Pacific Week of Agriculture set for grand opening in Vanuatu

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”.