The inaugural farmer’s forum is not just talk.
On Wednesday, farmers from across the Pacific sat down with local farmers to exchange ideas and skills on issues ranging from nutrition to seed banking.
The morning was spent rotating groups of local farmers between guests from Tonga, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste and the Solomon Islands: members of the Pacific Island Farmers Organisation Network (P.I.F.O.N.).
The guests are farmers whose achievements are featured in the new P.I.F.O.N. publication: Impact Stories, which highlights the ways farmer organisations have joined together with donors and governments to implement meaningful agriculture projects.
Reading those impact stories is one thing, but having a chance to meet the people in person is quite another.
Program Manager at P.I.F.O.N., Lavinia Kaumaitotoya said with these discussions, they can often be so engaging the facilitator needs to get quite pushy to get the groups to rotate to the next speaker.
Groups of five or six farmers will sit with each guest to hear their story, learn from them but also share their own experiences.
“It really is an intimate discussion going on between the farmers and their participants,” she said.
Sharing information this way is key to tapping into the broad marketplace available to strong farmers.
“One of the reasons P.I.F.O.N. was formed was that we found out there is a big market out there, and in order to get into that market you need to learn and share.”
The market is too big for all Pacific farmers to meet, she said. So farmers may as well work together.
Ms. Kaumaitotoya said unfortunately that market can drive farmers to hesitate before sharing their knowledge with people they consider their competition.
She said for lone farmers, it can be tough and a struggle, but when united, farmers can learn a lot from each other.
“You have the power to learn and exchange technical information, learn how to grow a crop in the right way so you can get a better yield.”
“Once you get a very good crop, and very good yields, then people start taking notice of you.”
Through joining P.I.F.O.N., Ms. Kaumaitotoya said she has learned the skills to start a coconut farm.
By visiting farms, like the site visits the farmer’s forum conducted on Tuesday, she was able to ask farmers about their work and apply those lessons to her own land.