Breadfruit can make to the Pacific region.
She is happy that there will be a link with Caribbean counterparts to expand knowledge and work on this.
Additionally, she is aware of the need for financial literacy for farmer organisations in the Pacific and therefore has managed to establish a relationship with FAST (Finance Alliance for Sustainable Trade which is based in Canada) to create further progress on this front.
On top of Lavinia’s productive time at CWA, she mentions that the Pacific at its first ever Pacific Week of Agriculture (in 2017) should adopt how CWA runs parallel sessions.
Neil Netaf (first political advisor for the Ministry of Agriculture) from Vanuatu had to absorb as much as he possibly could during CWA. This is because Vanuatu is hosting the Pacific’s first ever week of Agriculture (PWA) next year.
Despite every bit of the week providing great lessons, Neil believed the most useful was understanding the logistics of CWA, maintaining support from CTA, CARICOM, FAO, the Cayman Islands Government, and other organisations keen to be part of PWA.
He was particularly impressed with how the event was politically driven and all governments from the respective countries of the Caribbean were committed. He believes this was the main aspect of CWA and wishes the same to happen for the Pacific.
Despite many issues and ongoing problems surfaced at CWA for the Caribbean, they should be proud of how far their agriculture sector has come.
All Pacific delegates have a whole lot of key lessons to take back to their respective islands. During my interviews and conversations with my fellow Pacific representatives, I asked if there was any last thing they wanted to add or see more of at PWA.
They positively responded and added that they wished for more involvement of the youth and social media.
They were surprised by how well versed the Caribbean youth was and the impact social media has.
As a passionate and proud daughter of the Pacific, I echo all the above and kindly urge all Pacific Island Countries to not only take lessons from CWA but to apply and action them in our region.
- capacity development
- lessons learned
- project management