Samoa has launched its Agriculture Policy Bank – essentially an ‘e-library’ which serves as a one-stop shop for information relating to the Pacific Island country’s agriculture policies and regulations.
The Agriculture Policy Banks are an initiative of the European Union (E.U) supported Intra-A.C.P Pacific Agriculture Policy Project (P.A.P.P), implemented by the Pacific Community (S.P.C), and are hosted on S.P.C’s Pacific Agriculture and Forestry Policy Network (P.A.F.P.Net) portal.
In launching the Policy Bank, Samoa’s Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, the Laaulialemalietoa Leuatea Schmidt, noted the importance these documents in one place and accessible to the public.
“The Policy Bank is an important tool to assist us in raising awareness and promoting our agriculture policy, particularly to the farmers,” he said.
“Now farmers have access to mobile phones and internet so they can access this information, and use them as a pathway for change – raising the status of farmers within the community, and also changing the mindset from old methods to new.”
The Agriculture Policy Bank was launched in front of an audience comprising farmers, youths, entrepreneurs, development partners and government officials, and the Minister thanked S.P.C and the European Union for the support provided in introducing the Agriculture Policy Bank to Samoa.
The European Union Ambassador to Samoa and the Pacific, Andrew Jacobs said, “The EU is very proud to support this important initiative for agricultural development in Samoa.
The Policy Bank will provide easy access to key sector and sub-sector policies, plans and strategies, including summaries translated into English and Samoan, making these documents easily available for all stakeholders across Samoa and the world. It will above all make a big difference for farmers in Samoa, providing opportunities and improving livelihoods.’’
The Policy Bank launch is part of the annual National Agriculture Show, organised by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (M.A.F) to showcase the importance of the agriculture sector to Samoa and highlight the achievements of farmers and the best produce from across Upolu.
M.A.F’s Assistant Chief Executive, Dr. Faletoi Suavi, said “the Agriculture Policy Bank will be closely monitored and regularly updated by the Sector Coordination Unit, to support the development of evidence-based policies and assist in the implementation of the Agriculture Sector Plan for the next five years.” Dr. Suavi stressed the important role of information sharing using the Policy Bank, where countries can have access to policies and sector plans, not only for Samoa but for sharing with other Pacific countries.
S.P.C’s Pacific Agriculture Policy Project (P.A.P.P) Policy Research Officer, Cheryl Thomas, said supporting M.A.F in the development of this Policy Bank is part of a programme of work by the Pacific Agriculture Policy Project, and the wider S.P.C Land Resources Division, to strengthen regional agricultural development strategy across the region.”
“National agriculture policies are increasingly being used by donors and development partners to guide their investments in the sector, and making these documents readily available is an important step towards improving development outcomes for our farmers,” Ms. Thomas said. Samoa is the fourth country in the Pacific to launch an Agriculture Policy Bank, preceded by Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Tonga.
Ms. Thomas confirmed similar agriculture policy banks are planned for other Pacific A.C.P countries, including Timor-Leste.
“The Samoa Agriculture Policy Bank is the best avenue to showcase up to date policy documents and all other important sector documents for all our stakeholders. It will be the first e-library of policy documents for the Samoa Ministry and the Agriculture Sector,” said M.A.F Principal Policy Officer, Tai Matatumua.
Also highlighted during the launch was the important plant breeding work carried out by S.P.C in Samoa, including three new varieties of taro released in 2015 that are already being grown by farmers specifically for the export market.
Samoa was one of the first countries in the Pacific to sign the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (I.T.P.G.R.F.A), and Samoan farmers are now reaping the benefits of the multilateral access system through these new varieties.