Port Vila, – Global agricultural leaders will gather in Vanuatu next week for the inaugural Pacific Week of Agriculture (PWA 2017). Vanuatu is hosting the one-week event from 16 to 20 October in partnership with the Pacific Community (SPC) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. The intensive week of meetings will see international and regional participants explore innovations, discuss challenges and look for ways to protect and expand agriculture in the Pacific. With support from the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), over 30 participants from the Caribbean, Africa and other Pacific Island countries are expected to take part in the event.
Activities will conclude on Vanuatu’s Iririki Island, with two major regional agriculture forums - The Special Session of the Heads of Agriculture and Forestry (HOAFs) on 19 October, and the Ministers of Agriculture and Forestry (MOAFs) meeting on 20 October. At the MOAF meeting, ministers 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 known as the Global Action Programme on Food Security and Nutrition for SIDS, will be introduced.
Vanuatu’s Minister for Agriculture, Matai Seremaiah Nawalu highlighted the Government of Vanuatu’s goal for PWA 2017 of elevating the awareness of agriculture to its rightful place as a major driver of Pacific economies. “I believe that PWA 2017 can provide the appropriate platform for regional collaboration, knowledge sharing and partnership,” said Minister Nawalu. “We certainly look forward to hearing from the experiences of other Pacific nations and from our Caribbean colleagues who face very similar challenges.”
Minister Nawalu also acknowledged recent events in Ambae, which have resulted in the displacement of well over 10,000 people due to volcanic activity. “Recent events perfectly demonstrate the challenges that face our peoples. The situation on Ambae is an example of our need to explore ideas and expand conversations beyond Vanuatu borders to ensure our country and our region remain global examples of resilient communities.”
Supporting the Minister’s sentiments, SPC’s Deputy Director General, Dr Audrey Aumua stated that, “SPC is grateful to its valued member, the Government of Vanuatu and commends its leadership in the coordination of the first ever Pacific Week of Agriculture, particularly in the wake of recent events on Ambae. We are pleased to support this historic initiative given serious challenges faced by our member countries in the pursuit of food and nutrition security”.
Maria Helena Semedo, FAO Deputy Director-General, Coordinator for Natural Resources, expressed her appreciation for the Government of Vanuatu for hosting the event, particularly in light of the situation in Ambae. Ms Semedo highlighted that “This first ever PWA provided an opportunity for partners across the Pacific to coordinate in moving agriculture, forestry and fisheries forward in line with the Global Action Programme for Food Security and Nutrition for Small Island Developing States, the S.A.M.O.A Pathway and other key SIDs related initiatives.”
PWA 2017 will be preceded by an agri-tourism and trade festival, alongside a showcase of side events and exhibitions by various partners including SPC (and SPC implemented projects, EU funded Pacific Agriculture Policy Project and the Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community); FAO; the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation; the International Fund for Agricultural Development; Pacific Islands Private Sector Organization; South Pacific Tourism Organization; Pacific Islands Farmers Organization Network; Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade supported by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research and its Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access program; New Zealand’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade and the World Bank.
The showcase of side events will include the following thematic areas: Youth entrepreneurship in the Pacific and farmers’ knowledge exchange; Pacific Women in Agriculture Research and Development; The Role of Farmer Organizations in Climate Change Adaptation; The GAP or Global Action Programme on Food and Nutrition Security in Small-Island Developing States; Regional Strategies and Partnerships for Agricultural research; and Market linkages for farmers.